Opening to the Spirit
Today's Word: Expansiveness
) When we write together as a group we follow a certain procedure. We choose a word, set a timer, and begin to write. I usually pause for a few seconds, and then ideas come rushing in to my mind. Once my pen hits the paper it keeps moving till the timer goes. This week was different; we ended up mostly writing separately. Perhaps because it's late on Hallowe'en night, or because I'm sitting alone at my computer. I decided to look up expansiveness in the dictionary and then experienced writer's block. Ironically, one definition reads “characterized by high spirits, generosity, or readiness to talk.” It's a pretty good description of me.
High spirits. After some thought it occurred to me that it was also a pretty good description for an ideal community of faith. Jesus said that he had come to bring joy to people. Our small local congregation is known to be a joyful place, where laughter and smiles are quite contagious. It begins with the children ringing the bell, then sharing their weekly highlights, and continues as we sing, often “this little light of mine.”
Generosity is the next characteristic. In the early church people shared their possessions and took care of the widows and orphans. This is still true today in most communities of faith. Every Friday night in Lennoxville, for example, local congregations provide a free supper to area college and university students, calling it a "taste of home away from home."
Finally we come to readiness to talk. This world can be a lonely place. We all need people to share life with. I belong to a study group that meets Wednesday mornings where we talk about the difficult questions of life. In our discussions there is an attitude of openness, and people tell stories and share their experiences. We learn from each other because we talk about things that truly matter. I guess “expansiveness” is a great word after all.
) Do you know someone who seems larger than life? Someone who exudes confidence and charisma; when they enter a room, suddenly the space is filled, and immediately everyone's attention turns in their direction. Such magnetism can be a powerful influence on others, to positive or negative effect. I suspect much of the fascination with stars of the entertainment world is that their lives seem beyond ordinary, expansively played out on the public stage.
For very different reasons, a friend and former mentor turned colleague comes to mind. She was and is a truly expansive spirit. I was a newly-minted teacher, seeking a venue in which to use my progressive theories beyond the classroom. She hired me on the spot, on first meeting. From the other side of the crowded social hall after a Sunday service, she must have heard me casually announce over coffee my interest in working with the children's religious exploration program. (I later teased her that she had the sharpest antenna of anyone I knew, tuned always toward possibility.) After a brief chat and what seemed no time at all, she'd opened a place for me, creating a new program to help me achieve my vision. Together over more than a decade, we designed curricula and all kinds of events, danced and sang and prayed our way through planning and funding meetings. Working with her was more like imaginative play. To this day wherever she goes, she leaves a trail of good energy and inspirational accomplishments behind her.
Expansiveness of spirit is a sign of inner greatness. To my friend, there was no such thing as playing small, no energy to waste in complaints. She'd take the kernel of an idea and help nurture it from seedling to blossom. And she knew how to promote others and acknowledge their gifts. Just thinking of her makes me feel larger inside.
) I once lived in a house that had ten-foot ceilings. I never ceased to enjoy the feeling of expansiveness every time I walked into my living room. Somehow my lungs took deeper breaths, my chest expanded and I had an immediate sense of well-being. Life was good. I discovered that even emotional healing is aided my deep breathing in my highceilinged living room.
I have since experienced this same expansiveness coming out of several tenday silent retreats that I enrolled in. In
each case the art of deep and mindful breathing was taught. The expansion and contraction of our lungs as we take mindful breaths can become a meditation all its own, mirroring an expansion of our spirits in a most liberating and satisfying way.
If you are currently experiencing a restriction in your life, whether it be an unhappiness in your relationships, a worry about your health or trouble in the workplace, try taking deep breaths, preferably in a high-ceilinged room.
One word, three voices this time and plenty of room to add your own: In what ways do you notice or experience the quality of expansiveness?
Rev. Mead Baldwin pastors the Waterville & North Hatley pastoral charge; Rev. Lynn Dillabough is now Rector of St. Paul's in Brockville ON. She continues to write for this column as a dedicated colleague with the Eastern Townships clergy writing team; Rev. Lee Ann Hogle ministers to the Ayer’s Cliff, Magog & Georgeville United Churches; Rev. Carole Martignacco is Consulting Minister to UU Estrieunitarian Universalists in North Hatley.