Open­ing to the Spirit

To­day's Word: Ex­pan­sive­ness

Sherbrooke Record - - COLUMNIST -

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) 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.

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) 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

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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.

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