Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is it acting or does praxis become self?

Su Penn wrote in Tape Flags and First Thoughts, "I thought, ... God might transform me from a whining, self-pitying, over-sensitive complainer into someone with something meaningful to offer, an agent of grace." I empathize, and recognizing my wishful thinking, attempt to figure out where I'm at.

At one time I felt called to ministry and eldership. I felt connected spiritually, and blessed with the kind of wisdom that comes from being distanced from issues and not knowing people well. More typical now is a sense of struggling to establish connections, aggravation with everyone’s shortcomings (including my own—my neighbor as myself), and general gloominess. Often I have trouble settling in worship. I remember, “Be still and know that I am God.” I let myself drift. I think. I look out the window. I tried an anti-depressant but don’t like side-effects; it’s summer—I feel better when outside, I work with a therapist, and read.

Do the work. Impatient with what I term “Quaker chaos,” I took on the coordination of scheduling and training greeters and helping as needed. I try to post queries, announcements, and schedules on the blog and website calendar in a timely fashion. I ask for advice then try to tactfully address issues with individuals and in meeting for business. I wonder if I should offer to be the back-up to the recording clerk. I try to process my frustration with the chaos afterward and breathe through it during. Sometimes reading a bit of Friends Journal helps me center down and recall what this is all about. I try to recognize and talk about my feelings with my wife before they become a Big Thing.

I decided to try to learn a new kind of ministry: outreach—being welcoming (coming out of a shy and reserved self) and learning how to be strong and steady (while feeling quixotic and pessimistic). I like getting cards so am learning to write cards to those who have been bereaved, who are ill or suffering, or who are new to meeting. I don’t know if practice will help words come more easily or not, but the “Dear Abby” column is useful(!) in addition to my wife’s experience and wisdom.

Petting the cat. Playing with the cat. Being part of two CSAs. Exercising.

Is it acting, or does praxis become self?
“I am who I am becoming.”


Ron said...

I deeply appreciate your card you sent to me after my first time visit to Friends this past Sunday. Thank you.

I felt like I've come home with the worship in silence. I've been learning to meditate. Meditation has now become the foundation for my contemplative prayer life. I've gone to two conferences in Toronto in the past year that had mindfulness practice as a foundational part of making these conferences quite transformational, not just informational. The mindfulness practitioner teaches meditation from the Shambhala tradition. There are some very simple techniques that can guide us in quieting our discursive thoughts and become quiet inside if you are interested.

Kim Ranger said...

Thanks, Ron.
I studied meditation as a child--those techniques haven't left me; I also learned contemplative prayer, etc. I seem to be in a mood-mode which makes it difficult to concentrate and care. Still, I'm glad to have the few minutes of inner quiet during meeting. All this will improve as I spend more time in the woods or working in the yard!

Ron said...

It is so new to me to be around a group where meditation is so foundational that I'm still coming to grips with the fact that some people were raised doing it all their lives. It is very unusual and refreshing from my life's experience. Sorry about my naiveté.

Kim Ranger said...

Oh no, I didn't mean to suggest any naiveté! I wasn't raised Quaker (or anything at all) but learned meditation in a secular context!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I believe in the 'I am what I am becoming' most definately!

I too use some mindfulness techniques in meeting but for me, it's important to remember that Quaker meeting isn't the same as a group meditation practice. We had a discussion about the difference after meeting one day - I must actually get around to writing a blog post on it!