Welcome to the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons.
February 3rd, 2019
Does the creative process ever surprise you?
It definitely surprised me this week…
I’m in the process of drafting a new series for us (it will be coming your way all month!), but when I sat down to write the first sermon this week, my plans fell away and something all together different poured out of me.
I kind of love it when that happens!
So even though it wasn’t my original intention, this week we’re exploring the idea of blind spots. ‘Cause you know what? We all have them (places where what we say and what we do don’t exactly line up…).
What we say & What we do
We all believe in something. We do our best to live up to the values that matter to us. We have ideas about the kind of character we hope our actions express. I don’t know if this is part of what it means to be human or just how we’ve been culturally conditioned, but it seems to me that we all share a desire to stand for something.
Awhile back I was wondering about how it is that we’ve each come to care about what we care about. Why do I hold the values I do? And you hold the values you do? I spent some time contemplating the values and ethics I was taught as a kid. And it got me curious so I started asking my friends to describe the values they’d been taught by their families of origin.
It’s a question that makes for some really interesting conversations. And I’ve found that it’s not too hard for most people to come up with a short list that encompass the ethic of their family. Their unique family mantras and themes. Which usually leads into a deeper conversation about whether or not they continue to align themselves with the family ethic they were given.
Of course, if we’re going to have a responsible conversation about what we value and believe in, we have to talk about our blind spots.
When I was in seminary I took a ton of classes on spirituality from my beloved teacher Stephanie Ford. I learned a lot of things from her, but in the context of this topic, one thing stands out. I’m sorry to say I don’t remember the official theological terms for you. But the basic concept is that we human beings can believe something, can fully espouse something, and then act in utterly contradictory ways. Our stated beliefs can be completely different from our lived beliefs. We can say one thing and do another.
Let me give you a really practical example. My husband is a writing professor and awhile back he spent some time studying the kinds of writing that happens in unexpected places. While researching the writing that happens in automotive repair shops he noticed something that was quite intriguing. The mechanics wrote all day long. But they all said that they didn’t write at all. Sometimes they would even say “I’m so glad writing isn’t part of my job as they were actively engaged in the practice of writing.” They believed they weren’t writers, so they were unable to see how much time they spent writing everyday.
Even though none of us want to admit it, we all have blind spots this big. We can be actively doing something as we’re saying “I don’t do that.” “I don’t believe in that.”
Blind spots are blind. They’re the opposite of clear seeing. And one truth about blind spots is that it’s always easier to see someone else’s. You can quickly spot the contractions of that family member and the hypocrisy of that coworker. But when it comes to your own blind spots, you can fool yourself. It’s very hard to see our own contradictions and hypocrisies. And clearly it’s been this way for a long time, because in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus asks us to work to get the log out of our own eye before going after the speck in our neighbor’s eye.
But getting the log out of our own eye is difficult work and we’re not going to do it by trying going straight at our blind spots… Because the truth is, we’ve all built habits and stories that support that log in our eye. We’ve all unwittingly created a system for ourselves that allows us to live contentedly within our own contradictions.
When I talk about blind spots I’m not talking about the things we know we “should be better at.” This isn’t about “oh I should do more of that and I should do less of this…” I’m talking about fundamental gaps in our self-awareness.
And uncovering these kinds of gaps is some of the real-deal, difficult work of spiritual practice.
So here’s what I propose we do.
It’s February. We’re in the depth of winter and hibernation. We’re in the season of rest before the cycle of production begins again. So before we prepare for the more active times of year, let’s spend a little time digging into what we value and believe in.
It’s important to understand that most of our values aren’t usually fully articulated. Often they live just under the surface of our awareness, influencing our perceptions and reactions without our even noticing. So here’s your homework—here’s your practice—this winter season: I invite you to see if you can articulate the values you hold dear. What are they? Who taught them to you? Are they part of a larger system that you care about or do they stand on their own?
Write them down and hang them up somewhere where you can see them. Keep fleshing them out, getting more and more specific with your articulations. What’s the ethic that underlies the choices you make?
And as your doing this more heady reflection, I invite you to pay attention to your most mundane actions—not the big flashy things—but the quiet, everyday habits that you don’t even notice anymore. I promise, it’s in the mundane habits that you’re going to discover your blind spots.
Remember, we’re trying to see whether or not what we claim to believe and value is lived out in our actions. The power of this awareness practice is in the combination of sitting deeply with your stated values while paying attention to the mundane actions you take everyday. You’ve got to do both. And they’ve got to go together.
And if you’re really brave—and you want to speed up the process of finding your blind spots—you can ask the people closest to you what they see. Because remember, it’s easier to see these things in other people. But, whoa, be gentle with yourself here. Go slow.
And always, always, wrap yourself in compassion. The work of honest self-awareness is not for the faint of heart. But it is necessary if we truly want to work for transformation—our own and that of the world.
- Can you describe the values you were taught by your family of origin? What are the themes and sayings that everyone in your family just “knows?”
- Do you still value and connect with the ethics of your family?
- Can you articulate your current values? Are you clear about what matters most to you?
- What ethic do you try and operate by?
- Have you ever explored whether your actions line up with what you espouse to believe?
- Do you agree that it’s easier to go after the speck in your neighbors eye than the log in your own?
- Are you willing to explore the gaps in your self-awareness? Are you willing to explore the ways that your habits support your contradictions? If so, are you willing to be gentle with yourself as you do so? To wrap yourself in compassion?
We all benefit from the wisdom of spiritual community. And community means more than one voice, so please add yours to the conversation. What did this week’s sermon and reflection questions spark in you?