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Faith

sanctuary red doorsSanctuary. It’s such a beautiful word. For centuries, church doors have been painted red to show that they were a place of sanctuary (and for other symbolic reasons). Anyone who passed through those red doors was safe from harm or persecution. If you were hungry, or frightened, or broken in spirit or body, the church was a haven.

The caretaker of the sanctuary would have to be strong, compassionate, relaxed and alert to whoever might appear at the red doors. It might be someone desperate or terrified or hopeless. There’s no telling who might cross over the threshold.

As human beings, we have the ability to make ourselves a sanctuary. By creating an internal environment of strength, balance, and relaxation, whatever presents itself  — be it internal or external — we can allow it in and take care of it.  On a physical level, we can do this by allowing the nervous system to relax.  One way of doing this is to activate movement in and awareness of the hands and feet, which have proprioceptors which sense the body’s position in space.  On a mental and emotional level, we can bring awareness to our thoughts and emotions, allow them in, and allow them to move through.  You can be a sanctuary for yourself.

Below is the playlist (mostly from the 1997 album Songs of Sanctuary) from the class I taught on Friday, October 11, 2013, at the Buck Mountain Episcopal Church Community Center. And here is the poem about allowing ourselves to embody sanctuary: The Guest House by the 13th Century Persian poet, Rumi.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Thanks to all who joined us for the movement, music and magic!
Dance on. Shine on.
Susan

Sanctuary at Buck Mountain Episcopal Church Community Center

Adiemus – 4:02 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Tintinnabulum – 11:03 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Cantus Inaequalis – 3:18 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Cantus Insolitus – 5:40 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
In Caelum Fero – 7:49 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Amaté Adea – 5:23 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Kayama – 7:58 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Out Of The Silence – 6:22 – Aeoliah
Hymn – 2:42 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley

Doubt-and-certainty cartoonA second week of being on call for jury duty and I’ve been thinking about certainty and doubt. Of what am I truly and absolutely certain? And where am I not so sure?

We dance with certainty and doubt in our personal realities and the larger sphere. Within the judicial system, what is “reasonable doubt”? Reasonable according to whom? Within my own carefully organized calendar system, I create an illusion that I know what is going to happen every day. It’s a sham certainty that I enjoy…no doubt.

I heard a Radio Lab show recently called “Are You Sure?”. At the opening, hosts Jad and Robert actually play the sound of certainty and doubt. They splice together pieces of interviews in which their subjects were either sure or they weren’t.

So I ask you: Do you know what doubt and certainty sound like?

No matter how you answered, you answered the question. If you answered, “Yes”, “No”, “Absolutely” or something similar, that is the sound of certainty: crisp, sharp, quick, clear. And if you answered, “Hmmmm, welllll, I…don’t know” or some variation, that is the sound of doubt: wavering, floating, sliding. In musical terms, certainty is rhythmic and doubt is melodic. (The whole show is a fascinating, sometimes wrenching, exploration of three stories of certainty and doubt, and I recommend it highly. But if you don’t have time to listen to the whole piece, just listen to the beginning [0:56 to 2:36]. The snippets, all rolled together really do sound like music.)

We’ve all heard this in conversations: if my friend says, “NO!” that feels much different than if she says, “Umm, well, noooo.” Children learn to read these inflections at infancy. At even the slightest melodic response, they know there is wiggle room and will relentlessly pry into that space like a weed pushing through a cracked sidewalk.

Parenting notwithstanding, it’s healthy to have some clarity in our views but to also have some things that we’re flexible on or unsure about. A life without doubt becomes a rigid thing. Preachers and politicians and the very young sometimes hold to that crisp black and white line. It can be a dangerous place to hang out, that line of certainty. As Billy Joel sings, “the only people I fear are those who never have doubts.” (thanks, Blue!)

We know this distinction in movement. Crisp, precise movements are ones of confidence and conviction. Fluid, wobbly movements are those of hesitation and uncertainty. In the body, too, it’s healthy to have both clarity and fluidity. Know the feeling of both since sometimes sensation will come upon you before intellectual understanding and it can be helpful to know how the impulses feel.

Here’s something to play with: take something that you feel very sure about and ask yourself what it would feel like to be unsure of it. Do it the other way around, too: something that you are uncertain of, unclear, and ask yourself what it would be like to be absolutely sure. Ask yourself a question about a choice that you’ve made, a belief that you hold, or something that you either do or do not have faith in. It can help to answer out loud, like the folks on the Radio Lab show, and see what it feels like to answer differently that you would usually.

As I dive into one more week of jury duty — maybe teaching, maybe not, and choosing our routines randomly — I am definitely feeling both certainty and doubt with every day and with every song. Just as I hear the rhythm and melody in the music, I can feel my certainty and doubt about choreography, too. I’m enjoying reconnecting with the certain, familiar patterns, as well as diving in when I’m not sure what to do. I’ve also discovered some certain, unfamiliar patterns: movements that I’ve not done before but that popped up, clear and sure as lightning bolts.

Certainty and doubt. There is music in it. And wisdom. And things to discover. Experiment and let me know what happens!

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