As most of us were finishing up our Thanksgiving dinners this past week, three spacecrafts were making their final approach to the planet Mars. NASA’s InSight Lander trailed by two briefcase-sized satellites, MarCO-A and MarCO-B (nicknamed “Wall-E” and “Eve”) had traveled nearly seven months to reach their destination beginning a two-year mission to study the interior composition of the planet.
One of the hopes for the mission is that the data it sends back will help us learn more about the early formation of our planet Earth and other planets in the inner solar system.
The human drive to answer big questions and unravel timeless mysteries continues to move us forward. This drive also stops my in my tracks in total wonder at all we may never fully understand about our own human existence and the universe of which we are one tiny part.
As we enter this holiday season, I hope that you will allow yourself a moment (or two or three) to stop and marvel at the wondrous mystery that is all around us. It is our capacity for awe that can help replenish our wells when the weight of the world starts to feel too heavy.
Remember: we are all made of stardust.
How mysterious and wonderful is that?
December Spiritual Exercises
Option A: Return to an Ordinary Moment of Deep Meaning
We’ve all experienced it: the mystery of an ordinary moment that suddenly unfolds and offers deep meaning. The everyday becomes luminous. This exercise invites you to remember some of those luminous moments and revisit the gift they gave. To do this, simply make some time to watch and meditate on the following video:
As you watch, think of moments you’ve experienced when life suddenly and mysteriously lit up and reminded you of the marvel and preciousness of being alive. And think about how that lit you up – move you from a feeling of “the same old, same old” to a feeling of dancing with the sacred. Go one from there to imagine images from your own life that you’d include if you were making your own video. Then keep watch during the following hours and days to see if this meditation changes the way you perceive or dance with your “ordinary” days.
Option B: Connect with Mystery on a Clear Night
Since the beginning of our existence, star-gazing has been a primary way we humans contemplate mystery. For scientist and mystic alike, it is a central way we sort out our mysterious place in the universe and the mystery of who we are. As we connect with the universe we connect more deeply with ourselves. This exercise invites you to lean into this connection between the stars above and deep meaning within.
To do this, make room on a clear night to listen to the following podcast while you gaze at the open sky:
The podcast tells the stories of numerous people’s efforts to connect with and make meaning of the mystery that lies beyond. As you listen, treat each story as an invitation to see something new in the vastness overhead. Simply allow this visual and auditory meditation to soak over you. When the podcast ends, continue to sit or lay in the quiet stillness and listen for the new story that your own voice starts to tell. Come to your group ready to share what this clear night clarified for you.
Here’s some additional inspiration:
Option C: Tell Your Mystical Tale
We UUs have had a mixed relationship to our mystical side. Sadly, we’ve tended to distance, deny or ignore it. But it’s there. From the Transcendentalists to our love of earth-centered spirituality, from our first UU Source to those of us who describe themselves as “freethinking mystics with hands,” stories of UU mysticism are woven fine throughout our history. This exercise invites you to add your own mystical experience to that narrative.
Throughout the month of December on our Soul Matters Facebook page, we will invite Soul Matters participants to share short versions of their mystical experiences on the Facebook page and in our Soul Matters google folder. It’s an effort to collect, affirm and articulate the first of our UU Sources: “Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.”
All you have to do is make some time this month to reflect on and condense your mystical experience into a paragraph or two. Or if you have the heart of a poet, maybe even into 8 or 12 lines. When you are done, copy and paste it into our UU Mystics document (or post it on Facebook when we solicit stories).
To help you on your way, visit our UU Mystics document where some stories of UU mystics already are.
As you write your story, think about the phrasing of our first UU Source and ask yourself how your story continues to “move you to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.”