This post is the second in a series exploring the practice of Drishti (focus on a particular point, traditionally in meditation or yoga poses). My creative friend and colleague, Rev. Leah Robberts-Mosser writes about how she maintains focus when life turns on the spin cycle.
When I was learning to do pirouettes and turns down the dance floor, Miss Tina always said to find one still point on the wall. Find a point and keep your eyes fixed on it so that, as you were spinning, you wouldn’t spin out of control.
I don’t spin so much for fun anymore, no pirouettes. But, these days, I still spin. My head spins every time I open the newspaper or the browser on my computer. I spin when I think of how climate change is shaping our future and how we’ve done precious little to counteract it. I spin when I remember loved ones who are hurting in body, mind, or spirit. I spin when work overwhelms. You too?
Maybe you find yourself spinning for additional reasons: struggles with the insecurity or unreliability of work, with health, challenging relationships, crippling addictions, questions about the future, damning headlines targeted at you or those you love.
These days, in the world in which we live — where the news cycle pummels us daily on top of our own life’s complexities — it is easy to find ourselves spinning emotionally and spiritually out of control. The what-ifs take over and we are lost in a spiral of frustration and despair, hopelessness and helplessness. In life, as on the dance floor, the same holds true: find one still point, and keep your eyes fixed on it, so that as you spin, you won’t spin out of control.
At every funeral I’ve ever preached, I offer these words, a necessary reminder in this world in which we often feel unsteady and unsure: “The one sure point of permanence is this: It is in God in whom we live and move and have our being. We are God’s not just for today, but for all time. Surely, the God who gifted us with life in the beginning can be trusted to enlarge our lives in the end. We belong to God.”
This is the one point I find and focus upon when I start to spin — we belong to God. The Holy One holds us in such a way that we are free to move yet, always safe within the arms of Everlasting Love. That means we are never alone. We are always loved. We are always lovable. No matter what happens: God’s got us.
What’s your still point, the one sure point of permanence on which you focus when you start spinning? It’s a good thing to know and be able to verbalize so that you can remind yourself of it with intention and regularity. If it doesn’t roll off your tongue when all’s well, don’t expect it to come to mind when you start to spin.
In dance class, we had to practice finding our one point on which to focus while doing pirouettes and turns down the floor. We had to practice whipping our head around so that we found our focus while our bodies were still in motion. Believe me, you don’t simply stand up and do a perfect pirouette one day without practice. Finding your one sure point of permanence takes practice as well. So, if this is new to you, don’t be surprised if it takes a while to find that steadying focus in the midst of a spinning cycle. Be gentle with yourself – it takes practice! If you are reading this blog post and thinking to yourself, “Of course! I have sure points on which to focus!” but don’t actually exercise your brain and body in focusing on them with regularity, when life turns on the spin cycle, it may take a while to become grounded again. Perhaps you could begin implementing the practice of finding your one sure point of permanence. Do it on the regular.
How might you pick up this practice of faith? Begin by listing your sure points. My list is this:
- We belong to God.
- I am always safe within Everlasting Arms of Love.
- Don’t let the what-ifs take over.
- I can ask for help.
- We can solve problems together.
- I am not alone.
Your list might include these points and points of your own that are specific to you. After you’ve made your list, be your own editor. Whittle it down to the essentials. Hone each point to a phrase you can say in one breath. Then practice repeating them. On each inhale in speak the phrase in your mind. On the exhale, release anything that is perpetuating your spinning and spiraling. Blow it out with your breath, then inhale another affirmation of assurance, comfort, and love on the next breath. Continue to exhale out anything that is keeping you tethered to chaos, while breathing in the calm, until you have settled and are no longer spinning. Practice this every day until it becomes second nature, as natural as breathing. In this way, you practice focusing on your one sure point, rather than what sets us spinning.
When we keep the spiritual practice of focusing our gaze on our one sure point of permanence, we will still have times when we find ourselves spinning. Don’t think you won’t! This is how life goes. And, yet, once we are in the practice, when we start to spin, that point anchors us so we don’t spin out of control. The purpose of the practice is not to eliminate the spinning entirely. The purpose is to be able to settle ourselves when it starts. It was true in the dance studio and it’s true in life, too.
Rev. Leah Robberts-Mosser serves as lead Pastor of Community United Church of Christ, a Progressive, Justice with Peace, LGBT+ Open and Affirming Congregation, nestled in the heart of the University of Illinois. She and her husband, the Rev. David Robberts-Mosser, make their life with their young daughters, Chloe and Violet, in Urbana, Illinois where she loves to make art, cook, do yoga, and watch The Walking Dead. You can read her contribution, “The Pastor as Creative: 4 Principles for Centering Pastoral Life in Creativity,” in the volume Sacred Habits: The Rise of the Creative Clergy, edited by Rev. Chad R. Abbott. In October 2018, look for her sermon, “For All the Bathshebas” in Sojourner’s collection of “100 Sermons Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.”