Prelude Roots and Wings by Elizabeth Harley
Opening Words by Ant Howe
In this sacred gathering may the joyful find space to praise….
May the inquirers feel safe to question…..
May the lonely find the touch of a friend……
May the singers be given a tune to sing…..
May the lost discover the way…..
And may we all experience the touch of the Holy in this hour.
Chalice Lighting (you may wish to light a candle in your own home at this point).
words by Stephen Lingwood
We light this chalice, symbol of the Light within us and around us.
May this gathering for worship enlighten our hearts, and our minds, and our souls.
And may the Inner Light of the Spirit be kindled by our time together.
Spirit of Life and Love,
be with us as we gather for worship,
each in our own place.
Help us to feel a sense of community,
even though we are physically apart.
Help us to care for each other,
in this world in which Covid has not yet gone away,
and the clouds of war hover.
May we keep in touch however we can,
and help each other, however we may.
May we remember that
caution is still needed,
that close contact is still unwise.
Help us to be grateful for the freedoms we have
and to respect the wishes of others.
May we hold in our hearts all those
who are grieving, lost, alone,
victims of violence and war,
suffering in any way, Amen
Reading Detachment from Inner Beauty, published by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Part 1
Many spiritual paths advocate a mental state called detachment, in which a person moves away from worldly concerns and becomes an observer of life. This is considered to be a means of reaching an inner goal, because it frees you from distractions and conflict. Raja Yoga also teaches detachment, but the image used to explain the concept is not that of a dusty-footed pilgrim scaling a mountain, but of a Lotus flower.
The main thing about a Lotus flower is that it has its roots in the mud. It cannot grow without the mud and yet its petals are pristine. This is detachment. Detachment is being close to what you most want to be free of and using it to make you grow. Not separating yourself from anything. Take your own personality. Usually there are aspects of yourself which either you are unaware of, or you just don’t like. Unconscious, you distort them into something attractive. Hence hard work in a person often denotes fear of disapproval. This is the direct opposite of detachment: doing something, not for its own value, but to enhance your personal position.
Alternative Lord’s Prayer
Spirit of Life and Love, here and everywhere,
may we be aware of your presence in our lives.
May our world be blessed.
May our daily needs be met,
and may our shortcomings be forgiven,
as we forgive those of others.
Give us the strength to resist wrong-doing,
the inspiration and guidance to do right,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
We are your hands in the world; help us to grow.
May we have compassion for all living beings,
and receive whatever life brings,
with courage and trust. Amen
Reading Detachment from Inner Beauty, published by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Part 2
The Lotus flower doesn’t turn mud into anything. Mud is mud. Yet mud also has nutrients needed to aid the flower’s growth. It is the same for us. We are in a situation that we don’t like – ‘in the mud’ – and yet it is probably the most secure position there is, if we could only recognise it, not distort it, and let it ‘grow us’.
Or alternatively, we want to be free of someone, to be alone, but the relationship has somehow caught hold of us. The person now close to us is probably the best teacher we could have, if we were only able to see the ‘nutrient’ in their presence; if we could recognise too, that we are probably focusing on a very minor aspect of their personality, and totally disregarding the rest. Detachment is freedom from slants and bias of this kind. It means seeing the whole picture.
Or again, we have made a mess of something, exposed ourselves to criticism; usually upsetting until there is the ability to be detached from the task at which we have failed, to stop possessing it and just appreciate its own inherent value and recognise that it will get done anyway. Painting for painting’s sake, for the beauty of painting, not for the beauty of ‘my’ painting. And painting, certainly, will always continue, quite regardless of me.
Prayer by Cliff Reed
In the quietness of this place and the peace of this hour,
may we come close to our deeper selves.
Fantasies and daydreams too often cloud our minds,
and we use our time and energy pursuing empty goals.
In busy-ness we lose our way.
Let us listen to the deep insistent call within us.
May we learn to love our poor fragmented selves
that they may be healed.
And may we turn that love outwards,
that it might heal the wounds which hate and fear have made.
Let us not be deceived about ourselves or about our world,
so that we neither crash in disillusion nor be twisted by cynicism.
If truth and clear vision be granted us, then let us give thanks.
May arrogance never trap us into thinking that truth has but one aspect.
May we stand face to face with ourselves,
recognising that which is truly ours,
and that which is the imposition of others.
And as we do, may we feel the love which unites us all in the depths of our being.
Reading Detachment from Inner Beauty, published by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Part 3
So detachment means standing right next to our enemies and responding to them with sincerity and effort and seeing how suddenly they disappear, like wild animals sloping off gently in the face of fearlessness and peace. On the other hand, detachment also means not touching, moving right away so that you can see a thing properly. Being an emotional weatherman, being able to gauge and predict and prepare. Detachment is to be free of time and, most importantly, to be free of the distorting perspective which places ‘I’ at the centre of the universe. In small ways, this consciousness helps a lot. You begin to realise that when someone talks to you, you are not necessarily the focus of their attention, but that they are bringing with them a hundred other thoughts and concerns. You are only a foothold on their way.
Detachment is a very great virtue. It brings emotional safety, realism and refreshment. It makes others feel free with you, free to come and go without a fuss. But the moment you stop loving life, then detachment becomes impossible. Because you begin to hold on to things that help.
Detachment is best learnt from God, who sees everything but never stops loving. It is best demonstrated by the Lotus flower which touches mud, touches rock bottom, but never loses its beauty. Beauty means to keep growing – always.
Time of Stillness and Reflection words by Margaret Kirk (adapted)
Here in this virtual meeting place where many others have been before us,
we surrender ourselves to a stillness of Spirit – a stillness of mind and body
that connects us to the Eternal Spirit of God.
Even though it is beyond our complete understanding, there are many things which speak to us:
In times of stillness we hear it like a distant song;
There is something in the sky in the early morning and evening time,
something in the spirit of the wild untouched wood and mountain,
something in the faces of men and women and children,
that lingers in our heart and speaks to us.
Sometimes we can feel that round our incompleteness, flows a greatness,
and round our restlessness, a peace.
And in the brevity of our mortal life,
a sense of the Eternal.
We pray, that those broken in spirit discover glimpses of these moments and that they bring interludes of repose and comfort.
Help us to remember the power we each have to relieve one another of some of the burdens, sorrows and troubles of this life.
And we pray that like rain falling on a thirsty land,
this meeting place and its community uplifts our own spirits.
In its ministry of consecration, meditation and reflected thought,
may we find help.
In its companionship and fellowship, may we find encouragement and strength.
In its quest for truth – find our truth,
And in its worship find inspiration.
May our hearts be warmed within as we walk with one another on the way.
And may such knowledge as we may gain of life`s deeper meaning enrich our lives giving us beauty for ashes and hope for all our tomorrows.
Musical Interlude A Welsh Wedding by Elizabeth Harley
I don’t know about you, but I found the reflection by the Brahma Kumaris on the many aspects of the concept of ‘detachment’ fascinating. And I’m going to respond to some of the statements they make… They begin by saying, “Many spiritual paths advocate a mental state called detachment, in which a person moves away from worldly concerns and becomes an observer of life. This is considered to be a means of reaching an inner goal, because it frees you from distractions and conflict.” Which is what I would guess many of us think of when we hear the word. The Buddhists, for example, speak of the importance of becoming detached from our desires if we want to become enlightened. And I do think this is an important part of the concept of detachment.
Letting go of desire, the advertising-driven craving for ever-more material possessions, can be hard. Simplicity is one of the five Quaker testimonies. In their Advices and Queries, they say: “Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle, freely chosen, is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?” On the Quakers in Britain website, they explain: “Quakers are concerned about the excesses and unfairness of our consumer society, and the unsustainable use of natural resources. We try to live simply and to give space for the things that really matter: the people around us, the natural world, our experience of God.”
And I am finding that these beliefs, these ideas, matter increasingly to me. I know that my lifestyle is currently very far from simple, and that the way I live has more of an impact on the environment than it should. But I am working on it. For example, in the last two years, I have been trying to eat more healthily. I am still very bad at buying new books whenever I see them but try to really consider whether I need other consumer items. Because I do believe that “a simple lifestyle, freely chosen, is a source of strength.”
Living in the 21st century is a complicated business. Never before have we been bombarded with so much information or had so many possibilities as to how we spend our leisure time. We carry around in our pockets and handbags gadgets which can take photos, show films, play games and access millions of websites from around the world, all at the touch of a button (or, more likely, a screen, these days!). I do sometimes wonder whether we have lost anything among all this bounty. And whether we might not actually be better off without some of it. Whether we should just let some of it go.
But then, Brahma Kumaris turn this idea of detachment on its head by stating, “Detachment is being close to what you most want to be free of and using it to make you grow. Not separating yourself from anything, [even] your own personality.”
So which is it? Is it becoming an “observer of life”, letting go of desires? Or is it rather about “being close to what you most want to be free of and using it to make you grow”? I rather like this second idea, as illustrated by the Lotus flower which grows out of the mud. I think that what they mean is that we need to be aware of all of ourselves, not only the parts we are proud of, but also those we are not proud of. It means going through the long and arduous process of self-examination, so that we become aware of our flaws and see ourselves whole. Because it is only when we see ourselves whole that we become able to work on and perhaps let go of the grudges, the resentments, all the small meannesses which we are dimly aware of, but don’t want to look at or think about. We all have flaws, but we also have the power to do something about them.
Letting go of such negative things, which keep us rooted in the past – self-doubts, regrets, and petty grievances, grudges and old hatreds – is tough. Doing this involves forgiving ourselves, and forgiving other people, and asking for others’ forgiveness. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Rev. Mpho Tutu launched the Forgiveness Project a few years ago, and I think it is fantastic. Starting from the point that “there is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and there is no-one undeserving of forgiveness”, they have devised a Fourfold Path of Forgiving, which involves Telling the Story, Naming the Hurt, Granting Forgiveness and Renewing or Releasing the Relationship. And it requires us to be fully present in our lives, not detached from them.
Letting go of the need to be perfect, being “gentle with yourself” is another hard one. So I was reassured this morning (during my morning sit) to read the words of Francis de Sales, “Stop worrying. Whatever it is that you must do to follow the path that God has shown you, do to the best of your ability. And when you have done it, move on to the next thing. Don’t keep re-running it in your mind, trying to decide whether your efforts were too little or too much, whether it was a great deed or a small one, whether you might have done better. If it wasn’t sinful, and you were trying to do the will of God, it is enough. Don’t worry. Move on. Simply. Calmly. Peacefully.” I guess that means that our best is always good enough, and that striving after perfection is not necessary. Which is good to hear.
Which I guess is what the Brahma Kumaris were talking about when they said, “Or again, we have made a mess of something, exposed ourselves to criticism; usually upsetting until there is the ability to be detached from the task at which we have failed, to stop possessing it and just appreciate its own inherent value and recognise that it will get done anyway.”
The Brahma Kumaris also say, “Detachment means standing right next to our enemies and responding to them with sincerity and effort and seeing how suddenly they disappear… On the other hand, detachment also means not touching, moving right away so that you can see a thing properly. Being an emotional weatherman, being able to gauge and predict and prepare.”
I have to say, I found this a bit confusing. Unless these are figurative enemies – our flaws, for example. In which case yes, I agree. But then they say in the next breath that we need to move “right away so that you can see a thing properly.” Hmm. I guess they mean that we need to be able to be a bit more objective about ourselves, our lives and the things we encounter, so that instead of reacting emotionally to whatever comes up, we are instead able to “gauge and predict and prepare.”
The final statement which really caught my eye was, “Detachment is to be free of time and, most importantly, to be free of the distorting perspective which places ‘I’ at the centre of the universe.”
I genuinely do not understand what they mean by detachment being “free of time”, because we all exist in time, not in eternity. But the idea of detachment being “free of the distorting perspective which places ‘I’ at the centre of the universe” really spoke to me. Because we inhabit our bodies, it is naturally quite easy to see the world from our unique point of view. But it is usually wrong. There’s an old, old saying that goes something like, “There are two sides to every argument – yours, the other person’s and the correct one.” And it is only by maintaining a little detachment in our interactions with others that we will be able to see the truth of this.
Liz Gilbert tells a lovely story in her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Without Fear, which illustrates this nicely. She writes, “Long ago, when I was in my insecure twenties, I met a clever, independent, creative, and powerful woman in her mid-seventies, who offered me a superb piece of life wisdom. She said: ‘We all spend our twenties and thirties trying so hard to be perfect, because we’re so worried about what people will think of us. Then we get into our forties and fifties, and we finally start to be free, because we decide that we don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of us. But you won’t be completely free until you reach your sixties and seventies, when you finally realise this liberating truth – nobody was ever thinking about you, anyhow.’” Liz Gilbert comments, “They aren’t. They weren’t. They never were.”
This is what this aspect of detachment looks like. It means having enough objectivity to realise that most people spend most of their time worrying about themselves, and simply don’t have the time or energy to worry about you. And the positive part of this realisation is that dethroning the ‘I’ from the centre of the universe allows us to be fully present, fully compassionate to others.
Letting go, cultivating detachment, whatever form it takes, can be a tough call. And we need the support of friends, of a spiritual community, to do it wholeheartedly. May we be such friends to each other.
Spirit of Life and Love,
May we learn to discern
the big picture of our lives,
so that we can let go of what hinders us
and cultivate that which is good for us.
May we return to our everyday world refreshed,
may we share the love we feel,
may we look out for each other,
and may we keep up our hearts,
now and in the days to come,
Postlude Lady of Lewesdon Hill by Elizabeth Harley