Stop Drop and Roll

Unity Church in Albany, 13 January 2019

Excerpt from Bernie Siegel, The Art of Healing, Chapter 11, “Choose Life”:

———I once heard a Franciscan monk tell an old story about Saint Francis and his student, Brother Leo. It was a hard winter in the hills of Italy, and they had been making a long journey on foot. As they walked in silence, they contemplated their reading from the morning, a meditation about the secret of achieving perfect joy. Brother Leo turned to Francis and asked him, “What is the secret of perfect joy?”

After explaining that people think pleasant or enlightening events will help them find joy, only to discover they don’t, Saint Francis pointed across the wide, snowy valley and said, “Suppose we go to that monastery across the field and tell the gatekeeper how weary and cold we are. Then suppose he calls us tramps and beats us and throws us out into the winter night. Then, if we can say to him with love in our heart, ‘Bless you in the name of Jesus’, only then shall we have found the secret of perfect joy.”

Siegel continues: Letting go of expectations and resentments, and accepting whatever comes your way as merely the next step on your path, you will turn away from suffering and disease and will walk in health and peace. When you can love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable, you will be free. … When you make the choice to focus on solutions rather than the problem — under any circumstances — it becomes life enhancing for you as well as for others. It’s not a selfish choice, and it helps you to find nourishment.———

SONG (Bob Sima): Happening For You, from putalittlemoreloveintheworld

“This isn’t real; this isn’t right; no this isn’t happening to me tonight.” How many times have we asked ourselves those types of questions? In the middle of what we believe is our world coming to an end, so often all we can do is look at everything that is happening “to” us. Yet a simple change of that tiny little two-letter word makes magnitudes of difference in that same seemingly unmanageable world.

When life is always happening “for” us, all we can do is stop and be grateful. That doesn’t mean we deny what is happening. It is just a way of choosing to live through it rather than to die through it. All the sudden our world is not ending, we are not dying, we are not desperate. We enter that place that Bernie Siegel describes as “merely the next step on your path”. The next step on the path. Not the path itself. Not the end of the path. Just simply the next step on the path. The place that Saint Francis referred to as “perfect joy”.

Normally, for us to shift into this consciousness, we have to stop walking down the path entangled in the emotions, the drama, the victimization. We have to stop and exercise gratitude to lovingly appreciate every situation for its temporary nature.

Stop. The first sentence of today’s affirmation: “When I stop, I see more clearly.” With clarity, we can often expand our awareness to more deliberately choose our next step.

Stop. The first part of the scripture passage from Romans 6.14: “For sin will have no dominion over you…”. Sin simply means “to miss the mark”. When we allow ourselves to react in the moment, we most often miss the mark. When we allow ourselves time to pause, we most often choose a more effective response.

What might a more effective response be? Before anything else, we drop.

Drop. The second sentence of today’s affirmation: “If I drop, my perspective can change.” Not only does our visual perspective change when we move from an upright standing position and drop into a contemplative or reverent position, but our mental, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual perspectives change as well.

Drop. The second part of the scripture passage: “…since you are not under law…” We are not ordered or bound or obligated to any experience. That experience does not have to define us, force us into motion, deprive us from any joy. We are simply an observer to every experience, and every experience can be seen as an opportunity. 

When we drop to our knees, metaphorically or otherwise, we find ourselves in perfect harmony with life happening for us. Our stature changes, our head bows, our chest softens, our fists open, our heart expands.

SONG (Bob Sima): It’s Amazing, from Thin Little Veil

When we recognize that we carry “perfect joy” within us, everywhere we go, in everything that we see, in everything that we do, grace simply follows us. We do not have to attain it. We do not have to strive for it. Grace simply pulls us into the upward spiral of life unfolding.

Roll. The third sentence of the affirmation: “Then I roll, with grace and inner strength.” Grace is not a state of being. Grace is when a being transcends a state of merely existing to allow life itself to guide them to the next step of the path.

Roll. The last part of the scripture passage: “…but under grace.” Can we see ourselves under a blanket of grace? In a safe and effortless transcendent moment of “perfect joy”? In a place where the human enters love and love enters the human?

Stop. Drop. Roll. “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Stop. Drop. Roll. “When I stop, I see more clearly. If I drop, my perspective can change. Then I roll, with grace and inner strength.”

SONG (Bob Sima): Say Grace, from A Thousand Cups of Tea