Spiritual Winter

Rev. Josh Pawelek

Winter SceneFriends, the new year has arrived. The planet slowly tilts its northern hemisphere back toward the sun. Though day-light hours begin lengthening, the long, evening shadows still arrive early. The land, still bare; the branches still leaf-less. The earth still sleeps—and will for some time. There’s been no major storm, yet, no deep New England freeze, yet; though we brace ourselves for the cold, wind and snow we know from experience are coming. The mid-winter holidays have almost passed—the Christian celebration of Epiphany, Three Kings Day, Twelfth Night happens this Tuesday.

We settle now into the winter season (though, admittedly, some of us never settle). Winter is—at least in New England—the cold season, the still season, the blue season, the fallow season, the empty season. Winter is the season for solitude, hunkering down, self-care, rest, healing and hot chocolate.  I shared with you earlier a passage from Barbara Kingsolver’s 2007 book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which for me begins to describe this winter stillness, this hunkering down, this solitude. She says, “at the moment I had the house to myself. My sole companion was the crackling woodstove that warms our kitchen: talkative, but easy to ignore. I was deeply enjoying my solitary lunch break, a full sucker for the romance of winter, eating a warmed-up bowl of potato-leek soup and watching the snow. Soon I meant to go outside for a load of firewood, but found it easy to procrastinate.”[1] Yes, in winter our regular lives continue. Yes, there is plenty of outdoor activity in winter—sledding, skiing, skating, snow-boarding. Yes, some of us never settle into the season. But the cold, wind and snow do urge us indoors to the warm fire-side, to the hearty soup, to the moment of solitude.

I assign spiritual qualities to the seasons. I imagine winter as the season for the sustained, inward look, the honest self-examination, the probing self-reflection. I imagine winter as the womb season, the floating, sleeping, dreaming season, the season for gestation, for growth beneath the surface, for growth in the nurturing darkness. I imagine winter as the season for preparation, for getting ready—ready for new selves, new commitments, new directions to emerge, just as the physical, earthly winter season is the time when life gets ready—slowly—to emerge green and glorious and new in spring.

The spiritual winters of our lives, which can come at any time of year, are rarely easy, but they come with promises, with opportunities for growth. Sometimes they come because we invite them—because we resolve, finally, to make a change, and we believe we are ready to do the work change requires—for example, the work of breaking habits, the work of letting go of unhealthy attachments, speaking difficult truths, leaving dysfunctional relationships, repairing broken relationships, apologizing, forgiving, following less-travelled roads. Sometimes our spiritual winters come unexpectedly and unbidden. Writer Philip Simmons speaks of our spiritual winters seizing us[2]—sickness and its treatment, loss, death, financial hardship, losing a job. When such change comes we have no choice in the matter, no control over the timing. We must prepare for the new whether we want to or not, often very quickly. How do we prepare for change? How do we welcome the new? These are the questions of our spiritual winters. ‘Getting ready’ is winter’s work. 

I want to share my reflections on this work, this getting ready, this welcoming the new. And to begin, I want to discuss New Year’s resolutions, about which I feel ambivalent. These first weeks of January are famous for how quickly so many of us abandon or just forget about our New Year’s resolutions. (I made that up. I don’t know if January is famous for that, and I don’t know how many people actually make New Year’s resolutions, nor do I have any idea how many people keep their resolutions vs. how many people abandon them.) I came across a December, 2013 CBS News Poll that found that 68% of Americans didn’t make New Year’s resolutions—a sharp increase from 2011 when 58% didn’t make them. And, further, of the approximately 30% of Americans who did make resolutions, only half reported keeping them.[3] That sounds about right. In my experience most people don’t take new year’s resolutions all that seriously.

Including me. I usually don’t make a resolution unless I’m at a New Year’s Eve party where the host invites everyone to share their resolution. Then I have to scramble to come up with one, and I usually offer something vague like “I want to be a better parent.” And then everyone says, “Oh, you’re a great parent.” And then I say, “My kids might have a different opinion,” or “No, actually, I’m not. You should see me at home. I’m very cranky. I could be a better husband, too.” The nice thing—and what I mean by “nice” is “safe”—about making this kind of vague resolution at a party is that, typically, nobody will remember what I said a year later. Certainly nobody has ever asked how I’ll know when I’ve become a better parent, or a better husband or a better person. Lose weight? You can measure that. Quit smoking, drink less alcohol, get out of debt? All measureable. Or my favorite resolution from a party I attended a few years ago, “wear loud pants.” Now that’s a measureable resolution. But, being a better parent, a better spouse, a better person? Not easily measureable. How would I know—how would anyone know—when such a resolution has been achieved? And who would decide? I could become a better parent in my own estimation by raising my expectations for my kids, and they would likely hate it. Worst father ever.

Making New Year’s resolutions doesn’t feel like a real tradition to me. It feels like a Hallmark invention, except most Hallmark inventions have more actual religious and cultural history behind them than New Year’s Eve resolutions. I researched this. There’s evidence the Babylonian empire had a new year’s resolution custom, as did the Roman empire. [4] According to the historian Leigh Eric Schmidt the Puritans, because they had always “objected to the pagan frivolity of New Year’s observances,” used New Year’s “as a time for religious renewal and spiritual resolve, a time to move from irregular attendance on God’s ordinances to disciplined, holy living.”[5] Similarly, in the mid-1700s the Methodists created mid-winter “watch night” services as a way for worshippers to reflect on the year and renew their covenant with God. Among some 19th century evangelicals there was a tradition of “pious resolution” at New Year’s, a practice of recommitting one’s life to God.[6] And Schmidt says that the “more secular New Year’s resolutions for therapeutic self-improvement and healthful living, which … came into vogue at the turn of the twentieth century [and which are most familiar to us] had their roots in these Christian practices of ‘pious resolution.’”[7]

So there’s a scattered history behind our practice of making New Year’s resolutions; but when I say it doesn’t feel like a real tradition, I mean that most people who make resolutions don’t do so from a place of deep religious conviction or grounding in a specific cultural heritage. It’s just what Americans talk about at New Year’s Eve parties. “I want to quit smoking.” “I want to be a better parent.” “I want to wear loud pants.”

But I don’t want to let the practice go either. I also know that we have spiritual winters. Invited or not, they can and do seize us. Some people desperately need to make a change. Some people need to quit smoking, to get out of debt, to lose weight. Some people, myself included, long to be a better parent, a better spouse, a better person. And some people really do want to wear loud pants, not because they’re being cute or funny, but because they know something needs to change in their life: they need to lighten up, to live more authentically, to live more boldly, to be true to themselves. The pants are a symbol of a much deeper longing.

So perhaps the beginning of the year is a good time to make a life-changing resolution. Out with the old, in with the new. Certainly here in New England winter is part of the calculation.  Just as life recedes from the earth’s surface in winter and prepares, slowly, to emerge green, glorious and new in spring, perhaps something in us recognizes winter is the right time to do our own work of preparation, of getting ready. Perhaps the cold, the stillness, the blueness, the fallowness, the emptiness all speak to something deep in us, urging us—in our moments of winter solitude, in our moments beneath the cold January stars, in our moments  warming by the fire—urging us to take that sustained inward look, to discern what changes we need to make in order to quell our dissatisfactions, in order to respond to our deepest longings.

To be clear: spiritual winter is not the change itself. Spiritual winter is the season before the change: the womb-time before birth, the star-time before daybreak, the dream-time before waking, the frozen-time before spring’s thaw. Spiritual winter is the season for wondering and imagining what the change will be like, what it will feel like, how it will impact our routines and patterns.  It’s the season for trial runs, for approaching the threshold of change again and again until we’re ready to cross over. It’s the season for rehearsing our lines in front of the mirror, for testing, for making mistakes and learning lessons. It’s the season for discerning what words need to be said and how to say them. It’s the season for reciting our truths quietly to ourselves, making sure we’ve got them right, hearing how they sound as they issue forth from our mouths, letting them inhabit our bodies, letting them seep into the marrow of our bones. Spiritual winter is the season for anticipating how others might react to our new lives, our new selves. It’s the season for informing those close to us that a change is coming. It’s the season for asking them to accept us, asking for their continued love and care. It’s the season for putting in place the supports we need to live differently. Spiritual winter is the season for moving from fear to resolve, moving from aimless anxiety to focused strategy. It’s the season in which we cease wandering in the wilderness and begin travelling in a definite direction. It’s the season for moving from confusion to clarity, from caution to courage. It’s the season for getting ready.

But how? So many resolutions fall by the wayside. So many longings go unfulfilled. So many habits remain unbroken. So many truths remain unspoken. How do we do the work of our winter seasons well so that change comes in spring? Here’s what I know: If I’m an addict and I resolve to break my addiction, I am unlikely to succeed if I give up the substance but try to continue being the person I’ve always been. Breaking the addiction is not simply a matter of giving up the substance. I’ve got to let go of the self I was in relation to the substance. In that way I can create sufficient space for a new, non-addicted self to emerge.

If I receive a diagnosis of cancer, and I resolve to enter into treatment with the intention of beating that cancer, I am unlikely to succeed if I try to continue my life as it was prior to the diagnosis. There are aspects of my living I must let go of in order to effectively fight the cancer.

If I resolve to be a better parent, I am unlikely to succeed if I try to add better parenting techniques on top of my previous mediocre parenting techniques. I have to let go of my previous techniques. I have let go of the parent I was in order to become the parent I want to be. I have to create sufficient space for new techniques. I have to create sufficient room for my new identity to emerge.

If I resolve to repair a broken relationship, I am unlikely to succeed with a simple “I’m sorry” or “let’s be friends.” If I have played a role in the breakdown of the relationship, at some level I must let go of that part of myself that played the role, and in so doing create space for a new self to emerge, one that understands how my previous self contributed to the problem and is therefore able to avoid the problem in the future.

In my experience it is rare we are able to make substantive change purely by addition—by adding to what is already there. Change happens by subtraction—by letting go of old selves before we can make room for the new. Winter is a season of subtraction, a newly blank slate. Witness the barren winter landscape, the empty forest floor, the leaf-less branch, the frozen pond, the misty grey morning, the fallow field, the endless blanket of freshly fallen snow, the long evening shadows, the echo of the lone wolf’s howl fading gently into the still night sky. Emptiness. We prepare for change by subtracting, by cultivating emptiness. Philip Simmons says “Lying in the snow, I let my body cool, my breath slow, my mind empty of thoughts. The winter mind, knowing its own emptiness, beholds ‘nothing that is not there’ but also, as its final achievement, ‘the nothing that is.’”[8]

Friends, the new year has arrived. The planet slowly tilts its northern hemisphere back toward the sun. Though day-light hours begin lengthening, the long, evening shadows still arrive early. The land, still barren, the branches still leaf-less. Emptiness abounds. Perhaps there is a change you’ve resolved to make with the turning of the year. Perhaps a change has been forced upon you. Either way, in this winter season, and in all your spiritual winters, may you find your way to emptiness, to beholding the ‘nothing that is.’ This is subtraction. This is what is necessary to let go of unnecessary attachments, to let go of old habits, of old routines, of old practices, of old selves. This is what is necessary to welcome the new. This is the work of winter that gives rise to the promise of spring.

Amen and blessed be.

[1] Kingsolver, Barbara, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007) p. 297.

[2] Simmons, Philip, Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life (New York: Bantam Books, 2000) p. 116.

[3] “Poll: Most Americans Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions, Go Out To Celebrate,” CBS NY, Dec. 29, 2013:

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/12/29/poll-most-americans-dont-make-new-years-resolutions-go-out-to-celebrate/.

[4] Pappas, Stephanie, “Why We Make New Year’s Resolutions,” Livescience, Dec. 31, 2013. See: http://www.livescience.com/42255-history-of-new-years-resolutions.html. For more information on watch night services, see Durden, Jada, “Watch Night, a Time of Renewal, Celebration,” Shreveporttimes. Com, Dec. 31, 2014. See: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/life/community/2014/12/31/watch-night-time-renewal-celebration/21110623/.

[5] Schmidt, Leigh Eric, Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995) p. 117.

[6] Schmidt, Consumer Rites, pp. 117-118.

[7] Schmidt, Consumer Rites, p. 118.

[8] Simmons, Learning to Fall, p. 110.

 

Surrender: In Search of the Present Moment

Rev. Josh Pawelek


Winds be still“Winds be still. Storm clouds pass and silence come.”[1] This is not the first time I’ve started a sermon with a quote from this particular hymn. It’s not one of those hymns I learned as a child; but it’s become one of those hymns I long to hear and sing in challenging times. These past few weeks have been, to say the least, challenging times for me. They’ve been challenging for a variety of reasons—multiple serious health crises in the congregation and the situation described in the letter our board and I sent to all members this week having to do with a painful issue here—are just two reasons. There are others. I admit I am experiencing far more than my normal level of stress and, perhaps more fundamentally, I am heart-sick; I am sad.

“Winds be still. Storm clouds pass and silence come.” If one takes these words literally, and if one doesn’t have the music to go with them, one could interpret them as commands: winds be still! Storm clouds pass! Silence come! But we know that’s not the intent.  If nothing else, the music doesn’t allow for such an interpretation. There’s no demand being made here. These words are a prayer. They’re a request, a plea, an appeal, an ask; they express to the universe—to whatever the singer regards as most holy—a longing, a yearning, a desire that a quiet peace may arise in the midst of difficult times, even if only for a moment. They’re a prayer that in the midst of that quiet peace, clarity and understanding may come.

Prayer Those of you who’ve heard me name what prayer is to me know I don’t expect some all-powerful entity to answer my prayers in any way, let alone do as I say. The God I believe in doesn’t have the power to still the winds, be they real or metaphorical. They will still on their own when they are ready. The God I believe in doesn’t have the power to make storm clouds pass, be they real or metaphorical. They pass on their own when they are ready. And the God I believe in doesn’t have the power to bring a peaceful moment to me. Such moments come when I make myself ready for them. I believe in the power of prayer, not because it gives me what I need and want, but because it reminds me of how I aspire to be in the world—loving and compassionate. It reminds me of how I aspire to feel in the morning when I wake, as I go about my day, and as I lay down to sleep at night—peaceful, serene, open. And it reminds me of what I aspire to achieve in my life and my work—a more just society, a more sustainable community, a more peaceful world. When I pray I am not asking for something magical to happen. I am simply orienting myself toward how I aspire to be, feel and act in the world. As I pray, I have a fighting chance of remembering these things. As I pray I have a fighting chance of getting there.

Except fight is the wrong word. It’s not a fight at all. If and when I try to fight my way through some turmoil, some pain, grief, anxiety, winds, storm—whatever it is—I rarely get there. That is, I might win the fight, but in winning I don’t necessarily gain any clarity about how I want to be, feel and act in the world. More often than not, fighting forces us to compromise those things. Getting to that moment wherein I can truly remember and orient myself toward how I want to be, feel and act in the world almost always requires surrender: Surrender to whatever fierce winds are blowing; surrender to whatever ominous storm clouds abound overhead; surrender to feelings of self-doubt and unsureness; surrender to pain, anxiety, grief, anger, being overwhelmed; surrender to forces larger than me; surrender to forces over which I have no control. It may seem counter-intuitive, it may seem weak, but surrender is often our surest path back to ourselves, back to clarity, back to wholeness. Surrender is often what saves us so that we can live the lives we aspire to live.

Our ministry theme for March is surrender. I like this theme. It shows up in my preaching and writing regularly, though I may use othersurrender words and phrases like “letting go” or “falling” or “accepting things as they are,” or “embracing life as it is.” This theme really matters to me, perhaps because I’m concerned I don’t surrender very well. Like love, like apologizing, like offering forgiveness, surrender is difficult. You’ve heard me say this before. In fact, surrender was our ministry theme three years ago this month and I preached a sermon at that time called “The Art of Surrender.”[2]  (I’m sure those of you who were there remember it word-for-word. It was electrifying.) As a reminder, the reason we use theme-based ministry is because it invites us to revisit a specific theme in our spiritual lives at least once every three years, just as the Christian lectionary invites Christians to read through the Bible in worship over the course of three years. Presumably, as we encounter these themes over the course of years—as we cycle back to them continually—we deepen our understanding of them.

Three years ago I said surrender is difficult. I still feel this poignantly. Our egos get in the way of our capacity for surrender, as does our pride, as does our fear of vulnerability, as does our unwillingness to change even when we know change is necessary. Sometimes we’re ashamed to appear weak. Sometimes we’re ashamed to appear as if we’re giving up. Sometimes the fight is so strong in us we don’t know when to quit. Sometimes we just can’t hear the good advice of our loved-ones telling us to let it go, let it go, let it go.

And of course, our culture—that is, our dominant, United States culture—is a fighting culture that frowns upon surrender. Our dominant culture values and rewards winning and success. It cheers Wall Street bull markets. It idolizes the competitive spirit.  It spends billions of dollars every year consuming competitive professional and college sports. A salient manifestation of this fighting culture is the fact that our nation’s military spending accounts for 40% of all military spending on the planet. We outspend China, our nearest competitor, by nearly 5 to 1.[3] Cuts to US military spending proposed this past week totaling $1 trillion over the next ten years leave barely a blemish on this spending dominance. We’re not just ready for a fight. We’re ready to dispense “shock and awe.” We’re ready for winning anywhere in the world at any time.  Like it or not, it’s a prominent part of who we are as a people. I’m not critiquing this fighting culture—I’ll save that for a different Sunday morning. I’m simply making the point that it’s a fighting culture, and being enmeshed in it makes surrender in any form challenging, even if we’re only talking about surrender in the context of our internal lives, in the face of our own personal high winds and battering storms.

In that sermon three years ago I focused on the absence of a language of surrender in our Unitarian Universalist principles and in our hymns. We put significant emphasis on the self—on discovering our unique selves, on valuing our selves, on proclaiming our selves—who we are, what we’re passionate about, what we love. And thus the idea of surrendering the self into some greater reality seems counter-intuitive. Yesterday, after Jeanne Lloyd’s father’s memorial service, Carol Simpson asked me what I was preaching on. I said “surrender.” She reminded me, “that’s not an easy thing for UUs to do.” She’s right.

Lau TzuHaving said this, we nevertheless encounter the spiritual advice to surrender all the time. We encounter the advice to let go, to fall, to accept things as they are, to embrace the world as it is, to go with the flow, to enter the mystery. I often start with the Taoist philosophers of ancient China, who offered surrender as an alternative to infighting within families, communities and governments; an alternative to greed and corruption; an alternative to militarism and oppression as tools of leadership. Surrender, for them, was the path of wisdom, the path of peace—a way to lead without appearing to lead. They looked at nature for affirmation of this principle and for guidance on how to do it. Lao Tzu, in chapter 76 of the Tao-te ching says: “All things, the grass as well as the trees, are tender and supple while alive. When dead, they are withered and dried. Therefore, the stiff and the hard are companions of death. The tender and the weak are companions of life.”[4] Be soft, be gentle, bow down, bend in the wind, move with the current, yield, remain quiet, observe, listen.  Fighting—the path of rigidity, the path of holding on tightly—would  ultimately lead one to break, to snap, to wither, to die. “If the army is strong,” said Lao Tzu, “it will not win.” Fighting was the path of foolishness. Perhaps Lao Tzu’s most famous statement of this principle comes in Chapter 22 of the Tao-te Ching: “To yield is to be preserved whole.”[5]

Philip Simmons

Philip Simmons

The spiritual writer I come back to again and again on this theme is the late Philip Simmons. I’ve quoted many times from his last book, Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life, a series of reflections on living with ALS—Lou Gehrig’s Disease—a series of reflections on finding meaning, peace and joy in life as one surrenders to the reality of death. If I stay in ministry long enough I will eventually quote this entire book. “Learning to fall” is another way of naming the act of surrender. Simmons writes: “At its deepest levels life is not a problem but a mystery. The distinction…is fundamental: problems are to be solved, true mysteries are not. Personally, I wish I could have learned this lesson more easily…. But each of us finds his or her own way to mystery. At one time or another, each of us confronts an experience so powerful, bewildering, joyous, or terrifying that all our efforts to see it as a ‘problem’ are futile. Each of us is brought to the cliff’s edge. At such moments we can either back away in bitterness or confusion, or leap forward into mystery. And what does mystery ask of us? Only that we be in its presence, that we fully, consciously, hand ourselves over. That is all, and that is everything. We can participate in mystery only by letting go of solutions. This letting go is the first lesson of falling, and the hardest.”[6] This point is so important: holding on tightly, hanging on at all costs, striving to win, fighting—all of it so often leads to a diminishment of ourselves, a compromising of ourselves, a losing of ourselves. But in the space we create in our lives as we surrender—if we really surrender—there is new meaning. There is new joy. There is new peace. There is a new reminder of how we aspire to be, feel, and act in the world.

That’s essentially where I stopped three years ago. I didn’t quote Lao Tzu or Philip Simmons in that particular sermon, but there are many other compelling scriptures and writings that speak to this principle and remind us there are times when the best course of action, the path to peace, to serenity, to greater clarity, to wholeness, the path back to our true selves—or we might say to our next selves—is surrender. What leaves me cold about that sermon three years ago—what was missing then and what I hope I can describe here and now is not the what of surrender—I think we get that—but the how of surrender. What does one actually do in order to surrender?

“Winds be still. Storm clouds pass and silence come.”[7] Surrender is an act of prayer. Not the kind of prayer that lists all the things we want to have happen; not the kind of prayer that looks to some magical outcome or miracle to take place. It’s the kind of prayer that begins “I don’t know.” I don’t know. It’s the kind of prayer that begins, “I am not in control.” I am not in control. It’s the kind of prayer that begins with the recognition: “I have something to learn.” I have something to learn. And perhaps most fundamentally, it’s the kind of prayer that begins with the affirmation: “I am here, now.” I am here, now. Though the past—our history—shapes us, makes us who we are, often weighs heavily on us, and cannot and should not be forgotten, surrender requires that we step away from the past for a moment, that we let its hold on us loosen, that we let it, in the words of the Rev. Mark Belletini, “take [its] Sabbath now, [its] brief and simple rest.”[8] Likewise, while the future calls to us, beckons to us, prods us, fills us with both anticipation and dread, with both excitement and stress, surrender requires that we step away from the future for a moment, let its voice grow quiet, let its vision cease to direct us. Surrender requires that we come fully into the present moment, where future and past are ghosts. In that moment we may encounter no more than silence. We may receive no more than a brief respite from the winds that batter our lives and the storm clouds that drench us. But we may, and often do, receive much more: peace of mind, peace of heart, a more grounded and steady understanding of what to do next, and that precious reminder of how we aspire to be in the world, how we aspire to feel in the world, how we aspire to act in the world.

Rev. Belletini says it so well: “Let the breathing in this room be free and flowing. / Let pulses trance a slower rhythm in the wrist. / Let the coming silence be like hands / pulling back a curtain, / revealing the table set with the feast of life / which is present here and now / and has been the whole while, / present to those who give up living in either the past / or the future.”[9] The words of surrender are not “I give up.” They are not a cynical, “you win.” They are not “I quit.” The words of surrender are “I don’t know. I am not in control. I have something to learn. I am here, now.”

The act of surrendering is not a losing of the self, though it may feel like the self we have been clinging to is disappearing. The act of surrendering is not an act of weakness, though it may feel like weakness. The act of surrendering is not something to be feared, though it may feel frightening. On the contrary, the act of surrendering is a return to the self we most aspire to be. As Lao Tzu said, “To yield is to be preserved whole.”[10]

As we rise to meet all the challenges of our lives—all the winds, all the storm clouds, all the pain and anxiety, all the turmoil great and small—may we remember the value of surrender, trusting that the present moment truly does offer a table set with the feast of life. I don’t know. I am not in control. I have something to learn. I am here, now.

present moment

Amen and blessed be.



[1] Kimball, Richard S., “Winds Be Still,” Singing the Living Tradition (Boston: Beacon Press and the UUA, 1993) # 83.

[3] This chart from globalissues.org is instructive: http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending#InContextUSMilitarySpendingVersusRestoftheWorld. This 2/24/14 CNBC article is also helpful: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101440355.

[4] Wing-Tsit Chan, tr., Lao Tzu, Chapter 76, The Way of Lao Tzu (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1963) p. 233.

[5] Wing-Tsit Chan, tr., Lao Tzu, Chapter 76, The Way of Lao Tzu (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1963) p. 139.

[6] Simmons, Philip, Learning to Fall: the Blessings of an Imperfect Life (New York: Bantam Books, 2000) p. 8.

[7] Kimball, Richard S., “Winds Be Still,” Singing the Living Tradition (Boston: Beacon Press and the UUA, 1993) # 83.

[8] Belletini, Mark, “Slower and Slower,” Sonata for Voice and Silence (Boston: Skinner House Books, 2008) p. 12.

[9] Belletini, Mark, “Slower and Slower,” Sonata for Voice and Silence (Boston: Skinner House Books, 2008) p. 12.

[10] Wing-Tsit Chan, tr., Lao Tzu, Chapter 76, The Way of Lao Tzu (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1963) p. 139.