NOTE: This is the text of the speech I gave at the Concord, NH UU church on January 10, 2010.
I AM Sarah-Elizabeth.
I AM a GRU-UP: a Grown or Raised Unitarian Universalist Person, third generation Unitarian Universalist raising a 4th generation. I was at the conference in 1980 which created Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU). I along with many of the same people came together in 1984 to create the Continental UU Young Adult Network (C*UUYAN). During my 20’s it was conferences with UU young adults, which fed my soul. As a part of C*UUYAN’s leadership team, I traveled many summers to Opus, the annual conference of C*UUYAN meeting UU Young Adults from across the country. I have known weeks, months and even years when I did not attend church. Though I attended weekend UU Young Adult conferences as much as possible. As I moved for college, graduate school and work, I longed for community. The local UU community would be my place of return.
Going to church is a choice I make to be a member of a community of faith, which asks me to ponder what it is TO BE in this plane of existence. The challenge I see for our UU faith community is to embrace the many paths as one. My life’s journey has shown me there is ONE MOUNTAIN toward enlightenment, or God, Presence, Spirit, Nature whatever name you choose to call the Source of Life. (Words place limits on our understanding. I will use Spirit from here forward, intending only to shorten my speech, rather than place a limit on this limitless complex idea.)
Spirit Mountain offers itself to be explored. Some choose to travel one path, one tradition towards the top of Spirit Mountain. Others choose to travel around and around Spirit Mountain exploring without finding a path towards the center or top. Some travel the path out away from the mountain across the plains in their journey. Still others sit in one place alongside the path without moving. I have walked many of these paths throughout my life. What I choose to do each day is to travel that path on Spirit Mountain in my own way.
My experience on Spirit Mountain is one of traveling many different paths, a most challenging journey. I’ve experienced UU Youth and Young Adult communities, UU church communities, African drumming, the sweat lodge, Kripalu yoga, Kundalini yoga, Reiki attunement, Massage school, Dances of Universal Peace, Sufi traditions, UU traditions, celebrations of Christmas, Hanukah, Easter, Passover, Solstices, Full moon and more. Some of these experiences I’ve shown up for, others I’ve been involved in leadership. Each of these experiences takes me deeper into myself, deeper into an understanding of what I AM in this lifetime.
My friend Pam refers to me as a Spiritual Scientist. My faith in life today comes from an amalgam of traditions, in no particular order: UU, Science, Sufi, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist. I am one who seeks to feel and experience life, rather than sit back and let life come to me. My friend Amethyst Wyldfyre refers to me as “The Body Whisperer,” for in my life’s work I facilitate the healing of body, mind and spirit.
Just as the clothing I wear can be changed each day, Spiritual practices bring shift in perception of the ONE MOUNTAIN. Each religious tradition I have explored shows me a different set of clothes to Spirit Mountain, and yet the clothes are not the mountain itself. The ritual informs me of that which is Spirit and the journey begins again. Within the experience of dance or drum or even the perfect ski run down the mountain I come to know that I AM a Spirit being having a human experience. There is a centered place inside myself when a door opens (hands to the heart center) and I see that which is within the core of my being all along. Here the clothes of the ritual fall away and I AM PRESENCE itself.
Sometimes this experience is a quiet one, holding me in a suspended place within. Other times I AM invigorated by the rhythms, sounds or pulse of my heart beat as I dance or drum myself into being. Sometimes this knowing is as far away as the furthest Star. And times I find myself washing dishes or saying, “Good night” or doing the myriad of things I do day to day and there I AM in present awareness.
I know that place of connection best when I choose to experience my life fully, to live with FULL BODY I AM PRESENCE. I know that place best when I AM in a state of noticing, without judgment right or wrong. My experience has shown me that Unitarian understanding of “God is One” and the Universalist understanding that “God is Love.”
For me, a few words cannot encompass my experiences or explain the connection that I find from time to time in my life.
Thank you for being a member of this faith community. You enrich this community by your presence here. I’m glad to have so many partners on this path.