Some say the illness of our times is busyness. You might even call it a false idol. As a society we seem driven to do more and more, over-scheduling ourselves as well as our children. Even retirees keep themselves going all the time. I am no exception to this rule, but during my recent retreat I experienced a breakthrough that I shared with my congregation on Valentine’s Day and would like to share with you now.

Some say the illness of our times is busyness. You might even call it a false idol. As a society we seem driven to do more and more, over-scheduling ourselves as well as our children. Even retirees keep themselves going all the time. I am no exception to this rule, but during my recent retreat I experienced a breakthrough that I shared with my congregation on Valentine’s Day and would like to share with you now.


On the retreat I worked my way through a book of healing prayers using guided imagery. One of the meditations, to heal a central wound, took me back to the child I was when my brother was adopted into our family. Most older siblings know what it is like to lose loving attention to a younger sibling (if we are lucky enough to have had it). If older siblings are really young when that happens, they don’t understand the reason. I was less than 2 years old, an age when children feel very powerful and try to figure out what they did or failed to do that caused something to happen, like the loss of attention.


Different children take things different ways, depending on family situation and their own temperaments. Some may become angry and distrustful of others. Some may feel lost in the world. During this visualization I realized that as a small child I decided that I had to do, and do, and do, work, work, and work, achieving more in less time, being the best at everything, all in order to deserve loving attention. As a strategy it had its good points. It helped me get into a great college and opened opportunities. The huge drawback is that this part of me has driven me hard all of my life, and it is exhausted.


In the healing prayer, you ask Spirit to hold and heal that injured part of yourself. As I pictured the hurt, exhausted child me being held and healed, Spirit said, “You already have all you need to get all that you want.” Now being me, I thought this meant my ability to write or to do that thing or the other. Instead, Spirit touched the child’s chest and said, “Your heart. Your heart is your most precious gift.” Then I could see the heart of that child glowing – a warm ball of golden, glittery, warm, fluid light. Spirit said, “I gave you your heart to use.”


When I talked to the spiritual director at the retreat center about all this she said, “What if you believed that just being you is enough to deserve love, without doing anything?” Wow, what a concept. With her I began exploring the question, “What would it feel like if I began to source my life and my work in love, rather than in the frantic need to do, to impress, and to achieve?”


This is the journey of my heart at the moment. I tell you this not to gain your sympathy, but because I believe there are others in this overly busy society who might have a similar wound. As I watch the Winter Olympics, I wonder how many of those gifted young people have the mistaken belief that in order to deserve love they need to do so much, and be the very best. Maybe this is the true illness of our times.


If there is any place where you can be loved just for being you, without having to do or achieve, it is in a religious community where you can just be, and in your being, be loved. We all need places to go where we can receive love no matter how much or how little we do, no matter how many times we have slipped up, no matter how much we have achieved, no matter how many times we may have failed.


The truth of the matter is that we all deserve love no matter what. This means that others deserve our love. We all slip at times, but in religious community we can foster in ourselves the desire and the ability to act in love, to treat one another kindly, gently, and with respect. In this way we can learn to live from our most precious gift.


An image for this sort of religious community came to me in a dream – an oasis of being in the midst of a desert of doing. We can go there parched, hot, tired, sunburnt and dusty, and rest in the cool shade. We can cleanse ourselves, drink clear pure water, nourish ourselves, rest, dance, talk or be silent as we wish, communing with one another whether we are speaking or not. What an act of mercy, to create such an oasis together, where we can all offer and receive such unconditional love.


What a wonderful purpose for a faith group — to help us learn to the furthest reaches of our hearts, to understand in our very bones, that we can just be, and be loved. The scripture verse that kept coming to me in the days leading up to my retreat was, “Be still and know that I am.” To that I would add, “Be still and know that you are, and that you are loved.” This is a rich stillness, a healing and a nurturing stillness.       


The journey of love, of the heart also calls us out of the oasis because love is an expansive thing. We come to an oasis of being to rest and seek renewal, then we journey again into the desert. But we return to the desert changed from having been in that oasis, loved because we are. We may foray out in caravans with others met there. We may carry with us the provisions of unconditional love and the will to share it with others.


The Rev. Tess Baumberger, PhD, is minister at Unity Church of North Easton, Mass. For more information and links to this and other Unitarian Universalist churches, please visit www.uua.org. You can reach her at easton@cnc.com.