“A thank you note of appreciation for 2020” ~ Rev. Marylou Palmer
Our collective experience of 2020 is really a necessary step ADVANCING us into The Collective Awakening. Let’s look at how gratitude, appreciation and other simple spiritual tools can help us get through this transition more gracefully.
Marylou Palmer is a Unity Worldwide Ministries trained Transitional Specialist with over 20 years of ministerial experience working with spiritual communities to collectively resolve the issues standing in their way of moving forward. She holds a master’s degree in counseling from The University of Alabama and has lived in all four corners of the country engaging in the spiritual work of collective transformation.
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A revised transcript of this week’s talk is provided below for the Deaf and hard of hearing, including prayers, readings and songs.
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A prayer of unity, by Brother David Steindl-Rast
You, the one
From whom on different paths
All of us have come.
To whom on different paths
All of us are going.
Make strong in our hearts what unites us;
Build bridges across all that divides us;
United, make us rejoice in our diversity,
At one in our witness to your peace,
A rainbow of your glory. Amen
A prayer of healing, and new life
Come, spirit, breathe new life into us.Anonymous
Blow away the cobwebs in our minds, clear away the debris in our souls.
Bring healing to our wounds and comfort to our grief.
Refresh our spirits, set our feet to dancing, and set our hearts ablaze.
Wind of God, touch our lives and open us to your wisdom.
And so it is.
“A thank you note of appreciation for 2020” with Rev. Marylou Palmer
Nov 29, 2020
I want to thank you for inviting me into your living rooms today and to thank you for joining me in this waking up process of gratitude for our 2020 experience. You see, it all started for me when I set the intention for 2020 to live out of spiritual vision. You see, I’ve been meditating and contemplating what did it mean, really, to have a 2020 experience. And then I was remembering that perfect vision, spiritual vision, is different. That normal vision is a comparison between how well I see at 20 feet and how well the majority of other people see at 20 feet. And I knew that I wear glasses. So my vision isn’t quite the same as everybody else’s. But what I really wanted to do was to live out of spiritual vision for 2020. Now, little did I know how that was going to turn out. But I also do know, because I had had 20 years of experience working with intention and spiritual practice, and spiritual communities, that when you set such an all-encompassing wafting intention, such as living 2020 out of a spiritual vision, that everything, and anything unlike that is going to show up for healing.
As I said, I’ve done ministry for 20 years working with communities that… I show up it’s because the previous minister left. I show up because there’s crisis and trauma and drama in the community. And so they invite me to come in and work with them, along with their leadership, and their community, to resolve the issues that are standing in their way for hiring the next minister. So I’ve had a particularly interesting 20 years’ experience with transition. And I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that 2020 is one of those pivotal, colossal, transformational experience, not only for me, and for you, but also for our nation, our collective, probably for the whole world since we’re having this pandemic experience. And what I know about transitions is that they’re different than changes.
When we change something, we change things because we think it’s going to be fun, we think it’s going to be easier, we think it’s going to make our life more wonderful. And we’re always looking to the change… you know, change our clothes, we change our jobs. It’s easy. It’s easy.
But transitions start with an ending and endings are not always easy. In fact, most of the time endings are filled with disappointment, disillusionment, disrespect, dis… everything, disillusion. And most of all, it’s about a dis-identification of who we were, and what’s normal for us. We’re losing our identity in the process of an ending. And this ending is such a big deal. I mean, we’re walking into a void. We don’t know what tomorrow’s going to be like. We don’t know how next year is going to turn out. We don’t know how… if we’re going to have a job, or if our economy is going to bounce back, or if we’re going to live to see another day.
All of that pulls together to create a quite a freak-out moment. And social scientists tell us that we have three different ways that we routinely handle freak-out moments. The first is denial. We just deny that it’s such a big deal. We downplay the risks, we help people to manage, and we want things to be normal. And so we… out of our desire to have it be normal, we minimize things and we ignore things. But that doesn’t mean it’s normal.
I mean, really, this last week of Thanksgiving, more people traveled this week, then since March. It’s because what we do for Thanksgiving is, we all get together and we want to be with family. And we think that if we’re all together and with family, then everything’s okay. Well, that’s despite the risks, what the CDC is telling us is the healthiest strategy to take. That’s despite the fact that every single day this week we’ve had more hospitalizations because of one virus. That’s despite any and all experiences that we’ve had, that it’s going to be okay.
We’re filled with concern, worry about doubt. But this attempt to normalize… you know, we had Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It wasn’t two miles long, it was only a mile. It wasn’t… they didn’t invite the normal 1.3 million people to be involved with Macy’s Day Parade. There wasn’t any live event there at all. You know, the show must go on. So the first way we handle freak-out is we try to rationalize and minimize our freak-out. We sort of deny, to normalize the experience.
The second way we start handling this freak-out experience is that we become emotionally reactive. We’re going to react emotionally with fear, worry, anger, we try to assign blame. We said… Oh, that’s the problem…., well, that’s the problem….., Oh, this is it, you fill in the blank. But the truth of the matter is that when we’re in these emotional, upset, trauma, worry, freak-out, it doesn’t help us, really, to deal with the issue.
In fact, there’s an old story about a guy who wrote the… I think it was the Ford Motor Company and said, I just bought one of your new automobiles, and I have a problem, it’s a very rare and unusual problem. Because every night, my family and I go out and buy ice cream. And when I buy vanilla ice cream, the car doesn’t start. But when I buy chocolate, or pistachio, or any number of others, the car starts automatically. Now, I don’t know what the problem is, but I thought I’d let you know. A month went by. He writes again, to the head of the automobile company and says, I know you think I’m crazy, but there’s a problem here. Every single time I buy vanilla ice cream after supper, the car doesn’t start. But every time I buy anything else, it’s fine.
So the president of the company sent one of his engineers down to see what was going on for this guy. He’s like, Okay, this is pretty crazy. Turns out that the vanilla ice cream that was stored was the most popular thing this ice cream shop sold. And so they had a big display case at the very beginning of the store. And you could pop in, get ice cream and get out back to your car in less than two minutes. But if you buy anything else you had to go to the back of the store, there was always a line, you know, it would take 10-15 minutes to get ice cream. Well, it turns out, the problem wasn’t ice cream. It didn’t matter about the ice cream. What it mattered was the difference in 10 or 15 minutes, gave the car enough time to dissolve its vapors. And that’s a freak-out moment.
We have to let go of the vapor lock in our consciousness so that we can start waking up to what’s really going on. You see, freak-outs are here to teach us. And really, 2020 has been a year where we have gotten to know ourselves and gotten to know each other and gotten to know what we’re really made of. And we’re not through this freak-out moment yet we’re still in the middle of the void. It’s a place of no return. We can’t go back to what it was. We can’t un-ring this bell. We will always be confronted with the difference between social distance and distance learning, it’s never going to be the same. So the challenge is, what are we going to do? How are we going to get this vapor lock that’s holding us back from really being able to move forward together, as fellow citizens as countrymen, as citizens of the world, to co create a world that works better than this one has. So, how we really do that is the third way of dealing with freak-out.
The third way of freak-out is starting to engage with acceptance. The Big Book of alcoholics says the answer to all of our problems is in… acceptance is the answer to all of our problems today. Acceptance, once we get to that place of accepting this is what’s going on. Now, what are we going to do? Until we move away from thinking it’s all about vanilla, to recognizing that we have to move beyond the vapor lock that’s clogging up our emotions, and start engaging in rational acceptance strategies, we have to get to the point where we start developing some perspective on this. All is not lost. The world is not ending. Yet, we act like it. So we have to start figuring out how really to engage with one another. I mean, Zoom is a perfect example of a new way, a new strategy, a new experience. Sometimes it kind of gets us into a vapor lock tizzy. But we can move through it, we can do this.
Another thing that happens is that we start developing our own connection with the divine, with a power that’s greater than this, to God is our own understanding. This is a time for us to plug in to that divine experience. And that will grow us beyond whatever challenges we’re experiencing, we have to figure out how to restore our self-esteem, we have to unplug from being what we have been to who we can be, we have to understand that we’re the ones we’re waiting on.
And how do we do this? How do we really get to this point of engaging in acceptance? I think it’s all about appreciating the good. It’s about harvesting the good. It’s even about ‘mourning in giraffe’. One of the programs I’m involved in is called compassionate communication. And one of the techniques they talk about is really ‘mourning in giraffe’. And it’s too complicated to talk about. But let me give you an example.
One of my friends Dorothy sent out a tweet last week, it was a picture of her and Harry. And they were sitting cuddling in this big oversized chair. And it was right before his last illness. And her message was, I have to tell you every day, I am so grateful for Harry, and the love that I have for Harry, who’s been gone three years now, can you believe it has grown every single day. I still talk to Harry as if he’s still around in the physical body. And I have gotten to understand what he was trying to say and what he was trying to do and how our life really worked when he was around. And after 32 years of companionship, my love for Harry has grown. And it’s grown so much to now I really am asking Harry, help me, help me find somebody who would be just the right person for me to follow up with, to come… a new companion for me to spend the rest of my life. Now, this is ‘mourning in giraffe’. It is about recognizing how well her needs were met with those 32 years of being repaired. And also, out of that hunger to have that again in her life. And that’s what gratitude…. appreciation can be. It can really help us to understand and to grow.
I’m going to give you seven different appreciation prompts. And if you haven’t gotten a pencil or a piece of paper, I’m going to invite you to do that now, because I’m going to tell you one more story about gratitude. You see, gratitude turns us away from the, you know, general, every day, good stuff, to taking us into harvesting really the good in those difficult moments, in the difficult painful experiences. And that’s what gratitude can be. It’s a way to appreciate, appreciate something that moves us deeper into ourselves.
The first one of those appreciation prompts that I want us to talk about is breathing. I don’t know about you, but I used to breathe all the time. But I didn’t really appreciate it until I started taking deep, conscious breaths. That breath moved me beyond my head, beyond just filling up my lungs, but truly getting my solar plexus in it. And when I could breathe down beyond that lump in my throat, or beyond the tightness in my chest, or the hole in my heart, and really breathe, I came to understand something higher and deeper. I came to appreciate my physical experience, my wholeness in a different way. So that’s what I want you to do, is take time out to breathe, to take time out to appreciate your body temple. And to really understand the health and the wholeness that are ours were designed that way. Even if we’re not all showing up that way. And that’s part of that appreciation, look for the good. And also recognize where you probably could do a little tweaking you know, whether that’s getting more into shape, or building up your stamina, or deciding to drink more, drink less, drink less alcohol, and drink more water, whatever it is. Find the health partners who can help you in making that transformation.
The second appreciation prompt I want us to look at is to see how well our needs have been met, and then do an inventory of how our needs have been met. And an inventory of what is unmet in our lives. Not to shame, not to blame, not to assign responsibility elsewhere. But to really look what are the things that are working well? And what are the things that need some improvement?
The third appreciation prompt I want to give you is to appreciate your pain and the longings of your heart. Who are you? And what is it that gets left undone in your life? It’s sort of like your bucket list for yourself? What is it that you want to do? Maybe you have a song that you have been dying to…., to really embrace? Or maybe you want to be a YouTube creator? Or maybe you want to do something else? I don’t know, what is the longing of your heart? So that’s the third appreciation prompt.
The fourth prompt is to appreciate forgiveness. You see, we’re all human, and we need forgiveness. We need forgiveness so we can let go of our worry, our doubts, our mistakes, the challenges we have in getting this video set up, whatever. We need that forgiveness. And if we can forgive ourselves and forgive other people, all the better. That forgiveness is critical. So I want to invite you to look and appreciate how good a forgiver are you? Not only how many times you needed to ask for forgiveness, but how many times could you offer forgiveness? And do you need to become a better forgiver so you can let go of the small stuff and really focus on important things. So that’s the fourth, forgiveness, the appreciation prompt.
The fifth appreciation prompt I want to give you is how has your life been shaped by failures…., loss. Take an inventory and how many times have you fallen on your face? And how many times have you let it stop you in your tracks or were you able to move on to use those failures and that loss to create successes. That’s going deeper with appreciation.
Number six, the next appreciation prompt is to appreciate your peeps, your partners, your family, your coworkers, your friends. Get to understand who they are and what makes them work. And you can figure out by appreciating them for what they are. They don’t have to change, they don’t have to do things the way you want them to, for you to love them, and care about them. But the more you’ll understand how they’re different. Appreciating their differences, you’ll come to find out that in that appreciation of them doing them the way they do them, instead of having to do your way to be okay, that you’ll make a difference in how successful you will be together in relationship.
Now, there’s a story that tells me about an experience of a novice who’d been in the convent for one year. And she, at that end of the year, went to see Mother Superior, and they had a conversation about how her life was going, what was her prayer life like, what’s working well, what was not working well? She, finally at the end of that conversation, she said, “Well, you know, there’s just…., I like everybody here at the convent, but there’s two people I really don’t like.”
Mother Superior says, “What is it that you don’t like about them?”
Well, the first one was, “she’s too lazy.” And the second one was, “she took too long getting ready to get started for the day, made everybody wait.”
Mother Superior said, “I think I have the answer. I want you this year to work on those two things. I want you to work at being a little bit more lazy, not taking everything so seriously, have a little bit more fun, not work so hard. The second thing I want you to do, is I want you to take more time for yourself. Because often what happens when we compare ourselves to other people, and identify the things we don’t like about them? What’s really going on is those are things that we need to find out and do more in our own lives. So I want you to learn how to appreciate your rivals, and appreciate your enemies. And what it is about them that you don’t like, turn it around, see if that’s not an area where you could be better. You could be more honest, more truthful. What is it that you need to appreciate in them to discovering yourself?”
Now the seventh thing of this whole appreciation is to appreciate your hopes and your faith. You see those two things, hope and faith, are prerequisites for optimism for the future. And it is the way we’re going to get through this. It is how to make appreciation and gratitude part of our lives to truly go forward in our lives. You see, it’s not joy that makes us grateful. It’s really gratitude that makes us joy.
A traditional story:
Once upon a time there was an old man from Crete. He loved his land with a deep intensity, so much so that when he realized that he was about to die, he had his sons bring him outside and lay him down on his beloved earth. As he was about to expire, he reached down by his side and clutched some earth into his hands.
He then appeared before heaven’s gate. God as on old, white-bearded man came out to greet him: “Welcome you’ve been a good man. Please come into the joys of heaven but first you must let go of that soil that’s keeping you earth-bound! ” Never” came the reply. So, God departed sadly, leaving the old man outside the gates.
Eons went by. God came out again, this time as a friend, an old drinking buddy. They had a few drinks, shared a few stories and then God invited him in saying, “alright, now it’s time for us to enter heaven together. Let’s go old friend.” As they started for the pearly gates, once more God asked that the old man let go of the soil and once more, he refused.
More time when by. God came out once more, this time as a delightful, playful granddaughter. “Oh, Granddaddy, you’re so wonderful, and we all miss you so. Please come inside with me.” The old man nodded, and she helped him up, for by this time he was incredibly old and arthritic. In fact, so arthritic that he had to prop up the right-hand holding Crete’s soil with his left hand. As they move toward the gates his strength gave out and his gnarled fingers would no long stay clenched around that soil which shifted out until his hand was empty. Then he entered heaven, guess what the first thing he saw when he entered?
It was his beloved island, yet this time it was with new eyes.
“My Life Is My Prayer” written by Asha Lightbearer
“Butterfly” written by Jana Stanfield
This service aired on November 22, 2020.