Rev. Carolyne Mathlin, Senior Minister
Some of my favorite books are the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings. I love the mythology and intricacies of Tolkien’s world. They are masterful analogies of the mystic’s path and introduce needed archetypes into our current collective journey through the powerful medium of story. While the movies have been good, they simply can’t capture all the subtleties and themes the books do. As a result, one of my favorite messages from the books was left out of the movies.
At the beginning of the trilogy the hobbits, who live in the Shire, are protected by rangers in the surrounding wilderness without knowing it. They live in this child-like purity that is a bit clueless and naïve. Their primary concern is what is for breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, and dinner.
Then four hobbits set off on a quest to save all of Middle Earth from the greatest evil, not because they are called by the idea of glory or fame, but because it is simply what needs to be done. Along the way they meet a host of evil characters and are exposed to greed, ignorance, treachery, and narcissism. They learn, grow and are fundamentally changed by their adventures, especially Frodo.
Through it all, they still held on to an idea. They believed that their home would be untouched by all the evil and destruction happening throughout Middle Earth and at the end of their journey they would return to the Shire just as they left it. What actually happens in the book is that when the hobbits return to the Shire, they find the trees have been devastated, the hobbits are enslaved and rats are running all over. Their hopes of returning to an idyllic world are shattered. The hobbits do fight to reestablish their peaceful existence and restore home. But it is all done from a different place. They bring a nuanced understanding and maturity to their work that is informed, but not tainted by their travels and exposure to the greater world. The Shire becomes the next evolutionary expression based on who they are now.
I am just getting back from vacation. I decided to stay local and experience some of the delights of Southern California. I went to Laguna Beach and saw the Pageant of the Masters. I had a Disneyland adventure to see the fireworks. I traveled up to Los Angeles where I went to the Farmer’s Market and the Grove, Chinatown and old town Pasadena. Then, I made the journey home.
My home has continued to be a great source of symbolism for me. Two years ago I embarked on a journey to update my childhood home. It turned out, as is typical, that this project was more extensive and expensive than I had originally planned. This last year I have been adjusting to my new surroundings. The wall structure is the same, but most everything else has changed. It’s been a monumental – and welcome – time of adjusting to this new space.
Just like the hobbits, I thought that even if I updated and redecorated my home that it would still fundamentally be as I remember in childhood. In my process of renewal I went through almost everything and released much of it. When you are wanting to call in new energy, ideas and experiences, you must make space for them by releasing what is no longer serving you or part of the new energy that you are calling in.
What I didn’t expect to happen was that in my quest to release what no longer brought me joy, I have created a void. As I journeyed home from my local travels, I realized that the sense of idyllic hominess I was used to in the old house is no longer there. I have been living in a state of transition with fewer mementos, pictures, and, in general, things around me. I’m in the same space I have always lived in, but it’s different now. Just because we are returning to familiar territory doesn’t mean things haven’t changed. A whole new relationship must be built to establish, or re-establish, what is good, pure and true.
Hominess and heart are not found in things. They are found in the memories of people and the energy of a space. I have been away from home frequently over these past two years, so of course that sense of connection and home is still in process. The ah-ha was that I miss that feeling of hominess very much. Because I haven’t been investing enough of my energy to my physical space, I feel the loss of something that has great value to me. Being in relationship with what is around us is very important. I don’t want my home to be a relic. I want it to be alive, full of energy and vitality. It is part of the principle of giving and receiving, flow and circulation. I need to give and participate to receive the experience of home that I am craving.
So, as a result, I spent the last part of my vacation doing some home projects that I haven’t been able to get to for over a year now. I realized I needed to tune into who I am now and give expression to that through my presence in the home. I started arranging, organizing and simply inhabiting my space more fully. Another layer of transition melted away as I hung art and rearranged some meaningful belongings to remind me of beloved family and friends. This has been a rich time of personal and spiritual integration for me, another layer of embodying the space that I am in with the fullness of my own heart and soul. Just like the Shire, my home will not be the same as before. Instead it will be an expression of who I am now and the life I am living.
We don’t return to the same place we started. It is the spiral journey Father Thomas Keating references in his description of the psychological experience of Centering Prayer. Our physical and spiritual journeys never take us back to things as they were in the past. They bring us to things as they are now, informed by both past and current events, ideas, and energies.
My time away has also given me the space to reflect on you and our Beloved community at Unity of Tustin. My heart is very full with love for each of you. I am aware of so many points of grace as I reflect on these last five years we have been together with me as your minister. From the beginning, my intention has been to continue the legacy of deep practice that I grew up with at this church. Just as I needed to bring my energy to my home in a new way, I am asking you to bring your energy to our church home.
I recently distributed a “getting to know you” form in a Sunday service. If you haven’t had an opportunity to fill it out yet, please take a minute to do that now. Your Board has also provided some information on giving and invited you to increase your financial gifts that go to supporting our teachings, ministries, and our gardens and grounds. It is in our participation that we feel the connection and aliveness of our surroundings. We experience the outer as a reflection of our inner. I look forward to making the journey home with you.