NOTE: Following is a Meditation that I may give at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.
The sermon that Rev. Yielbonzie Charles Johnson offered on August 3rd was very thought-provoking. He recommended cultivating “intimate direct action” by traveling “Four Roads to Intimacy.” The first road is to move away from self-deception and “know yourself better than anyone else.” The second is to utilize “solitude.” The third is to establish strong “kinship,” or a sense of community. The fourth is to then experience “intimacy,” or “the uncircumscribed engagement in the world,” without fear.
Webster’s defines “intimate” as “belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature.” An intimate conversation therefore is one that comes from your deepest nature.
How many intimate friends do you have with whom you discuss highly personal matters, your joys and your troubles, at least weekly?
As I see it, intimacy involves “speaking from the heart.” What does “to speak from the heart” mean to you? [Allow for answers from the congregation; respond to those comments.]
I googled “speaking from the heart” and the top result said “Ask yourself: is what you’re saying coming from your analytical mind or your intuitive heart?” and “Know that speaking from the heart doesn’t mean getting carried away by your emotions.”
I think of speaking from the heart as a blend of speaking from the gut and speaking from the mind. After all, the heart is in between the gut and the heart.
But an intimate conversation involves more than speaking. It also involves being a good listener.
What does being a good listener mean to you? [Allow for answers from the congregation; respond to those comments.]
Also, to my mind, I am not a particularly good listener when I immediately respond to someone with something like, “I hear you. The same thing happened to me,” and then proceed to talk about myself. I find that kind of response to be far too common.
We have good reasons for being reserved, for not being more transparent. I don’t fully understand those reasons. I’m trying to better understand them. One factor seems to be that what we say might be used against us. Teachers and bosses punish us for saying what they don’t want to hear. Partly for that reason, we learn to be guarded and it becomes a habit. That is understandable.
Howard Thurman, however, affirmed Gandhi’s maxim, “Speak the truth, without fear and without exception” and wrote, “Be simply, directly truthful, whatever may be the cost.” I don’t know if I could ever live up to that standard. I would, however, like to move in that direction.
Most conversations strike me as a series of monologues, telling stories, gossiping, superficial chit-chat, or intellectual discourse. They rarely involving speaking and listening from the heart.
So let me ask again, How many intimate friends do you have with whom you discuss highly personal matters at least weekly?
How many of those friends belong to Fellowship Church?
If we want to grow a strong sense of community, as recommended by Rev. Johnson, do we need to nurture more intimacy with one another? If so, how might we do that, either during the social hour or at other times during the week?
Maybe, if we make more of a conscious effort, we can practice more fully what Dr. Thurman preached.