Freedom = Happiness

The sanctuary was big, round, and almost completely dark. It smelled baby-powdery, like a grandmother’s bosom. (I’ve noticed my most popular blogs have the theme of breasts as in breastfeeding or bra shopping, and I’m not above pandering so, yes, I’m mentioning bosom! And yes, this is a church blog.)

I do love that musty, incense-y, bosom-y church smell.

I debated at lunch time whether I needed to visit a church today since I was at devotions this morning at work. In the third floor conference room, we’d created multi-media worship stations, signifying Brokenness, Hope, and Beauty. We’d included fresh mint and time for conversation about the care of our shared space.

The theme was care of the earth. I think that was the theme. I just did what the rest of the team told me to do. And, of course, before devotions started, I cracked jokes with Jim and Morais (because, we’d agreed, every worship team needs a few hecklers as they’re laying out their cloths and getting into the serious business of prayer.) Seriously, I’m lucky to be part of such a creative, inspiring worship team (thanks to Sushil, Christie, Jorge, Lisa, Felipe, Noemi, Kathleen).

Back to West End, I waited for my Aha! moment, sitting in the bosom-y church by myself tonite. Nothing.

No wait. I remembered something Shane, my teacher, said at the end of Yoga when we were sprawled in Sivasinha. She’d read a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh, it was something like, “The freer you are, the happier you are.”

I quizzed Shane about the quote when I bumped into her in the women’s bathroom.

“Do you really think freedom is happiness?” Because I am looking for happiness. And freedom sounds like a good way to go.

“As in freedom from attachment,” she said.

“Ah,” I said. “Like detachment.” And this really helped me, because I easily get overattached — to ideas, to people, to this blog.

I loved that. I loved that in looking for answers in a church, I remembered what my Yoga teacher told me.


Riverside Church. This is an easy one. Right next door to where I work. Maybe I should’ve saved my visit to this church for a rainy day. Not a beautiful, blue-sky day. I ran over there at 4:15 the way a smoker busts out of the office for a cigarette. A quick puff of spirituality. 5 minutes away from my desk. I’ll BRB.

Really beautiful church. To get there I had to walk past a film in production using the church as a holding location. I am such a jaded New Yorker — I could care less what they were filming. I just hoped no young NYU film student working as a PA tried to stop me on the sidewalk. That’s right, some of my best friends when I went to NYU were PAs and I never let them stop me. But no one stopped me. Then I felt guilty for expecting trouble. The guys at the door just shrugged me in. No fuss.

This church is a destination church. Tourists snap pictures of the stained glass.

I sat in the middle of the the vast church. I couldn’t help but remember the last time I was in this sanctuary. In probably a similar spot. I don’t really want to remember that day. It was truly awful. The funeral for two of my friends and colleagues, Sam Dixon and Clint Rabb, who died in Haiti. I sat there not wanting to remember. But I remembered Judith Santiago’s beautiful liturgical dance; uplifting, in a time of collective sorrow.

I wanted to ask God, Why? Why do good people suffer? Why do people doing awesome, wonderful, kind things get killed?

It was hard to concentrate on the big questions today. The piano was being tuned. A handful of tourists were taking pics.

The note on the piano kept getting hit over and over. I felt like I was in a Philip Glass concert.

In the late 1990s, I heard Thich Nhat Hanh speak at Riverside Church. God, he was awesome talking about engaged Buddhism. He said we we can meditate on peace, but also take action for peace. He preached forgiveness, as a Vietnamese monk in the United States. Forgiveness was everything.

I remembered hearing the former minister of Riverside William Sloane Coffin speak (on Charlie Rose, I think) after the death of his adult son. How he would honor his son’s death by not letting one sign of Spring escape him. He would mark his son’s death by living. He would celebrate every single bud of Spring on every new tree. I often remember his words in the Springtime.

I walked back out into the blue-sky Summer day. I went back to my desk. And, okay, I went out for happy hour with a couple of work peeps agaain. (Thanks Melissa and Emily!)

Yesterday, the schedule was beer, bra, church. But today it was church, sangria, manicure.

If you are like me, visiting a church a day, visit Riverside Church. (And there’s a chapel there too, so you can go twice.)