Reflecting on Reflecting

Reflecting on Reflecting

The songbirds are collecting bits and pieces for their nests, the Canadian geese are pairing off, the crows are assembling into their murderous nesting groups, and the peregrine falcons on the Trans America Building in Baltimore have laid two eggs (thus far).  

As I walk around Lake Elkhorn across from OBIC on a semi-weekly basis, I feel a connection to the goings on, at least in the bird community, for which I have a special fondness. I’m not necessarily a Bird Watcher (yet) but I have always had a unique sense of awe when watching birds, especially birds of prey. 


When attending our staff Values, Mission, Ends conversation we had the same questions the rest of the congregation had. One question, “when did you feel a sense of holy awe or wonder?” was a particularly difficult question for me. Not because I didn’t have an answer. No. Thanks to my bimonthly Wellspring classes and spiritual guidance meetings I was prepared with an answer. But the question is difficult for me because my answer felt… lacking. Lacking in depth and understanding. My answer, “I felt a sincere sense of awe and wonder while driving through the smoky mountains in Western North Carolina,” is 100% true. But when asked “why? What told you this was a Holy experience?” all I could say was, “it felt like a hug.”  

I’m from Illinois, a super flat state. But we would visit my grandparents, who lived near Waynesville, North Carolina, at least every two years. Every time we visited, looking up at those enormous, protective peaks, I would feel a sense of homecoming. Of stability. Like I was being hugged. I felt it in my body… and that’s how I knew it was happening in my soul. 

Recently, the UUCC staff had a one-day retreat. We learned about our enneagram types and how they may help inform the way we interact with each other as coworkers, with the congregation, and how we can use our different strengths to their full potential. I did not know my enneagram before then. But going through the process I found that I favor 9, the Peacemaker. Inspired, I went home and dug more into what being a “type 9” means and I listened to a podcast episode about it: “Nine & The Enneagram”* In this podcast, among MANY other things that shook me emotionally, Chris Heuertz talked about how enneagram 9 types have a particularly difficult time connecting to their bodies, that we can often feel like just a head floating above water. He says that often the most spiritually connecting moments we have are moments that help us remember our body in a grounding way. …Sound familiar? This was kind of a mind-blowing moment for me as many situations in my life connected, such as my love for hugs, the wind or rain awakening my senses, and why the awe of mountains feels like an embrace. 

So, in searching for a way to connect to myself, I began to think more about different things that I can dive further into to connect me to my body, such as yoga or listening/playing music. Specifically, I think about this song You Are the Moon by The Hush Sound. It doesn’t feel like a hug but it connects me to my body like I’m drifting on my back in the water at night. I can feel every tingly sensation of each gentle wave lapping against me. And it’s not just the sound of the lovely, rhythmic waltzing piano but also the lyrics which connect to me deeply: 

Shadows all around you as you surface from the dark
Emerging from the gentle grip of night’s unfolding arms
Darkness, darkness everywhere, do you feel all alone?
The subtle grace of gravity, the heavy weight of stone 
You don’t see what you possess, a beauty calm and clear
It floods the sky and blurs the darkness like a chandelier
All the light that you possess is skewed by lakes and seas
The shattered surface, so imperfect, is all that you believe
I will bring a mirror, so silver, so exact
So precise and so pristine, a perfect pane of glass
I will set the mirror up to face the blackened sky
You will see your beauty every moment that you rise 

Why do these words mean so much to me? I first connected with this song in high school, when I was in a place full of teenagers trying to find their separate identities. I had a close friend who could play the song on the piano while I sang along. We made a lovely duet as I looked each of my friends in the eyes, singing gently to them. I think back to that, with my new-found knowledge of enneagrams, and I better understand my desire to be the metaphorical “mirror” from the song lyrics. I had a strong desire to show everyone an understanding of the beauty I saw in each of them (well, most of the time—I was in high school, of course). But I always felt empty, like a head floating above water. I tried to fill this void by diving deep into my friendships and relationships, often becoming obsessive. And now I realize that was because I was constantly trying to gain an understanding of myself through someone else’s eyes.  

It looks like empathy to understand all sides
but I’m just trying to understand myself through all eyes. 

— Nine by Sleeping At Last 

It never occurred to me that I could consider myself the Moon, the one looking at a distorted reflection. That the only true mirror comes from within me. 

What that means for me, I have no idea. Maybe it has something to do with “The subtle grace of gravity, the heavy weight of stone,” mountainous peaks, warm hugs, windy days, or yoga.  

But, as I reflect more about the Moon, only seeing her distorted reflection through her companion, the Earth’s 71% water-covered surface, I think about how not only are we all moons, looking for someone to hold up a mirror, but how we are all the reflective surface by which the people around us are looking at to understand more about themselves. Having control over the image we reflect back at other people is difficult. It’s about caring about that person as an individual, questions like, “what did you like about service?” rather than “what do you do for a living?” are ways in which we can learn about someone’s true inner gravity, rather than just the outside surface. I think this is why I have a passion for Sunday mornings. Every person walking through that door, new and returning, on Sunday morning comes to our community looking for us to show them more about their true selves. And while it is important for us to make sure we are not losing ourselves in the people around us, it is also important for us to recognize the weight our actions inevitably carry on the people we interact with. And maybe in building deeper connections between someone else, we can learn something new about ourselves. 

Much love,
Hannah Nelson 

*Sleeping At Last, the creator of the podcast, is a singer/song writer. He wrote a song for each enneagram type and then hosted a podcast episode about each song and type with Chris Heuertz. They talk about what each type is and Sleeping At Last explains his process for writing each song.  

One Comment

  1. Becky Reese

    What a beautiful, thought-provoking post, Hannah! Thanks so much for sharing yourself with us. I had not heard the song before and I love it! Also, was interested to learn about the Enneagram podcasts, of which I was not previously aware.

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