Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘peace’

not long ago i read the book “going bovine” by libba bray.  it’s a brilliant book about a sixteen year old boy named cameron who has mad cow disease.  while cameron is dying of mad cow disease, he goes on these crazy adventures, perhaps in his mind, trying to find a cure.  he encounters all sorts of interesting characters and has all sorts of surreal experiences.

throughout his adventure, he is aided by a punk rock angel named dulcie.  she shows up every now and again to give him clues…to help him out a bit along the way.  dulcie explains to cameron about ‘the wishing tree’.  she tells him that it is a tree that grants wishes.  the branches are filled with people’s wishes. cameron questions her…wondering how everyone’s wishes could be granted no matter what.  this is dulcie’s reply:

“Well, you have to know what to wish for.  Take this one.”  She plucks a wish from high on a branch.  “I wish I were famous. Okay, first question: Why does this person want to be famous?  To be worshiped?  Adored?  To get noticed? To make gobs and gobs of money?  You have to look inside the wish and find the heart.  So maybe what this person really wants, the heart of it, is to find somebody who adores her.  She goes out to wherever it is people go to become famous and just gets knocked down and out and around like a pinball flipper.  And one day, as she’s walking on the beach totally bummed, this person comes along, and to him, she’s a rock star.  He adores her, and with him, she feels adored, famous.  In a roundabout way, she’s gotten what she really wanted.  Wish granted.”

to me, that is how prayer works.  in this way, i do believe that all prayers are answered.  i don’t believe in a god in the sky making arbitrary decisions based on how hard you pray or whether you do x, y, and z.  why would god do that?  why would god heal one baby and not another?  why would god want to punish us?  i don’t think god does or would.  i think this is a very human idea.  and humans are flawed…wounded…myself included.

when i was a child, i prayed often…even though i wasn’t raised to believe in god.  our family wasn’t religious.  we never went to church.  my parents only saw the hypocrisy of religion.  i see that too, but i have always felt very connected spiritually.  it is something i have thought about and experienced for as long as i can remember…even as a small child.  as this small child, when i prayed…i never ever prayed for something concrete.  this made no sense to me.  why would god grant me a barbie and not the poor girl down the street?  i only prayed for peace and strength.  as i got older, i added understanding.   and now, i feel like i have all those things, although i can forget that i have them at times.

i think to pray, we have to open ourselves up to the power of the universe…or god, whichever word you feel comfortable using.  and this power is for all of us…for all of our higher goods.  i think prayer, or setting your intention, is just making the space for the thing you desire.   but just like in the book, i think people often don’t know what they are really praying for…i don’t think people often realize what is at the heart of their prayer or wish.   christopher reeve could have prayed 24 hours a day to be able to reverse the damage to his body that his accident caused.  i don’t believe any amount of praying would have done that for him.  but it seems to me, that he found peace…his truth.  i think that is at the heart of many prayers.

if someone is losing their house because of a bad financial situation, isn’t the heart of their prayer to feel safe?  to be taken care of?  is it really about a house?  we believe all too often that something outside ourselves will make us happy…and i think that usually we are mistaken.  it can feel good to connect and share things with others, to walk the path with someone, but the peace really comes from within us…we just make the mistake of thinking the thing outside of ourselves is what gave us the peace.  don’t get me wrong…we need each other.  we need connection…but we can’t get our self worth or peace from another person or thing.

time after time in my life i have thought i wanted or needed one thing, only to be heart broken or disappointed when i couldn’t have what i felt i needed.  i can’t remember a time that this didn’t turn out to be a lesson for me…i can’t remember a time that i didn’t get what was at the heart of my wish.  sometimes it takes longer then we want it to.  but i do believe in this way…all of our prayers are answered.  we just need to stay open…go with the flow of life.  make room for the answers and they will come.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

i lived in san diego briefly about 25 years ago.  while i was there, i started attending the local community college.  one of the classes i took was philosophy.  i loved philosophy…still do.  i love talking about ideas.  and what made that class even better was the professor…professor banks.   she was the kind of professor who really wanted to discuss…she didn’t seem too concerned with tests or grades.   she wanted us to examine our ideas and share them…she encouraged us to question everything.   i really loved her class.

i never finished that class, or any of the other ones i was taking back then.  i had not dealt with the traumas of my past and the pain started to really affect me.  i decided i should move back to chicago, where i knew more people…where i felt i had more support.  i remember being so disappointed in myself…so disappointed i couldn’t stay.   i talked to professor banks about it and said my goodbyes.  she asked me if i wanted to give her my address so she could send me the papers i had written.  she hadn’t graded them yet.  i remember being kind of surprised.  thinking back on it now, i think i was surprised that she valued them…she valued my ideas…she valued me.  i gladly gave her my address and moved back home.

a month or so later i got a package in the mail from her.  i had forgotten all about those papers and here they were.  she had read them all and written comments to me…even though i wasn’t going to finish her class.  another professor might have thought it didn’t matter anymore…why waste the time?  but she knew it mattered.  discussing my ideas with me mattered whether i was going to formally finish her class or not.  in the package she also included a copy of the book the prophet by kahlil gibran.  she bookmarked the page on self-knowledge and wrote this inside the front cover:

“For Mahra, a true “Lover of Wisdom”, Be ever faithful to yourself”

i remember how it felt to get that from her.  i felt seen.  i felt like she had seen in me what i could not see…my light.  she believed in me even though i did not believe in myself.   i never forgot that.

that book is probably the possession i treasure most.  i treasure it because she gave it to me…and i treasure it because of the truth it contains for me.  it spoke to me when i first read it all those years ago…and it speaks to me even louder now.  and whenever i read it, i think of professor banks and feel grateful that she saw me and felt it important enough to send it.

i thought of her today while i was cutting the grass.  i have no idea why.  i thought i would contact her and send her my blog address.  i got excited by this idea.  i would love to discuss ideas with her again. so i called the college to try to contact her.  they told me she died 6 years ago.   then i remembered the letter she sent me in 2001.  i had written her to thank her for the book…to tell her i have kept it all these years and how important it was to me.  i told her about my life and how i had healed so much.  she wrote me back a beautiful letter.  i have always cherished it.  you can click here to read the entire letter.  in it she said:

“Mahra, I certainly do remember you and have thought of you often over the years.  There was never any doubt in my mind that you would go on to successfully complete your formal education.  What was more important to me was that you understood that true education is about embracing yourself and the formal aspect helps to shape and enhance what life is teaching you.  Education is a life long  journey.  We go on integrating both the formal and the informal and delighting in the outcomes.  It’s never easy, and it hurts at times, as you and I well know, but it’s so worth it isn’t it.”

“I, too, couldn’t get enough of all there was to learn.  So, m’dear, it would appear that we are kindred spirits.  What a delight!  Pass it on!  First to Quincy and your husband and then to the next young man or woman you encounter in whom you recognize that hunger for wisdom and truth.  It did not begin with Gibran and will not end with you and I.  We are all linked in this journey and it all began a “zillion” years ago deep in the human heart that recognized that we are so much more than we seem to be at any given moment.  I know you understand this and it fills my heart with joy. The joy is based on the fact that the years go rushing by and class after class pass through my care and I look to you and students like you who “get it” to continue passing on the “light” that illuminates the dark recesses of indifference and a willingness to settle only for mediocrity that ends in hearts burdened with haunting dissatisfaction that infects everyone they encounter, especially the young.”

when the woman on the phone told me that she died, i started to feel regret.  why hadn’t i kept in contact with her?  what more could she have taught me?  i wanted to talk to her more…i wanted to feel that connection…i wanted to tell her thank you again…i wanted to let her know what she meant to me.  but as i read her letter today, i began to feel such peace.  i learned what i needed to from her.  i am lucky enough to have told her how i felt about her…she knows.  the connection with her is still there…and always will be.   and most importantly i am sharing my light with the world and others…just as she shared her light with me…and for that i’m so grateful.

Read Full Post »

when i first became friends with cathy, which was almost 30 years ago now, she lived with her father in park ridge.  one of the things i loved about cathy’s room is that she always had interesting things on the wall…cartoons, pictures cut out of magazines…a wolf,  a guitar, the dalai lama…you know, very important things.  i loved how she taped them to the wall so they were always in view…visual reminders of what was meaningful to her.

one day when i was over there i noticed something that had been cut out of a magazine and taped right in the middle of her door.  it read “joy in spite of everything”.  i remember reading it and feeling a new space open up in my understanding of the world…a possibility i hadn’t seen before.  it felt like such a bold statement about life and what was important…what one could choose to focus on.  the idea that we could even have a choice was new to me.

i had already been through quite a bit of trauma in my life…experienced deep pain.  when people would talk about positive affirmations, i wanted to punch them.  it felt so invalidating.  how could i “put on a happy face” in the midst of what i had experienced?  how could i “think positive” while feeling such deep greif and pain?  i could not. but this idea…joy in spite of everything…that was something totally different.  the idea that right along side the suffering, the pain,  real things we experience in life, there could also be joy.  joy in spite of  everything…not joy instead of everything.

over and over again in my life i had gotten the message that how i felt wasn’t ok.   my feelings seemed to make people uncomfortable.  i hadn’t met anyone who could sit with them…sit with me while i felt them.  people always tried to get me to change my feelings.  i couldn’t have changed them if i tried…my feelings were so deep.  there was so much pain…so much loss, i felt like i was drowning in them.  how could i just make the pain go away after all that had happened?  i could not.  but what i could do was start to see joy in spite of it.

this idea rang so true to me that i immediately asked cathy if i could borrow that little strip of paper that she had cut out of a magazine.  i took it and photocopied it…then laminated it…purposefully taping it to my door at eye level.  i wanted it to be the last thing i saw every day before i went out into the world…a reminder to myself of what is possible.  that sign has been with me all this time.  it has been taped to many doors…it has been up in all the places i’ve lived.  i have photocopied it many times and given copies to people.   the sign is sacred to me.

i believe in those words…joy in spite of everything…it is an ideal i strive for.  there is always joy.  we just might not be able to see it through the pain and confusion, and that’s ok.  i don’t think many of us, if any, will reach the point in this lifetime that we always can see the joy in life at every moment, no matter what…but whether we can see it or not, it’s there.   and the more open i am to this truth, the more i can experience it.  i am not talking about not feeling our feelings of pain and grief…i am talking about being open to see the joy in life, in spite of those feelings…right along side of them.

in times of great pain, there is still music…the sun still sets…the wind still blows, making the trees sway back and forth…the birds still sing.   there is so much joy and beauty in life.  i have, at times, experienced such deep pain that i couldn’t see any of those things…i couldn’t see the joy.  but there always came the day that i noticed, despite the grief, the beauty of a flower or how good it feels to pet my dog.  i might still be experiencing pain, but found myself stopping to listen to the sound of a creek…and it would surprise me…it would surprise me that i could feel joy in the midst of such pain.

it doesn’t surprise me much anymore.  i know it is a constant in life…the joy…it’s always there.  and my job isn’t to try to force the joy…my job is to accept whatever it is i’m feeling.  and in accepting that, i allow myself the space to start to see and feel the joy… in spite of anything.

Read Full Post »