Recently I was asked what words comforted me, and though I am a writer, more and more I find that I am most moved by images. Many of these images come from meditations and dreams and I don’t know how to begin to describe them in words. Me, the poet, the reader, the long talker, the lover of dictionaries and old thesauruses, most comforted by images.
To further add to this irony as I sit here promising myself I will write a blog post this week, all that I feel like writing about is one of these images. But as luck would have it this one comes with a bit of a story.
May 5th was Wesak this year, and I had toyed around with idea of gathering people to chant mantras of peace to mark this holiday but chickened out. In retrospect I can see that my blocks around this are things it’s time to get over. I am trying.
My Childhood was sort of a survey of Christian churches. My Mom worked as a choir director so we went to church, and sometimes to school, where she happened to be directing choir. My father was raised Christian Scientist, so for a brief time, we attended a Christian Scientist church as well. This upbringing had a number of advantages, for one thing when I had a cold, Mom took me to the doctor where I got antibiotics and Dad took me to his friends house where I got prayed over. Bases covered.
However, the greatest advantage of this was that I grew up in a home where I learned God is everywhere and I didn’t have to put boundaries on where I found her/him. In our home God was a kind understanding force. We were taught, that religion is a place where God and Mankind meet and the rule of thumb in our household, was that if it was coming from Love, it was God. If it was coming from someplace else that was People.
This kind of thinking came in very handy for me one year when Mom worked at both Bethany Covenant as a choir director and at Saint Therese’s middle school as a music teacher. I ended up in a 3rd grade Catholic religion class taught by the priest we kids unkindly dubbed Fat Father. He wasn’t fat so much as a little mean, but the alliteration was irresistible to us. I remember him teaching us about how only real Catholic Christians go to heaven, and instead of being scarred for life fearing my fellow protestants would be refused at the pearly gates, I simply thought, “well that’s weird, that’s clearly not God talking.”
Still I know this was not everyone’s experience, and so when I consider stepping out into my community in a spiritual way, the fear of offending others holds me back. There are many people close to me who are beautifully devout Christians, even Catholics and if it’s not in the bible I can tell it’s not comfortable for them. I also have friends who have had terrible experiences in church and associate religion of all kinds with pain, rather than comfort, and I am careful of their hearts as well. I also know people who choose a peaceful atheism as their belief structure. But today I’m thinking, why let fear hold me back from sharing something beautiful and near to my heart?
Getting back to Wesak, I did celebrate in my way. I chanted mantras for about an hour in a quit time of day, and then when I went to bed lit a candle I have in my bedroom to honor the Vesok moon. Rather than waking up fearful something was on fire as I usually do when I sleep with a candle on, this night I slept peacefully.
And as I was waking I was able to hold onto these images from the dreamscape. I was speaking with a large golden Buddha with flowers all around, though I can’t tell you what kind. When I sat next to him the golden glow extended to me as well, though I wouldn’t say it was mine. And when we spoke the ideas that would form in our hearts , it was flowers that would leave our mouths instead of words. I poured out all the troublesome things in my life but my fears couldn’t hold onto their darkness. As I sat in the Buddha glow I could feel that my fears were a part of a larger peace and so when I spoke of them the only language they could form was one of petals.
I have been using this image as my go to meditation this week. I think because this week has held so many events that I have no words for and it’s been very comforting to take my troubles to a peaceful place in my heart and imagination where they can be transformed, if only for a moment.
Om Shanti Om,