We sit in circle… six women who are homeless and living in shelters, a colleague and myself. After a silent meditation, I offer a writing exercise that begins with the words, Once there was a seed….
A stillness settles in the room as the women concentrate on their writing. Ten minutes later, I invite the women to read aloud what they wrote. “I’ll go,” Carmen says, “I didn’t know I could write like this.”
She reads aloud a story about a seed “watered by the rain and kept moist by the mist of the river.” She doesn’t realize that it’s a story of the fundamental need to restore a sense of belonging. Another woman then speaks up to read her story. “It doesn’t mean anything,” she says. But her face glows as she begins to read of a neglected flower that turns into a beautiful flower. A story of trust in herself, and in life.
What touches me most is the wonder in the women’s faces, as they connect with their inner knowing and bring it into consciousness. As if a link that was broken becomes restored.
It is always moving to witness this. But as I reflect on this linking up, this reconnection to what seemed lost, I am reminded of the deep need for the sacred to be restored in each of our lives.
Many years ago, I was startled by a dream in which a man asks me plaintively, how long will you remain silent? And then came another dream, like an echo of the previous one, only stronger. You cannot bow your head in silence. You must speak from your depths, even in front of the king.
To understand the meaning of these dreams, and to live their essential message has been central to my work – and my life. Over time, what had interfered with my capacity to speak or write has diminished, allowing a freer capacity to respond “from the depths.”
I recall a friend who founded an organization that supports Afghan refugees – especially the women – as they arrived in northern California to start a new life. One day, her spiritual teacher told her that she needed to speak publicly. This woman had created a large, effective organization that serves hundreds of refugees. But in her humility, she shook her head. “I have nothing to say,” she said to her teacher.
He answered sternly. Who said this is about you? It is the divine that speaks through your heart.
I never forgot this story.
Several years later, I met a woman from Afghanistan at a conference. In a small circle of participants, we were discussing how a contemplative life can bring forward what lives within one’s inner life.
This woman, barely five feet tall, listened, saying little. Only towards the end of our session did she speak. She said that she had recently been visiting a rural village in Afghanistan, when a group of heavily armed, militant Taliban arrived. The villagers began to run for their lives. Even her guard turned and fled.
She knew that she needed to stay and confront the leader. His blue eyes looked down at her with fierce intensity. A woman in Afghanistan is never supposed to look into the eyes of a male stranger. Or to speak.
But she stood her ground and told him that he needed to leave with his men. Incredulous, he stared at her. But then, he turned and signaled to the others to leave.
It was only afterwards that she felt the shock of what she had done, and then her body trembled for hours. ‘I had nothing to say,’ she said. ‘The divine spoke through me. I do not have that kind of power.’
I believe it is our responsibility to bring forward what lives in our depths. And it is not just about writing, or speaking. This seed holds a deeper mystery than any outer form. I sense it is about a shift in our awareness, a connection within each breath, a deeper listening to our hearts, no matter what is going on within our everyday lives.