Through the Backdoor


A few weeks before the invasion of Ukraine I had an experience in meditation. Towards the end of the half hour, an unexpected image arose. It was of a young child sitting next to an old woman. The child holds a yellow ball of yarn in its lap, and the old woman is knitting from a strand connected to this ball of yarn. With the image there came a quality of deep peace.

It is a mysterious image that expresses a place beyond words, a deeply feminine space.

Soon after this experience, I came across my notes from when I participated in a global peace summit in Jaipur, India. Even though the summit was a long time ago, it struck me that the writing seems so timely.

During the summit, I met a social worker from India who was working in Kashmir. One day, as we sat together and shared our lives, she told me that since the war and government change in 1989, the fabric of society had fallen apart. In her words, she said that a kind of feminine web of interconnections got torn apart, and that she is helping to restore it. She described how the Hindu temples had been closed down, and that these temples hold a social and spiritual energy for people. Now the doors were locked.

One day she found an unlocked door at the back of a temple, and much to her surprise, she found that the temple had not been abandoned. Someone, all these years, had been caring for the Shiva with water, and fulfilling the rituals they used to do.

While she was looking around the temple, a woman from Kashmir entered, also through the backdoor. This Kashmiri woman said she was told in her dreams to care for the temple until it can be open and free ­–  even though she is not a Hindu, but a Sufi.  ­She had been quietly tending the temple space until peace can be restored. I got the feeling that it wasn’t safe for her to do so, yet she listened to her dreams. She must have known deeply that this was her way to bring love into the world.

Our Zoom woman’s gathering this month took place on the day of the invasion of Ukraine. We focused on an understanding of inner space. How to hold it; and how to hold love and not fear in the heart. And when the interconnections of life are torn apart, as is happening now, how essential it is to make connections, to relate, both to the human and non-human world, and the Earth.

And yet, in the following days I found grief weighing heavily on me, and so I decided to do one thing. I made the intention to listen to the birds. In the morning when I awoke, I listened as the birds awoke at dawn. I made a promise to consciously connect to life through this one simple practice. What I found is that listening to the birds, this intention, changed me.

Listening to their songs, their calls, shifted my internal state. I found that my heart could remain open to the grief, and yet the joy of birdsong was a sacred sustenance that I could weave into each day.

Years ago, when I heard the story told to me by my Indian friend, it reverberated inside of me, staying with me for days. I felt a common thread with the Sufi woman in Kashmir. She followed her dream, which led her to an experience that she couldn’t have invented for herself – to tend the Hindu temple until peace is restored.

Like this woman from Kashmir, I try to follow my dreams. Listening for the thread of a dream and then bringing it into life, points to my way to ‘tend the temple.’ Especially the dreams of the living waters, somehow pure in the depths.

And I wonder, how does each of us bring love into the world?

Through the Backdoor
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2 years ago

Beautyful. Last year , i heard in a summit Masami Covey talk, how meditation could also be listening to the birds. I had the intention of doing that, but in the winter i forgot. We had two weeks of beautiful springweather here in Belgium, and i remembered to listen to the birds, or sometimes the silence in which they sing. I ask a question, and imagine they answer to me.
And another line, Prune Harris had this call to tend to the water , Bless it, all over the world.
How little these practices may seem, and how much “not enough”, you inspire me to keep doing them.

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say

Anthem, Leonard Cohen

2 years ago
Reply to  Elisabeth

The words of Leonard Cohen, how they ring true. So grateful for what you wrote, your experience of listening, and tending. Thank you.

2 years ago

Dear Anne,
What a healing and nurturing energy your words bring, describing these stories of small and simple acts of love; the ways to listen, and the ways to remain open. I’m so touched, hearing of the Sufi woman whose heart led her to tend the Hindu temple. May we all be available to this open-hearted listening!

2 years ago
Reply to  Holly

Dear Holly,
It’s so good to hear from you! Thank you for your reflections which help us all to value these small and simple acts of love. I find that it requires a certain faith to trust in the listening, too.