A Modern Mystic

Musings on life, work and contemporary spirituality


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Forgiveness heals

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Carrie Ure

I got hit hard with the flu a few weeks ago. It came on suddenly after a series of intense emotional experiences which included landing a nine to five job after nearly a year of underemployment, making a deeper commitment with my lover, hosting my beloved spiritual teacher in my home, and embarking on a year-long Fate and Destiny project with my cherished Sacred Contracts Crew. Perhaps at some point the system must shut down to integrate so many monumental events.

During the past few weeks as these various events coincided, I have  attempted to read Caroline Myss’ new book Defy Gravity. I say “attempted to read” because I have literally been arrested at the beginning of the second chapter. Illustrating the power of this book and these ideas, I been unable to move beyond the first major truth. It’s about forgiveness.

Myss makes the point that all healing begins with letting go of the need to know why things happen as they do. And that is forgiveness in its essence. It’s common in the new age to throw the term forgiveness around quite a bit, yet the concept begs a deeper look. I believe Myss gets it and I have examples in my own life as evidence.

I remember the precise moment her teachings reached me. In my early 30’s I had been struggling with the “why me” syndrome. Here I was, talented, beautiful, healthy, educated, even lucky,  but I couldn’t seem to get my life together. Week after week I moaned and complained to my therapist about what an awful upbringing I’d had. Nobody loved me enough, nobody cared for me when I was a child, blah, blah, blah. I spent a fortune on one therapist, then another and finally a third, a Jungian dance therapist, very well known. Although she had come highly recommended, she refused to take me at first. Perhaps she’d been warned about my propensity to whine. I badgered her until she finally relented.

About nine months into our sessions I walked into her office, a curious, haunted, place. There on a shelf near the door was a huge book with the heavy title, “The Victim in Holocaust Germany.” I will never know whether she placed the book in my path or whether it was simply one of the major synchronicities of my life. Although I did not even open its cover, I may as well have been hit over the head with it. In that moment I saw perfectly clearly that my own attitudes of entitlement and victimhood were keeping me stuck. My pattern of blaming my alcoholic parents and chaotic upbringing for my problems kept me searching for the answers to my miserable existence.

My deeper path in my spiritual life began that day, a long quest to discover how I could forgive my family and myself and set us all free. I left therapy shortly thereafter and never returned.

They say that the teacher always arrives when the student is ready. I discovered Myss’ wonderful first book, “Why people don’t heal and how they can,” shortly after leaving therapy.  In the book she explains that it is impossible to heal while one identifies as ill. This basic premise has remained consistent in all of Myss’ writing and it comes to full fruition in her latest book.

To stop identifying myself as the victim of bad relationships and events has changed my life profoundly. And to stop identifying myself as angry and hurt has healed my relationships.

In 1997 in the midst of continuing spiritual work, I picked up “Anatomy of the Spirit.” Using the exercises in the book I began working on forgiving others, including members of my family. I had been carrying one particular regret, a relationship that ended 10 years before, in another part of the country. At that time, I had befriended two women, Evelyn and Jenny. The three of us spent lots of time together, and during the summer Evelyn and I both got married within a month of one another. Jenny attended both and played a crucial role in my wedding, signing the marriage contract as a witness. Shortly afterward during a reunion of the three of us in Evelyn’s newlywed apartment, there was a terrible misunderstanding that left me angry at Jenny. Evelyn and I both severed contact with her.

I later moved to a new city, started a new life and a family, all the while remaining friends with Evelyn. Yet I regretted that I had cut off our friend Jenny. With my new found awareness about victimhood I realized that I had hurt myself and her over a perceived offense and now I wanted to know in my heart that I could return to a place of purity and love. I didn’t even know how to do it, and I figured I would never see her again. I was looking for peace in my own heart, a return to the innocent state before the regretted incident. I began to see my anger and resentment as a choice, and I was ready to choose peace.

I decided to journal about it. It was a lovely fall day and we went downtown on a family outing. My husband dropped me off at a pub near the art museum and left me to my journaling while he took our toddler to the park to play for an hour. I poured my heart into the journal, forgiving myself for cutting Jenny out of my life 10 years before. I recognized the choices I had made, the resentments I had held and I let go of trying to understand the situation or justify my part in it. I wrote until I felt complete and, at last, peaceful about the situation. My husband and son soon returned and we crossed the park to the art museum.

We entered the featured exhibit in the hushed building. My toddler, unable to keep his voice quiet, cried out, disturbing a group of art patrons. Distracted by our noise, a woman in a group of three turned to look at us and my jaw dropped in amazement. It was Jenny, the very friend I had been writing about. She approached me in complete shock. We embraced and I learned that she had been living in my city for several years. We chatted for a few minutes and parted ways, but we ran into her and her friends again twice that very day. I guess Spirit knows my willful character and orchestrated a message I would never forget! Not only that, the following month Jenny showed up in the same yoga class that I attended and we remained there together for the next several years. Although we never picked up our close friendship, we healed enough to be together every week.

Forgiveness has been my constant companion since that time. It is the most powerful force I know. What I now understand is that I have only to sincerely intend it and the task is complete. Anyone and anything, no matter how small or how large, how trivial or important, can be forgiven. The smallest resentments, when forgiven can yield the most leverage.

As I lie on my sick bed, Facebook and my cats for company, I’m weak and tired but I have the luxury of time. Someone comments on my post, an ex-boyfriend I haven’t seen in a while and I feel familiar unresolved resentments welling up. I’m not even aware that I’ve been carrying them around, but I drift in and out of sleep, praying to be released from my negative thoughts about how we parted. My prayer is simply this: may I be willing to let go of any anger I bear toward Richard. May I choose to let go of anger.

Richard calls the next evening for the first time in many months. He hears I’ve been sick. We converse like old friends. I hear caring in his words, I express love in my voice. Would I like him to bring homemade soup, he asks? Thanks so much for the kind offer, I say, but I believe I’ve got all the remedies I need.

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A call to prayer

Morning in Udaipur

Morning in Udaipur

Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you truly love. ~ Rumi

Today I awaken to the muezzin’s call shortly before sunrise. I can hear it quite clearly this crisp morning, thrilling time of day when the sun promises to rise above the trees, lifting one’s hopes after the long night. It’s late summer. The birds have gone for the season, leaving a profound stillness. The cat purrs quietly by my side, chirping as I shift to raise my ear off the pillow.

It starts naturally, one long lament. The clear rich warble bellows the call to prayer, amplified in the direction of the Almighty’s ear, Mecca. Oh how I get lost in the sound, mournful and full of such sweet longing, as if waiting many days for my Beloved to caress me with the softest croon. “Come. Pray,”  He calls to me, “Prayer is better than sleep!”

Yes, yes, I open my eyes to pink walls, gold rose-colored silk and the softest yellow cotton sheets. Rich burgundy patterns beckon from the floor as if to lure me from my bed toward the fragrant air outside. It’s a full minute before I realize where I am. It’s my own room, in a mundane suburb in the western United States, the rich silks and cottons dressing my bed, the ones I carried back from India; the bright wool carpet, a hand-me-down from a friend’s sojourn in Turkey; the heat-loving honeysuckle blooming where I planted it not long ago to attract the butterflies.

My heart stirs just the same.

I remember the first time I heard the Call, just a few years ago. I spent the night with a new lover in his flat overlooking the industrial end of the Willamette River. He carried me into his bed, the lights on the dry docks flickering on the water. We made sweet love for the first time and I felt emerald green inside, for no reason.

I heard it clearly when I awoke a few hours later, the long melodious wailing amid the ships’ whistles and heavy equipment moving on the railway tracks below us. The song beckoned me awake and I knew that I would follow someday.

Five years later I am in a foreign place that feels more like home than not. It’s my first trip to the East. I have taken a car ride from sprawling Mumbai, India through the quaint smaller city of Pune, with its universities and motor bikes, deep into rural Maharashtra. I arrive at my destination, a stucco and wood cottage outside the gates of the ancient holy caves at Ellora.

Exhausted, I fall onto the bed, travel and jet lag taking their toll. I awaken several hours later to the most glorious sound, the Call from my dreams! I jump out of bed and fly through the door to my little terrace. The scene is amazing, an expanse of scrubby landscape over the bougainvillea entwined stucco wall. I glimpse the caves in the distance and the sun about to crest the small hills. There is nothing but the songbirds to distract me from the rich voice amplified from a nearby mosque. I feel so at home at last.

I am haunted by the memory–or premonition–of the Call that repeats often in my heart.

In my travels through India I have marveled at the way an entire huge city–Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists–rouse themselves to this morning call. From a recent entry in my travelog:

“Udaipur, Rajasthan, Jan 1, 2009

This morning I arise before dawn and creep out of my hotel room in the early darkness, hoping to watch India in her deep morning slumber and then to catch her first waking moments. I tiptoe carefully down the narrow and twisted marble stairways to the courtyard lobby, the only lights the small votives set in the tiny Shiva, Ganesh and Hanuman shrines amid the stucco and tile. At the front desk I see a dark hand resting on the gleaming wooden counter, its arm draped below, the rest of the body fast asleep beneath the British-era hotel ledger. Across from the front desk another figure snores peacefully under a thick quilt. I notice other shapes sleeping on makeshift cots as I make my way quietly up the steps to the rooftop dining room. Choosing a prime alcove,  I savor the extraordinary experience. this morning. of arriving in time to hear the morning call to prayer. It is the best time of day, when mother India opens her arms, caresses her children awake to the new day. I am blessed to be a witness to the holy event.

In Udaipur, ancient Rajasthani city surrounded closely by small rural hill villages, the call to prayer starts out quietly, a few indistinct croons in the distance. Within a few minutes the intensity and volume increases as many voices join the holy cacophony. Amid the morning stars, a few lights begin to twinkle in the distance, the Lake Palace still lit up purple and green from the New Years Eve revelry.

At the height of its intensity, the beautiful plaintive wailing seems to completely envelope me and the ancient city. Indeed, all begin to join in; the street dogs yap and howl, the water fowl start their squawking and the pigeons begin their gentle cooing. A man comes out of a house at the water’s edge and leans over a wall to perform his morning nose cleaning with great honking sounds. Then he lights his first cigarette of the day. I can see the glow of his ash glistening against the water. Slowly the voices of hundreds of muezzins begin to crescendo as the sun ignites the hills from behind. All manner of city noises begin. The small boats on the water sputter and start. Just as soon as the last voice dies down from its distant minaret, a car honks loudly in the courtyard below.”

I hope to always hear the Call. I pray to ever heed it.