2023 the year we learn to listen to life
Week 40--in which we look back and ask: was that a prayer or a spell?
Friends, soul writers, mystics, witches, and lovers of prayer,
I spent the last week preparing to open my annual intensive The Lotus and the Lily. This will be the 13th time we’ve gathered to look back at the year ending to discover what it has really been about so that we can then look ahead to pick up whispers from the life that wants to be lived. This radical delicious intensive culminates with the creation of a mystical mandala that holds the essence of the life that’s on its way.
Each year the process expands and deepens, especially the core practice of looking back.
I have become quite a master, or shall I say mistress, of looking back.
You might assume that the mystical mandalas we make to welcome the new year are the highlight of the intensive. They are magical indeed, but they are magic because of the deep practice of looking back. One of our foundational teachers in The Lotus and the Lily is The Buddha.
The Buddha's core teaching sounds simple: This is because that is. But those five words hold the mystery of the folding and unfolding of time, the interweaving of one life into all life.
This life I have at this moment—a life I love beyond measure—is not the product of goal setting or working hard or acquiring knowledge. This life is because of all the life I’ve already lived, all the relationships, all the experiences, all the places. The sorrows are in there, the surprises, the losses, the synchronicities. And the loves. All the loves.
I am who I am because of who and what I have loved. And who and what has loved me.
It isn’t an accident that as I’m revisiting how I teach the art of looking back for The Lotus and the Lily: Harvest 2023-Seed 2024, I celebrated the 20th anniversary of the death of my ex-husband.
Celebrated? Yes, celebrated. And I celebrated by looking back. Looking back through the folds of time to explore what this intense, difficult, convoluted relationship was really all about.
If you’ve read Writing Down Your Soul, you know a bit about the story. In brief, our relationship, which began with great joy in 1976 deteriorated over time until it became untenable. On November 1, 1996 I woke realizing I was afraid of my husband and told him I wanted a divorce. My marriage didn’t just end, it imploded. And took with it my home, career, savings, almost all my friendships, and any sense of security or safety.
The first gift in this state of total chaos was deep soul writing. I had no writing practice prior to the divorce. I was too busy chasing goals, income, success. Everything I had worked so hard to acquire disappeared within three years, and I was left holding boxes of journals full of missives to God. (I wrote to God in those days, Beloved Vibration of Sophia didn’t arrive until 2014).
As God and I wrestled on the page, I realized I needed to pray for my ex-husband.
This was the hardest thing I’d ever done, but I knew if I couldn’t pray for him, if I couldn’t forgive him, he and I and our son would be locked forever in a cold ugly war.
And so, on March 25,2001, I went to church with my journal open on my lap. The minister started her lesson by reading Luke 7:47: “It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love.” My whole body began to vibrate as I realized I was being handed the solution—the only solution—to the impasse of hostility we seemed stuck in.
I don’t know what she said after that, I only know that I began to take dictation on a prayer of forgiveness. A prayer that changed my life. The prayer, “Finally Forgive” is so important, it is included in the week of exercises on forgiveness in the book, The Lotus and the Lily. When I opened the book just now to find a bit of that prayer to include in this letter, I was surprised (or rather not surprised) to see that the chapter on Finally Forgive opens with a quote from the Buddha:
“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”
"Finally Forgive" moves through 3 sections: recognizing there is a massive gap between us, acknowledging that there is really only One Love, and finally making the decision to forgive.
The prayer ends:
Dear God, I’m choosing
I’m closing the gap, filling it with forgiveness,
plugging the holes, and posting a sign:
Only love is spoken here.
Do you know what happened next? The story is in Writing Down Your Soul. That afternoon, when I picked up our son from visitation, my ex-husband handed me a check for our son’s braces. Something he had adamantly refused to do. I didn’t know it but that small check was a harbinger of a big financial miracle to come.
The big miracle came through another prayer.
On Saturday September 27, 2003, my ex-husband fell alone at home and wasn’t found until Monday when his bookkeeper arrived. The bookkeeper called me to say my ex-husband was in ICU. I took our 14-year-old son Jerry to visit his father. I didn’t know what to do. The ICU nurse said to talk loudly. I don’t know where the words came from, but I as I held eye contact with Jerry, I began to promise his father that we would remember the good. And that there had been plenty of good.
The hospital called on Monday October 6 at 6:30 am to say that my ex had died. That date matters. In 2003 October 6 was Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. The Day of Atonement. And if there was anyone who had some atoning to do, it was my ex-husband.
There was no one else to take care of his affairs, so I drove out to his property, and began what turned into a two-year slog to close his business, handle his estate, talk to creditors, and sell his property.
On my first day at his home which was also his business, I sank down in front of a wall of rusty file cabinets and began the daunting task of going through his papers. At the back of the first drawer was a fat file marked life insurance. In it, I was shocked to discover that he had reinstated his lapsed insurance the month I wrote "Finally Forgive" (!), increased the amount, and named me (!) beneficiary.
As I drove home that day, I looked out the window and suddenly said to him. “You can do for us there, what you couldn’t do here.”
That felt good. So I repeated it. And repeated it. And repeated it. I said it every day driving to and from his place. I said it while cleaning his office. I said it at home cooking dinner. I said it in the bath. I said it falling asleep and waking in the morning. I said it and said it and said it and said it.
I knew nothing about being a witch back then. But now, it’s clear, I was casting a spell. A holy, prayer-infused, and very powerful spell.
And it worked.
On November 11, 2003 his life insurance company sent me a check. A big check. A check that made it possible for me to stay in this house and even fix it up a bit. And enough to set aside some to send our son to college.
So this week, as part of honoring his death 20 years ago, I did something new. In The A.R.T. of Becoming a Witch prayer intensive that is ending this month, we are making and walking 7-circuit labyrinths every day. So I drew a labyrinth and paused at the threshold wondering what to carry into it.
In the silence I heard my prayer again: “You can do for us there what you couldn’t do here.”
As I entered the labyrinth, I said aloud all the many ways he has atoned, not just the life insurance miracle, but ongoing miracles. My ex-husband is a living loving presence in my life and in our son’s life.
At the center I paused and drew a heart. Slowly, I walked back out carrying an overwhelming sense of love and gratitude. Our story began in 1976 with wild loving hearts and although there were years of pain in between, our story is ending with loving hearts. When I reached the entrance, I wrote on the paper, what I thought I had been saying aloud. I am pretty sure I was saying aloud, “I am who I am because you loved me.”
But my hand wrote: “I am who I am because you love me.”
Love. Not loved. Present tense, not past.
It’s true. Love is stronger than death.
On this beautiful October Sunday, I have a few gifts for you.
- First, the prayer.
Take it and speak it for and with anyone who had died:
You can do for us there
what you couldn’t do here
- Second, the book.
You might like to get The Lotus and the Lily now, in advance of the intensive opening. There’s a lot of rich material in the opening sections.
- Third, save the dates.
The Lotus and the Lily prayer intensive meets for 5 Tuesdays from November 14-Dec 12 at 6pm eastern with a special watch party for friends in Europe on Thursdays.
This week I am inviting the members of the first two A.R.T. of Becoming a Witch intensives, members of last year’s The Lotus and the Lily and the precious witches in the year-long Remembering the Songlines of the Witches mystery school.
Next Sunday, I’ll open the intensive to all the readers of these Notes from the Field.
Until then, may the miracle of prayer cast a spell of love over you and your beloveds, living and dead
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