Our hearts all want to know: what can I do?

The year of the body--Week 34

in which our hearts break for Afghanistan and we ask ourselves, what is mine to do?  

Friends, soul writers, mystics, and lovers of prayer,

Our hearts are breaking over what is unfolding in Afghanistan. Everyone I know is worried about women and girls losing the small freedoms and education they have tasted in the last twenty years.

I too am distraught. I won’t go into the distressing politics, except to suggest that we all follow the money. War, as Eisenhower warned in the 50s, is a profit machine for the military-industrial complex, that if not checked, will rule and ruin the country. And so it has.

At 73, I can look back at all the wars my country has waged since World War II and wonder if, despite all the patriotic explanations for invading these small impoverished nonwhite, non-Christian countries, they weren’t really just massive profit makers for governments, corporations, and contracted mercenaries that thrive on war.

I don’t have answers, but boy do I have questions.

One question we’re all wrestling with is, “What can I do?”

We feel this question reverberating in our hearts. We hear those who cannot speak for themselves asking, "What will you do?"

I am blessed to know a few American women with deep connections to organizations on the ground in Afghanistan that support education for girls. In the next few weeks, I hope to receive guidance on whom and what to support and I’ll pass on what I learn.

In the meantime, I turn to Etty Hillesum.

Our hearts all want to know: what can I do?

Etty was a brilliant young Dutch woman caught in the vice grip of the Nazis as they imposed more and more restrictions on Jews in Amsterdam in 1941-1941.

We know what was happening and how she responded to it because her journals were published 40 years after her death in Auschwitz in 1943.

I’m reading her journal—An Interrupted Life—and her final Letters from Westerbork because Etty is the 2nd to the last of 13 witches and women we are honoring in The Return of the Witches Jeanne d’Arc Listening Pilgrimage that is coming to a close next week.

Hearing the voices of these 13 women and men persecuted as "other" has been a transformational and holy experience. And one filled with love and even joy. Which, I grant, seems quite the paradox.

How can looking at what happened to women and Indigenous peoples over the last 3,000 years under brutal patriarchy possibly hold love and even joy?

Etty’s writings give us clues.

Her journals are riveting. Luckily, she dates each entry, so you can follow not only what is happening outside her door—history we unfortunately know too well. But, of far greater importance and relevance, you can see what is happening inside her heart.

As I spend time with Etty, I realize why she is called “the mystic of the holocaust.”

Here are just a few entries. Read these while holding young Afghanistani women trying to figure out who they are and how they want to live in your heart.

And hold their question, "What will you do?"

Etty explains why she’s keeping a journal:

Here on these pages, I am spinning my thread. And a thread does run through my life, through my reality, like a continuous line.”

At the beginning of her journals, she doesn’t know what that thread is, just senses that it is there, somewhere, and if she keeps writing, she might find it.

To this, I can only shout Amen!

When I started soul writing in the midst of a vicious divorce 24 years ago, I had no intention to become a spiritual writer, just as Etty had no intention that her journals would ever be published. She was simply in conversation with herself, pouring her questions and experiences onto the page in what quickly morphed from journaling into living conversations with God.

And with her pen in God’s hand, she begins to find her thread.

“Oh God, take me in your big hand and make me your instrument, let me write for You.”

I too started writing to “Dear God” in the midst of a terrifying experience, and slowly, day by day, my thread began to surface.

Over the years the name of my Beloved changed, but the heart of the Divine did not.

It was me who changed as I opened and expanded and explored who I really was and why I was here.

And, although I was in my sixties before I got to the place Etty reached in her twenties, I do now absolutely see my soul writing and my life as “for the Beloved.”

Etty had astonishing insights about living in war. You would expect her to be filled with anger and vengeance. Instead, she writes:

“All disasters stem from us. Why is there a war?... we could fight war and all its excrescences by releasing, each day, the love that is shackled inside us, and giving it a chance to life.”

“The rottenness of others is in us too. I really see no other solution than to turn inward and to root out all the rottenness there. I no longer believe that we can change anything in the world until we have first changed ourselves.”

Etty is reaching through the years to us in 2021 as we wonder what to do about all the pain and suffering we see, not just in Afghanistan but, everywhere we look. She writes:

“One thing is for sure; we need to help extend the supply of love in this planet earth. With every little bit of hate that we add to the already existing overload of hate, we make this world more desolate.”

“There is only one way of preparing the new age, by living it even now in our hearts.”

And finally, as she faces the reality of dying in a gas chamber, she writes:

“I want to be the thinking heart of the barracks.”

Can you say this? Can you say:

  • I want to be the thinking heart of Afghanistan.
  • I want to be the thinking heart of my country, state, province, town.
  • I want to be the thinking heart of my business.
  • How about, I want to be the thinking heart of my family.

These are all huge tasks. Impossible perhaps. But we say yes anyway.

Because how is the world ever going to become safe for everyone labeled “other” until and unless we create that world. A world where truth, justice, safety, beauty, and love are visible for all.

I may not know how to create that world. You may not know how to create that world. But we can dive into our soul writing journals and probe for the thread. Because the Beloved knows.

She will take us by the hand and lead us deep into our hearts where we find the thread of love we carried into this lifetime—the thread of love we are here to express and share.

The thread of love we have longed to unshackle. The thread of love that bit by bit creates a world we actually want to live in.

In perfect synchronicity, I am creating a radically different, mystical exploration of deep soul writing next month.

It is unlike anything I've ever offered. Because I didn't plan it, She did. On the page.

Please visit the event page. I introduce the mystical concepts of the Container, Contained, and Continuum for the first time. I thought that was pretty good, but She woke me two nights ago with the missing piece and I'll talk about it next Sunday.

But don't wait to register.

We open in two weeks on Tuesday, September 7, and gather for four Tuesdays from 7-9pm Eastern with a watch party for our friends in UK/Europe on Thursdays at 7pm UK. Details on the landing page at my site.

Writing Down Your Soul 2021

Register now, so you can start reading or rereading the book, get a blank journal, and start watching all the bonus videos.

Big love is about to explode onto your journal pages.

I dare say Etty would approve!

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