Seeking Submissions: Silence

It is that time again! A time for preparation, for waiting, for quiet! Here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets, we are dedicating this month to the theme of SILENCE. Quiet time is often overlooked in our busy world, but silence is an important part of almost every spiritual journey. This month we want to hear about the places of silence in your life and how they have led you to find wisdom, love …and lint.

If you are stuck for where to start your submission, here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. How do you find silence in your daily life?
  2. How has silence helped you on your spiritual journey?
  3. How do you feel when you find silence?
  4. Do you experience the Holy in silence?
  5. How do you cope with too much silence/too much noise?

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

The Searching Sophia’s Pockets Team

A Prayer for Desires

As we close the month of desires, we offer this prayer about desires. There are so many facets to this theme that the prayers it generates could be infinite.  Nermine’s recent post on prayer and desire also contains a beautiful prayer on the theme of desires. If you would like to share your own prayer, please feel free to submit it to us! Like all prayers on Searching Sophia’s Pockets, please feel free to edit and shape this prayer for use in your home or place of worship, and then share the experience with us!

Dear Spirit of the Heart,

Bless my desires,
let them light in me a fire for peace and justice.
Let my desires give me strength to persevere.
Give me desires of the fiercest kind,
desires that are holy, powerful, and true.
Let me honor those desires with all I do and all I say.

Help me to be kind to my desires,
desires for success, for love, for pleasure, for companionship.
Help me to recognize the humanity and the universality of these desires,
and let that wisdom guide me to a better understanding of all people on this earth.

Bless me with a life full of desires,
full of passion, pleasure, and determination.
Through my desires,
let me show my faith,
let me show my love,
and let me share my light.

Amen.

Unrealistic Desires

Today our writing intern, Nermine, responds to our Autumn Elizabeth’s post about unfulfilled desires. Nermine adds her own wisdom to the subject of desires, and gives us all a new way to look at our desires. 

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

I call myself a positive person; always looking at the big picture, the full half of the cup, the hidden wisdom behind all tragedies. My heart overflows with infinite desires; diverse, contradictory and often times even unrealistic.

I desire a world where harmony and acceptance exist; a place in which people would look beyond how I look or dress, where I come from, or which religion I’m adopting and try to know the real me and accept me the way I am. A world in which truth will not be silenced and injustice will not go unpunished, tolerated or worse accepted.

I desire a world, in which people’s hearts are more tender, more loving and generous, where their words are not painful, but healing and their faces glow and smile with hope and inner peace. A beautiful world of different colors, different tongues, different faiths, all living in harmony without prejudice or judgment.

In this brutal and an unjust world, I try not to lose my faith in goodness, in beauty and in humanity. I have this solid belief, not merely a desire, (which might sound unrealistic for some), that goodness and peace will eventually prevail, that truth, tolerance and justice will find their way back into our veins.

My visions can sound utopian and my desires unrealistic and I know that. I know that this worldly experience is not meant to be easy and trouble-free; that it is meant to be tough and painful to test our perseverance and faith. I know that without hate, love wouldn’t be special and sacred. I believe that we need lies for the truth to be meaningful and that without the tragedies, we won’t appreciate the blessings.

I’m also confident that God never burdens us with what we cannot endure. That’s why I believe that all desires are valid and also possible, even though that there’s no sign to tell me so. I believe in unrealistic desires.

Even if my desires are never fulfilled, I am still thankful, for those moments of peace, love and harmony, no matter how rare and short they are. I’m thankful for the warm hearts that I come across every now and then, which make the coldness and bitterness of the world cease, even if just for a little while. I am glad for the open minds that are willing to listen, to understand and to accept.

Mostly I’m thankful for the heart that still desires, that still hopes for a beautiful world, still trusts in a Generous, Just and Merciful God, and still believes that even though sometimes desires are unfulfilled and prayers unanswered, they are never unheard, and that despite what we lack, and what we still yearn for, we are eternally blessed.

Desires, Sex, and Love

We’re pleased to share another guest post from Esraa Mohamed, who previously wrote When Rituals End. Esraa is an Egyptian Muslim and physical therapy student with strong passion for the universe and its mysteries. Today Esraa raises questions about love and sexual desire, and whether or not they are interrelated interrelate.

“Desires” in the mere sense of the word, are the fundamental motives behind all human actions. There are plenty of desires in this world and they often overlap, one simply leads to another. Yet it is sexual desire that often comes to mind when we hear that word.

Sexual desire in parallel with one’s need to food and water comes at the base of the pyramid yet one’s urge to fulfill that desire has nothing to do with behaving like animals.  Even when I think that I’ve finally reached a verdict in that issue I find that I am, alas, still stuck in the chaotic ground of desire, sex, and love.

Deep inside my rational voice has no problem with sex as a need. You want to have sex? Then go have sex. Yet, I’m wholly perplexed when sex overlaps with love. How do the desire for love and the desire for sex blend together?

Some say there is a huge difference between making love and having sex, some even say that love can’t be reached without involving mutual sexual desires, but I really never got that point. I strongly believe in platonic unconditional love, which excludes sexual desires from the whole equation.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical situation. You fell for somebody, you love every single detail about them and there is no way could you see the world without them. Assuming that at the middle of your way together they no longer fit your needs, Will you give up on them? And if you did. Does it mean that you did not initially love them? That you’ve put the urge of your desires ahead of your love for them?

If I were to answer that question then definitely I wouldn’t give up on them. As long as sexual desire was an extra factor in constructing the love, then its disappearance shouldn’t in anyway ruin the relation. I  want someone to fall in love with my soul, I want to someone who would go on loving me with the same potential when I’m no longer young and beautiful.

So the question is, what are we really talking about when we talk about love? In my opinion love is something much more sacred then simple desires, or the need for sex. Love doesn’t have to be involved with sexual desires. You love someone for their soul, their personality, for the idea of them as a human being.

But in the end, I have more questions than answers. Can love exist without desire? Can desire exist without love? Can sex exist without either one?

As a kid like many others, I too went through an “Oh-No phase”, when I could not believe that my parents actually had desires, had sex, or made love. I remember how puzzling and irritating this phase was, and then at some point I thought I had cleared it all up. Yet it seems like desires, sex, and love are still just as puzzling as they were back then; as soon as the blurry image clears up, something new comes along and fogs it up again.

Desires and Prayers

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

Whenever I find my heart overwhelmed with desires; I seek solace in this prayer:

آلَلهُمَ لاَ تُعَلقٌ قَلبىٌ بمٌا لَيْسَ لىٌ واجعَل لىْ فيمْا أُحَب نَصٌيبَ

It means “God, don’t let my heart get attached to what’s not meant for me and make what I love a part of my destiny.”

There are times when I fear that what I desire is not good for me, when desires control me and blind me from what truly matters. Maybe we all have desires that drive us away from God, and maybe too we all have times when we lose hope and our hearts cease to desire anything. I think there are times when we all desire too much and give thanks too little.

So for all of us, and for myself, I pray:

God,

My heart is an open book only to You. You know what I desire.

My knowledge is limited and my sight is short and You know what lies ahead and what’s best for me, make my heart desire what’s good for me.

Help me not to cling to futile hopes and false desires, let my heart see what matters.

Make my desires a road that drives me closer to You and not further away.

Help me find patience when my desires are unfulfilled and my prayers unanswered.

Sow satisfaction and gratitude in my heart.

Help me restrain the anger and disappointment I feel about what I lack and what I cannot get.

Let me be grateful instead for the countless blessings I have and those that perhaps didn’t deserve, for I’m seldom thankful enough.

Let my heart always be full of desires, full of hope, full of love. Let me live and trust in You, in myself and in those around me.

Amen.

The Desire to Know Myself

We’re pleased to share a guest post from Sherif El Herraoui, who describes himself as a bipolar Orthopedic surgeon/Osteopath in training, and a Writer/Storyteller in a love/hate relationship with Cairo and everything else. In his post, Sherif shares with us his unwavering desire to discover himself and unearth those buried layers of the soul.

In early 2014, I was going through what I called an existential crisis, although some said it was merely a grounding problem. Regardless of terminologies, I felt completely lost and even got diagnosed with clinical depression. Instead of being medicated, I decided to start writing – after a four year hiatus – and joined a creative writing workshop. I thought being amongst other fellow writers who think alike would help me feel balanced and welcomed. And they truly have helped me beyond my imagination.

In one of our meetings, the discussion shifted to the realm of dreams: keeping a dream diary, receiving messages from the subconscious, and a whole lot of other dream-related issues that had never crossed my mind. I had never remembered my dreams or even realized it was possible for me. I knew some people who could, but thought it was just a gift I didn’t have. Nonetheless, I accepted the challenge of my fellow writers to write down and send over my first written dream by our next meeting.

I got a tiny notebook and a pencil to start a dream diary and laid them on my bedside table. With the help of Google, I found some articles about techniques to remember my dreams. I even got a white noise app and a before bed meditation app on my phone to help me set the mood and everything else I stumbled upon in my search. And by the end of the week, I remembered my first dream after waking up and wrote it down.

The whole process was a thrill to me during that difficult time of my life, so I just kept recording my dreams and substituted the little notebook with another app that shows me dream patterns after a while; patterns of dominant colors, recurring themes and emotions and people appearing in my dreams. Comparing my dream diary to my journal has led me to the discovery of a whole different dimension of myself I had not met before: my subconscious.

I enjoy getting to know my likes and dislikes, destroying the limiting beliefs one after the other, experiencing new aspects of life and accepting the challenges it offers. And it all started by the knowledge that there is more to me than I had already thought and an ongoing desire to observe and raise questions about myself and the world and learn more about it all even if I don’t reach definite answers. Nothing is finite.

This introduction to my subconscious ignited the desire inside of me to learn more about myself and embark on a self-discovery journey which has not yet reached its final destination and may never end, but  my journey has definitely  take me to some very interesting spots and I am enjoying the ride.

Desire for a Radical Chrisitanty

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

It is important to note that for the purposes of this article, the word “radical” is used in the sense of desire for drastic social, political, economic and cultural reform. It is also important to note the privilege that I, as a white christian writer, have in using that word. I encourage everyone to consider their own personal reaction to this article and its title if we had substituted Islam for Christianity. 

So let’s get this out of the way… I am a radical, anti-racist, sex-positive queer feminist. Oh and one more thing, I am a Christian.

As such I believe in the unconditional love of God, and in living a life dedicated to  the service of others. I believe in the power of prayer, and the power of the Bible.

I also believe we live in a racist society that privileges white skin over lack and brown skin. I believe that, as  Dossie Easton put it, “Sex is nice and pleasure is good for you”.I am pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage, pro-gender neutral bathrooms.  I know that many people, indeed even some people reading this very article may think, may believe that my beliefs are incompatible with Christianity. Some may even think that my desires, my beliefs, cause me to be separated, or distanced, from the love of God.

I however, believe the opposite. There is a passage from the Bible that is often cited by my friends over at Faith Aloud, at times when people see their work, or a woman’s reproductive choices, as keeping them from God.

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love –Romans 9:38-39 The Message Bible

I can turn to God’s love and know that I cannot be parted from the love of God, no matter what anyone else says. My beliefs, my desires, my thoughts, and even the opinions of other Christians, cannot separate me from my God.

Yet, for me I want more than to be able to claim that my beliefs aren’t separating me from God. I need, I yearn for, and I call for a view of Christianity that embraces these beliefs. In fact, I demand a Christianity that reflects the radical politics of that totally radical guy, Jesus, whose message was one of radical love, radical action, and radical welcome.

Riffing on Flavia Dzodan’s awesome article on intersectional feminism, I  would say that my Christianity will be radical or it will be bullshit. Let me say that again, my Christianity will be radical or it will be bullshit. I don’t think this means everyone’s Christianity needs to be as radical as mine, but I do desire to have a place in the world of Christianity. I need a powerful Christianity that challanges me to be a better adovocate for justice in this world, but I also know that my desires aren’t everyone’s desires. 

I desire worship services that reflect my beliefs, I desire churches that seek out and support marginalized people, I desire sermons that discuss how difficult and revolutionary love can be. But mostly, I desire a racial Christianity that worships this Jesus:o-JESUS-570

Yet, I am well aware that many people have no desire for the view of Christianity I am talking about here, and I think that is okay.  I am also called by the Bible to honor the fact that no one’s belief’s can keep them from being loved by God, and that I am called to love people whose views are different than mine. Indeed, love for each other, and everyone else is what defies us as Christians, or as the writer of John puts it:

 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.–John 13:35

We are all human, our desires are infinite, but we all deserve a place at the table, a chance to voice our desires without judgment, and above all, we all receive, whether we deserve it or not, the unconditional love of God.

Unfulfilled Desires

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

The things I have wanted that I don’t have could fill a book. Sometimes it is hard not to look at life as a list of unfulfilled desires: the PhD program that I didn’t get into, the marriage that didn’t work out, the job I didn’t get. Sometimes it seems like my path is strewn with only what I don’t have. Given the current state of the world, I know I am not the only one who has unfulfilled desires, I am not the only one who feels the harsh sting of failure, who has done the hard work of mending a broken heart.

So today, when my head started spiral into that negative space, I pulled out my Bible and began to search for wisdom. Now, while I have several bible copies, some pristine, etched in gold, but the Bible I search through isn’t one of those. It is full of highlighted sections and notes in the margins.  It is bookmarked by prayer cards from every funeral I have ever attended, and mementos from many years of bible study. Often, this Bible simply falls open to a page, which seems as good of a place to start as any.

As it happened, today the Bible fell open to one of my favorite passages:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. –Hebrews 11:1

So there it is. The wisdom I have to share today is to simply have faith. I have to keep walking on my spiritual journey, even when things look bleak and when my hopes end up as unfulfilled desires. I have to trust that I am co-creating something beautiful and meaningful with my God, with my comrades, with my lovers, my friends, and my family.  In short, even when desires remain unfulfilled, when prayers seem unanswered, when wishes are not granted, I must have faith…for the bible tells me so.

Desire for Understanding

By: Jenni TaylorIMG_0518

My travels have just taken me to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Unlike, the United States, which prides itself on being a melting pot, Malaysia has not melted- it is a beautiful hodgepodge of cultures, religions, languages, clothing, and food from all over the world. Short shorts and tank tops are next to hijabs and chadors, with all the wearers using selfie sticks or shopping at Sephora. Harmony seems impossible, but there it is- a million differences passing each other on the street or eating at each other’s restaurants.

I am surrounded by swirling colors and culture, only to log on and see updates on Ferguson protests and now Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where three Muslims were shot and killed.

So, my desire is this: understanding. I want to understand where hatred comes from and how to stop it. I want others to understand that our similarities are far greater than our differences.

This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with wisdom. I am not asking for agreement, or even tolerance, which seeks to ignore rather than understand. I’m asking for patience, and a willingness to listen.

Here in Kuala Lumpur there is a Hindu holy place called the Batu caves. They just finished celebrating Thaipusam. It involves flowers and prayer, and also hooks and self-mutilation. The hooks are placed through tongues or through the skin on backs. It is described as a religious euphoria reached through intense pain.

I do not understand it.

I do not agree with it.

But I do understand that holy pilgrimage comes from a need, and I recognize that need. It’s a need I find in my own life, when I go into the quiet places and search for something bigger than myself.

I may not understand, but wisdom tells me to try. It tells me that if I sit down and have a cup of teh terik with someone different from me, we will find a shared point of truth. And as a wise man once said, the truth will set you free.

So I pray,

Teach us patience. Give us wisdom and understanding. Help us to stop feeling threatened and find our safety, peace, and comfort in You, and not in the reactions of our fears. Help us to be salt, to be light, and to be your love.

Amen.

Desire and Identity

By: Jenni Taylor

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. –Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

My heart is full of desires. Chiefly, in this moment, my desire is to be a strong and beautiful woman.

My grandmom, who died long before I was born, was the matriarch of the family. She was strong, and she was beautiful. Life was not kind, but she held her family together. I see her strength in my aunts and uncles, her prayers reflected in their lives, and I know her legacy lives on.

I am a teacher. A traveler. An actress. A daughter, a friend, a writer, an adventurer. I am full of titles, striving to live a life of meaning, a life that won’t be forgotten or lost in the void. But maybe the void is where I need to be.

I was lost in the woods of north Wisconsin once, with mosquitoes and ticks and aching arms. I looked around at the forest surrounding me and thought, I want to be nameless. I just want to be. I want to be my imperfect body with my soul swirling around the tree tops; I want to be naked and free, connected, and bigger somehow. I want to lose myself so I can become something more.

I say that, but the honest truth is my identity is everything to me. Letting go and becoming that person I was in the woods takes effort now. It takes intention, it takes prayer, it takes believing in something bigger and better than myself and my dreams.

I’m sitting in a cafe in Vietnam right now, watching the chaos of motorbikes and noodles and movable markets. I am blessed, and I am humbled. Yes, I want to be strong and beautiful, but by God do I also want to be connected to the lives surrounding me, the millions and billions of lives searching for peace and meaning and strength, just as I am. So I pray:

Thank you for being bigger and better than I am. Thank you for the desires of my heart. Thank you for life, opportunities, and choices. Help me to love. Help me to give. Help me to become less of my titles and more of my heart.

Thank you for this beautiful country, it’s strength, it’s women, it’s optimism.

Amen.