What the Universe Asks Us to Give

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By: Jenni Taylor, Co-founder

“I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go.” Life of Pi


Carl Sagan once said,

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”


I imagine a star, born in a nursery, it’s purpose a complete mystery to us as it grows older throughout eons. It eventually collapses in an explosion of light, giving back its nitrogen, its calcium, its iron and carbon. It gives these pieces of life back to the universe, to create more life.

Madeline L’Engle explored the idea of a star as a conscious being in her book A Wrinkle in Time. A star gives up her life in the fight against evil, taking away a bit of the darkness with her gift of life.

A book, too, can be a star, explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe

 Madeleine L’Engle says.

A star. A book. A person. Explosive. Capable of stirring up fresh life. A living fire to lighten the darkness.

If all of life is giving, an act of letting go as the author of Life of Pi suggests, then I decide to take a piece of spiritual wisdom from these giving stars, whose DNA is now my DNA. We are made of star stuff, stuff that was given to us freely to create life, stuff that will be given back to the universe when we die. Even the very air we breathe echoes this lesson, filling our lungs without question and flowing back out without hesitation.

If this is a spiritual truth, what is the universe asking us to give? What is it asking us to let go?

I think of the things I claim as My own- my time. My love. My money. My health. My body. My life. Mine, mine, mine.

Do I recognize these as gifts? Am I thankful for these gifts? Am I willing to give these gifts to others?

So I breathe, feeling the gift of life fill my lungs and just as quickly feel it leave again, and I imagine myself as a star. My life is a gift. Let my star stuff, the eternal pieces of me, flow out in love. The law of the universe says it will come back to me someday.

Seeking Submissions: GIVING


This month at Searching Sophia’s Pockets, we are focusing on the theme of GIVING. Giving is something that can change the way we feel about our lives, and something that can shape our spiritual journeys. We invite you to look deeply at your own spiritual journey and tell us how giving has shaped it, then send us your submissions. If you are lacking inspiration for your submission, here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. What were you given that had the largest effect on your spiritual journey?
  2. Do you feel called to give because of your religious or spiritual or personal beliefs?
  3. What is the most valuable thing you have given away? How did that act of giving affect you?
  4. What is the best thing you have ever been given?
  5. Who/what has given you the most along your spiritual journey?

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

The Searching Sophia’s Pockets Team

Holding on to Safety

Today’s post is our last post on Safety, and comes from a regular contributor Esraa Mohamed. Esraa is an Egyptian Muslim and physical therapy student with strong passion for the universe and its mysteries. Today Esraa ponders upon memories and friendships and whether holding on tightly to them, or letting them go make us feel safe.
Generally, I can’t really put down the things that make me feel safe, but I could rather elaborate on the things that give me hard time feeling secure. The 10-year-old me found safety in the materialistic existence of things and people. As a child, I never feared darkness or sleeping alone in my room. But I can vividly recall when my mum came to sleep over and how I used to embrace her belly with my little arm, checking every now and then on her breath in and out. It was as if death wouldn’t dare clench its fist through the dark while my arm is around her. As I grew older, I came to terms with the idea of death and it doesn’t freak me out anymore when people disappear in a blink.

A couple of months ago, I met a woman, a very dear soul to my heart at the hospital. We had been having physical therapy sessions twice a day for three months now, so I’m profoundly attached to her. And one day while telling her ‘good morning’, she shocked me with the question “Who are you?”. I couldn’t grasp it instantly and it took me quite some time to figure out what was going on. My eyes squinted with tears, thinking how could she possibly forget me? How things went blank out of the blue and later on I learned that she suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Being the person who holds tightly on everything, taking photographs everywhere I go, writing diaries to archive each moment. This was total insecurity for me. How could one possibly live without memories? Who are we without memories after all?

Taking things for granted was the typical me, until one day I woke up to my passed away friend as blurred pixels. I sat at the edge of the bed trying to remember the way she looked like, trying to cling to any memory, any moment but I couldn’t. I squeezed my eyes, pressing hardly on my eyelids, trying to reconnect to anything but in vain. It was all gone and I was blank. I instantly rushed to the first piece of paper on my desk and wrote “2010: morning, feeling blank.” And since then, I’ve been obsessed with archiving every moment, every feeling. 

Losing a friend that I had taken for granted left a hole inside my soul and thus friendships became on top of the things that make me feel either secure or insecure and recently I came to the conclusion that there are two types of friends: those whom you blindly trust their leave. You feel safe because you know by heart that no matter how much life would shred you apart; you’d return back to the same point life drifted you together, smoothly as it has been before. You trust them with your place in their life, knowing that they can’t replace you by any other, so you don’t seek creating common grounds, asking about them daily and sticking to them much. Yet, the other type of friends scares the hell out of me. They give you a hard time by trusting everything. How could you possibly get more attached while their existence is a mirage? What if the common grounds came to a dead end? This love is consuming and reckless.  

For me a best friend is not necessarily the one we keep in touch with or the one who’s updated by our life second by second, but he can be the one we seldom meet yet when we meet we feel no blocks between us. A best friend is the far yet so close one.

Despite all that, I felt that there could be safety in Alzheimer’s from another perspective. I started to wonder why am I holding way too much? There is safety in oblivion, in letting go, in the non-lingering momentary things, living each day with no traumatic past, in being a neutron. And now I’m just trying to find safety by letting go of the things that scare me.

The Risk of the Spiritual Journey

Books, Reading, Spiritual Journey,

By: Jenni Taylor, Co-founder

He’s not safe, but he’s good (referring to Aslan the Lion, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) ― C.S. Lewis

Do you wanna come with me? ‘Cause if you do then I should warn you, you’re gonna see all sorts of things. Ghosts from the past; Aliens from the future; the day the Earth died in a ball of flame; It won’t be quiet, it won’t be safe, and it won’t be calm. But I’ll tell you what it will be: the trip of a lifetime.― Doctor Who

Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Much of literature is deeply rooted in adventure, mystery, suspense, and a call to jump into the unknown. Holy texts echo that, asking us for radical commitments to love, and to take a spiritual journey.

There’s the key, I suppose. To stop looking at religion as an end, or something to attain, or an identity. “I’m religious,” is a cerebral statement, not one of the heart. “I’m an adventurer, an explorer, a woman with a mission and a long road-” now my belly feels full of the words and yearns to set one foot in front of the other on a new path.

It’s no good at all to stay safe if you want a spiritual journey. First, open your heart like the hobbit to hear the call of the pine trees and waterfalls, the highland music carried on the fog that tells you there has to be so much more than what we have now. There has to be. I refuse to live my life safely, ears and heart shut against the beckoning of adventure.

Spiritual journeys aren’t safe. They involve all sorts of strange things, like crying in a yoga pose or dancing with joy or staying in a tree until something makes sense- and that something usually won’t make sense to anyone else. Spiritual journeys consist of one step forward and two steps back, winding paths, and the same truths repeated over and over in different ways until they are finally ingrained on your heart and shown in your grey hair.

But I for one, would like to pick up that walking stick, face the lion, and grab the Doctor’s hand to journey off into the unknown and see what I can see. There is more. So much more. And I am determined to find it.

Seeking Submissions: SAFETY

jack o lantern, Halloween, Safety

This month at Searching Sophia’s Pockets, we are focusing on the theme of SAFETY. Often what makes us feel safe says a lot about what we are afraid of, what we cherish, and who we are as human beings. We invite you to look deeply and tell us how safety and your spirituality connect. If you are lacking inspiration for your submission, here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. When did you feel safest on your spiritual journey?
  2. Is the call to follow a spiritual leader safe or dangerous?
  3. Do you feel safe exploring your spirituality?
  4. How has your spirituality helped you in times when you felt unsafe?
  5. Who/what provides safety on your spiritual journey?

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

The Searching Sophia’s Pockets Team

Practicing Forgiveness

Today’s post comes from our regular contributor David Etim, who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria. Today he shares the wisdom he has gained from practicing forgiveness.

Sun, Forgive

For me, lack of forgiveness is a spiritual virus, a monster that can destroyed us spiritually.I have also learned from my journey of faith that the more I practice forgiveness the more easier it has become for me. My practice of forgiveness is based in biblical scripture. The Bible often counsels against this lack of forgiveness.

Watch out that no bitterness take root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble hurting many in their spiritual lives –Hebrews 12:15

Furthermore, for me, the Bible’s counsel regarding lack of forgiveness is as relevant today as when it was written.

God’s Word says:

 Try to show as much compassion as Your Father does–Luke 6:36


Your attitude should be the kind that was shown by Jesus Christ–Philippians 2:5

It is true that some out of envy and jealousy do petty things that hurt me, but I have decided how to respond to those hurts: I will do all I can to make the person happy by showing love.

For me, forgiveness is a biblical command and it is always worth it to stand on my conviction without compromise. What happens to me is not nearly as important as what happens in me.

Yom Kippur, Forgiveness, and Race

Today’s guest post comes from Sarah Barasch-Hagans who is a queer Jewish woman from St. Louis and a third year rabbi-in-training at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Sarah is also the founder of the Fargesn Media Project and one of the founders of the acclaimed Black Lives Matter Haggadah. Her post shares her perspective on Yom Kippur. It also sheds light on the relationships between atonement and forgiveness as well as looking at how race affects those concepts. You can find more of Sarah’s writings on her blog.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish “Day of Atonement” of fasting and soul searching that seems to come every autumn exactly when we need it. This past week, after a year in which I engaged intensely in challenging accepted ideologies around race and class and power that Ferguson had highlighted in my hometown of St. Louis, Yom Kippur again came right on time. This year, I finally realized how truly countercultural in America is the Jewish approach is to apologizing and forgiving.

American society tends to make apologizing optional for the powerful yet demands forgiveness from the powerless. We have never offered reparations for slavery yet we tout as exemplary the Black families in South Carolina who have forgiven Dylann Roof for mass murdering their relatives while they prayed in church–even though he has expressed no remorse for his evil actions. On the heels of this news, set amidst this year of the rebirth of the Black Civil Rights Movement, it has felt especially important to me clarify the theology of forgiveness in Judaism.

In Judaism, we are not required to forgive those that wrong us. Rather, responsibility rests with the one who has done wrong and is required to atone. Even if we are not forgiven the first time we apologize, we must still attempt to fulfill the commandment by offering atonement three times with sincerity. Especially in cases where we may have sinned repeatedly, demonstrating sincerity arguably requires that we perform actions to show we are on a path to truly changing the behavior we are apologizing for. Only then, only after we have sincerely attempted atonement with the person three times, are we are said to have atoned properly before God.

This theology has serious implications for dialogues on race in our country. I believe that Jewish theology is absolutely clear that the current role of White Americans–Jewish and non-Jewish–is to atone.

Judaism would not demand that individual Black Americans forgive White People or the institutions that uphold racism. If individual Black Americans find peace in forgiveness, that is their choice, but but that is not required. Jewish tradition does have much to say about short term restorative justice and and long term reconciliation and community building, but is a conversation for another day.

We must delay those conversations because they are too comforting. This is our time to avoid the impulse to deflect blame or to try to plan for the future. This moment, this exact season in the Jewish calendar, is when we atone without knowing whether we will ever reach a place of comfort.

This time is for difficult spiritual exercises by those of us who are implicated in sinful cycles. Each of us of all races and genders and class backgrounds and sexualities and ability levels must look honestly at ourselves and our place in oppression, interpersonal and communal, and seek teshuvah–usually translated as atonement but literally meaning “turning.” This is our time of turning towards a path of love and justice. This is our time to exercise faith in turning to a path we may not even be able to imagine. Because until we are absolutely honest about the path we are on, we will never be able to see, much less travel, along the path we seek.

A Prayer For Forgiveness

ForgivenessAs we explore forgiveness, we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets offer this prayer for all of us who are searching for forgiveness. This prayer is just a template everyone is welcome to modify it, customize it, and re-create to better fit their own journey and beliefs. If you would like to share you re-creations, we welcome you to do so in the comment section, or to submit your own prayer.   

Dear Spirit of Unconditional Love,

Let me feel forgiveness wash over me,
and let that feeling renew me.

Help me know the blessing that comes from letting go,
from forgiving those I am able to forgive.

Bless those that I cannot forgive,
and help them know the unconditional love that surrounds us all.

Let me feel supported by unconditional love,
and let that love allow me to forgive others and myself as much as possible.

Help me embody forgiveness in its best form,
and help me see forgiveness as part, but not all of your divine love.


Please feel free to use this and any of our content in services, prayer groups etc., just remember to link it back to us! 

Seeking Submissions: Forgiveness

Forgiveness, spiritual
This month at Searching Sophia’s Pockets, we are focusing on the theme of FORGIVENESS. Forgiveness can be a tough topic, but a vital one for many spiritual journeys. We invite you to look deeply and tell us how forgiveness has shaped your relationship with your spirituality, with others, and with the world at large. If you are lacking inspiration for your submission, here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. Who are you struggling to forgive right now? How has this affected your relationship with the divine and/or your spirituality?
  2. How did you learn to forgive?
  3. How do you define true forgiveness?
  4. Who forgives you? How?
  5. How do you ask for forgiveness?

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

The Searching Sophia’s Pockets Team

Exploring Identity

We’re pleased to share another guest post by Esraa Mohamed, who previously wrote When Rituals End and Desires, Sex, and Love. Esraa is an Egyptian Muslim and physical therapy student with strong passion for the universe and its mysteries. Today, she shares with us a glimpse of her own black box; with all the things we dare not to dig up and explore. The struggle and reward of exploration in a thought-provoking post!

Perhaps curiosity is the best virtue of man

Generally I consider myself a courageous person. I hold pride in the curiosity to explore everything, to the extent that I recall committing suicide to explore death and delve into its mystery. We all have black boxes, in which we tend to keep the things we dare not to explore, and I’ve got plenty. With each and every box I open, I get to lose a piece of my identity, unleashing another imprint into me that happens to be either compelling or astonishing.
So far I’ve opened many boxes and with each time I had to explore things for the first time; things that clash with my old principles and that’s how I explored the change of principles. Nothing is absolute. As much as there is virtue in exploration, as much as it drives you to struggle, I wonder sometimes who I am between all these personalities I explore throughout the day.  Am I the sociable and outgoing or the aloof and introvert one? Am I the chatterbox or the cistern? I’ve previously believed that by exploring different skins, I would know my identity, but I was abandoned with an identity crisis.

Spiritually, I’ve always wondered whether I am a religious person or an ignorant person who’s convinced with the idea of ethical human beings! An infinite loop of questions persist its roots into my sub-consciousness, perplexing me even more. And that’s why on top of all things I want to explore and delve into the spiritual life. I long for exploring new rituals, prayers and customs. I want to be set free of any boundaries. And there tickles a question: what is the point of exploration if I have no guts to change my religion? Yes, it’s nourishing my soul, but still it’s driving me into an unbearable struggle. Though I am a Muslim, yet I haven’t really explored Islam.

It’s said “Not until you lose yourself that you find yourself.” This saying, in the past, used to piss me off but someone told me that by losing, we’re losing our foolish and immature selves, to finally reach to the core of our real self.

Thus, I have learned not to complain about the struggle and agony of exploration, but be grateful for its long-term imprints.