A Meditation on Forgiveness

Prison_Sophias_Pockets

Today’s post takes wisdom beyond walls from a metaphor to a reality. Antonio Turner is incarcerated within the Pennsylvania prison system. In this post, Antonio shares his ideas on pain, forgiveness and ultimately, redemption. Antonio have his permission to post this via written letter from inside prison. 

By: Antonio Turner

Quietly I calm my breathing. I relax, struggling to delve my mind into the most intrinsic core of my being. On a trek to forgive my mother remains the unconquerable hurdle on this journey. Why is it so difficult?

Although I have forgiven her from a cognitive standpoint, her rejection still lingers forming a cesspool in my mind: inside an already toxic and overflowing subconscious. Trying to contain the unrestrained resentment bubbling to the surface makes it hard to steady my mind on the difficult task ahead. The forgiveness process, for me, has not been a nourishing act from the heart. Yet since this betrayal and abandonment continue to be a taunting fact of my life, groveling about the matter will get me absolutely nothing!

So today as I ponder my life during a spell of meditation, the hold this unconquerable hurtle has on my heart is becoming a cancer. I sit paralyzed with fear – in my late forties – tormented by these feelings which have a direct effect on other women in my life.

As I secretly detest my mother for the immeasurable mental, physical and emotional pain she inflicted, my body tenses. I call God into my meditative space for help – to relax, to comfort and to guide.

I pray the combination of God and opening up my heart to Him will release the hurt carried every day. I so desire the fetters which have kept my mind in chains for the better part of three decades to be loosened – to release their grip on me. Since I was a little boy, I’ve prayed for this. Maybe I’m a dreamer, thinking, hoping this can happen.

            Blue stars, a gleam of hope

            Galaxies of complicated thought.

            Spheres of emotional entanglement

            A calloused heart full of rings and knots.

On bended knees, if I were only able to open my heart wide enough – seeking a depth of understanding more powerful than sight, I pray. I ask God to give me a comforting lens to examine my bitterness.

Maybe through the lens of forgiveness, I could’ve seen how she only acted out of her own pain – being a victim of domestic violence herself. She was an innocent floundering in her own torrent of pain. My meditation moves towards removing my selfishness, yet was it unreasonable for a child to want to be wrapped in the love of his mother? I don’t know. I’m just a dreamer.

 

My imagination has a tendency to run away from me. Through the prism of compassion can my prayers cause me to see my mother trying her very best? How can you shower affection when you are dealing with your own deep wounds, ones skewered and damaged by love itself?

By the grace of God, I’m now able to recognize her rejection actually had nothing to do with me. Her own woundedness prevented her from being able to love herself. With that emptiness piercing her soul, how could she truly love her own child?

Within my prayers, I ask, “How can I detest someone with so much visceral pain? With no self-love, wasn’t it impossible for her to love me?” I craved that love so much, which is why I pray for forgiveness now.

Guided by a beacon of light from my heavenly Father, I sit creating a sculpture with my words. I’m the one who needs to beg for forgiveness. As I fix my gaze on a starless sky – witnessing the clouds finally freeing the moon – suddenly the gates of my heart spring open. Could this be the first step to free my own hurt permanently?

As I end my prayer, I realize every present moment is an opportunity for a new beginning. And through the trials of suffering, the soul learns wisdom and compassion. My time in meditation has taught me it is possible to attain a newfound freedom from the realm of resentment. I don’t want to end this prayer, but know only through God can I release my mother from what she did to me. God provides a new forgiveness process much greater than my pain.

 

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A Prayer for Community

food,community

Communities can sustain us, they can support us, and they can help us succeed. Communities can also fall apart, they can break our hearts , and they can fail us. This is a prayer for all our communities, in all their forms.

Dear Spirit of Universal Love,

Let me find communities of wisdom.

Help me seek out communities that love me as a whole person, that challenge me in just the right ways, and that allow me to connect with something greater than myself.

Help me find healing with the communities in my life that have let me down or caused me harm.

Let me connect with new communities and with scattered members of communities I was a part of in the past.

Let the spirit of unconditional holy love stretch from me to every member of the communities I cherish.

Amen

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.

Amen

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

Exploring The Road Less Traveled

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief Deco, Interfaith, Two Roads
                               Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
                                I took the one less traveled by,
                                And that has made all the difference.
                                –Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

I can’t tell you the first time I heard this poem, but I can tell you that I have heard it so often that it may be the only piece of writing that I have passively memorized. This poem is quoted on cards, and oft cited to those of us who don’t follow te traditional roads.

Mostly this poem is read as an exultation of the road less traveled, a song of praise to those who walk against the grain of society. I was lucky enough to have a teacher who once taught me another reading of this poem that has informed my life choices ever since.

In class one day, Mr, Hoelscher read this poem, and then told our astonished class that it wasn’t a poem that praised the road less traveled. Indeed, Mr. Hoelscher pointed out that the speaker of the poem never says that the road less traveled was better. In fact, Mr Hoelscher drew our attention to the last stanza which starts,

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
He pointed our that it is entirely possible that the sigh indicates regret at taking this path, that perhaps the road less traveled was hard, exhausting work.
I can tell you that after 30 years of exploring what life has to offer, after years of obstinately choosing the road less traveled, I have to agree with this reading of the poem. Taking the road less traveled has also made me sigh–sigh with frustration, with exhaustion, and even with regret.
I have found that those of us who take the road less traveled don’t like to admit to the hard parts of our journeys. In fact, often even from the outside the difficulties are hidden, and sometimes I am not likely to remind the world that my life is not all glamorous french cafes and visits to the Louvre. The road less traveled remains less traveled because it is difficult, because the path is not clear.
Yet despite its difficulty, my exploration of this road has been beautiful, profound and rewarding. It may have made me sigh, but taking the road less traveled has indeed made all the difference in my life.

Exploring Immortality And Time

Today’s post comes from Matheus Yuhlung, a Christian blogger who is pursuing an M.A. in Philosophy and currently lives in New Delhi, India. Matheus’ post today reflects the same philosophical spirit as his post on inspiration, but this time Matheus explores the concepts of immortality and time. This is a post that will make you think, and urges us all to explore these concepts on our own journeys.
Time, Philosophy, India, Prague, Travel, InterfaithIn the morning I was reading George H Morrison’s sermon entitled The Springs of Endurance where he quoted St. Augustine as saying: God is patient, because He is eternal; and it set me off thinking, can that be the same for us human beings as well? So I went off exploring the idea.
Things standing shall fall, but the moving ever shall stay.–Basavanna
 
This quote from an ancient Indian poet,  offers a contemplation on the temple of God as a state of being rather than a thing built with bricks and stones. These lines are the concluding verses of a poem where he is singing of how his soul is going to live forever (housing his God in the depth of his heart) while the temples that are standing now shall fail in the test of time.
 
Though originally written to a fictitious and formless god call Siva, those two sentences from the poem quoted above reminded me of what Apostle Paul wrote: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?
  
Once, we had a pastor visit us from the Bible Society of India; and though he was young, he looked old as he was extremely thin and had an impoverished figure. He spoke in a low tone, in broken English with a heavy rural accent, yet, it was such a blessing to hear him speak.
 
The breath that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils, he said as he waved his shaky, skinny hands back and forth from the pulpit as if he was trying to contain his uncontainable ardour for Christ, that breath, he said again, still runs through, and inside, you and me and that is what that makes us cry with an upward longingness.
 
I believe anxiety and impatience gets us only when we limit ourselves under the matrix of time and space. The fact that God is always on time (though it may not seem like it to us) is because God is eternal, and is outside of time. The old Indian philosophers were very much aware that their souls were eternal, so much so that Sankara ended up saying: Brahm satyam jagat mithya – which can be loosely translated as: “Only Brahm is real and everything else is an illusion.”
 
For them ‘Brahm’ was an eternal-world soul, while ‘jagat’ meant the world. They believed the latter to be a complete illusion, a consequence of human ignorance. Hence, they ignored its existence in complete totality. Interesting, isn’t it?
 
Truly speaking though, time is real. This world is real and so is eternity. I sometimes like to think our bodies became mortal (and so did time and space) only when Adam and Eve ate that forbidden fruit. If that is true, we’re living simultaneously both in eternity and in time, only separated by a thin delay of mortality.
 
Anyhow, if we’re immortal beings, eternal,  shouldn’t we be patient with our lives as well, in the same way God is patient with us? Should we seek to believe and live out our faith and let God take care of the rest?
 
This whole exploration, these deep concepts are complicated, but I love it how Hermann Hesse puts it in his book Siddhartha, writing:
 
But the world itself, being in and around us, is never one-sided. Never is a man … wholly Sansara or wholly Nirvana; … This only seems so because we suffer the illusion that time is something real. Time is not real, Govinda. I have realized this repeatedly. And if time is not real, then the dividing line that seems to lie between this world and eternity … is also an illusion.

The Blessing of Living

We’re pleased to share another guest post from Esraa Mohamed, who previously wrote posts on rituals and desires. Esraa is an Egyptian Muslim and physical therapy student with strong passion for the universe and its mysteries.Today, she shares with us her own reflections about blessings; a blessing we all take for granted: simply being alive and healthy, breathing in and out.

Generally, I consider myself way too blessed, but sometimes life makes me too busy and I give a blind eye to all the blessings I have. Sometimes it takes loosing my breath to make me aware again.Cloud, Breath, Interfaith

Seven months ago, I had an allergy that took my lungs to the edge of a cliff. I felt death vividly inhabiting my ribs. And I swear I could sense my pleura gluing together. As I was faintly slipping to unconsciousness, I wanted to pick up my phone and tell somebody that I was dying. I wanted for once to tell somebody “Hey I am not okay, I need your help”.

I also wanted to hold my pen and scribble like a note of gratitude for the blessings I have taken for granted; my family, my friends, my health, even for the blessings I didn’t have.

My life flashed in front of my eyes, teasing me with the uncountable things I have taken for granted. And all what I wanted back then was one last chance to say thanks for all what I had. But my lungs brutally attacked for one last time, leaping the tottering guts out of my soul and I became too fragile to fight any longer.

My life dwindled amidst the agony of this night, so I sucked my nose into the cushion and cried God for mercy, for death, but even death was the tranquility that my situation couldn’t afford. I lost consciousness without any idea how did my lungs make it through the night.

I woke up to the morning breeze grateful to nothing more than being alive. I knew that I have left my lungs at the battlefield with all faith that they would make it for another battle yet to come. And I was really grateful for every little sip of sluggish breath.

Breath by breath, I realized that one of the biggest blessings that many of us, including myself, fail to cherish is simply the blessing of being alive. To live, to breath, even when it is hard, is truly a blessing.

What is Modesty for a Language Nerd?

Since this month’s topic seems to have a lot of people stumped, we decided to have each member of our staff reflect on the question: What is Modesty?  Our Writing Intern, offered her perspective as Muslim woman. Today our Editor in Chief, Autumn Elizabeth discusses her take on modesty.

FullSizeRender (6)When I get stumped on a word I always turn to my friend the Oxford English Dictionary. According to this near-sacred text modesty is

Moderation, temperateness, self-control; freedom from excess or exaggeration; Decorum, propriety; scrupulous sobriety of thought, speech, conduct, etc.; natural avoidance of coarseness or lewdness.

This definition makes it hard for me to accept modesty as part of my spiritual journey. As a storyteller I live in a world of exaggeration, as an activist I believe in things like freedom and as a rebel, I cringe at the thought of self-control. But what if the OED has it wrong? What if the modesty we are talking about, a modesty of the spirit, strays from this definition. Perhaps, the essence of a spiritual modesty is the constant acknowledgement that there is something in the universe beyond ourselves, no matter if that something is God, الله (Allah), or simply the energy of love. Perhaps modesty is  the understanding that humans are not the most important entity in the universe. This is a modesty I can accept, a modesty that resonates with my feminist beliefs, my vegetarianism, and my faith. Moreover, modesty as simply the recognition that there is something greater than myself allows me to live as a storyteller, an activist, and a rebel and still live with modesty.

Want to share your ideas about what modesty is? Share them with us by submitting!

Preparing For Modesty

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief  

modesty prepreareI’ll admit, I am not the most modest person in the world. In some senses I have worked hard on doing things that most people consider immodest, such as embracing my sexuality, loving my body, and having excesses of fun. So as I prepared for a trip to Morocco, it wasn’t that surprising that my closet contained virtually nothing that met the cultural standards of modesty there.

Despite all my travels, I’ve never been to a predominantly Islamic country before, so I wanted to make sure I was prepared. I researched what parts of the body I shouldn’t expose, and read copious articles on the mix of European and Moroccan values and fashion happening in places like Casablanca.

I found lots of diverging opinions on dressing modestly. Some people said ti was a political statement to wear whatever they wanted as women, others felt most comfortable adopting the fully traditional Moroccan dress. My favorite piece of advice, coming from a European woman who spent several months living in Morocco, was that she tried to embrace the cultural modesty while still being herself.

Of course, this isn’t simply a cultural question, but also a religious one as well, and I think it is important to respect both religious and cultural values as a traveler. So this brings me back to my closet, and its complete lack of what one might call “Moroccan Modest” clothing. Although I could go for the political statement, as I write this my partner is packing several sari’s I have acquired from around the world to help me cover what my clothing won’t. Hopefully this international hodgepodge of fabrics, and a Ramones t-shirt or two, will sufficiently allow me to feel like myself while embracing a new level of modesty. Hopefully, I will be able to respect the culture and faith of Morocco, while honoring my own. Hopefully, I will be prepared for modesty and presented with new ways of viewing this complex concept.

Accepting Where I’m From

By: Will O’Brien, Social Media Intern 2015

I have spent the last three years of my life going new places, meeting new people, and trying new things, but I have always had a benchmark. The control in my life experiment is always my family and my hometown. However, simply saying “St. Louis” when people asked me where I am from never seemed sufficient. I felt it wasn’t the complete picture of my background that everyone thought it was and most people from the Northeast needed me to pull out a map to show them where exactly that “small southern town” was.

The effort to truly accept my hometown, which has been particularly difficult with the media coverage we have been getting over the course of the past year, has not been easy. However, this past week I made a breakthrough. My sister sent me an exercise from one of her classes for graduate school. It was an adult Mad-Libs of sorts to the form on George Ella Lyon’s Poem “Where I’m From.” My sister and I have not yet had the opportunity to sit down and compare notes, but taking 15 minutes out of my day to reflect and accept my roots was refreshing. I was also very intrigued when an article on Lyon’s passing mentioned a traditional religious upbringing. Both my liberal Protestant and Roman Catholic upbringings still have strong influences on my worldview that I am constantly sorting out and accepting for myself.

Below are Lyon’s original poem, a fill in the blank style template, and my personal variation on his theme. They have helped me find some acceptance of my roots, and I hope they help you do the same.

Where I’m From

By: George Ella Lyon

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree.

Where I’m From

(template)

I am from _______ (specific ordinary item),

from _______ (product name) and _______.
I am from the _______ (home description… adjective, adjective, sensory detail).
I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item),

the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail)
I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait),

from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name).
I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).
From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).
I am from (representation of religion or lack of it). Further description.
I’m from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).
From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member).
I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).

Where I’m From

By:Will O’Brien

I am from desserts,
from Jif and Smucker’s.
I am from the odd stair on the porch.
(White, new,
made by hand.)
I am from the dead grass
the Old Oak
whose ancient roots I remember
as if they still showed through the sidewalk.

I’m from meat and potatoes,
from Blue Stone and Trout Lodge.
I’m from the ‘stop smacking’
and the ‘use your lips,‘
from ‘don’t yell!’ and ‘bring it here!‘
I’m from Webster
with a St. Joe’s tinge

and trespasses, and sins, and debts.

I’m from Metuchen and Berea,
burnt chicken and black coffee.
From the thumb my uncle lost
at the factory,
the burn on my father’s hand.

In my basement was a Build-A-Bear box
spilling old pictures,
a mess of 90’s outfits
Each accompanying a story.
I am the pictures–
the stories —
the memories.

Praying Into The Silence

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

This lent, as I disconnect with social media in an attempt to better listen to that still small voice of God, I have heard nothing but deafening silence. The roaring silence surrounding uncertainties in my future, in the life of my friends, in my faith.

This silence has been tough. It has not been the silence of peace, but rather a soul-churning silence. It has been a silence that feels more like crawling on gravel than swimming the the deepest of oceans.

In my fumbling attempt to struggle through this time of silence, I began searching for some new prayers to say. Prayers that might help me live better in the silence of waiting. In my search, I found some prayer cards that I had taken from a special box in my grandmother’s home after she died.

FullSizeRenderI remember picking them at random.Yet now, a message is clear in the ones I chose. Saint Rita and Saint Philomena, patron saints of the impossible, Saint Michael, protector of the faith, and the Holy Mother Mary.

It seems in my blind grief I knew the deepest yearnings of my soul: to achieve the impossible, to be strong of faith, to be comforted by the brave love of a fierce mother.

So as I stumble around in this silent waiting for God’s voice, I pray these prayers. I pray for the impossible reality that is the kindom of God on this earth. I pray for faith that is strong even in silence, even in doubt. I pray for the grace to accept my path the way Mary did, even when it isn’t the path I had planned for.

I pray into the the silence, with all the faith I can muster, knowing that sometimes, it is in these moments of struggle that we see most clearly, that it is in the moments of deafening silence that we hear most clearly.