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.

Safety in the Unknown

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015Venice, Interfaith, Safety

On a foggy and cloudy day, it becomes hard to see what’s ahead of us. We start to think about all the awful possibilities that could happen. I can see the gloom on everyone’s face. Where is the sun? Is it going to rain? How dangerous it is to go out in such an unclear and gloomy weather, full of hazards and risks? The unknown, the unclear makes us afraid; almost anything that we cannot predict or anticipate; darkness makes our bones creak with fear; roads and paths that we are not used to taking, that are unfamiliar to us make us panic. What if we stumbled and fell and broke our necks? What if we got lost and never found our way back? What if we were confronted – out of nowhere – with our greatest fears? What if we lost on this unclear path the important things that define who we are, the important people that make our lives worth living? What if the sun never came out? What if the pictures remained blurry? It is an endless and nerve-racking labyrinth of questions that blocks our vision and trips our steps up.

I have been on this unclear and foggy path for quite some time now. I still don’t know where I am going. I still cannot see the end of the road, only the mist and netted clouds that reach from high above; melting down to earth- that sometimes I cannot even see where I am stepping my foot. But I find safety in the unknown, in the foggy weather and its mysteries and the solitary and abandoned roads, even if my steps are slow, wobbly and unsure; even if I stop sometimes: out of fear of falling into a dark and bottomless pitfall; out of regret that I might have left and lost irreplaceable things behind; and out of shock at how the journey transformed me into a person I hardly know; a person that I’m still not sure whether I like or hate.

If there’s one thing I came to be sure of is that our fears and worries will never go away; that it’s okay to be afraid sometimes of getting hurt, of falling, of failing, of losing. It’s okay even if we just sometimes want to play it safe or not play at all. But we should also learn how to find safety elsewhere: by moving beyond what’s expected of us– outside of our comfort zone and into the unknown and slippery roads, in shoes that are twice bigger than our size and with nothing to guide us but faith and a dream that might seem at the time out of reach…We can find safety in there; in the unknown, in the dark as being there in the first place is a proof that we’re fighting, that we’re not settling, that we’re pushing ourselves to the extreme of fear in order to reach to the extreme of safety, that lies in the simple fact that we’re still here, still breathing and fighting and still have a shot buried somewhere out there in the unknown.

The False Safety of Insecurity

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By: Jenni Taylor, Co-founder

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

e.e. cummings

This little blog project was started out of a need to create a spiritual community. It was like sending morse code messages out to the universe, hoping someone out there would receive our words, interpret them, and send back their own messages of love and wisdom.

Only sometimes those morse code signals are few and far between during a long and lonely night, and sending out love and wisdom becomes increasingly difficult when you begin to fear you have neither.

It is always safer to curl up under the covers in a very turtle-like way when you feel empty and lonely. One may think, “if I keep my head down long enough, I will magically feel renewed and full of light and wonderful things to share. If I hide myself away, I will become an old and wise hermit who will eventually come out again full of wisdom.”

But as turtles and ostriches and any other expert in denial must learn, there is a spiritual truth that you can’t give unless you receive, and you can’t receive unless you give. A wise woman left a comment on our blog not long ago, gently reminding us of the joy of surrender. There is wisdom in opening one’s tightly closed fists, instead of hanging on to the security of self doubt. When we open ourselves, when we surrender, when we allow ourselves to receive from others- that’s when our own fountain of giving can open up its rusty pipes and begin to flow again.

The irony of having insecurities is that they make us feel secure. They paint us a picture of who we are: a safe picture, a picture we know and recognize and claim as our own, so we can avoid seeing the truth- the beautiful possibilities of greatness that fill us. Insecurities give us excuses to stay hidden away, waiting for something else to change us. As e.e. cummings said, “it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

What if we let ourselves see the truth? What if we see the noble, beautiful, BIGNESS of ourselves and step away from the safety of our self doubt?

What if?

So I pray,

Grant me courage to be everything that is already inside of me. Help me give my giant, beautiful, joyful soul free reign to be awesome. Thank you, universe, for being so full of love and wisdom I only have to open my hands and receive it. Help me pass that wisdom on to others.


Expanding Safe Spaces 

IMG_0312By: Will O’Brien, Social Media Intern 2015

Yesterday evening I had he privilege of attending a prayer vigil. This in itself is not a unique or infrequent occurrence for me over the course of the past months. This one however struck a different chord for me; I felt that a safe space had been created for all in attendance. This is a feat that is rarely accomplished, and is made even more remarkable due to the nature of the vigil – an interfaith vigil for peace in Israel-Palestine.​

As an Arabic-speaking Christian who is dating a Jew, this is an issue that is becoming increasingly present, confusing, and meaningful in my daily life. The firestorm of rhetoric from all sides is ceaseless, and increasing more rapidly than the violence in the region over the past month. A topic with multiple facets – a small sliver of land thousands of miles away.

​However, among this constant bombardment of the twenty-four hour news cycle, forty plus people of all different faiths, ideals, and nationalities set these matters aside. They came together for a shared ideal that they all appear to place above everything else – peace. We held our electric indoor fire safe candles in silence before hearing prayers for peace from both the Muslim and Jewish tradition read in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. This was not a forum for debate, discussion, or argumentation. This was a space of grieving, hope, and safety.

​The most impactful effect of this safe place was the observation of my friend from the Arabian Gulf who had never heard this Jewish prayer read in Hebrew before. He was amazed at how much he understood and how similar the requests of the prayers were. For the first time the opportunity was presented for him to consider these commonalities with the goal to be understanding and not refuting.

​Before we could begin to ask for safety for others without a sense of safety among our own little group. The vigil closed with a word or two about getting to know everyone in the circle and seeing who around us cared and felt passionately about the issue at hand. Trying to take this safe space with us to create a network of safe spaces on a small college campus, that might spread into the surrounding communities, and maybe some day to that small sliver of land thousands of miles away.

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


By: Jenni Taylor

It was my first week in Shanghai, and a friend of mine thought the best way to be inducted into Chinese culture would be through a full body oil massage at the Dragonfly Spa. I said hell yes, of course. There’s a first time for everything.

We put on comfy robes and the scratchy paper underwear. I laid down on the bed and tried to fit my head in the weird head hole. Not made for my tiny head of course, but it would do. There was a little plate with sand and flowers underneath, as something pretty to look at instead of the black soled shoes of the masseuse.  Instrumental music played in the background, peaceful and calm and Enya-like.

Scoff all you want, but halfway through the massage I was already planning how to carry the masseuse off with me to the Bahamas to live happily ever after. What I experienced in that cozy upstairs room in the middle of Shanghai was something called safe touch. Safe touch is amazingly hard to find in this world. I thought safe touch had become extinct, and all that was left was the bad messy hurtful kind. But there they were, strong hands making me feel safe, oh so very safe and beautiful and worthy of- good touch. All the bad touch faded away, and I felt like Dorothy getting ready to see the Wizard, with all the primping and trimming and stuffing and shining after a long hard trip through Oz. I felt like I was being put back together again, that my body was beautiful, that maybe touch could make you whole after all instead of taking bits and pieces of yourself away.

I don’t know what heaven is like, or what it really means.  Whatever it is, it won’t be disembodied spirits floating around with harps, that’s for sure. There will be touch. The beautiful kind. Shy. Sloppy. Passionate. Strong. Loving. Playful. Comforting. Warm. Healing. Maybe we’ll all get our own personal masseuse, too.