It is so easy, especially during the holidays, to get caught up in buying things and entertaining ourselves. The weight of advertisements, social and familial expectations and habit draw us to do so. But, do these truly nourish us or simply distract us from what is most essential? I recently watched a DVD which reminded me of practices I feel we would do well to engage in, particularly during this time of year.
The DVD “Healing” was about the work of a humble Brazilian tailor, with a second grade education, who channels the spirits of deceased healers and saints. Its testimonies tell of healings through this man, named John of God, who takes neither fees nor credit for his work.
Images of folks waiting in line for healing deeply touched me. Individuals sought cures for cancer, heart disease and depression as they stood alone or held one another. Some walked with clubbed foot, crutches, or were pushed in wheel chairs. People were candidly present with their difficulties, pensive and anxious for release. These folks were facing themselves and the world straight on, without pretense. Watching them, I felt as if I had risen out of a rabbit hole, witness to a world turned around, where people sought and found redemption.
What impressed me most was that their healings involved hard work. Folks were assisted in remembering choices they had made that took them off course, away from the paths knew they were here to follow, ones grounded in love and peace. By rethinking their decisions and changing direction, they became whole. A woman with breast cancer talked about releasing layers of grieving over the death of her mother, enabling her to start moving forward. A gentleman with HIV gave up negative beliefs and patterns, diminishing his ego, and not only got rid of AIDS, but the reasons for it. Phoebe from Australia said she travelled the world to find out what it means to be alive. She now knows to sit, close her eyes and go inside to find out. One of John of God’s helpers pointed out that we unknowingly pollute our minds, souls and bodies with negative thoughts and actions and need to make conscious choices to be more loving, kind and understanding if we wish to become whole.
Listening, I was shed of distractions. These people were truly engaged in meaningful activities. I couldn’t help but wonder what the world would be like if we all faced our pain, self-centeredness and confusion, and transformed our negative thoughts and actions. How much of what we struggle with most would simply disappear?
During this time when we come together to celebrate the overcoming of darkness with light, what better preparation is there than to face our inner darkness with the light of love? What better activity than coming to terms with our personal histories, to rethink priorities, attitudes, and practices. And when better to do so, than during holiday vacation when we have the time to sit by ourselves or with one another, in nature and with God?
We have so much these days that it seems that the real goal is not to get and do more, but to have and do less, to create space in which to sort through things and find what is already here. Once our basic needs are met, we have higher tasks to pursue — those of caring for and sharing with one another. In so doing, we become fully alive and allow others to do the same. In contrast to the commotion we stir up with our concerns and affairs, the thought of this simple practice calms me.
The folks in the DVD are a community turned around — no longer striving outwardly for material gain and stature to find meaning, but looking within for realization of truth and cultivation of wholesome living. These are steps accessible and of benefit to all of us.
To me, this is a turning we all can make to put things in place.
‘Tis the gift to be simple
‘Tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
“Twill be in the valley of love and delight
When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
‘Til by turning, turning we come ‘round right
from Simple Gifts, written by Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. in 1848