Comforting Words: 06/2005

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hear Me Speak

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Time to Say Good-bye

This might come as a shock to some of you, except for those who know me very well, but I hate going to hospitals, clinics or to doctors and dentists – as a patient that is. Strange for someone who takes such comfort in being an Intern Hospital Chaplain!

My resistance to anything medical being performed on me has much to do with a terrible experience I had as a child. It should have been a routine vaccination against one of the common childhood illnesses; however it turned out to be the ‘prick’ that to this day has me afraid of needles and the medical professionals who use them.

Since then, I will do anything to avoid going to see any medical professional. I remember once needing to be injected and asking the doctor whether he could not give me the stuff in the needle to drink instead!

Now, over thirty-odd years later the time has come to stop running from medical procedures. It is time to grow up and get myself to the laboratory and have them slap my breasts under some contraption! People, I am not thrilled at the idea and if I could find a way to drink or eat something that would provide my doctor with the information she needs – believe me I would.

But there is a time for everything – I was reminded of this yesterday. As I sat in the chapel at the hospital, I was reminded that at every stage we have to face what life brings in that moment, including sickness and death.

One of my favourite songs is "Time to Say Good-Bye" and I borrow its title as my Words of Comfort this week. I share them along with these Words from Scripture and the Words from the Heart.

Words from Scripture

From the Hebrew Scriptures:
Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep; and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to through away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.

Words of Comfort
While many of you were either at work or had the pleasure to be out shopping or simply relaxing, I spent my Saturday morning into afternoon at a memorial service.

Attendance was not mandatory neither will I get a mark for being a ‘good student’. Nevertheless, once my Teaching Supervisor told us about these quarterly services that she conducts to remember those who made their transition at the hospital – I knew I would be there.

She asked me to do the readings but, being busy as she was and I guess confident that I would not botch it, she did not tell me which passages until the day before. It was not until I actually stood at the podium and started to read that the personal significance of the words hit me.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die.

Later, Juds, who strangely enough decided to attend the service with me (I guess she wanted to see me in ‘action’), would comment that she thought I would not make it through the reading. “You teared up, I thought you wouldn't make it through” she said, “What happened?”

The chapel was full with family of people who had made their transition from this life in recent months and as I made eye contact with one particular woman my heart melted.

She and I had spoken for quite some time the day I called to extend the invitation to come to the service. Though I was a simply a voice on the other end of the telephone line, she felt comfortable telling me how painful life has been since her loved one passed on.

“People don’t understand how hard it is for me when they say such things like, you poor woman, you lost your husband,” she told me. Feeling the depth of her wounds, I explained that people were not intentionally being unkind, that they were simply at a loss for words and are expressing concern about how they think she might be feeling. We talked for a while longer and before we rang off from each other, she said she would try to come to the service.

Fast-forward several weeks later, as we made the final preparation before the start of the service, a woman quietly slipped into the chapel and sat to the rear. I passed by several times and noticed her sitting there but when I saw her shoulders softly shuddering, somehow I knew she was the woman on the telephone.

I slipped beside her and she looked up at me. To me it seemed that she recognised who I was without my having to say anything. We held hands as she continued to cry. “It has been so hard for me,” she said tearfully. “Yesterday would have been our fifty-fifth anniversary and it was so hard.”

Those words came to me as I read the passage and it was hard not to think about my own life and how will I be remembered. No, I was not concerned about whether there would be tears for me when I have passed on or whether people would have kind things to say.

My thoughts centered more on whether those who may sit in a similar service remembering my life could say; “She lived life to the fullest right to the end.” Being so close to sickness, death and the pain that the loved ones who stand by watching endure has caused me to question my own attitude to life.

“Am I living in such a way that enhances the lives of others?” is one of the questions that I ask myself. Another is “Am I living in such a way that when I die my loved ones will remember me with joy?”

According to Terry Cole-Whittaker, in her book “What You Think of Me is None of My Business,” if our relationships are not complete, if they are what she describes as dangling relationships, saying good-bye at the time of death, for example, becomes extremely difficult.

“To say ‘good-bye’ to a relationship,” she writes, “You must first have said ‘hello’ . . . You must have loved that other person, released him [or her], allowed him to be who he was and who he was not.”

Thinking about this brought me some comfort, enough to make me happy that I actually made the appointment to have the mammography, which my doctor insisted needs to be done. “Just to be on the safe side,” she said.

Although I was tempted to ask for a pill or something to drink instead of doing this test, which everyone who has ever done it tell me is not pleasant – I am thankful the technology exists.

I am a strong believer in the power of prayer. However, I am also convinced that the Divine did not give humanity the capacity to develop such medical technology to treat and even cure diseases for it not to be used.

Worse yet, I firmly believe that the Divine would not be ‘amused’ that having placed such creativity among us, for people like me, out of fear, not access the services.

Therefore, with my heart in my mouth and the thought that whatever the outcome, I am also thankful I will have another chance to say some more hellos.

She may never know this but I am so grateful to the dear lady who sat at the back of the chapel grieving the passing of her loved one of fifty-five years.

Her relationship may still not yet be completed and she may yet have said said good-bye but, she certainly taught me how to complete mine - even the ones that last fifty-five days.

Words from the Heart

Born to Live
Performed by Ann Mortifee on her Healing Journey album.

We were born to live, not just survive
Though the road be long and the rive wide
Though the seasons change and the willow bend
Though some dreams break and some others mend.

We were born to give and born to take
To win and lose and to celebrate
We were born to know and born to muse
To unfold our hearts, take a chance and choose.

We were born to love though we feel the thorn
When a ship sets sail to return no more
We were born to laugh and born to cry
To rejoice and grieve, just be alive.

We were born to hope and to know despair
And to stand alone when there’s no one there
We were born to trust and to understand
That in every heart there is an outstretched hand.

We were born to live, to be right and wrong
To be false and true, to be weak and strong
We were born to live, to break down the wall
And to know that life is to taste it all.

Blessings, until next week.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

My Rainy Day Friends

As I walked in my first ever Gay Pride Parade on Saturday, June 18, 2005, it was hard for me not to think about friendship.

Here I was, walking behind the banner of Southminster-Steinhauer United Church with mostly heterosexual men and women, many of who society consider senior citizens. It was pouring rain and very cold but these beautiful people had made a commitment that they would be among those Church representatives who could not in good conscience support continued discrimination of this segment of the population.

Stepping beside them, I felt good to have them in my corner, these people who were not simply talking about love, equality and justice – but willing to walk it, literally and figuratively, at the risk of their personal safety and security. They consider themselves friends of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered and queer community.

Their ‘bravery’ caused me to think about that word – friend. Actually, it is a word that I have been questioning the real meaning of in the recent past. Yes, as we moved house recently, I missed my friends in Jamaica as I knew whether the mover had turned up or not they would have been with us from the outset, helping with the packing and the lifting.

That is how we were – friendship was more than a word that people used to describe people who they were not sleeping with. Friendship had deeper significance in those relationships – much the same as the senior men and women who ‘walked’ their friendship with the LGBTQ community of Edmonton for Pride 2005.

With these thoughts in mind, allow me to share a bit with you about “My Rainy Day Friends” both old and new and the lessons they have taught me about honesty, faithfulness and truth through the Words of Scripture, the Words of Comfort and the Words from the Heart.


From African Traditional Religions:

Nupe Proverb (Nigeria)
“The dog says, ‘If you fall down, and I fall down, the play will be enjoyable.”

Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)
“Offend me and I will question you – this is the medicine for friendship.”

From Buddhism:

Digha Nikaya iii.187, Sigalovada Sutta
“The friend who always seeks his benefit,
The friend whose words are other than his deeds,
The friend who flatters just to make you pleased,
The friend who keeps you company in wrong,
These four the wise regard as enemies:
Shun them from afar as paths of danger.

The friend who is a helper all the time,
The friend in happiness and sorrow both,
The friend who gives advice that’s always good,
The friend who has full sympathy with you,
These four the wise see as good-hearted friends
And with devotion cherish such as these
As does a mother cherish her own child.”

(Quotes taken from World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts, 183 – 185)


One of my Ontario readers of Comforting Words and one of the many persons that I have been communicating with on line, through Yahoo Messenger, gave me an insight recently. We were talking about relationships and the screening methods that people use to give them ‘run room’.

Not having dated in almost fifteen years, it was a revelation to learn that when someone responds to the question “What are you looking for?” with “Just Friends,” what it really means is that he/she is covering their derriere.

Through that conversation, I learnt that what such a response does is to ensure that there is an “out” or an excuse in the event the person does not live up to the expectations. “Sorry baby, I told you I was just looking for friends, duh!” My Ontario dating advisor told me that this is normally the case in the blind-dating situations, particularly in chat rooms and other internet meeting places. It could however happen in any scenario.

While I thank my reader for bringing me up to speed, call me naïve but what I gathered from this is that to use the word “friend” in situations like this is really to be devious.

There is no real interest in forming a relationship but rather, it is an opportunity to check out whether someone is worth a second date or worse yet, if you want to sleep with this person. “Friend” does not mean someone who you have a relationship, a bond with but rather, is someone who is “not dateable”, nor “sleepable with.”

My Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor, wonderful person and concerned as she is about her students’ development, has been trying very hard to get me to understand and fully embrace the principle of non-judgement. Most days I do. However, as C., my Ontario reader, gave me this bit of insight it was hard for me not to judge this attitude as despicable and dishonest.

Actually, it was not the first time this concept was presented to me as someone else had also told me that being friends meant not getting intimately involved in each other’s lives. Maybe I was not “on the ball” as I am now, after seven weeks of intense self-awareness exercises that my Supervisor has had me doing.

Or maybe it has something to do with being with a woman dying of cancer, sitting by her bed in the hospital and listening to her telling me that her strength and life-nurturing support comes from – guess who? Her circle of friends, the circle of women-friends that visits her, pray with her, takes care of her ‘business’ and her family while she is in the hospital.

Each day on my rounds throughout the hospital I hear the same story, from different perspectives and with varying elements. Nevertheless, it is the tearful story of how friends (or the lack of them) have had such a profound impact on people’s lives.

With tears in my own eyes, I listen as people recount the story of their lives and the friends who walked the journey with them and continue to hold them steady in this the weakest time of their lives. I also hear stories about the friends that are missed; the ones who the dying person wants to tell good-bye before they take their last breath.

Reflecting on this and on my own friendships, I found that the key ingredient in the ones that have withstood the test of time are those which has the four elements (and more) that the Buddhist Sutta mentioned:
The friend who is a helper all the time,
The friend in happiness and sorrow both,
The friend who gives advice that’s always good,
The friend who has full sympathy with you.

Of my old friendships I can think of D.Z. who has celebrated and held me throughout every up and down in my life. My life of earnest praying and meditation has never been more intense than at the time when she was diagnosed with a serious retina problem and we thought she would lose her sight.

This would have been a fatal blow for her – being the celebrated photographer that she is. Through my relationship with D.Z., I came to the full understanding of what is meant by “when two or more are gathered, God is among you,” as we have prayed together for healing of every nature.

Then there is D.S. Two people more alike than she and I you will never find. Her life story parallels mine in many ways. We have had our share of disagreements, fuss and even points when we had to walk away from each other.

However, no distance could keep us apart when I was at my worst emotionally and needed someone to lean on. D.S. was there to meet me and to go with me to the darkest of my valleys. She took the trip not because she had to but because she wanted to be there for me, and she was there to ensure I could find my way back. D.S. went one step further, she kept my journey a secret until I was ready to reveal it.

Scientific and practical as she is, with little time for more than an occasional Sunday morning visit to church, A.A. left her practice in New Jersey as a medical doctor for a weekend to travel with me to Alabama.

I was on my way to a workshop, “Dancing With Your Darkside” and, although she was uninterested in doing any such thing (and thought I was crazy to be) she met me in Atlanta, rented a car and drove us to Alabama.

When I asked her why, her response was, “I’m not letting you with your Jamaican black-a.. travel alone to Alabama, waving to people who might string you up!” A.A. would come to my ‘rescue’ and protection on many more occasions.

She arrived in Edmonton last year within a few days of learning that my daughter was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease. Medically, she could do nothing but emotionally she was there to support Juds and I.

A.A. has been there for me in many different ways, ways in which others might think only a lover should do – but if you should ask her why, she would tell you, “Claudy is my friend.”

It is not my intention to give the impression that my truest friends are all women, but my most intimate relationships and intense friendships have been with women. Now living in Canada, there are two new friends that are having such an impact on my life and I have mentioned them here before.

A., and yes, B. Both these women are older than I am and both have created the space and made the time to let me into their lives and to enter mine. They have required nothing from me but my heart and it has been my pleasure to give it to them.

A strange thing happens when you are so open to your friends, a few weeks after you are asked to go with her for her mammography you get to do a ‘dress rehearsal’. Yes, A. I have to do one next week – will you come with me?

The point here folks is, as I wrote about last time, until we are able to be vulnerable to love and in that vulnerability, as the Yoruba Proverb states, be willing to be offended, you will never experience true friendship. My relationships have in fact taught me that we have to fall down with our friends and rise with them for it to be a true friendship. Friends celebrate and march with you and they help you bear the pain of a medical condition.

So, next time you visit a chat room or are introduced to a potential date and they tell you that they are looking to be “Just Friends,” make sure you are on the same page.

It is not always necessary to learn the hard way, once you understand that there are friends, then there are Friends and there are FRIENDS. I have chosen the last, full caps – nothing less will do.


The following proverb on “Friendship, False and True,” is from the Book of Sirach, Chapter 6, verse 5 – 16

Pleasant speech multiplies friends, and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies.
Let those who are friendly with you be many, but let your advisers be one in a thousand.
When you gain friends, gain them through testing, and do not trust them hastily.
For there are friends who are such when it suits them, but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
And there are friends who change into enemies, and tell of the quarrel to your disgrace.
And there are friends who sit at your table, but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
When you are prosperous, they become your second self, and lord it over your servants; but if you are brought low, they turn against you, and hide themselves from you.
Keep away from your enemies, and be on guard with your friends.
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine.

Call or write to your faithful friends today and if you need to talk, you can meet me on line at Yahoo Messenger, my id is thecomforter.

Blessings, until next week.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Paradoxically Vulnerable

Have you ever noticed that until you purchase say a particular type of car, you were almost completely unaware of the number of them already on the road? All of a sudden, every other car on the highway is a black M-series BMW (yes, that is my dream car).

Well the same thing has been happening to me with a particular word. Recently, I was in conversation with someone and she mentioned her fears around intimacy. We discussed this and her concern had to do with vulnerability.

I thought about what she said and frankly could not fully understand her concerns. Who does not want to be open to love for example? Of course laying one’s soul bare to another has its risk, but what about the joy that comes from sharing and caring with another human being and from being on the receiving end of another’s desire to share and care?

Those of you who read Comforting Words frequently will know that my experience has been that once I become stubborn about something, Life will ensure that I get the point. Life always gives me a chance to see things from another perspective and thereby become more understanding.

Often I have wondered whether the fact that the prayer of St. Francis is one of my favourites and one that I meditate on quite regularly has anything to do with this. The line from the St. Francis prayer that is of relevance here is:
“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.”

True to form, over the course of the week and in the midst of moving house, Life brought an angel in disguise into my space with the lessons that I needed. Let me share with you what I received through the Words from Scripture, the Words of Comfort, “Paradoxically Vulnerable” and the Words from the Heart.


From A Course in Miracles:
VIII. 1.5 – 7
“For is love is sharing, how can you find it except through itself? Offer it and it will come to you, because it is drawn to itself. But offer attack and love will remain hidden, for it can live only in peace.”


We agreed that he would arrive at 3:00 p.m. He knew what he was in for as I had given him every detail of what was involved. We agreed on a price. Everything was ready for him; I made sure of that. He would not have to wait a minute. We could get right down to business as he entered the house.

Then Life took over. In Jamaica, we have a saying, “Man a plan, God a wipe out,” and this turned out to be very true this sunny Saturday afternoon in Edmonton.

With many loose ends to tie, I went on the road to take care of some business before his 3:00 p.m. arrival. At exactly that time the first call came. “Mummy, the man just called and said he is running late and will not be here until 4:00 p.m.”

“That’s not too bad,” I said to A., my daughter, who was giving me this news. “Well then, I will go fill up the tank and run a couple more errands since I have some time,” I said, trying to find the positive in the situation.

I got home about 4:15 p.m. and he had not arrived but when it turned 5 o’clock and he still had not turned up and did not call again, I called him. That was the second sign to me that things were taking a less than desirable turn. At least, things were not going the way I had planned them.

“Hi Claudette,” he said as if we were the best of pals and this was a howdy-do call. “Where the hell are you?” was my response to his cheery greeting. He gave me a long story and reassured me he will be at my door in fifteen minutes.

Then Juds called. She had gone into work, expecting to be there until at least 9:00p.m. However, the party for dinner cancelled at the last minute and she was calling me to pick her up early.

Although she would not earn what we had anticipated, we both felt it was good that she would be home to help when he arrived and I would not be single-handedly trying to coordinate everything. Hurriedly, I gave A., instructions how to keep the man occupied until we returned and off I went to fetch Juds from the nearby restaurant where she is the Chef.

On the way back to the house, the phone rang and it was A. again. “Mummy,” she said, “the man is here.”

“Good.” I responded. “You showed him where to start?” I asked.

Thankfully, there were no cars close behind me as I slammed on the brake when A. replied, “No, he said he will not start until he is paid up front.”

“What?” I screeched. “After we have been waiting for him for over two hours he will not what until what?”

“Yes, Mummy, that’s what he said,” A. confirmed understanding my jumbled sentence. Then she continued, “And, guess what Mummy?”


She is now laughing and I am trying desperately to get the joke, “I don’t think that little van that he has can hold our stuff!”

“What the hell do you mean?” I yelled at the poor child and Juds is now looking at me wondering if I might have a stroke. “I told the man everything that we have, how can he come with a truck that cannot hold us?” I reasoned with A., “Tell me you are joking?”

It was no joke. Not only did this mover turned up two hours late, he came in an old F150 truck that would maybe hold one of our three bedrooms of furniture and wanted his money up front. To add insult to injury, he was reeking of alcohol and was telling me that it would cost us three times what he had quoted because he will have to do far more trips than we discussed and than I knew was necessary.

After I chased him off the premises, with a few choice words, we frantically started calling back other movers who we had declined to use this guy. Of course, to be calling movers at 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday saying that you want to move now must mean one of a two things – either your landlord has evicted you or you are on the run. Either case for them spelt desperation and so the price was quadrupled.

It was in that moment I began to understand another perspective of being vulnerable. I trusted the mover that he would be on time, that he could move us as carefully and efficiently as he advertised and that he would honour our agreement.

I was wrong and now we were all packed and no where to go. Internally, I wanted to curse God and the wicked people he placed on earth. I felt sorry for myself and thought I was being punished for trusting people too much and that life would be fair. “Claudette,” I asked myself, “why did you trust this man, why did you not ask more questions?”

When we feel naked and ‘attacked’ by others, we want to lash out, we try to rationalize the situation and make it the fault and sinfulness of others. We shut down to people because they have only wicked intentions and will only do harm to you if you allow them. That is what the last person did -- in fact almost everyone in your life, so why should you give anyone else a chance to hurt you again?

I had the guy figured out in five minutes – he was a drunkard, a liar and a con man. Even more importantly, I thought, he wanted to swindle me because he heard my accent and felt I would not know better.

In a sense, on the last point I was right, but not in the way I thought then. The truth is many people in Canada, especially those like me of limited income and not too much furniture, move themselves. They rent U-Haul and with the help of friends and family, they move house.

It took us about an hour or so to figure this out and by Monday, after we had removed the seats from our mini-van and spent the rest of the weekend transporting what we could to our new place, we did the same.

I am happy to report that we are safely ensconced in our new home – yes, suffering much ache and pains in muscles we never knew we had. However, it is nothing a good massage and a few more hot, steaming baths will not cure. In my soul though, I feel blessed.

This is a circuitous way to reflect on a conversation on vulnerability – but who said Life was straightforward?

You see, the moral of the story is as the quote from A Course in Miracles states, when we feel attacked and vulnerable, that is the time to offer love. While I was cussing the man, both to his face and behind his back, I was basking in my vulnerability, seeing this as proof why you cannot trust people, instead of seeing the gift that he was presenting me.

What his seeming dishonesty offered me was an opportunity to retrieve my strength, confidence and power. This past week, through this experience and at least two others, I was reminded that we are never given more than we can bear, that I have the power to choose how I will respond in and to any situation or circumstance that confronts me.

This “shady” mover, reminded me that there are always options and that the best ones are those that empower me on all levels. I can only receive this empowerment if I remain open to Life – the “good” and “ugly” of it.

As we lifted our beds and my numerous boxes of books, we became stronger in the knowledge we have the power to say no to being conned and that no human being can stop our growth, our courage to move on and our ability to love. Therefore, wherever he is today, I am sending a blessing to this man.

He was a great teacher, for not only me, but also Juds. She, I believe, was reminded that Life always put us where we need to be in every moment – so there is little value in forever lamenting our seeming losses. Had the dinner party not been cancelled, the afternoon might have turned out differently.

My daughter also learnt some important lessons. In my estimation one of the most significant lesson she learnt as a young woman, is that as women we can do anything we set our minds to – even moving a three-bedroom house. She also learnt the value of friendship and that age is just a number as she watched Juds and I lift furniture with our 40-year old bodies.

As for me, I was reminded that being vulnerable is much more than being open to the love of a current or potential partner. Being vulnerable means being open to Life – in all its manifestations.

Bishop Spong speaks frequently of loving wastefully. I have often reflected on that but stopped short at loving people who I like and being open to what they have to teach me. Loving wastefully means loving all: all people, all experiences and in all circumstances, without blaming others but being blessed by them.

The paradox of vulnerability is being so confident that, in the words of Stephanie Dorwick, you are on Solid Ground that you are mindlessly defenseless and exposed to all, including seemingly drunk and dishonest movers.


Chain letters are not my favourite type of email but found it hard to ignore this one sent to me by my dear friend Sonya. As I reflected on vulnerability, it was hard not to see that we feel most exposed by those we love or could fall in love with.

I invite you to read these pieces of advice, ponder each of them for a minute or two. As you do so, consider where you feel most vulnerable and how you might see the paradox, the place where you can identify that you are on Solid Ground. As Sonya reminded me – remember, whatever happens in your life, happens for a reason – time will reveal what and why:

1. I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you.
2. No man or woman is worth your tears, and the one who is will not make you cry.
3. Just because someone does not love you the way you want him or her to, does not mean he/she does not love you with all he or she has.
4. A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.
5. The worst way to miss someone is to be sitting right beside him or her knowing you cannot have him or her.
6. Never frown, even when you are sad, because you never know who is falling in love with your smile.
7. To the world, you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.
8. Do not waste your time on a man/woman who is not willing to waste their time on you.
9. Maybe God wants us to meet a few wrong people before meeting the right one, so that when we finally meet the person, we will know how to be grateful.
10. Do not cry because it is over. Smile because it happened.
11. There is always going to be people that hurt you so what you have to do is keep on trusting and just be more careful about who you trust next time around.
12. Make yourself a better person and know who you are before you try to know someone else and expect him or her to know you.
13. Do not try so hard, the best things come when you least expect them to.

Blessings, until next week.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

With Every Beat of My Heart

Soon after we arrived in Edmonton and unpacked our bags, I began my search for more information about the culture and spirituality of the Aboriginal people.

I had been leafing through the tourist brochures that my partner had picked up in her own quest to find out more about this our new home. While she searched for places to visit by bus and mapped out her route, I looked for Christian churches and places where I could experience Aboriginal spirituality.

The pressures of finding employment and keeping on top of the bills that newcomers never quite fully anticipate finally superseded and, although my interest in learning more about the native people of this country never died, it waned.

You can then understand my gratitude that the administration of the hospital where I am now serving as an Intern Chaplain, has done so much to incorporate Aboriginal culture and spirituality into the Pastoral Care programme of the hospital.

My experience thus far of Aboriginal spirituality has taken me deeper into the journey from my mind to my heart. An Aboriginal elder recently used that imagery at a workshop I attended and another elder at a Sweat Lodge I participated in about three weeks ago repeated it to me.

This week, as my family and I prepare to relocate to another side of town, I sought to reflect on why we are making this move, what is at the core of the decision. As I did that, it came to me that this move is part of that journey, actually a continuation of my journey from the head to my heart.

As I prepared this posting for Comforting Words, another realization came to me – that our new home will be in the South and that this is where the Mouse (heart) of Aboriginal spirituality lives. In the South, although hard work is very much a requirement, one becomes a helper, a servant to life and open to being vulnerable.

My family and I have been residing in the North and on a spiritual level; I have been a citizen of the North, the land of the Buffalo, for a long time. In the North, it is all about the physical, being headstrong, the boss and in charge.

Another thing that I have noted about the Aboriginal culture is that it shares with the African culture, of which I am very much a child, several commonalties. We are both oppressed people but more importantly, we both have not forgotten how to dance with Spirit.

So, as I pack my bags and move my belongings to another part of town, I returned to my file of articles written at another point of my journey. There I found one that, not surprisingly, still holds true. I invite you to share this Word of Comfort with me, “With Every Beat of My Heart” and the Words from Scripture and the Words from the Heart.


From the Psalms:
Psalms 51:10
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

From Native American Religions:
Black Elk, Sioux Tradition
“I am blind and do not see the things of this world; but when the light comes from above, it enlightens my heart and I can see, for the Eye of my heart sees everything; and through this vision I can help my people. The heart is a sanctuary at the center of which there is a little space, wherein the Great Spirit dwells, and this is the Eye . . . If the heart is not pure, the Great Spirit cannot be seen.”

From African Traditional Religions:
Boran Prayer (Kenya)
“Set me free, I entreat thee from my heart;
If I do not pray to thee with my heart,
Thou hearest me not.
If I pray to thee with my heart,
Thou knowest it and art gracious unto me.”

(Excerpts from Native American Religions and African Traditional Religions are taken from World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology (St. Paul: Paragon House, 1995) 382, 594


(This article was originally written in November 2001 and published elsewhere.)

There is a song that I used to sing most passionately when I was younger and hopelessly in love. The words go something like this:
“With every beat of my heart,
There’s a beat for you . . .”

How many persons I have sang those words to? Many, albeit unknowingly.

It boggles my mind to think now about the number of heartbeats I have given to others. What scares me even more are the answers to the questions, “How many beats did you give to yourself?” “How many beats of others did you dance to?”

Tears flow down my cheeks [see, this is not a new phenomena with me, it started years ago!] as I hear myself answering, “very few,” and “too many,” respectively to these questions.

Like me, there are many people, particularly women, who spend a lifetime giving away their own heartbeats, dulling the drums of their hearts, to dance to the beat of another’s heart. Like me, many finally and painfully wake up to this reality when the only beat they hear is silence. That is the moment when you awaken to the seemingly harsh reality that there, “Ain’t no drumming going on here, baby!”

The sound of Silence can be quite deafening. Silence was not a favourite tune of mine but it kept playing for me, in between lovers, jobs, financial crises and other similar life changes. I could not stand Silence and very quickly, I would start searching for a heart drum; I would literally hunt or go on the prowl for someone’s heart beat to dull Silence.

One day though, in the middle of my frenetic dancing to the familiar and comfortable drum of my job and my boss’ vision, the music stopped. In panic, I moved from cursing my co-workers, the economy, the government, my car, anything and everything for causing my beat to die. I did not want to hear the sound of Silence but try as I might It got louder.

With the same quiet gentleness, yet forcefulness of the sun bursting through the clouds on a rainy day, a low, very low thump rose slowly from the well of my soul. It filled me up with a melodic tune – my own heartbeat. It was beautiful!

For the first time in my life, I listened to the tune of my own heart with no attempt to give it away, just allowing it to move my feet to its beat. Real life, true living from the essence of me, from my own heart commenced and the melody has been smooth to keep in step with.

Admittedly, I have had missteps sometimes. However, I have come to realize that, as I dance to my own heartbeat, dancing partners, whether it is a job, a friendship or an intimate relationship, come to me with greater ease and less striving on my part.

What is sweeter, is that like a fine orchestra, the instruments (hearts) compliment each other and naturally and harmoniously create great symphonies. My friends, take it from me, Silence and the music it helps to write is glorious. Therefore, I am rewriting that song to say:
“With every beat of my heart,
There’s a tune for me.”


(The following ‘poem’ was given to me soon after I started paying attention to Silence and dancing to my own heartbeat. I share it with you as encouragement to do the same.)

Imagine a Woman

By Patricia Lynn Reilly

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman. A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories. Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who believes she is good. A woman who trusts and respects herself. Who listens to her needs and desires and meets them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who has acknowledged the past’s influence on the present. A woman who has walked through her past. Who has healed into the present.

Imagine a woman who authors her own life. A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf. Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and to her wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods. A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness. Who designs her own spirituality and allows it to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body. A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is. Who celebrates her body and its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman who honors the face of the Goddess in her changing face. A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom. Who refuses to use precious energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life. A woman who sits in circles of women. Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.

Until next week, blessings to you and to all the women who encircle me with their love, support, guidance and shoulders – you know yourselves.