Comforting Words: With Every Beat of My Heart

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pressures of finding employment and keeping on top of the bills that newcomers never quite fully anticipate finally superseded and, although my interest in learning more about the native people of this country never died, it waned.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

WORDS FROM SCRIPTURES

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

WORDS OF COMFORT

(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.”


WORDS FROM THE HEART

(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.

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