Writing to an invisible audience, sweeping your heart out into a boundless Universe not knowing who is listening to it beat or whether the thump will be embraced or cast aside, is a courageous act. Fortunately for me, at some point during the writing of my last book, In Sweet Company: Conversations With Extraordinary Women About Living A Spiritual Life (Jossey Bass), I became aware of an invisible listening presence around me, a group of like-minded souls who urged me onward and supported me as I wrote. This was no woo-woo affair. No visions or voices or sugarplums danced round my head but rather a subtle embrace that nested beneath my conscious awareness. Then one day, a few months after ISC was published, I was in Houston giving a workshop based on the book and I suddenly became aware I was meeting – and would continue to meet—those who, on a soul level, had been helping me birth this book. I was, nor had I ever been, nor would I ever be, alone.
Since that time, I have met my “posse” at conferences, in workshops I’ve led, in bookstores, via my website, email, and e-newsletter, on Facebook and through this blog. Knowing you are out there has made it very easy to write to an invisible audience because, on the deepest level, I see you – and I know you see me. I have blogged about things that help to develop this kind of relationship with and confidence in the Unseen for I believe putting ourselves out there in this crazy world really is a courageous act — whether we are a writer or not. We all need to know we are heard. We all need to know we are loved. We all need to make a contribution.
Thus, in this my last blog for Beliefnet.com, I want to thank you for reading what I wrote – for your comments, for the smiles that cross your faces and the nods of your heads that occur when something I write resonates with you. I have a wonderful new book I am putting the finishing touches on, and a million other thoughts that will surely stream through my e- newsletter to share with you. Should you want to keep in touch, please email me at Margaret.Wolff@sbcglobal.net.
… we grow in our understanding of God as we come to understand our own stories more fully. — Rabbi Laura Geller, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE
Recently a small group of kindred spirits gathered together at our house to celebrate the successful conclusion of a project we had worked on for many long hours. Candles muted the dining room in soft light. The food was beyond beyond. We told stories. We laughed a lot. It was a beautiful evening, an evening to remember.
A few days later, still carrying our closeness in my heart, I happened to watch a documentary that set out to prove that—despite our affinity for acquisition and competition—human beings are actually hardwired for cooperation. According to scientists, philosophers, and poets interviewed in the film, compassion and collaboration may well be embedded in our DNA.
The film looked at this idea from several perspectives: Scientists working with mirror neurons described how the same area in our brain lights up whether we perform an action or watch another perform that same action; that is, our brains have an “empathetic” and an imitative response to the actions of others. Scientists studying the body’s chemical response to compassion and cooperation reported a measureable increase in the surge of feel good chemicals (endorphins) released into our blood stream when we are happy or inspired. And that feeling of being “all choked up” or the prideful swelling in our chest that occurs when we witness the heroic or caring acts of others, is the vegas nerve’s natural biological response to altruism.
Beyond our physiological responses to compassion and cooperation, the film also explores the effects of our thoughts and actions on others—the idea that we live in a participatory universe. A discussion about quantum entanglement—what Einstein first called “spooky action at a distance”—demonstrated how electrons and molecules previously connected with each other “cooperate”—that they spin in the same direction, at the same rate, at the same time long after they have separated from each other, even when they are separated by great distance. Another scientist spoke about experiments with 65 random number generators installed around the world, computers that continually spit out an arbitrary sequence of numbers or symbols. When events like 9/11 or the earthquake in Japan occurred, when the mind of the world became aware of—perhaps, concerned about—an epoch-making event, the generators no longer behaved randomly; they produced a sequential pattern.
All these studies are, of course, open to interpretation. Yet, two things impressed me about the reporting: That all of this action within and without us takes place unconsciously, without our knowing; and that several days after our little dinner party, when I was still feeling the happy effects of our entanglement, I (randomly?) came across a resource that scientifically affirmed the lasting goodness I carried in my heart. Imagine what would happen if we actively, consciously participated in this process! It gives a whole new meaning to being “in sweet company.”
Check out the film at www.Iamthedoc.com. Your thoughts?
“… for me, spiritual practice is making the bed, defrosting dinner, and so on. It’s not magical or removed; it’s about how I discover and reveal myself as I do things that are ordinary.” — Miriam Polster, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
One Saturday afternoon when I was eight, when the last sun of Autumn bleached the sidewalks of Detroit a pale gray, I drove with my Dad, a mechanical and electrical engineer, to the home of a longtime client whose sputtering furnace was in need of immediate repair. Dad was doing the man a favor coming out to his house on a weekend. He invited me to assist him in this kindness.
I remember walking the cement driveway that led to the back the house, the tufts of brown grass that grew in the cracks in the concrete. Dad rapped on the sliding glass door off the patio. The man slid the door open, greeted him warmly, and ushered him inside. I turned to follow him into the house. “You stay here, honey, and play on the patio,” he said, “while I go down into the basement and look at this thing. I won’t be too long.”
I sat on the patio and followed a trail of red ants with my eyes. I watched the wind spin leaves around the yard. I found a good stick. After a while the patio door slid open and my Dad walked outside. He was very quiet. Stilted. Almost wooden. I looked into his face. There were tears in his eyes.
He averted my gaze and walked back down the driveway toward the car. I ran after him, struggling to keep pace. When I caught up to him I grabbed his thick, freckled hand. I tried to comfort him. I also wanted to know what had made my Daddy cry.
When we reached the car, he opened the passenger door and I climbed onto the seat. I looked at him, into his eyes, and he sighed. “It used to be that a man’s handshake could be trusted,” he said. He closed the door, walked around the car and slid behind the wheel. We drove quietly home.
The value of a promise. A father’s tears. A daughter’s standard. In these ways, I honor my father.