Choosing My Life

“… we begin to sense a larger possibility that calls our heart and our soul towards our own natural awakening.” (Tara Brach, Talk, 6.1.2016)

I have a different sense of God lately. When in calm or desperate moments, I breathe low and shift my attention back and out from center; there I find Her. She is wide, free and kind. She doesn’t judge. I like to think that Her awareness is of the same Awareness that is present in everyone and is also greater than all of us. I understand better now how to surrender. The boundaries of me-Her ebb against the River of Life and, though I am scared to, She merges willingly and trusts the current to take us where we are meant to go.

With each mass shooting, each whole family murdered by an abuser with a gun, and each child accidentally killed with an unsecured firearm, I wonder when or if things are ever going to change. I beg God to please help our country. May we be safe. May my loved ones be safe. May all beings be safe. Yet that kind of prayer doesn’t seem to work, at least not on my small-mind timeline. The killings keep happening. Every day. There are scores of new grieving families every day.

I wonder now if it is not an external Being that is going to help us, but the God within each of us. I imagine that most gun owners and most members of Congress want the same safety for their families that I want for mine, even if we differ on the means of ensuring it. Were we each somehow to access and make decisions from our greater nature – that which encompasses peace, compassion and a fire that serves all humanity –  perhaps we could find meeting ground to save our children’s lives.

One of my favorite experiences in divinity school this year was interviewing several classmates about their understanding of God: what formed it and how it has changed over time. Listening to each of them share so sincerely about their traditional and off-the-beaten-path ideas and experiences of the Sacred was quite moving. Though this blog is an exploration of what God feels like in my own life and body, I do not want to tell anyone what they are to believe about their Higher Power. The children’s book Old Turtle by Douglas Wood speaks to how I feel about anything that insists that “my God is better than yours”:

But the people forgot.

They forgot that they were

A message of love,

And a prayer from the earth.


And they began to argue…

About who knew God,

And who did not;

And where God was,

And was not

And whether God was,

Or was not.


I went to divinity school because I thought that to reach people’s deep hearts, I needed more depth of knowledge about God, more than my experiential understanding. I had hoped to understand Jesus’s being and learn to interpret his teachings as the contemplatives do, recognizing now that this likely comes over the course of a lifetime (or more) and by the heart and mind sitting in silence. I uprooted my family and moved away from my home state even though I was told by a psychic that it l didn’t look right for me, and I was warned by a meditating priest to “run the other direction.”

I quit divinity school recently because what I was actually meant to learn was courage.

“It seems like something broke in you,” said my blessed mentor after a professor’s criticism of a paper led to copious tears. It had been a long time since I’d felt so belittled after giving my best (which, admittedly, was not very good by academic standards, but was indeed the best I could do within the boundaries of motherhood, marriage and self-care). When my son sweetly laid his head on my shoulder the next morning, it was balm for the wound.

What broke, actually, was my lifelong pursuit of outside validation of who I am, what God is for me, and the worthiness of what I have to give. That, I believe, was the River’s intent in getting me here.

Sarah Norris, my beautifully-spirited Nashville yoga teacher, often says as we lay in savasana with hands on hearts, “This is the life you choose.”  I chose to sit in a hard lecture hall seat this past year when I prefer to learn (and pray) sitting cross-legged on a mat, and it forced me to finally choose my soul’s path, instead of someone else’s.

I didn’t know that my “natural awakening” (for now at least) would happen like this. Its authenticity is freeing and powerful. It has created more joy in my family. I will never be a scholar nor will I ever walk solely on any one path. What I will do though is teach from who I am and share my own truth. At long last, that is enough for me.


One Response to “Choosing My Life”

  1. Lila Says:

    Such a beautiful mediation, Eleanor. You ARE a teacher. These recent developments you’ve experienced are wondrous continuations of your arc. Thank you for this post.

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