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Lessons in Chaplaincy…Part 1~ Divine Synchronicity

I recently started a 2 year long program to become an Interfaith Chaplain, through The Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley, CA. The journey began long ago as I began soul searching for my next learning experience that would lead me to be able to share my gifts at a deeper level. My love for and fascination with religions, the cultural psychology they are born out of, as well as the all inclusive impact they have had on our world – political, social, artistic, lingual, cultural, emotional, etc – leaves me ever curious about the potential for world healing these ancient stories and words might have and how they might continue to evolve in order to build bridges between cultures and heal wounds.

As I walked the hills of Berkeley, I was struck with the full awareness of divine synchronicity. Everything happens for a reason, as they say. And while I admit that it’s much easier to believe that notion when things feel good and right, than when life throws you tragedy, loss, or heartbreak, in my life, I have been able to look back at those moments of desperate sorrow and see the perfect path they led me down. Without those, then this wouldn’t have happened. I lived in Berkeley when I was three to seven years old. My father was in seminary at PSR and most of my first memories were of those streets, smells, and parks. It is so synchronistic that I would end up in school just a few blocks from where my father went to school right around the age I am now. And not just any school but both of us in schools to become spiritual counselors, reverends at that!

Synchronistic that I would find a home to stay in during my school times with a soul brother whom I met in a very synchronistic way as well, who’s house is just a 10 minute walk to my campus. That his home, my temporary home, would be full with images and reminders of these ancient wisdoms… Buddha and Ganesh statues, prayer beads and altars, crystals, sacred art, and my favorite, obviously divinely inspired flower, the Passion flower growing all over his backyard. That when I went for a meditation walk I was met with a mother and baby deer, still as statutes also, as they watched me walk by, rare in that urban setting…another reminder of Source,.

Synchronistic, that I would return to my roots to explore my own theology and to deepen my spiritual underworld. I am not a religious person, though I love religion. At my core, I am a seeker and “broadband” minded. I appreciate ancient wisdom as I see it being less encumbered by our modern cultural dogma and woundedness. But my respect and wonder over these long ago teachers and seers doesn’t come out of attachment, but rather curiosity and reverence. Reverence not because these old religions are perfect or the answer but because of the Sacred Source they point to. Not that they are necessarily the voice of Source, but because they come from people who have danced with Source, with “God.” I yearn to feel and to dance with Source. And I do dance with Source, when the winds blow, when music moves my soul and my soles, when my baby girl’s laugh takes me out of my egoic body vehicle and into Spirit. But I haven’t yet developed or sensed a deep relationship with Source. The skeptic in me speaks loudly. And so, part of my journey through this program is to sit with both my inner skeptic and my inner sage and find the Tao in the middle of those, so that I might open up to that hand, knocking at my soul’s door. So that I might become more ensouled, as Rabbi Zalman writes.

Life is full of these kinds of sacred signs, when we are open to them. They are like the sign posts pointing us down the paths of our dreams. They are like the nudges our loving mothers give us to move forward in spite of our fears. They are the reminders of what we already know but have mostly forgotten, like the dreams that fade when awakening. I know I am on the right path, when things easily fall into place and magical moments occur.

In one of my classes, during the Islam module, I was struck by the depth of life, the immense gift we have been given and at once its profound temporality. Life is HUGE and yet so tiny all at once. We are large and yet we are nothing all at once. We are star dust and we are God. I walked outside on our break and saw a bee on its back fluttering in desperate vulnerability. Something was wrong…I carefully turned it over onto its legs but within a few seconds, its twitching flipped it back over onto its back. I got all the way down to the ground and watched it “suffering” and likely dying. I could see fear in its eyes, I could feel its life force slipping away. Maybe that was my own story telling based on my emotional and psychological beliefs, but regardless, for me, that was my real experience. Tears sprung to my eyes. How could I help this little being suffer less? I knew I couldn’t end its life, I knew I just had to witness its struggle. So I laid down on the cement sidewalk and got eye to eye with this tiny being and held space for its journey to be easeful, for the next part to be longer…maybe another type of life without a stinger, maybe another life that wasn’t so full of hard work, maybe another life that wasn’t so adversely affected by human greed and denial. Maybe that little bee would become an eagle on his next step and be able to soar in playful delight on the winds of Spirit. I cried as I blessed its journey, as I saw myself in that tiny being.

When it was time for me to go back in, a friend and I placed the still stirring bee under a huge sunflower and I was reminded of an art piece I had done for my Art Awareness homework in which I drew myself practicing Salat, which is the Islamic 5 daily prayer in which one “prostrates” before Allah in humility and wonder. In my drawing, I had made myself tiny against the backdrop of the huge sunflower and the expansiveness of the Universe…and here I found yet another divine reminder, another synchronicity- just like this little bee, my time is short and struggle as I might, I will pass on… and yet the magnificence of Infinite Source is close at hand and I am in awe of it.

A few weeks later, my 12 year old daughter and I witnessed a horrible and tragic accident just down the street from our house, when a young man sped down a busy, pedestrian filled boulevard and hit a 15 year old girl who was trying to cross the street. We didn’t see the collision, but we heard it and the car came careening down the street to us, its windshield shattered and its bumper broken off and the metal screeching on the gravel. Once I realized there was someone on the ground in the street, I started running up the 2 blocks to where the girl was lying. There were already a few people trying to help her, straightening her legs out from underneath her, tying their shirt around her leg to stop the bleeding. When I got there a man was feeling for her pulse and listening for breathing and then immediately started pumping her heart with his hands. There was a large, expanding pool of blood around her head.

Intuitively, I knew she was gone. It was then that her mama ran out of a nearby store (it had only happened minutes before and she must not have known what was going on) and started wailing, screaming, like a dying animal, an other worldly cry. It absolutely tore me apart. It is every mother’s worse nightmare. And again, I was faced with the reality of our temporality. Any second this could end. This will end. Life is so fragile! Seeing there was nothing I could do once the ambulance had arrived, I ran back to my daughter who was waiting 2 blocks down. She stood on the sidewalk just sobbing…she had heard the mother’s crying as well. I grabbed her and wrapped my arms around her as tight as I could. We held each other and sobbed knowing that could have easily been us.

Hearts are tender when we allow them to be wide open. I am already finding that this program is bound to stretch my comfort levels and push the boundaries of the protective guard I keep around my heart, as most of us do. I realize that I will have growing pains due to that widening…but at the same time, my spirit feels pregnant with possibility and that is exciting. I embrace the pain that will arise while at the same time I know that it will close the gap between self and Self. As Rabbi Zalman puts it, how can we tend to the needs that arise at the deepest level of our being, our soul? How can we care for the ones that are transitioning, who might be suffering in that shift, like the mother who lost her beloved child? I trust in divine synchronicity that I may get the chance to do so as I also till the soil of my own sacred journey. I look forward to the ride.





For more information on the Interfaith Chaplaincy Program, click here.

Here is the Art Awareness project I did for my first module on Islam…

Islam Art Awareness

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