FEELING LIKE A DONKEY? Healing from 2nd-class experiences
In adult workshops, I use my children’s book, Zeesha’s Tale, A Story for Christmas and Easter (gorgeously illustrated by Lena Shiffman) to help participants heal from their experiences of feeling “second class,” identifying with each of the three donkeys in my story and feeling the affirmations from poems from the book, Love Poems from God, Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, Daniel Ladinsky, editor
The title character of my book, Zeesha, is a young donkey who is told by his mother one night, “Tomorrow you will be ridden by a stranger.”
To help Zeesha become willing to carry a stranger, his wise mother Seila tells two bedtime stories – the first about their long-ago ancestor, the she-donkey Lal, who could see angels when her master could not. That master eventually not only sees the angel but prophesizes that a king will come out of Israel.
The second story is of Seila carrying Mary to Bethlehem to give birth to her first son. When Zeesha learns that the man he will carry will die soon after arriving in the city, he is again reluctant to carry this stranger. His mother mentions a great miracle about to happen and explains,
“You see, my young one,
At times we are called to resist evil,
Or to carry to new birth,
Or to travel through the valley of the shadow of death.
But sometimes we must simply wait in the dark
For hope to arise like a star.
Then, if we listen to the angels whispering to us,
We can take our small part in God’s great plans.”
“Tomorrow your will carry a stranger.”
The arc of the story, from being “ridden by” to willingly “carrying” a stranger is complete.
Following are the reflective questions I ask the workshop participants to ponder, and a selection of wondrously affirming poems I encourage them to interiorize as God’s approval and acceptance of each of them with their individual gifts. Instead of a guided meditation, I ask a question, in italics, before each poem.
IDENTIFYING WITH ZEESHA
-Have you ever been afraid to try something new or to trust a new opportunity?
-Where have you been afraid to go?
-Have you ever been afraid of someone unlike you – in gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith, or personality?
-Who or what helped you with those fears?
-When you’ve been proud, perhaps overly proud, could you still feel Mother God’s loving gaze on you?
-When have you been reluctant to go through or bring others through a dark time – a time of disease, death, loss, sadness, depression?
-What “mother figure” has helped or supported you in times of fear or doubt?
-How have other people, human ‘comforters’ helped you in the dark?
-Have you ever peppered God in prayer with more and more questions?
-Were you stalling, fearful?
-Were you simply childlike and inquisitive?
-Could you feel God being as patient as mother donkey Seila was?
HEALING WITH LOVE POEMS FROM GOD, Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, Daniel Ladinsky, ed.
CLARITY IS FREEDOM
Teresa of Avila
(What does your animal or plant already know?)
I had tea yesterday with a great theologian,
and he asked me,
“What is your experience of God’s will?”
I like that question –
for the distillation of thought hones thought in others.
Clarity, I know is freedom.
What is my experience of God’s will?
Everyone is a traveler. Most all need lodging, food,
I let enter my mouth what will enrich me. I wear what
will make my eye content,
I sleep where I will wake with the
strength to deeply love
all my mind can
What is God’s will for a wing?
every bird knows
THE SILK WORM
(What can you miraculously do, like a creature of earth?)
I stood before a silk worm one day.
and that night my heart said to me,
“I can do things like that, I can spin skies,
I can be woven into love that can bring warmth to people;
I can be soft against a crying face,
I can be wings that lift, and I can travel on my thousand feet
throughout the earth,
my sacks filled
And I replied to my heart,
“Dear, can you really do all those things?”
And it just nodded “Yes”
So we began and will never
IT IS A LIE
(Can you let go of judgmental images of God?)
It is a lie-any talk of God
that does not
HOW DID THE ROSE?
(Can you let your soul feel God’s encouraging Light?)
did the rose
ever open its heart
and give to this world all of its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being,
otherwise we all remain too
AN IMAGE THAT MAKES THEM SAD
(Can you color a picture of God that makes you smile?)
How long will grown men and women in this world
keep drawing in their coloring books
an image of God that
EACH SOUL COMPLETES ME
(Can you let yourself believe that your soul helps complete the Divine One?)
“My name is not complete without
How could a human’s worth ever be such?
And God, knowing all our thoughts – and all our
thoughts are innocent steps on the path –
then addressed my
a sublime truth to the world,
“I am made whole by your life. Each soul,
each soul completes
THE CHRIST’S BREATH
(Imagine your are a musical instrument, or pen, or paint brush for God.)
a hole in a flute
that the Christ’s breath moves through-
listen to this
REST IN PRAYER
Catherine of Siena
(Let’s REST in prayer!)
The sun hears the fields talking about effort
and the sun
and whispers to
“Why don’t the fields just rest, for
I am willing to do
to help them
Rest, my dears, in
MY SWEET, CRUSHED ANGEL
(Believe that you have danced with God WELL!)
not danced so badly, my dear,
trying to hold hands with the Beautiful One.
You have waltzed with great style, my sweet crushed angel,
to have ever neared God’s heart at all.
Our Partner is notoriously difficult to follow, and even His
best musicians are not always easy to hear.
So what if the music has stopped for a while.
So what if the price of admission to the Divine is out of reach tonight.
So what, my sweetheart, if you lack the ante to gamble for real love.
The mind and the body are famous for holding the heart ransom,
But Hafiz knows the Beloved’s eternal habits. Have patience,
for He will not be able to resist your longings
and charms for long.
You have not danced so badly, my dear,
trying to kiss the Magnificent
You have actually waltzed with tremendous style,
my sweet, O my sweet,
(God pursues us with un-ending love and delight.)
There is a beautiful creature living
in a hole you have dug,
so at night I set fruit and grains and little pots of wine and milk
beside your soft earthen
and I often sing to you,
but still, my dear, you do not come out.
I have fallen in love with someone
who is hiding inside
We should talk about this problem,
otherwise I will never leave you
(Could we release the idea of God saying ,“Don’t”?)
Look how a mirror
will reflect with perfect equanimity
There is no act in this world
that will ever cause the mirror to look away.
There is no act in this world that will ever make the mirror
The mirror, like perfect love, will just keep giving
of itself to all
How did the mirror ever get like that, so polite,
so grand, so compassionate?
It watched God.
Yes, the mirror remembers the Beloved
looking into itself as the Beloved shaped existence’s heart
and the mirror’s soul…
and if God ever hits you with a don’t –
He has His fingers crossed,
He is just fibbing
for your own
WHENEVER HE LOOKS AT YOU
Thomas of Aquinas
(Imagine God’s child-like delight in YOU!)
God see nothing in us that He has not given.
Everything is empty until He places
what He wishes into it.
The soul is like an uninhabited world
that comes to life only when
God lays His head
The delight a child can know
tossing a ball into
my Lord confessed He experiences
whenever He looks
God sees nothing in us
that He has not
TO SEE AS GOD SEES
(Imagine yourself, your “creature” being infused with God’s seeing, knowing, and feeling.)
It is your destiny to see as God sees,
to know as God knows,
to feel as God
How is this possible? How?
Because divine love cannot defy its very self.
Divine love will be eternally true to its own being,
and its being is giving all it can,
at the perfect moment.
And the greatest gift
God can give is His own experience.
Every object, every creature, every man, woman, and child
has a soul and it is the destiny of all,
to see as God sees, to know as God knows,
to feel as God feels, to Be