For Palm Sunday, April 10, 2022

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,

and clothes.

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

hold.

What is God’s will for a wing?

every bird knows

that.

THE SILK WORM

Rumi

(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

with the

sacred.”

And I replied to my heart,

“Dear, can you really do all those things?”

And it just nodded “Yes”

in silence.

So we began and will never

cease.

IT IS A LIE

Meister Eckhart

(Can you let go of judgmental images of God?)

It is a lie-any talk of God

that does not

comfort

you.

HOW DID THE ROSE?

Hafiz

(Can you let your soul feel God’s encouraging Light?)

How

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

frightened.

AN IMAGE THAT MAKES THEM SAD

Meister Eckhart

(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

makes them

sad?

EACH SOUL COMPLETES ME

Hafiz

(Can you let yourself believe that your soul helps complete the Divine One?)

My

Beloved said,

“My name is not complete without

yours.”

I thought:

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

heart,

God revealed

a sublime truth to the world,

when He

sang,

“I am made whole by your life.  Each soul,

each soul completes

me.”

THE CHRIST’S BREATH

Hafiz

(Imagine your are a musical instrument, or pen, or paint brush for God.)

I am

a hole in a flute

that the Christ’s breath moves through-

listen to this

music.

REST IN PRAYER

Catherine of Siena

(Let’s REST in prayer!)

The sun hears the fields talking about effort

and the sun

smiles,

and whispers to

me,

“Why don’t the fields just rest, for

I am willing to do

everything

to help them

grow?”

Rest, my dears, in

prayer.

MY SWEET, CRUSHED ANGEL

Hafiz

(Believe that you have danced with God WELL!)

You have

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

One.

You have actually waltzed with tremendous style,

my sweet, O my sweet,

crushed

angel.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURE

HAIFZ

(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

mounds,

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

of you.

We should talk about this problem,

otherwise I will never leave you

alone!

PERFECT EQUANIMITY

Hafiz

(Could we release the idea of God saying ,“Don’t”?)

Look how a mirror

will reflect with perfect equanimity

all actions

before

it.

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

say “no.”

The mirror, like perfect love, will just keep giving

of itself to all

before

it.

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

good.

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

against us.

The delight a child can know

tossing a ball into

the air,

my Lord confessed He experiences

whenever He looks

at you.

God sees nothing in us

that He has not

given.

TO SEE AS GOD SEES

Meister Eckhart

(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

feels.

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

as God

is.

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