Tag Archives: ahimsa

Spirituality & the Weight of Words

“Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move.”


Starting back to university after several years away, I find myself in an awkward social position. I am too old to be a typical university student and too young to be classified as an older, returning student. In addition to the issue of age, I am now married and the mother of a young child. As much as I want to be able to focus exclusively on my renewed studies, I also hope to find a few close friends among my new classmates.

Providence rewards my hope with a friend in the design studio, who is both my peer in age and who is also in a committed relationship.


Joan is from the Coast and was reared in an academic family. Thus, she is well bred and well spoken. We share artistic and intellectual exchanges full of wit and humor. And, because some of my time away from university was spent studying in the region of Joan’s upbringing, we share certain place references, which are not shared with anyone else in the art department. The commonalities that are part of our friendship also extend, to a certain degree, to our individual aesthetic preferences.

A number of semesters, a few dinner parties and several outings later, Joan and I find ourselves together in yet another class, when a new woman, Sarah, in her early forties joins our class.

Although completely untrained as an artist or designer, Sarah has been working as a paid, freelance graphic designer in the community. In terms of temperament, she is hesitant and quite insecure about her innate gifts as a designer and draughtsman, even though she clearly has the hand of a skilled, untrained draughtsman with an eye for design. Sarah creates simple, pleasing brochures which include her own drawings. Her return to school for more training is spurred on by a handful of clients who have been requesting more advanced work from her. She hopes that some additional training will help her grow her confidence and her innate artistic skills.

As the content of Sarah’s portfolio becomes known within the department, the rift between fine art and commercial art is laid bare. And, socially, a certain amount of distancing occurs between Sarah and the main body of traditional students.

For an already insecure soul, this not-so-subtle distancing can be acutely painful. In an attempt to close the growing space around this woman, I offer Sarah several olive-branch conversations, remembering how I felt when I first returned to university with no real sense of place. But, what I do not anticipate is the painful, under-the-breath verbal sniping that Joan is soon engaging in, as Joan and I sit working next to one another in the same class as Sarah.

My intellect understands that in many respects these women are experiential worlds apart, yet my heart is injured with each uncharitable statement, about Sarah or her work, issuing from Joan’s mouth. Finally, after two weeks of silence toward Joan’s uncharitable speech, I turn to face her—knowing that my stand may cost me a precious friendship.

“Open your heart, Joan,” I murmur emphatically. It is all that I can think to say. And, with this one statement, the verbal sniping comes to a complete stop.

For several weeks, there is a quiet between Joan and myself as I cocoon myself in my studio work and wonder how everything is going to work itself out. Then, as we near the end of semester, I learn that Joan has extended not only an olive branch, but an entire olive bough to Sarah.  After several weeks of getting to know one another and finding common ground, Joan has committed to looking after Sarah’s family pets while Sarah is on vacation with her family.

Words have weight, meaning and impact, whether words are directed toward us, at a situation, coming from us toward someone else or being applied by us to an external set of circumstances. Choosing our words with care shapes the manner in which we enter into a dialogue with the world around us—to mend relationships, take down barriers or change the course of someone’s life. All of us need to continue the practice choosing our words with an ear to our hearts and supreme care.

Spirituality: Human Faith

As a child, I had the privilege of flying in the 1970’s.  Air travel, at that time, was still a mode of transportation for the business elite and a special event for most travelling families.

The dress code was one of suits and ties or pantyhose and dresses.

If flight-time coincided with a typical mealtime, amazingly full entrees appeared magically from nothing more than a sliver-thin cubbyhole.  Think twice-baked potatoes, steak, salad, vegetable, roll (with a pad of real butter) and full dessert.  For those shorter flights, and in-between meals on longer flights, there was a packed cart, full of beverage and snack options.

Because I was flying as a child, every flight was accompanied by a wonderful set of fresh crayons, flight-themed coloring book and a complimentary set of Captain’s Wings.  It may have been while I was travelling as a child that my basic faith in humanity was established.  There was a lot of kindness and Light emanating from all of those doting flight attendants which probably turned me into an early “believer” in the basic goodness of humanity.

Something happened in our neighborhood, not so long ago, which cast a shadow over my basic faith in humanity’s goodness.  One of our neighbors, an older man, was injured by two younger men, who were intent upon doing him severe, physical harm.


What the two young men did not realize is that this “old man” is trained in self-defense.  Thus, things did not work out as the would-be perpetrators would have anticipated—with a call for three ambulance stretchers–not one.

It hurt my heart to hear about what happened to my neighbor.  It hurt my heart to hear about what happened to the young men.  My sense is this, that neither of these young men probably ever had the privilege of travelling by flight, especially when flying was enjoyed in suits and dresses and flight attendants doted upon passengers and children alike.  Yet, what cuts the deepest is knowing that, for at least one of the young men, the possibility of experiencing the freedom and privilege of earthly flight has come to a complete end.


Spirituality: Closer to Home

Walking up the steps, out of the basement floor of a governmental building, I stop when I spot a small earthworm in my path.  S/he is still moist, so I bend to see whether or not s/he is still alive. (Worms are hermaphrodites, possessing both male and female genitalia for purposes of efficient biological reproduction.)


We have had several days of relentless rain and ice; and, the poor creature is at least twenty-five to thirty feet from any actual ground, being fully surrounded by impenetrable concrete.  The earthworm probably landed here after trying to escape the flooding of her/his home.

As I bend closer, the worm moves ever so slightly.  I take this as an answerto my inquiry.  So, I finish bending over to pick her/him up and proceed to walk forty-five feet to a grassy place at the base of a young tree, standing on the building’s grounds.

The worm does not have much fight or kick left. (I know this because I sometimes perform this service of moving worms from concrete and asphalt to grass, after severe rainstorms, on my regular walks.) One passerby looks at me inquisitively.

But, the way I figure it is this.  If I were that worm, I would rather have the opportunity to burrow back into the earth and expire in terra firma–closer to home–than to become dried to a crisp and cross over after having become too tired from hopelessly lurching across asphalt or concrete.

Where is home for you?