The Element of Magic
I didn’t dismiss his words, shove them away, or ignore their reality. This was coming from two men I admired and respected for many reasons. I thought very seriously about what he had said to me that day. There had been a definite period in my life, when I would have probably accepted their suggestion and even followed through on it.
When I was twenty-seven years old, I had a spiritual experience that forever altered my world view: how I defined my world and my particular place within that world. And since that moment, I had carried with me, a strong spiritual belief system that shaped my thoughts and sense of all of that. It might not align with any of the mainstream religions, but it was strong and well-developed even though it was a sort of smorgasbord of truths I had come to embrace as I read and studied many different walks of faith.
For instance: I had Native American blood through my maternal grandmother. I explored those spiritual belief systems and felt a resonating vibration with that sense of connectedness with all of life. That reality that I was a sister to trees, and that animals had a deep wisdom to impart, and stones have a story to tell, if we but lean in to listen.
In reading about certain Zen practices, and Buddhist thought, even though I was raised a strict Catholic, I came to understand that each form of religion I encountered had a piece of truth to be found within its doctrine and dogma. And together those pieces constituted a wholeness that might be missed in those separate institutions. Yes, it created a certain level of dichotomy, but I also knew that we human beings are far better off learning to balance those dichotomies than in choosing a much narrower path, and perhaps, missing entirely living our lives to the fullest extent of our abilities and potential.
But also mixed in with all of those spiritual beliefs was the wonder of a child. A belief in magic and in miracles. My life, from the age of four, was an ongoing miracle and there was magic in that knowing. A sense of plan and purpose in the coincidences of my very existence within the larger framework of my environment. I was following my bliss, seeking my own wholeness of body, mind, and heart, and was discovering my soul.
Until my early thirties, I was known as Betty. But, my baptismal name was Elizabeth. Betty has no literal meaning and is mistakenly believed to be a derivative of that other far more formal definition. Elizabeth, on the other hand, has a powerful literal definition. It means, God is my oath. I began using the name when I discovered that discrepancy and have been called that ever since. Each time I hear it, I am reminded of my inmost calling to be what, and who, I truly am.
And although becoming a Minister had a powerful attraction on a personal level, I had found something even stronger. Words and Language. The ability to speak and to be heard. Again, that would have stood me in good stead as a Pastor, but my reality was that I was middle-aged and still raising the last of my four children. My last two children were entering high school and definitely needed a mother. Going to Seminary would have meant leaving them in the care of others and I just couldn’t do that.
There was another reason as well. As I said, I firmly believed that no one institution, religion, even government, had or has a corner on all of the Truth. They have pieces and parts, and any Seminary I might attend would seek to guide me toward a particular piece of that reality. It just wasn’t what I wanted for me. I wanted the freedom to write about my own thoughts and feelings. Realizing that, I also realized I had made a decision.
Many years later, after the Grammy Nomination, and becoming a Free-Lance Writing Instructor, one of my students came to me privately and told me her story. She was an ordained Minister and in the latter stages of becoming a Pastoral Minister. She said that she didn’t want the other people in the class to know that, as it would definitely affect the dynamics in the classroom. I agreed.
Her purpose in confiding in me was that she had a request. She’d taken several of my classes and really enjoyed my whole approach to teaching. She was in charge of organizing a day long retreat for a group of other Pastoral Ministers and wanted to know if I would consider leading and facilitating that experience. It would take place at a nearby Catholic Seminary and I would be in charge of planning the sessions for the day and could choose whatever format and topic I could come up with.
After ascertaining that I would get paid what I thought was appropriate, I went home to think about what I had just agreed to do. Me, I was going to go to a Catholic seminary and would be teaching a roomful of Methodist Ministers. Whew! I struggled for several days with what I thought might be an adequate approach. Then realized, my student came to me for a specific reason. She’d taken several classes with me and had said she’d asked me specifically because of my particular bent in those classrooms.
I stopped thinking “Ministers” and started thinking about story being medicine. I approaced this new, but far more familiar definition, and created a day long plan that would allow them to do some writing, exploring, and then some quiet meditation following each of the three sessions. The day of the retreat dawned and my student picked me up and we drove to the Seminary.
There were twenty-five people in attendance, both men and women, raging in age from late twenties to early sixties. I had brought along a Tarot deck that used the images of myth and fairytales to express the Classic journey through life. I used a different exercise for each session, along with some guided imagery to take them through the process I had planned. I had them blindly pull cards from the deck and use them as inspiration for the writing exercises.
Somewhere, in the middle of the day, an older woman raised her hand to ask a question. “These are Tarot cards, aren’t they?” she asked. I explained that that was exactly what they were, but that I used them for self-exploration and not divination purposes. “Oh,” she said, “I’ve always been curious about the Tarot and these are so beautifully illustrated. Where can I purchase them?” Several others wanted the same information.
When we finished, they wanted to end with a prayer circle. Each one took a turn to thank God for the experience they had just encountered, and for what I had imparted to them. Then one of the younger women said, “Lord, I want to ask you to bless Elizabeth’s ministry, because even if she doesn’t know it, that is what she is about. Continue to lead her and protect her through the work she has chosen to do.”
I walked away knowing I had just taken part in a Mystical experience that felt like absolute Magic.
(to be continued…)
Note: I am about to begin a rather large entailed project. I will continue with these excerpts, but will have far less time to give to my blogs, and the prompt circuit in general, until the project is finished. I will continue to respond to comments here on my sites, but will not be able to visit and explore other’s writings for a while. Please accept my apologies. Hopefully I will be able to return to normal activities within a few weeks. Thanks.