I remember checking the mailbox everyday at boarding school. We did not have easy access to a telephone, and there were no cell phones or emails or social media, and so we treasured letters when they would arrive. I remember receiving a letter from a girl, Susan, from my home town that she sent me in a box of cookies. The paper had absorbed the oil from the cookies, and the oil made the paper translucent. She had written on both sides, and so the writing on one side completely obscured the writing on the other side. I tried everything I could think of to make the words legible, but to no avail. The words were forever lost, and I felt acutely the pain of their absence.
I also remember writing letters with strong emotion, and then walking down to the mailbox to retrieve them. Ricky don’t lose that number, send it off in a letter to yourself. I am reminded of those times when it took a week or more to send a letter and receive a reply. Now communications are instant, and irretrievable, and part of a permanent record. It seems that we communicate our reactions instead of our responses.
I remember also how we used to share the news of our lives in letters. News did not travel so fast, and so in a letter, from Camp or school between home or a loved one, communicated the salient details of our lives. Sometimes the treasure of a photograph would come inside the envelope, and I would pin it on my cork board in my room. I remember taking pictures on film, 24 exposures per roll, and winding the roll onto a wire wheel in the dark and then working in anticipation to develop the negatives and then make prints. The faces of my friends and family, the events of the day revealed one shot at a time.
Today is Christmas, cold and dreary in Miami. We spent the morning at my Mom’s with lots of family and a couple of friends. We exchanged gifts, all wrapped in bags with tissue, and enjoyed company and coffee and food. Then back to the house for a lazy Christmas afternoon. And so now is the time, the week, to start thinking of the New Year. I like to make a prayer for the New Year, and so now is the time to start thinking of it.
Last night, we got together with our Church friends and sang the hinario of Mestre Irineu. At one point during the night I felt a strong prayer come to me. I felt the spirit say to me, “I am here, what do you want” And the answer came to me. “I want my love for my wife to be more resilient.” And in meditation I received a beautiful understanding.
I saw how when someone I love is upset with me, there is a part of me that gets wounded, like a child, and as a result, I behave childishly. I can feel inside of me where this wounded part is, and from this part bubble up stories about the “others” motivations and intentions. These are the stories of a wounded child. When I speak or act from that energy, it is transmitted to the other person, and a cycle of painful communications starts, and this takes me out of the love vibration that is always available to all of us.
In my meditation, with everything perfect, I was able to see a better, more mature way to respond. I was shown a small example of something that had disappointed me, and how I had gone on to create stories about why that had happened. The stories were far more upsetting than the event itself. My first thought was that these stories I tell myself are “all bullshit,” but then I saw that I can tell myself true stories or at least better stories instead, and instead of reacting with defensiveness or bitterness, I can act with compassion toward myself and toward the other person.
I realize that this is the same lesson that I am learning over and over, but this time it seemed to penetrate a little more deeply. There is a hymn that says “smooth out my heart, so that I can love, and the offenses of my brothers, I may know how to pardon”. (“Aplanai meu coração, para eu poder amar, e as ofensas dos irmaos, eu saber perdoar”). I was able to see how spiritual mastery, the buddha, the Christ, the Warrior Spirit, has a heart smooth like the stones of a river. I saw how my heart is full of old wounds and jagged edges that catch and stick and cut.
So as I create my prayer for the new year, it starts with this. My prayer is to smooth out my heart so that I can love. So that love can be more resilient, and I can be happier.