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Inklings from the other side (03/09/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns
"We may not always notice, but each of us carries around an interior reflection of heaven all the time. The poet points out that we all enjoy the shade of heaven's broad protection - individually and together."

That reflection is found in a small booklet I pick up and read every so often, comprised of meditations in a compilation of Zen haiku called "Pathways."

Because one occasionally explores other cultures for enhancement does not mean they are forsaking their professed religion, their "church." Look how far we've come! In the early Catholic Church followers were forbidden to read and interpret for themselves the Holy Scriptures. Many church laws of the various denominations prohibited their members from worshiping with those of other faiths. In the name of Christianity?

The point is that blind faith was the norm. There was no questioning the doctrine of the organized religious institution of one's upbringing. What I've dubbed as "spiritual research" takes the seeker up and down many paths and touches on a multitude of insights. Inklings that transport an individual to the divine, though momentarily, feed the soul.

I've had to remind myself, at times when I've struggled with my own faith, that I saw the light vividly in a pneumonic stupor as a young girl. I've never forgotten the intense peace and calm of that experience.

Zen haiku suggests that in today's rush and bustle, "all efforts to still the mind merely add to the clamor. How can we escape this terrible hoopla? We can't. Just make your mind enormous."

Anyone who has ever nursed a parent in times of fatal illness and deterioration or injury is affected deeply. I cared for my mother Meta Lewis in the final stages of pancreatic cancer before she left this earth on September 19, 1979.

As a young wife and mother of three, the most impacting thing I discovered as I looked after Mother's needs is the stark reality of immortality and the simplicity of dying. I thought my mother was the most courageous human being on earth, so brave in her weakness and so humbly acceptant of her fate. It was then that I realized the saving grace of faith, and that experiencing sorrow and grief is as vital a part of living as rejoicing in the joy of birth.

From the time of Dad's death ten years earlier, dying was no longer confined to the Sunday School death and resurrection of the Easter story. After touching my life personally, death became a heart wrenching loss, beyond abstract words in memorized prayers and Bible verses.

The mysterious body and blood of Christ at the altar of God's house took on a profound meaning as I began to realize the virtues in "this side and that side" of life.

Losing Mother was a reality I wasn't ready for. Being the eldest sibling, I felt as though I was being forced to take the reins as the executor of family tradition, the acting hostess bent to scratch baking, to nurturing, the yummy Thanksgiving dressing, that special 7-minute icing for birthday cakes, china, silver, goblets, and cloth napkins (which I didn't have), and Mother's divinity fudge and perfect ham gravy each Christmas. Actually, I've been pulling it off quite nicely for 28 years now!

We fall into the roles we must adjust to despite our hesitation and inadequacies. I'd like to believe that personal journeys to salvation bring all seekers to the same junction sooner or later. A collector of quotes and witticisms, I see them as guides to figuring out the complexities of life.

Madeleine L'Engle wrote this:"It's a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand."

As we frolic, shuffle, skip, dance, amble, and limp along the paths of life, we'll likely be nudged from time to time to keep us focused on who will have the final word.

Keep the faith!

Janet Burns has lived in Lewiston all of her life. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.



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