A few years ago, I read a lot by author Anne Lamott. She is a lovely human who has had many struggles over the years and who bravely, comically, and candidly shares her heart and her experiences through her writings. She shared that she has a God Box – something she turns to when she has no idea what to do with a situation in her life. When she’s done all she can to fix or help or soften and she hasn’t got where or what she wants, she writes the problem down on a piece of paper and puts it in her God Box. It’s her way of turning it over to someone or something that can handle it when she no longer can. It allows her worry to lessen or disappear and it recognizes, in a very physical way, that there are many things (all things?) that are very much so out of our own control. Not everything in life can be fixed to your own liking solely through hard work and perseverance. Some things need divine intervention and even then won’t always have the outcome you hoped for. It’s a lessen that is learned more easily in theory, in our minds, in our logical thinking….but much harder to embody when it’s something that is close to our hearts.
Over the past few years, I’ve turned to my God Box (GB) so many times. My GB is a beautiful stained glass box that one of the kids, or maybe even one of their friends, made in high school. Often, it was through tears that I wrote my concerns down, folded them up, held them in prayer, and then put them in the box. As it did for Lamott, this ritual allowed me to let go…the physical act of turning my problem over to a power that is beyond my comprehension allowed me to release being consumed with concern. It didn’t mean that I stopped caring…just that I had turned my concern into faith. I had blatantly made the statement that I recognized I didn’t have control of the outcome and put my energy toward having faith that it would work out. It took the power away from the concern…it took power away from the fear. It freed my energy up for the work that I could have impact on…the things I did have a plan for. The things that actually needed my energy at the time.
The 8-limbed path of yoga has a practice called Isvara Pranidhana. That is a Sanskrit phrase or term that translates to surrender and devotion to a higher power. Deborah Adele writes “Isvara Pranidhana, the jewel of surrender, presupposes that there is a divine force at work in our lives.” As in the ancient yogic principles, we see this faith in many (all?) formal religions. Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We do not know our paths or have the control we think we do and there is a peace that comes with that recognition.
Today, I opened my GB and one by one, I read the concerns I had deposited. As I read them, I relived them for a moment, and then burned them symbolizing their passing as a concern of mine. Most of what was in there has worked itself out in one way or the other. Not always in the manner I would have wanted….not always without hardship and heartbreak. But one way or the other, the concerns have passed. We have come out on the other side of them and we are fine. Perhaps there were important lessons learned because of the heartbreak…perhaps the result of the situation was just what someone else needed or needed to learn. I continue to have faith, even when I don’t understand. This ritual of burning my worries and concerns was a great reminder of the life I’ve lived over the past several months. It was a reminder that I’ve been blessed with people, situations, struggles, joys of which I cared deeply. I’m honored to have had these gifts to pour my heart and soul into. I continue to pray and have faith for those things that are still working themselves out. I’m encouraged that what remains of my concern is just a small pile of ash and that my GB sits empty for now. I take all of this with me into the new year.
My wish for you in the new year is that you find your own ways of cultivating your faith. May you be reminded of that which you cared most deeply about. May you more quickly recognize when to surrender. May you find peace in the surrender.
~~Namaste – the light-love-divinity that is within me is also in you~~