Nine Billion Faces:
Creating a Mentor
The first step in writing a correspondence with your inner voice is to choose a
name and a face for that voice.
This is not absolutely essential: some people find that they can write
to themselves without ever picturing the person who replying. If you have trouble forming mental
images, or if you find yourself paralyzed trying to choose a correspondent, you
may want to skip this step.
Many people, however, have found it intriguing to choose a particular
correspondent. This choice is not
irrevocable or permanent. You may
have more than one, or change from one to another as your needs change.
In this book, I will refer to this correspondent as a "mentor",
because the voice will be guiding and helping you. Because of the way I stumbled across
this kind of writing, my mentor is an image or symbol for God, and my
journal-writing is a form of prayer.
But if you are uncomfortable putting words in God's mouth, you can get
the same benefits by choosing another kind of mentor. This chapter is designed to give you
* * * * *
Look over the following questions.
You can either write answers to some or all of them, or just think about
After you have read the questions, pick one or more of the people to
be your mentor. Remember, this is
not an irrevocable choice. As you
are doing the writing suggested in the next chapters, you can come back to this
list and pick a new mentor at any time.
You can also pick someone who's not on this list. Or pick no one at all: Some people have found that it worked to
just write the correspondence without ever having a picture of who the
The possibilities are endless. You
do not have to limit yourself to one mentor, or to the first one you
choose. This is a game, and it
should be fun. But it is a game
that can become a lifeline when times get tough.
Here are some questions you may find helpful:
· When you
were a child, what did God look like?
Describe your first images of God.
what pops into your head now when you hear the word God. How is that related to your childhood
image? Is it similar, or is it
reaction against an old image?
· Who were
your childhood heroes? Why did you
· Who are
your heroes now? Why do you admire
them? Are they different from your
· Who are
your favorite characters in books?
What makes you like them?
· Did you
ever have an imaginary friend? How
old were you? What was the friend like?
· Did you
have a favorite doll or stuffed animal as a child, one with a real
personality? What was it like?
· Have you
ever had a pet that seemed to understand you better than any person did? Or maybe you had an imaginary pet. Describe it.
· Have you
ever had a real mentor who is no longer with you? Someone who guided you and helped
you? Who was it?
· Is there
someone in your family tree that you're curious about? This could be a grandparent you knew, or
someone who died before you were born.
Imagine what this person might have been like. Your image of the person doesn't have to
· Do you
have any favorite myths? Who is
your favorite god, goddess or hero?
What do you like about that character?
· Who is
your favorite fairy-tale character?
· Who are
your favorite TV or movie characters?
What do you like about them?
· Who are
your favorite religious figures?
· If you
had a guardian angel, what would it be like?
This is the Goddess
That Still Small Voice
In this chapter you will begin to give words to that “still small voice
within.” The technique is
fairly simple and well-known; some people call it “automatic
writing”, though in my experience that there’s nothing automatic
about it. If you really listen hard
to that inner voice, you will have to be focused and alert, and use your mind
as well as your heart.
The basic idea is this. You write a
letter to the mentor you chose in the last chapter. Then use your imagination. If you were the mentor, what would you
say in response to such a letter?
The writing suggestions at the end of this chapter will lead you through
that process. I’ve also
included some art and crafts suggestions: I’ve found that it helps me to
visualize my mentor if I have a representation of her, a picture or a
statue. And I’ve included a
few suggestions for rituals too.
Some people find that a ritual sets the mood for the focus this kind of
writing can take.
Are the responses you will get “real”? In the end, I don’t believe that
matters. A more important question
is, Are the responses helpful to you?
In my case, they have been a lifeline sometimes
* * * * *
Write about meeting your mentor for the first time. You may want to describe the
setting. Are you on a mountaintop,
in a garden, a temple, a forest glade, a seashore, a palace, or maybe a
coffeeshop? Or are you in your own
room? How do you approach your mentor?
Are you sipping tea, watching a sunset, sitting on a lap, flying?
Write your self-introduction to your mentor. This can be a letter you're writing, or
a transcription of the words you imagine speaking. Thank her for meeting with you, and tell
her why you have chosen her to be your mentor. (For ease of writing, I am assuming your
mentor is female, but of course that may not be true.)
Close your eyes moment and listen with your heart. Imagine that you are the mentor. Greet your guest with words of
welcome. Be as kind and gracious as
you can, but try to speak as the character you have chosen would speak. Again, this can be thought of as a
letter, or as a transcription of words that are spoken.
Read over your mentor's words with the realization that they are addressed to
you. How do they make you
feel? If they are not warm and
supportive, think carefully about whether you may want to choose a different
mentor. Brusque and bracing is OK,
if you feel comfortable with it.
Explain to the mentor why you have undertaken this journey. What do you hope to accomplish with her
help? Tell your mentor about your
current joys and concerns.
Again, write from the point of view of the mentor. Address each of the joys and concerns as
you would if you were answering a letter from a dear friend. You don't have to have a solution for
every problem. Offer love and
support, and advice if any occurs to you.
You don't have to stop with one exchange.
The conversation can include many exchanges back and forth between you
and your mentor. I usually label my
"letters" by beginning each one with a salutation: "Dear
Lady", and ending with a signature: "Love, Karen". My mentor does the same. I also begin each one with a date, just
as though it were a real letter.
This can be valuable later, when you go back and read your journal.
If you are having trouble getting started, you may want to make your mentor
more concrete by writing a description or making a representation. What follows are suggestions for ways to
do this, along with rituals you may find helpful to set the mood.
Write a description of the mentor you chose in Chapter
1. What does she look like? How big is she? What is she wearing? What does her hair look like? What kind of expression is on her
face? What does her voice sound
like? How does the touch of her
hands feel? Does she have an
· Draw or paint a
picture of your mentor, and put it in a nice frame. Make a photocopy and put it in your
journal. Or draw the picture in
· Make an icon by
painting a picture on wood.
· Draw an
abstract symbol to represent her.
· Sculpt a statue
from baker's clay* (recipe below) or Fimo.
· Make a mask of
papier-mache† (recipe below) and paint and decorate it.
· Decorate a
· Find a picture
that looks like your mentor. If you
have chosen a mythological or historical figure, you should be able to
photocopy a picture from a library book, or find one on the Internet using
www.google.com. Put a copy in a
frame, and put another copy into your journal.
· You may be able
to purchase a statue that looks like your mentor. I found one at a flea-market that looked
like the Lady to me.
candles in glass containers decorated with paper pictures of religious figures
are available in the Mexican food aisle of many grocery stores. Maybe one of the figures represents your
mentor, or looks like her. You
could also buy a plain candle in a glass container and glue your own painting
· You might want
to use your own reflection as a mentor.
Set up a mirror so that you can see your reflection as you write.
· It is the
custom in some churches to light candles for joys and concerns. If you would like to, light a candle for
each of the joys and concerns as you write about it. You can use a special candleholder, or
set the candles as you light them in a tray or bowl full of clean sand. Sabbath and Hanukkah candles are
available in most grocery stores, near the matzo crackers. Birthday candles
work just fine in a sand tray. Or
use votive candles in glass containers.
· You may prefer
to light a single candle, perhaps in the form of a flaming chalice. If you don't have one, you can make a
very nice chalice from an inexpensive small clay flowerpot along with its
saucer. Turn the pot upside down
and set the saucer on top. Put a
votive candle in the saucer.
*Baker's clay statue:
mix 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water and 2 tbsp. oil. Adjust the amount of water so that the
dough has the consistency of bread dough. Knead for ten minutes, and
shape. Bake at 325o 15
minutes for every 1/4 inch of thickness.
For example, a piece one inch thick would bake for one hour. (Small pieces work better.) Or you can
let it air dry for several days. If
you want to, you can paint baker's clay with water colors or poster paints.
mask: Mix 1/2 cup flour with enough water so that it has the consistency of
gravy. Tear newspaper into strips
about 6 inches long and 1 inch wide.
Dip each strip into the flour paste, then pinch the strip between your
thumb and forefinger, and pull it through with your other hand to remove most
of the paste. Lay the strip over
your mask form. You can use an
inflated balloon for a mask form, or make one of aluminum foil laid over
crumpled paper. You might be able
to shape the foil over your own face before setting it on the crumpled
paper. Add strips of paste-covered
newspaper to the form until you have made a mask. You can build up the nose and mouth and
chin with small piece of rolled or crumpled paste-covered newspaper. Let the mask dry several hours, until
the paper no longer looks dark. If
you used a balloon for a form, pop the balloon and remove it. Use scissors to trim the edges. Paint your mask with water colors or
poster paints. Glue on decorations
such as fake fur, feathers, sequins, fabric, etc.
Bloody Bones in the Deep
Naming our Deepest Fears
When I was a little girl, about six or seven years old, there was a favorite
joke among children my age. In the
story, a child opens the door to the basement and hears a spooky, ghostly voice
coming up from the dark below, saying, "Bloody--bones--in the
The child runs away in fright and tells a younger sibling, who goes down
a step or two farther before hearing the voice. Finally the youngest child in the house,
who is about two years old, goes all the way to the bottom of the stairs before
hearing the voice.
"Bloody--bones--in the deep--dark—cellar--" The child replies saucily, "I'll
'bloody bones' you if you don't watch out!"
My friends and I thought that story was hilarious. And yet the phrase gave me the
shivers. It still does.
"Bloody--bones--in the deep—dark--cellar--" Whew!
Why did we love those jokes so much as small children? I think it was because they were about
hearing from our deepest fears, facing them, and getting the better of
them. Scary stories are very
popular, for that reason. But those
childhood stories were especially powerful, because the scary thing spoke
to the child, and the child was able to reply scornfully.
After I wrote my first letter from the Lady and my letter of thanks to her, I
began working hard on my own therapy.
I tried to identify what my deepest fears were, and to write, not about
them, but from them. I let my
deepest fears talk to me, and do their best to frighten me. And somehow, giving them words made it
easier to answer them. I found
myself arguing with them, saying, "You're not so scary after all,"
like the little child on the bottom step of the cellar stairs.
I tried to reach deep, deep down inside, into the reptilian part of my brain,
and find the very scariest things I could think of. Some of the fears I conjured up seemed
pretty bizarre when I brought them to light. You will see some of them in the journal
excerpts at the end of this chapter.
Before you begin the writing for
this chapter, I want to caution you that this topic can be very intense. If you think you may be digging up
something that will be especially disturbing, you may want to do these
exercises with the help of a professional counselor. On the other hand, I have found that
this kind of writing, while often very painful, is the most healing as
well. If you have the courage to
face your fears, you may find that, like the little boy at the bottom of the
cellar stairs, you are stronger than they are.
* * * * *
Try to think of something that scares you--something that scares you a
lot. Write a terrifying scenario;
make it as frightening as possible.
Use lots of hyperbole. You
may want to personify the fear and give it a name. In that case, write the scenario as a
letter to you from the fear. For
example, if you worry about a burglar breaking into your house, write a letter
from the Burglar. Write about the
terrible things the burglar intends to do. If you worry about being poor,
write a letter from Poverty, and the suffering it will cause.
Try to make your fear speak like a classic villain: “I’m coming to
get you!” Have it tell you
all the terrible things that will happen to you. If the possibilities seem absurd, all
the better. Get them out in the
Now, like the stubborn little boy on the bottom of the cellar stairs, talk
back! Tell that thing why it's not
as scary as it thinks it is. Tell
the fear why it's unrealistic, why it wouldn't conquer you, why you're not
going to dwell on it. What
reasonable precautions have you taken?
If you haven’t taken any precautions, maybe take some for peace of
mind. For example, when I had to send
my children off to high school the day after the nearby Columbine shootings, I
reminded them and myself that statistically they were much safer in school than
driving there, partly because we always took the reasonable precaution of
fastening our seatbelts.
You may want to talk to your mentor about your fears as well. It's helpful to remember that no matter
what terrible things you may experience, that inner voice will always be with
you, ready to offer love and support.
Using the voice of your mentor, remind yourself of some terrifying fear that
did come true, and how you overcame it.
Maybe it was a death or a divorce, or going to a new school, or losing a
job. Remind yourself that there
were still good things in life even after the disaster. Maybe you managed to learn from it, or
maybe it even turned out to be a good thing. Remind yourself that if you’re
strong enough to overcome that disaster, you can overcome others as well.
You may decide that this kind of writing is too scary for now. If so, leave it and go on to another
On the other hand, if you would like to pursue it, but are having trouble
picking a fear, the following questions may be helpful. You can write about some of them if you
like, or just mull them over before beginning the above writing. If more than one of the following
resonate with you, you can address more than one using the above writing
When you were a small child, were you afraid of the dark? Did you imagine monsters in the closet,
or in the corners of the room? What
fears made you lie awake at night in a cold sweat? How did you deal with those fears? I can remember wearing a silver bracelet
to keep vampires away, when I was about ten. A nightlight made my basement bedroom a
lot less scary. Shutting the
bedroom door kept the zombies from getting in. And sleeping in the basement was
actually pretty comforting when my fear of tornadoes struck.
Some children have to deal with things much more real and frightening than
imaginary monsters. Did you have
bullies in your life, or abusive caregivers? Maybe you were the victim of a natural
disaster like a flood or hurricane or tornado. Maybe you were the victim of a
terrifying religion that threatened you with hellfire.
Even if your childhood was idyllic, those imaginary monsters could be
terrifying. You may have known on
some level that the monsters weren't real, but the images alone may have been
enough to give you nightmares.
Did you have ways of dealing with those fears as a child? Did you push them away and refuse to
think of them? Did you figure out
ways to protect yourself, amulets or charms or rituals? I remember that it was very important
for me to have my mother say "Sweet dreams" when she tucked me in; I
believed that would keep the nightmares away. What bedtime rituals helped you
How old were you when you first learned about death? Did you lie awake at night, terrified,
thinking of the long dark? Or maybe
there was something even more terrifying than oblivion that you thought might
await you. At least as UUs, my
daughter and I didn’t have to deal with images of hellfire. And yet we both, at the age of six or
seven, spent many sleepless nights thinking about a time when we would not
be. I don't remember how I finally
dealt with it, but my daughter began sleeping again after I told her about the
near-death experiences that some people have. Do you have memories of learning about
death as a child? Was it scary? Were you taught to believe in an
afterlife? Was that comforting, or
was it scary too?
What fears keep you awake at night now?
Do you ever wake up at night wondering if there is a burglar in the
house? Are you afraid you or a
loved one may have a terrible illness?
That your marriage may break up?
Are you afraid of losing your job?
Are you afraid of a terrorist attack or a school shooting? What about a natural disaster: tornado
or earthquake or hurricane or lightning?
When my children were small, I used to wake at night in a cold sweat from a
recurring nightmare that I had done something to injure or kill one of
them. I knew that I would never
intentionally hurt my children, but I also knew that terrible accidents happen
sometimes. After I wrote to that
fear, the nightmare mostly went away.
List the fears that come to you in the middle of the night, no matter how
unrealistic they may seem in the light of day.
Do you have a frightening illness?
Write to your illness, asking it what it can teach you. Write the answer. Note that this is not expected to cure
you; I believe that our culture sometimes misleads people into believing that
any illness can be cured by the power of the mind, or by lifestyle
changes. While this is sometimes
true, sometimes the illness is too strong.
Blaming the sick person for being sick is not helpful. But even if the illness cannot be wholly
cured, it may have something valuable to teach you.
Do you have some deep dark secret, something that seems so disgusting that no
one would like you if they ever found out?
Talking about it openly with your mentor, as Cathy did in the example,
may be helpful.
Sweet Lady, Hold my Hand:
Oh, Rock-a My Soul
When we are born, if things go as they should, our parents care for us and love
us, nourish and nurture us. As we
grow up, we learn to take care of ourselves. But in times of trouble, when we're
tired and sad and frightened, we can often wish we were little again, small
enough to rock in our parents' arms.
Even if we have spouses or friends who nurture us, even if our
relationships with our real parents are still wonderful, they can't be to us
what our parents were when we were infants. That's as at should be; we're not
infants anymore. And yet in times
of trouble we can still wish for someone bigger and stronger and wiser than we
are to take care of us.
That wish is probably one of the strongest driving forces in many religions. If it leads us to follow self-proclaimed
messiahs, it can be very dangerous.
But if it leads us to find the nurturing power we have within ourselves,
I believe it can give us the strength we need to face our troubles.
If you have felt that wish, consider going to your inner voice for that kind of
care when you need it. You may feel
a little silly stroking yourself with kind words. But haven’t we all done that for
our friends? Somehow it’s
easier to nurture others than to nurture ourselves. If you have a friend with whom you
correspond, you might want to dig out some of your letters or e-mails and look
for nurturing writing. That might
make it easier to springboard into writing that way from your mentor to
* * * * *
When you're feeling in need of someone to take care of you, go to your
mentor. Don't be afraid to ask for
what you need. Sit still and listen
for a moment.
Give your mentor a voice. If your
beloved child came to you in tears, hurt or scared or sad or tired, what would
you say to comfort that child? You
don't have to be a real parent to imagine this; the child is yourself. Pour out your love, hold the child in
your arms and rock it to sleep. Or
if that doesn’t feel familiar, imagine you are writing to a dear friend,
offering love and comfort.
Now go back and read the words, letting yourself be the child sitting in the
lap of the nurturing parent, or the friend receiving the letter. Feel the rich, warm love surrounding
you. Know that no matter what, you
are loved and cared for.
If you’re having trouble getting started, the following writing
suggestions may be helpful.
Look back at a time in your life when you were having trouble and needed love
and guidance. Maybe you were in
grade school and felt that you didn’t have any friends. Maybe you were a teenager getting over
your first breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe you were a young parent,
overwhelmed with raising your children.
What lessons have you learned since then? Write a letter to your past self from
your present self, offering your more mature insights, and offering
comfort. Don’t scold, but instead
give encouragement and hope. Let
your younger self know that things did get better.
Go back in your mind to how you felt at the time referred to in the previous
exercise. Imagine being that age
again. Read over the letter from
that exercise. How does it feel to
get a letter from someone older and wiser who understands you so completely? You may even want to write a reply to
that older self, thanking her for her help and wisdom.
Think of a time in your childhood when you felt comforted and nurtured. What troubles did you have, that you
needed comfort? Who comforted you? Describe the scene. Were you sitting on someone’s
lap? What time of day was it? What did the person say to you?
When you find yourself needing comfort, imagine that either you are as small as
a child, or that your mentor is twice as tall as you are. In your mind, climb up into your
mentor’s lap and pour out your troubles. Write what it is that you
say. You don’t have to
keep a stiff upper lip now; go ahead and whine and moan, feel sorry for
yourself, let it all out. No one
will hear you except your mentor, who will understand.
Did anyone sing you lullabies as a child?
If you remember the words, write them down. If not, maybe you can ask the person to
write them down, or find them in a book or on the Internet. Read over the words, hearing the tune in
your mind. Remember what it felt
like to listen to the words in the dark night.
If no one sang you lullabies as a child, you can still approximate the above
exercise. Is there a lullaby you
sing to your own children? Or one
you’d like to sing to a child?
If you’ve never thought about it before, look in a song book or on
a CD or on the Internet and find a lullaby you like, and write the words
here. Read over them, imagining
that your mentor is singing them to you as you sit on her lap.
Sometimes we wear the face of the Goddess for other people. Have you ever been involved in a loving,
supportive correspondence with a friend?
Look back over your letters or e-mails and notice how you offer love and
support to your friend, and your friend gives you the same. This will give you an idea of the tone
your mentor should be using in writing to you. If a friend has written an especially
loving and supportive letter, you may want to copy all or part of it into your
journal. If you have written a
loving and supportive letter to someone else, try rewriting it with yourself as
A Kick in the Butt and a Pat
on the Back
The Voice of Conscience
Rocking the Lady's arms is a great comfort, but as I said in the last chapter,
eventually we have to face the world again. In the words of Robert Frost's wonderful
poem, "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening",
The woods are lovely, dark
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I
One problem I've always had with some of the new-age self-help books is that
they forget this important part of what religion should be. Yes, you have to love yourself before
you can love others. But some books
I've read seem to ignore the importance of doing what's right, even when it's uncomfortable
The Lady seems to know when to be gentle with me, and when to be stern (though
she's never unkind.) Sometimes she
reminds me of duties I'd rather not remember. And sometimes she helps me when I'm
taking myself too seriously.
* * * * *
Is there something you've been feeling you should do, but don't want to? Or maybe something about yourself you'd
like to change? Do you need to make
peace with someone? Your mentor can
help you. Write to your mentor, and
try to be honest about your feelings and motivations. Don't beat yourself up, but don't gloss
over the problem either. When you
write the answer from your mentor, continue to be honest, but remember to be
gentle. Truth can be spoken with
kindness. The following
questions may give you some ideas to write about.
If you read the two chapters in Little Women, do you think Meg was really in
the wrong? Was Marmee right to
advise her to "be the first to beg pardon", or was she telling Meg to
be a doormat? Is there anything we
can learn from this story, even though it was written so long ago and in such a
different culture? Discuss these
chapters with your mentor.
How do you resolve painful fallings-out with people you love? Is there someone in your life now with
whom you should make peace? Talk
with your mentor about it, and follow her advice.
Name times when you have felt that you were caught in a moral dilemma. Have you ever felt that you should stand
up against someone who was doing wrong, even though you were afraid? What did you do? What was the outcome?
Is there some wrong you should speak up about now? Why haven't you? What would happen if you did? Discuss it with your mentor.
Is there something you have thought about doing to help others, but have never
tried before, like giving blood or volunteering at a soup kitchen? Pick one thing and try it once. Then talk with your mentor about the
experience. How did it go? Would you do it again? Why or why not?
Write about a time you tried to help others and it didn’t go well. What went wrong? Why was the experience unrewarding? Did you feel resentful? Unappreciated? Talk to your mentor about the
experience. Should you try to help
in the same way again, or should you do something different?
For example, maybe you volunteered at an organization and were scolded by a
supervisor. If you tried again, you
might get a different supervisor.
Or you could volunteer at a different organization. Or maybe you tutored a child and the
child behaved badly. You could ask
to tutor a different child, or a different age of child. Or maybe even give the same child
On the other hand, you may find that you want to look for a completely
different way to help others, one more suited to your personality.
Do some brainstorming with your mentor about ways to help others that fit your
personality. You may want to read
Chapter 10 first, to find out how much you are doing already. Enough may be enough. If you are being a good parent, you are
making a very positive difference in the world. If you are working outside the home,
does your job make a positive difference in people’s lives? Be realistic about how much you can
do. Ask your mentor for advice.
What kinds of things keep you from helping others? Ask your mentor for suggestions on
alternative ways to help. Here are
a couple of examples to get you started.
If you’re afraid to stop and help a stranded motorist, maybe you
could call the highway patrol instead.
If you don’t have time to volunteer at an organization, maybe you
could send some money instead, or vice versa.
Do you take yourself too seriously sometimes? Do you have trouble accepting criticism,
even when it is honestly meant to be constructive and helpful? Try to think of a time when you’ve
reacted with anger and hurt to something that could have been an opportunity
for growth. If it was recent enough
that it still rankles, all the better.
Discuss the event with your mentor.
Oklahoma City, Columbine, and 9-11:
The Problem of Catastrophic
Anyone who isn't a complete hermit is faced from time to time with the problem
of catastrophic evil in the news. I
remember driving to work on September 11, 2001, and turning on the radio. It was a beautiful, clear, crisp fall
morning in Colorado. As the unbelievable story of the
terrorist attack poured out of my car radio, I looked around at the other cars
on the highway and wondered if those drivers were as stunned as I was. Of course they were. I remember thinking, "Damn. If I hadn't turned on the radio, this
would still be a beautiful day."
I’m sure you remember that morning vividly as well. And there are probably many other events
that stand out as clearly. The Columbine shootings, the Oklahoma City bomb, violence that turned your
stomach and wrung your heart. As
the cliché says, you will always remember where you were when you heard
Though there have always been such stories in the news, it seems that in the
second half of the 1990s they came harder and faster than ever before. I'm not sure how I would have managed
without the Lady's gentle voice and listening ear. She didn't explain evil to me, but she
gave me advice and hope. Her advice
in every case was to do something, no matter how small, to make the world a
* * * * *
It is entirely possible that by the time you read this book, some new horrible
event that I can’t imagine now is unfolding in the news, or in your own
personal life. If so, talk to your
mentor. Pour out your horror and
your grief. Then pause and listen.
Your mentor may tell you that she too is grieving. She may have some words of explanation
about the roots of the horror. She
may have suggestions about some small acts you can do to help, like donating
money or blood or rescue supplies, or writing letters to the newspaper. She may suggest some way in which you
can work against hate in your own corner of the world.
If no such event is twisting your gut at the moment, you may want to let this
chapter go for a while. But if you
still want to address catastrophic evil, the following questions may give you
the first news story you can remember that made you lose sleep? How old were you? Do you remember any news stories that
shook you out of your childhood, and made you aware of a larger and more
frightening world than the one you had known?
news story felt like a defining moment for your generation? When I asked this question in my family,
my mother mentioned Pearl Harbor, I thought of the Kennedy assassination, and
my children thought of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Oklahoma City bomb, and the Columbine
massacre. Besides answering this
question for yourself, you may want to ask members of your own family for their
responses as well.
going to list several news events.
Most of them are horrific, though I have included a few good news
stories too, for balance. Select
one or more of the following, or select some other event that’s not on
the list. Write about where you
were when you heard the news. What
do you remember about that day? How
did you react? How did other people
react? How did you find
comfort? How did you share your
feelings with others?
. the bombing of Pearl Harbor
. the Cuban missile crisis
. the assassination of John F. Kennedy
. the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
. the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy
. the fall of Saigon and the end of the
. the murder of the Israeli Olympians in 1972
. Watergate and the resignation of Richard
. the return of the American hostages from
Lebanon and Iran
. the explosion of the Challenger space
. the fall of the Berlin Wall
. the destruction of the compound at Waco
. the Oklahoma City
. the murder of Matthew Shepard
. the massacre at Columbine
. the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001
. the explosion of the Columbia
. other events more recent than the
the news stories you selected, how did they change you? How did they change society? Did anything good come of them? Did you learn anything new from
them? As a small example, on the
evening of September 11, 2001, I was startled by the long lines at the gas
stations, twenty cars long at every station in town. I learned something
interesting about human nature that night, about fear and helpless anger and
the strange things it can lead to.
going on in the world now that disturbs you? Looking back at your answers to the
previous questions, how do you think it might change you? How will it change the world? Is there hope for anything positive to
come out of it? What are you
learning from it? Discuss it
with your mentor.
· Evil doesn't have to be a big news story to be catastrophic
for the person experiencing it. A
mugging, robbery or other crime can be devastating. You may be experiencing injustice at
work or in the legal system. If you
are the victim of such a situation, ask your mentor for advice about how to
Fighting the Demons
God can be said to speak through a still small voice within, but that's not the
only voice you can listen to.
Unitarian Universalists don't often speak of demons. And yet, if you don't take them too
seriously, they can be a useful symbol or metaphor for those inner voices that
tempt us to anxiety and anger.
When I first discussed with the Lady the idea of choosing a face for my own
inner demon of anxiety and worry, she advised me not to make it too scary. You fight the demons best by laughing at
them. So I chose Mistress Flurry, a
character from the Pogo comic strip by Walt Kelly. She was a dismal old woman in the guise
of a crow, dressed in somber black, with a big poke bonnet and a crooked
umbrella. She appeared in a poem
that began, "Mistress Flurry likes to worry." She's been a great symbol for me. When I get to stewing, Terl will say,
"I think Mistress Flurry is getting to you." It's even added a new verb to my
family's vocabulary: flurrying.
When I catch myself flurrying, I say out loud, "Mistress Flurry,
leave me alone!" And she
usually does, at least for a while..
We are most likely to be doing evil when we think we are rooting evil out of
other people. That's why I think
the best and safest place you can fight the "demons" is within
* * * * *
Do you ever catch yourself obsessing over something, worrying about things over
which worrying does no good? Do you
nurse anger long after the quarrel is over? Is there an inner voice putting you
down? You're not a good enough
parent, or housekeeper, or worker?
Sometimes that inner voice can be productive, when it spurs us to make
positive changes. But more often
it's unrealistic. Once we've taken
the ordinary precautions of fastening our seatbelts and watching out for other
cars, we should be able to drive without imagining terrible wrecks at every
Give a face and a name to that nagging voice. You may have already done something
similar in the Bloody Bones chapter.
But this face should be something less scary than those horrific images
might have been. Make it something
you can mock. Feel free to borrow a
character from the comics, as I did, or from a book or movie or TV show. It should be dismal but laughable at the
same time. Gloomy Eeyore, or
Puddleglum the Marsh Wiggle from Narnia, or the Wicked Witch of the West
("what a world, what a world!") come to mind. The book The Phantom Tollbooth,
by Norton Juster, has a great comic demon called the Terrible Trivium.
You may want to choose more than one character: one for the obsessions over
past hurts, one for worries about the future, and maybe one for the inner
critic. As Susan did, you might
want to give a name to other inner demons like her pain monster. On the other hand, I use one name for
all the times unwanted, obsessive thoughts intrude.
It may be enough just to name the demon, and tell it to go away when it gets
too noisy. If you need more ideas
for dealing with it, the following may help.
· As you did for your mentor, find or make
a representation of your inner demon(s).
If it is a borrowed character, you should be able to find a picture. If you make up a character, draw a
picture or make a statue or mask.
Just be sure it's more comical than scary.
· Find a symbolic tool or weapon to fight
the demons of worry and obsession.
You can buy or make something new if you like, but it may be better to
find something you already have around the house and use in your daily
life. That way, you will be able to
remind yourself to shoo away the demons every time you use the tool. I did some brainstorming and came up
with a list of ideas for symbolic weapons.
The more lighthearted and silly you can make this exercise, the
better. Here are some ideas:
. Use a broom to sweep away those pesky demons. You can use your everyday kitchen broom,
or make a fun witch's broom out of twigs from your garden. You can also shoo demons away with a
feather duster, a paper fan, or a flyswatter. Whap!
. Use a flashlight to scare them away.
Demons like darkness and secrecy, and the more you bring them to light
the less power they have.
. Make a magic wand. You can glue a crystal to the end of a
branch, and add feathers for a shamanistic-looking wand. A buckeye glued to the other end is a
nice finishing touch. Or make a
fairy wand of tinsel and glitter.
Go to a party store for ideas.
. Get a letter opener in the form
of a fantasy sword, or buy a toy plastic or wooden sword, or even a real
fantasy sword. Or designate your
favorite kitchen knife or garden machete.
En garde, you demon!
. Use a special pen or font when
attacking the demons of worry, to let them know you mean business.
. Wear a protective amulet. This can be a pendant on a necklace in the
form of a cross or ankh or other religious symbol, or maybe a crystal. I myself don't believe that amulets have
magical powers, but they can be potent reminders not to listen to demons.
. Use an icon of your mentor as a
. Find a bell or noisemaker you can
use to chase those demons away.
· You may prefer a virtual, imaginary
weapon or tool, something that exists only in your writing. You can let your imagination go wild
here: flaming swords and crystal shields, golden fairy dust, wizardly
fireballs, force fields and circles of protection. Have fun! Write a detailed description of your
magical tool, or draw a picture.
· If you are keeping your journal using a
computer, an ASCII picture (made of typed characters) of your defensive tool
might be fun. Paste it into your
computer journal any time you feel it is necessary. If you don't feel artistic, there are
many, many ASCII pictures available on the Internet. Or you could give your tool a name, and
call it by name in your journal as needed. I have made up a few primitive ASCII
pictures which I will include here to give you some ideas. You are welcome to use them or improve
on them. Because I'm right-handed
I've drawn them to be used with the right hand, but you could easily reverse
.&. %%%% .&.
.&&. %(**)% .&&.
@ / \ @
* * *
* * *
* * * #=*=*=*===================@
* * *
* * *
---<>=<>=<>=YOUR SWORD'S NAME
· The most important part of fighting the
demons is to recognize them and name them.
When you realize that you're stewing needlessly over the past or the
future, call the demon by name and tell it stop. "Mistress Flurry, leave me
alone!" This alone will often do the trick. But you can take a swipe at her with
your weapon for good measure. You
can do this either physically (which is silly enough to make stewing difficult)
or in your imagination. Ask your
mentor to be with you, and to bring her broom too (or her flaming sword, or
whatever she's likely to wield.)
You may want to write a description of the "battle" in your
· Make up or borrow a mocking song, a
spoken charm, or absurd threat that you can use to chase the demon away. Again, the more lighthearted and silly,
the better. A student once told me
that his four-foot-eleven-inch mother used to stand on a stool to scold her
six-foot sons. When they were
misbehaving, she'd threaten them with "Don't make me get my
stool!" You could substitute
the name of your weapon:
"Don't make me get my feather duster!" One of my favorite absurd threats comes
from The Wizard of Oz:
"Begone, before somebody drops a house on you too!"
· The next time you deal with someone who
seems evil to you, talk to your mentor about using the opportunity to fight the
evil within your own heart.
You will want to do something positive in the world to counter that
external evil, as I discussed in the previous chapter. But you may also want to ask yourself if
you yourself ever do anything that is in any way similar.
For example, if you are struggling against prejudice in the world around you,
ask yourself if there are any groups against whom you yourself have a
prejudice. One of my in-laws is a
self-proclaimed "right-wing gun nut and Christian
fundamentalist." It took me a
long time to get past that label and discover that there was much that I really
liked about him.
As another example, if you are horrified by an act of violence, make it a
reminder to treat others with extra kindness, and not to give in to
exasperation and sharp words.
When you find yourself facing evil, ask your mentor to help you fight it in the
most effective place, which is within yourself. It does make a difference in the larger
· Remember that you give demons power by
paying too much attention to them.
One way to give your mentor more power over them is to use positive
visualization, as described in the journal entries above. When you are worrying about something,
try imagining a positive, successful outcome. Even if you turn out to be wrong, you
won’t have grieved longer than was necessary. And if you are right, you won’t
have grieved at all.
Ghosts from the Past:
How to Perform an Exorcism
Being able to stop the demons in their tracks is a useful skill. Sometimes just recognizing them is
enough to send them fleeing for a while.
But often, the broom or the flaming sword is only a temporary
solution. To be truly free from the
ghosts, we have to perform an exorcism.
Now and then I find myself in tears over something that happened ten, twenty,
thirty or even forty years ago, some small unkindness that should have been
forgotten the day after it happened.
I've been able to put many of those things away for good by writing
about them in the right way.
If your ghosts are truly horrific, if you are a victim of physical or sexual
abuse, for example, you may require some professional help in laying those
ghosts to rest. But even then, I
believe the suggestions in this chapter may be helpful for you.
One way to let go of past conflicts is to try to get inside the other person's
mind, to understand clearly what motivations led to the action. You may find that your mentor can help
you do that.
Sometimes you wish you could say something to someone who has died, apologize
or say "I love you" when it's too late. But it's never really too late.
* * * * *
Is there some old memory that comes back to haunt you in the middle of the
night, something you try unsuccessfully to suppress? In the "Bloody Bones" chapter,
you faced some of your darkest fears, and found out that you were strong enough
not to run away anymore. You can
make haunting memories lose some of their power in the same way, by facing them
with open eyes. You may find, like
Susan and Roger, that just writing about them is enough. Getting them onto paper can put them
somewhere besides the haunted graveyards of your mind.
On the other hand, you may wish, like Cathy did, to talk them over with your
mentor. Or you may want to address
someone from the memory, the way I did with Lindsey. If you're not sure how you want to approach
this writing, the following questions and ideas may be helpful.
* * * * *
· Is there some old hurt that comes back
to haunt you unexpectedly? Do you
find yourself in tears over something that happened years ago? Tell your mentor about it. Explain who hurt you, and how it still
· Without excusing the person who did the
harm, have your mentor gently explain that person's motivations. What was the person thinking at the
time? Have your mentor remind
you of a time when you may have done anything comparable to someone else, not
to blame, but to aid understanding.
If the person is still alive and available for contact, have your mentor
help you decide whether to write a real letter to the person and send it, or
whether that would be counter-productive.
· Write a letter to the person who hurt
you, explaining in detail how you were hurt. Mention what you have learned from your
mentor that helped you to understand.
If your mentor thinks you should really send the letter, do so, but only
after very careful thought and revision.
It may be better to keep the letter and imagine a reply; if the person
is likely to hurt you again, you may get a more healing reply from your own
· Imagine becoming that person. Read the letter that was sent to you,
and try for the first time to understand the hurt you have caused. Try to remember what you were thinking
at the time. Was it a
misunderstanding, or was there really bad feeling at the root of what
happened? Write an honest apology,
explaining your actions but not excusing them.
· Read the apology, imagining that
it really came from the person who hurt you. You may have to exchange a few more
letters before the issue feels resolved. It also is helpful to pray for the
person to be blessed. Read Chapter
12 for more information.
It may be that after doing this exercise, you will feel comfortable approaching
the person in real life, without the old anger to get in the way, and be able
to make peace. If the person is
dead or otherwise unavailable, at least you will have found peace in your
· Is there a person you have
hurt? If at all possible, write a
real apology and send it. If that person is no longer available to you, write
the apology anyway. You may want to
write a reply from the person, or ask God to deliver your message. Praying for the person to be blessed
will help too.
· Is there something you need to
hear from someone? For example, did
you have a parent or spouse or other family member who could never say "I
love you"? If the person is
still available, it may be enough to tell them outright what you need;
sometimes they don't know without being told. But if the person is dead, or
still unable to accommodate you, try writing a letter from that person to you. If you believe that the person did love
you but was just unable to express it, explain that in the letter.
· Sometimes a person is unfortunate enough
to have had a parent who really did not love them. If you feel that is true of you, try
writing a letter to yourself from an imaginary parent, the parent you wish you
had. It may be that your mentor is
already such a figure. If you have
done the exercises in chapter 4, you have probably already done something like
this exercise. But take a conscious
moment now to invent for yourself an ideal parent, and write a letter to
yourself from that loving parent. Or another way of putting it
would be that you can be your own parent.
The exercise in chapter 4 about writing a letter to your past self is a
way of giving yourself the love you deserve.
Swimming in Grief:
Coming Safely to Shore
There’s a story told of the Buddha, about a young woman who came to him
after her little boy died. She
wanted the Buddha to bring her son back to life. The Buddha told her to bring him a
handful of mustard seed from a house where no one had ever died. The woman went from house to house, but
every family she talked to had lost someone. Eventually the woman came to realize
that no one escapes grief, and to accept the death of her child.
All of us have felt the agony of grief at one time or another. It may be one of the great griefs, the
loss of a parent, spouse or child.
But griefs that may seem smaller to outsiders can still hurt: the loss
of a more distant relative, a friend, or a pet. Sometimes we grieve other losses besides
death. A best friend may move away,
a relationship may break up. A job
loss or failure on an exam can cause grief as well. And I have already written about the
grief we share over terrible world events.
Grief is one of the most painful things a human being can experience. “Heartache" is more than a
metaphor. Sometimes when I'm
grieving, there's a real physical pain in my chest.
What I’ve learned from grieving is that it hurts like hell, but with time
it does get better, if I only have the faith to believe that it will. But I have to let myself feel it before
it can heal.
In the journal examples, you will see some entries addressed to the mentor,
some to the person or pet that is being mourned.
* * * * *
If you’re not grieving now, this chapter may be one you can let go until
you need it. When the time comes,
write to your mentor about it, and then you may want to write to the person or
pet you are mourning, and write what they would say to you. If you want to address some old griefs,
the following questions and ideas may help you get started.
· What was your first grief? How old were you? Try to remember how you felt; describe
physical sensations if you can.
· How old
were you when your first pet died?
What do you remember about how you felt?
· How old were you when you first
experienced the death of someone you knew?
Who was it? Did you attend a
memorial service? If so, did it
help you? What do you remember
about how you felt to have known someone who died?
· How old were you when you first
experienced the death of someone you loved? Who was it? Did you attend a memorial service? If so, did it help you? What do you remember about how you felt
losing someone you loved? How long
did it take before the first sharp grief faded?
· What other griefs do you remember from
your childhood? Did a best friend
move away? Did you lose a beloved
toy? Did your parents divorce?
· Describe other losses in your life. These might be the loss of people you
loved, or of pets. They might also
be other kinds of losses: a relationship that broke up, or a goal you were
unable to reach.
· What was the greatest grief you have
ever experienced? Describe your
feelings at the time, and how you feel now remembering. Pay especial attention to how the
feelings have changed with time.
· What was your most recent grief? Is the pain still sharp, or has it faded
· Choose a grief that still feels
raw. If it the loss of a person (or
a pet) you are grieving, write a letter to the person, pouring out your
longing. Write what you remember
about the person, especially funny or sweet moments whose memory you
cherish. Then sit quietly,
imagining the person sitting in front of you, or beside you.
· Imagine what the person would say to you
now. Write a letter from your loved
one to yourself, offering comfort and consolation.
The Meaning of Life:
Making a Difference
There’s only one kind of afterlife I have any certainty of. That's the fact that everything we do
makes a difference in the world around us, for good or ill. When I start feeling death looking over
my shoulder, I ask the Lady for reassurance that even if my name is forgotten
when I'm gone, I will somehow have made a positive difference in the world.
The difference doesn’t have to be a big one. Edward Everett Hale, the
nineteenth-century Unitarian minister and author of The Man Without a
Country, wrote: “I am only one but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can
do something. And because I cannot
do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
* * * * *
Think of times when you've made a difference in other people's lives. It might be something as small at
smiling at a stranger, or something as big as raising a child. Record those times in your journal,
keeping in mind that small acts of kindness can ripple through the
universe. My student Connie became
a social worker, and went on to help others. You never know how far your actions will
reverberate, but if you're lucky, sometimes years later, someone will come back
to tell you.
What kinds of things do you do that make a positive difference in the
world? Make a list. You may be surprised at all you do. Here are some ideas to get you started:
· Do you volunteer your time with
any organizations that help others? This includes not only charitable
organizations, but your church, environmental groups, public television and
radio, political groups, etc.
· Do you give money to any organizations
that help others?
· Are you a parent, or a mentor for
· Do you shovel snow for an elderly
neighbor? What other things do you
do to help your neighbors and friends?
· Do you pick up trash in public
areas? Do you recycle?
· Do you participate in political
· Do you write letters to your
representatives, or to the editor of the newspaper?
· Do you send cards or letters or e-mails
to your friends when they have joys or concerns?
· Do you provide a sympathetic listener
for a friend who needs one?
· List other things you do. They don't have to be big things. Smiling at a weary salesclerk counts.
· Have your mentor respond to your list,
and tell you how the things you do impact other people.
· If you have never seen the movie A
Wonderful Life, rent or buy it and watch it. How would the lives of people around you
be impoverished if you had never been born?
Fictional and Historical
One of the most entertaining and rewarding aspects of the type of journal
writing I've been describing is the opportunity to receive letters from
interesting people. These people
may be historical figures or characters from fiction, people in the news or
even entertainers we're interested in.
If the mentor you've chosen is a famous person, you've already had
experience with this sort of correspondence.
* * * * *
Look back at the list you made in Chapter 1. If you like, add a few more names. These names to not necessarily have to
be people you admire or would choose for mentors. You may want to talk to villains as
well. Choose one or more of the
names from your expanded list. If
you like, do a little research about the person. If it is a historical figure, read a
biography. If it is a mythological
character, read the myths in which the character appears. As you did with your mentor and your
inner demons, you may want to find a picture of this person to look at as you
Write a letter to the person, explaining why you think she is interesting, and
why you want to correspond with her.
Is there some connection you feel between her life and your own? Is there something you’ve learned
from her, or would like to learn?
Is there something you’d like to offer this person, such as the
comfort of knowing that her life made a difference in history? Write a reply from the interesting
You may find the following ideas helpful.
· Write a letter to your future
self. Imagine yourself ten or twenty
years from now. What would your
future self find interesting about your present life? What about yourself do you expect to
remain the same? What do you expect
to change? If you like, try
writing a reply. Instead, you may
want to put this letter somewhere safe, and plan to reply to it in that future
· If you are single and do not
currently have a romantic relationship, write a letter to your future
spouse. (I use the word
“spouse” to indicate a domestic partner.) Speculate about what your spouse might
be like. Realize that this person
really exists somewhere out there in the world, and that your paths just
haven’t crossed yet (or maybe they have!) Again, you may or may not want to write
a reply. It might be more fun to
save the letter until you do have a spouse, and share it then.
· This is a modification of the
above exercise. A friend of mine
who never married speculated that one of the young soldiers killed in Vietnam might
have been the man who was destined to be her spouse, but that his death
intervened before they were ever able to meet. If you are in a similar situation, you
may want to write a letter to the spouse you would have had if tragedy had not
come between you. Write a reply
from the person.
· Write a letter to your child or
grandchild or more distant descendant.
This could be a real person as you imagine her in the future, or someone
yet unborn. You might want to write
a reply, or maybe save the letter with instructions that it be opened at a
· Suppose that someone generations
from now becomes aware of you and wants to know more about you. This person may or may not be a direct
descendant. It may be someone who
has found your journal, or read some of your professional work, or has read a
newspaper story about you. Write a
letter from that person to you, asking questions about your life. Then answer the letter.
· Make a time capsule and hide it
somewhere in your house or yard.
What should go into it? What
would someone from the future find interesting about our time? You might also want to make a time
capsule for yourself or your children, and keep it somewhere you’ll
· Write a letter from your mentor
explaining that she will be coming to town incognito. She should tell you to keep an eye out
for her during the day; maybe she will be the homeless person you pass on the
street, or the janitor, or the grocery store cashier, or the receptionist.
· After reading the letter from your
mentor, follow its directions.
Throughout the day, look at each stranger you pass as though that person
might be extra special. At the end
of the day, talk over the experience with your mentor. Were there any people you saw who seemed
especially likely candidates? What
happened when you met them? Did you
exchange words, or only a glance or maybe a smile?
· Think of the different facets of
your own personality as being different people. Give them names, and let them talk to
· Go through a Tarot deck and select one
or more cards that seem to relate to your current joys and/or concerns. If you do not have a Tarot deck, you can
find pictures of the cards online or in a library book. If you are not comfortable with Tarot
cards, you may prefer an art book or other source of pictures. Write about how the picture addresses
your joy or concern. Write a reply
from characters who appear in the picture.
· Repeat the above exercise, only
this time, pick one or more cards or pictures at random.
After about ten years of writing letters to and from the Lady, I had come to
equate the act of prayer with the feel of the keyboard beneath my fingers. Then disaster struck. My faithful word processor gave up the
It was not compatible with any other computer; ten disks full of novels, poems
and journals were rendered unreadable.
Fortunately, I had hard copies of most of it, but I still found myself
grieving. One of the losses I felt
most keenly was my intimate link to the Lady through those well-worn keys.
In time I bought a laptop. But in
the meantime I began paying more attention to the internal process of prayer. How about just listening without
writing? I discovered that by
putting myself in that familiar frame of mind, I could hear that inner voice without
any external tools.
* * * * *
(and non-writing) suggestion
Put away your pen, notebook, computer, or whatever tools you use to write. Close your eyes, and put yourself in the
frame of mind you've become familiar with when you write your letters to and
from your mentor(s). Speak directly
to your mentor(s), either silently or aloud. Listen carefully for the answer in the
same way you would if you were writing.
Put it into words, even if you're not writing them down. You may also have a visual or a tactile
response, a smile or a hug. The
exchange will probably be very short.
When it is finished, record it in your journal. You may not remember it word-for-word,
but record as much as you can.
You may also wish to try the following suggestions.
· Pray for a blessing upon your family, friends and
enemies. One-by-one, imagine them
bathed in a light that's like a shower of gold. As it washes over them, it transforms
them, bringing joy and peace. Don't
forget to imagine a similar blessing for yourself.
· String four groups of seven beads,
separated by four large beads.
You may choose any coloring scheme you like. You could chose black for the large
beads, to represent the quiet and dark of meditation. The “Sacred” beads might be
green, the “Joys” beads might be yellow, the “Concerns”
beads might be blue, and the “Love” beads might be red. You may prefer to use rainbow colors for
each group of seven, and beads with letters on them (S, J, C and L) for the
large beads. (This is similar to
the arrangement described by Casebolt.)
Or if you like, make a set of Moon Beads: let the first seven be white or
pearly to represent the full moon, the second seven silver to represent the
half moon, the third black to represent the new moon, and the last four silver
again. You can select large beads
of matching colors, or skip the large beads altogether, letting the colors of
the beads be enough to separate the sections.
Note: There is
nothing magical about having seven beads per section, unless you want to use
them to recite the Seven Principles, or to represent the days of a month. You might want more or fewer beads per
section. The four sections remind
me of other things besides the four kinds of prayer, such as the four directions
and the four seasons. If you were
to use thirteen beads per section, each bead could represent one week of the
year, and the four large beads could be the solstices and equinoxes. When the circle of beads is laid out, it
looks like a medicine wheel or a mandala.
· Enter the sacred space: On
the first large bead, ask your mentor to be with you on this journey. On the first section, name seven things
that give you a shivery feeling that you are in the presence of the Sacred. They can be places, objects in nature,
art or music, or relationships with other people, anything that feels holy to
you. They might even be the Seven
Principles! When you get to the
large bead at the end of the section, pause and listen for the voice of your
mentor. Spend a moment in quiet
· Name your joys: On the
second group of seven beads, name seven things you are thankful for. If you
picture your mentor as God, direct your thanks to her. In any case, ask her to share in your
joy. As before, pause on the large
bead and listen for a response.
· Name your concerns: On the
third group of seven beads, name seven things you'd like to do better in your
life. Ask your mentor to help you
improve. You can also use this section to name things you are worried about,
and ask your mentor to help you figure out how to solve the problems that are
troubling you. Again, when you get
to the large bead, pause and listen.
You may get some concrete suggestions.
· Share your love: On the fourth group of seven beads, send
your good wishes to seven people (including yourself), or to seven categories
of people. Visualize each person
bathed in a golden light. See the
person looking up into the light with an expression of utter joy. On the large bead, pause and listen to
your mentor. You may find that the
mentor suggests something else you can do to help one or more of the people you
prayed for, beyond your prayer. Try
to follow up on the suggestion.
Note: As an example of seven categories of
people, I often pray for the following:
in sickness and poverty
in captivity and danger
for our leaders
If you would like other ideas for ways to use prayer beads, do a Google search
on "Unitarian Universalist prayer beads" or "Anglican prayer
beads" or just "prayer beads”. I have a website called
“Karen’s Prayer Beads” at
Whatever the objective truth may be, whether the Lady is a face of God or just
a part of myself, or both, she has given me as much support as any human friend
could do. She is always there for
me, whenever I need her, and I love her.
I hope that through the exercises in this book, you too have found a friend to
stick with you when times get tough, to share in your joys when you want to
celebrate, to help you chew on the age-old questions that make life so fragile
and so precious.
If you have tried the exercises, and would like to contribute some of your
writings to future editions of this book, please send me an e-mail at email@example.com. I would love to hear from you.