I notice a recursive mindset here in Uganda, particularly in my village, whenever any individual is faced with an obstacle or a challenge. The mantras “God will provide” or “God is with you” are commonplace when comforting someone enduring any type of illness or financial struggle. This mental practice has often rubbed me the wrong way, since whenever anyone accomplishes something, whether it is graduating from school or watching a loved one recover from an illness after being treated in a hospital, they say it is because of God. I always felt this strips people of their agency and their ability to take pride in their hard-earned accomplishments, or appreciating the hard work and dedication of others who facilitate the resolution of such ills that life throws our way.
But that’s just it, isn’t it? These are situations that life gives to us, and I believe that. They are part of the ongoing orchestration of challenges and triumphs that the universe ushers into our lives – whether you perceive them as random acts of chaos or premeditated, divine interventions – and I believe every event, every act, every moment, is all part of something greater than our physical, mental and emotional Selves, as great as those Selves may be (and they really are great aren’t they?). The pervading belief here in Uganda that God is in control and is responsible for facets of the unfoldment of existence is actually completely compatible with my own belief system. While I cannot wrap my mind around the existence of a male God who presides over a world where women are the creators of life, I do believe in the ultimate Spirit that unites each and every one of us with each other and with every molecule of time and space.
We are the sons and daughters of Creation, and She loves us with her entire being.
So when challenges arise, it is important to tap into our own spiritual path and practice, something that I have lost sight of these last 6 months. The mere act of trusting that the universe is conspiring in our favor, that we are in full control of our actions but there is much in this realm of existence that is beyond our control, and it is those elements of life that are always the most beautiful, the most powerful, the most inspiring, the most perspective-shifting. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings back home will use the mantra “Give it to God.” I call it surrendering to the beauty of the universe. She is speaking to us from every direction – we just have to learn to listen. And I believe this is the quintessential nature of spiritual practice.
Last month I almost lost my mother, my Creator. After three days in the ICU the doctors suggested that her son make his way across the world from Uganda to be with the rest of the family as soon as possible. I booked a plane ticket and 24 hours later I was jetting across the planet, in my mind, to say goodbye to my mother. All I could do was trust that the doctors in the hospital were doing everything they could, that my family was comforting her and each other with all the love they have in their hearts, and that the universe was, indeed, conspiring in my Creator’s favor. I arrived in Sacramento, went to the hospital, saw the frail figure that my mother had been reduced to (remember that scene in The Matrix when Neo gets unplugged and wakes up in a vat of goo with a million tubes in his veins and throat? Yeah…), walked to her bed, held her hand, and somehow, by some grace, I watched her begin to improve right then and there. She got a little better each day, and is now perfectly fine and well on her way to recovery in the comfort of her own home. The Universe provided, didn’t it?
The stresses of such a family crisis coupled with crippling stress over my work environment, my social life and my professional future have consistently gotten the best of me for almost 2 months now. But I keep forgetting how loudly the Universe is speaking to me, and that all I have to do is listen. It comes in symbols, in signs, in songs, in synchronicities, in symbiotic moments with those around me. It comes in waves of joy and waves of sorrow. It comes in lessons from the past and dreams of the future. It comes from the very minds and mouths of those I am blessed enough to know in my life.
It came in the form of an incessant barrage of well wishes for my mother and me from all corners of the globe – literally. It came in the form of Ryan and Rachel reminding me that I should give myself “a lot of grace” in pushing through tough times, and reminding me how much I can impact people’s lives with my loving energy alone. It came in the form of Sierra reminding me every day and night that love is more important than any of life’s challenges, and that in one person’s beautiful eyes, I am the most wonderful human being alive. It came in the form of an email from the unparalleled Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith of the Agape International Spiritual Center sitting in my inbox this morning:
“As I reminded the gathering at Agape, you have a mind but you’re not your mind. I emphasized that many of the thoughts that chronically run through our mind are merely habit, but they are not our identity.
The challenge is that many people believe that the thoughts of the mind are who they are. When we begin to have the insight that those thoughts- many of which express anxiety, worry, doubt and fear- are not who we are, but simply habits, then we are on our way to freedom.
I invite you to do two things this week. One, whenever you catch your mind going on a habitual rant of negativity and self doubt, stop and say “that is not me!” Then breathe and become alert to a wonderful quality that you possess. Secondly, there is nothing more potent than meditation as a practice.
Perhaps today is the day to start your practice or deepen your practice if you already have one.”
We are often our own worst enemies. Even when life brings something beautiful to us, we are often so bogged down in our own negative thought patterns to fully appreciate what is happening. Breaking from those habits and embracing the Love that unites all of existence can often seem like an insurmountable task, but it is well within reach, because we are all, each and every one of us, here on this earth in a human body to love, respect, honor, heal, trust, and teach each other, while always being open to the wisdom whispering to us from everywhere we are. The beauty of whatever Spirit you identify with is all around us, and it is guiding us through. We just have to listen. There is no such thing as coincidence. My mother did not just happen to pull through, I did not just happen to have to travel unexpectedly back to California, I did not just happen to be placed in Bujagali Uganda, I did not just happen to find Global Health Corps, and I did not just happen to wake up this morning with these thoughts floating through my mind.
We are all working together in the ongoing manifestation of something truly brilliant. Let’s play our part.
The next time a Ugandan says to me “God will provide,” I will smile warmly and in that moment, offer a prayer to the universe to help ensure that She does, in fact, provide.
Amen to that.
Celebrating two of the best things in California – great burgers and a healthy new momma 🙂