Belief

 

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~ Hwy 395 near Bishop, California

 

“You wouldn’t believe what once or twice I have seen.”

~ Mary Oliver

Good morning friends,

First, I want to invite everyone and anyone to my zoom conversation this evening at 5:30pm PST. Here is the info:

Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/180526589

Meeting ID: 180-526-589

Just a reminder, you are welcome to attend regardless of how much you’d like to actually engage. Listeners are welcome. This week the questions we will begin with are:

  • Do you have a story of repairing a friendship?
  • Do you have a story of light shining on you? (define light in this case however you like)
  • Is there something in your life that if you were to believe it, or in it with confidence, would change your life for the better?

However, this conversation will allow for a great deal of freedom regarding the direction it takes.

Today’s email will focus on the subject of belief. We’ll begin by exploring belief in terms of athletic performance and goals (in a way that I think can be applied to any field). I share my own observations, and also those of Alex Hutchinson from his excellent book, Endure. Mary Oliver will advise us to keep our eyes open to the “unbelievable” with her poem, “The World I Live In.” Next, I will explain the strategy of visualization and offer some guidelines for establishing your own visualization routine. Then, we’ll return to Alex Hutchinson for his explanation of “belief effects” in sport. I hope you enjoy Yann Martel’s stunning (to me) exploration of religious belief from his classic, Life Of Pi. We will conclude with a short film that is a story (if you read the essay Levels of Belief you will understand), and the song “Never Say Never” by The Fray.

The Writing: Alex Hutchinson (from “Endure”)

“On a frigid Saturday night in the university town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, in February 1996, I was pondering – yet again – one of the great enigmas of endurance: John Landy. The stocky Australian is one of the most famous bridesmaids in sport, the second man in history to run a sub-four-minute mile…

But Landy’s enigma isn’t that he wasn’t quite good enough. It’s that he clearly was. In pursuit of the record, he had run 4:02 on six different occasions, and eventually declared, ‘Frankly, I think the four minute mile is beyond my capabilities. Two seconds may not sound like much, but to me it’s like trying to break a brick wall.’ Then, less than two months after Bannister blazed the trail, Landy ran 3:57.9, cleaving almost four seconds off his previous best and finishing 15 yards ahead of four-minute pace – a puzzlingly rapid, and bittersweet, transformation.

Like many milers before me and since, I was a Bannister disciple, with a creased and nearly memorized copy of his autobiography in permanent residence on my bedside table; but in that winter of 1996 I was seeing more and more Landy when I looked in the mirror. Since the age of fifteen, I’d been pursuing my own, lesser four-minute barrier – for 1500 meters, a race that’s about 17 seconds shorter than a mile. I ran 4:02 in high school, and then, like Landy, hit a wall, running similar times again and again and again over the next four years. Now, as a twenty-one year old Junior at McGill University, I was starting to face the possibility that I’d squeezed out every second my body had to offer. During the long bus ride from Montreal to Sherbrooke, where my teammates and I were headed for a meaningless early-season race on one of the slowest tracks in Canada, I remember staring out the window into the swirling snow and wondering if my long-sought moment of Landy-esque transformation would ever arrive…

Sherbrooke track… [had] banks so steep that most sprinters couldn’t run in the outside lanes without tumbling inward. For middle distance runners like me, even the inside lane was ankle-creakingly awkward; races longer than a mile had to be held on the warm-up loop around the inside of the track.

To break four minutes, I would need to execute a perfectly calibrated run, pacing each lap just two-tenths of a second faster than my best time of 4:01.7. Sherbrooke, with its amusement-park track and an absence of good competition, was not the place for this supreme effort, I decided. Instead, I would run as easily as possible and save my energy for the following week. Then, in the race before mine, I watched my teammate Tambra Dunn sprint fearlessly to an enormous early lead in the women’s 1500, click off lap after metronomic lap all alone, and finish with a scorching personal best time that qualified her for the national collegiate championships. Suddenly my obsessive calculating and endless strategizing seemed ridiculous and overwrought. I was here to run a race; why not just run as hard as I could?…

This inescapable importance of pacing is why endurance athletes are obsessed with their splits. As John L. Parker Jr. wrote in his cult running classic, Once a Runner, ‘A runner is a miser, spending the pennies of his energy with great stinginess, constantly wanting to know how much he has spent and how much longer he will be expected to pay. He wants to be broke at precisely the moment he no longer needs his coin.’ In my race in Sherbrooke, I knew I needed to run each 200 meter lap in just under 32 seconds in order to break four minutes, and I had spent countless training hours learning the feel of this exact pace. So it was a shock, an eye-widening physical jolt to my system, to hear the timekeeper call out, as I completed my first circuit of the track, ‘Twenty-seven!’

The science of how we pace ourselves turns out to be surprisingly complex. You judge what’s sustainable based not only on how you feel, but on how that feeling compares to how you expected to feel at that point in the race. As I started my second lap, I had to reconcile two conflicting inputs: the intellectual knowledge that I had set off at a recklessly fast pace, and the subjective sense that I felt surprisingly, exhilaratingly good. I fought off the panicked urge to slow down, and came through the second lap in 57 seconds – and still felt good. Now I knew for sure that something special was happening.

As the race proceeded, I stopped paying attention to the split times. They were so far ahead of the 4:00 schedule I’d memorized that they no longer conveyed any useful information. I simply ran, hoping to reach the finish before the gravitational pull of reality reasserted its grip on my legs. I crossed the line in 3 minutes, 52.7 seconds, a personal best by a full nine seconds. In that one race , I’d improved more than my cumulative improvement since my first season of running, five years earlier. Poring through my training logs – as I did that night, and have many times since – revealed no hint of the breakthrough to come. My workouts suggested, at most, incremental gains compared to previous years.

After the race, I debriefed with a teammate who had timed my lap splits for me. His watch told a very different story of the race. My first lap had taken 30 seconds, not 27; my second lap was 60, not 57. Perhaps the lap counter calling the splits at the finish had started his watch three seconds late; or perhaps his effort to translate on the fly from French to English for my benefit had resulted in a delay of a few seconds. Either way, he’d misled me into believing that I was running faster than I really was, while feeling unaccountably good. As a result, I’d unshackled myself from my pre-race expectations and run a race nobody could have predicted.”

 

 

Levels of Belief: The Benefits of True Belief and How To Build It

Shannon Thompson (May 2018)

All things were suddenly possible; then what was possible became necessary.”     

 ~ Victor Price

     The first time that I noticed the power of true belief was in 1999. I was a working student for Pippa Funnell, a professional equestrian athlete in Great Britain. Up until this point, Pippa had certainly experienced her share of success. Highly competitive at some of the biggest competitions in the world, she was admired and well respected by her peers. Her stable was full of quality horses provided by confident sponsors. She ran a well-oiled and professional organization, and was by all definitions highly accomplished. There was a calm confidence about her stable. I don’t think anyone felt a pressing need for significant improvement or change.

     But, change there was. In the fall of 1999, Pippa became the European Champion. This was her first major win on the world stage, and the joy that it brought was palpable. In the weeks to follow the energy in our stable improved sharply. Pippa spent longer hours in the barn, rode more horses, and paid greater attention to her students. Most striking to me was the increased brightness about her, a sharpened focus in training, and a new playfulness. It was like a promise had been answered, her faith renewed, her purpose re-found. She had finally won something significant. The system she had built had worked. Now she truly believed in herself, when previously, and likely unknown to her, perhaps she hadn’t.

Years later, in 2005 when I won my first major equestrian competition, I experienced this for myself. Finally, I was not exempt from real achievement, even though I hadn’t realized that I’d ever believed that I was. My work too, could produce results. I could play this game; the promise of effort rewarded applied to me too. The world would respond to me. The world would respond.

Have you ever experienced this shift in your life? The revelation of true believing? Have you known the beautiful clarity that comes with this moment, and the sweet, sweet gratitude? Perhaps you felt it in yourself following graduation? Or you saw it in your spouse after being awarded that big promotion? Or you felt it from your child when she finally aced that test? If so, you’ll understand that the feeling that comes from this new level of belief is not conceit – it is joy, and it is relief. I’ve seen it make a person warmer, more generous, harder working, and more open to change. I’ve seen it sharply increase the frequency of further victories, even though arguably the competitor is still operating with the same level of skill. However, now their work is infused with a new magic – that of true belief. But clearly, it’s not magic that is responsible for the boost provided by belief. What is it then? What tangible (possibly measurable) changes occur from this shift?

The purpose of this article is to explore the beneficial elements of true belief, and to discuss how these benefits can be accessed with or without a transformative victory. We’ll begin by investigating how belief accelerates performance in four important ways: trust in oneself, joy in one’s craft, tolerance of errors, and willingness to change. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Trust in Oneself

True belief feels like validation from life that you belong in the world of your craft. The attainment of this is like being welcomed to add your particular harmony to the symphony of your field. It is like finally understanding that your notes are necessary for the music to flow with full beauty, and so you play without hesitation, and with elaboration, and with freedom – and so you play. I think the difference that true belief makes to your efforts is that now you play your notes without hesitation. You don’t pause to consider the worthiness of the chords, or what others will think about them, you just play. And you do so with sensitivity, you do so focused forward – your ear tuned for nuance, your senses hunt for timing – you respond with your melody, with your contribution, in balance with the notes of others, in unison with the song of the moment. Sin prisa, y sin pausa, no haste, no hesitation.

Science would call this form of engagement “flow state.” Termed as such by eminent psychologist, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, flow is described as an optimal experience. Frequently, the state of flow is credited with excellent performance in any field. Although the experience of flow is comprised by many characteristics, one can define it concisely as full attention on the task at hand. One important feature of flow state is the minimization of fear. When one’s attention is fully directed on the task at hand, there is less room in consciousness for fear thoughts. Therefore, flow is an effective performance state because it enables all of a person’s attention to be utilized for the performance itself.

Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I view the relationship between true belief and fear: true belief is a revelation at the deepest level of one’s capability. From this place true belief interacts with fears also held at the deepest level, and sometimes outside of conscious awareness. In my experience working with athletes, when something goes wrong (typically a poor performance or injury), their deepest fears about their ultimate potential are stirred. It’s not that one rough practice or disappointing race that is really upsetting to them. It’s what that practice or race suggests about their ultimate potential.

I’m confident that many of you understand what it’s like to fear that one mistake predicts worse consequences. Perhaps a weak presentation at work caused you to fear that your boss no longer respects you. Maybe losing your temper at your child once caused you to fear for your competency as a parent. The attainment of true belief can soothe these concerns and ease deep fears like few other salves. Thus, when true belief is experienced, a person can feel free to focus forward, and take on greater challenges – because their ultimate fear, that they are not capable, has been slain.

It’s easy to generalize this explanation across numerous domains. Perhaps you’ve experienced the ease of deep fears at work when the strategy you designed finally achieves results. Or, perhaps you’ve felt a comforting affirmation of your competency as a parent when you’ve witnessed your child’s kindness toward another child. These moments are often accompanied by the joy and relief of, I am capable, and I can succeed at this task that is meaningful for me.

Joy in One’s Craft

With one’s deepest fears eased, any craft is more fun. This is another benefit of the presence of true belief. When something is fun we are likely to do more of it. So, the joy that comes with true belief can lead to the acceleration of progress due to an enhanced desire to complete more work in one’s field. Also, the presence of positive emotion carries a neurochemical cocktail that promotes learning. The neurotransmitter dopamine – a key ingredient of motivation – increases the plasticity (the adaptability) of the brain, therefore enhancing the rate of learning when a person is presented with a challenge. Additionally, positive emotions broaden our perspective, literally enhance the sensitivity of our senses, and help us consider more options. Therefore, new ideas and solutions to problems come more easily in the presence of true belief, allowing optimal growth and creativity.

Tolerance of Errors

One of the most common qualities I’ve noticed among high achievers is a tolerance of errors. Specifically, these individuals are able to objectively evaluate a mistake without letting it derail their progress. In the presence of true belief in one’s capabilities, error tolerance is enhanced. Someone who has achieved true belief has probably already overcome obstacles that at one time appeared insurmountable. Through perseverance and experience, these people have learned that with persistence, few barriers cannot be overcome. They have learned to have faith in their ability to grow (they have a growth mindset), and even to recognize struggle as the means through which they improve. Thus, people with true belief are more likely to embrace errors constructively, rapidly learning the lessons they bring, and progressing quickly in response to them.

Willingness to Change

Complimentary to the tolerance of errors is a willingness to change. Interestingly, psychology researchers have found that it is when we feel safe and capable we are the most open to the input of others and new ways of doing things. True belief can feed a person’s feelings of safety – largely by increasing her sense of belonging in a group due to an increased perception of her value as a result of her capability. When a person feels safe regarding her belonging, she is open to ideas for growth. Thus, she remains focused on the path of improvement, which increases the likelihood that she will achieve further success.

How Do I Find True Belief?

I paused for quite a while to think before beginning this paragraph. There is no easy answer to this question – no guaranteed formula for eliciting true belief. Honestly, successful outcomes are the most prevalent means through which to gain it. From this state, the improved actions made easier from this belief lead to more successful outcomes. But, we must remember, successful outcomes are not the result of the magic dust of belief – no; successful outcomes are the result of quality actions over time. So, the path to the revelation is (and surely was in advance of any success) laid with the right behavior. Therefore, the most reliable path to true belief is to consistently carry out the right actions to create a successful outcome. But here’s one thought exercise that can help:

Perhaps the closest I have ever come to deriving true belief is by pretending I already have it. My best friend, a PhD and altogether wise woman, once told me the story of a discussion she had with a counselor that changed her life. My friend was in her late twenties, and recently divorced. Although extremely academically and athletically accomplished, one of her greatest dreams was to marry happily, and have children. She shared with me a memory of when she expressed her fear to her counselor that this dream would never come true for her. During this time my friend admitted to behaving in erratic ways, like obsessively pursuing relationships, and relentlessly scrutinizing her physical appearance. She was behaving anxiously due to her fear that her dream would not come true, and in all likelihood was acting in a way that would further prevent its fruition.

After hearing my friend’s concerns, her counselor asked her to take a deep breath, and looked her calmly in the eye: “Amy,” said the counselor, “I want you to believe for a second that I am all-knowing…”  The counselor continued: “I want to tell you that I know for a fact that you will have everything that you dream of.”

Amy told me that upon hearing those words a great calm came over her. “When I chose to believe that my counselor’s words were true my anxiety disappeared,” she said. “And what’s more, I stopped my obsessive behavior. I focused on my work, I gave my relationships space; in fact I behaved in a way that was far more conducive to helping my dream come true.” Essentially, by hearing a message of true belief (despite the fact both Amy and her counselor were well aware that the counselor was not all-knowing) come unexpectedly from someone she trusts, Amy had experienced confidence, peace, and fearlessness. This revelation resulted in such a clear change in her actions that she was able to maintain them even when some fear returned. On these occasions she would simply recall the calmness in her counselor’s voice, and the insistence in his eyes. She would repeat the phrase that her counselor had said to herself, and she would feel less fear.

Try this for yourself. What if I told you that I know that whatever you dream of is sure to come true? What would you do now? Who would you be?  In all likelihood you will go forward with actions that will increase the chances your dream will come true, thus taking steps toward bringing it into reality. By the way, Amy is now happily married, and has a four-year-old son and an 8 month old daughter.

Finally, and anecdotally, I want to share with you what I have seen: I have watched normal, flawed, fearful human beings accomplish the extraordinary. For all of us, attaining what we hope for will require effort, discipline, focus, courage, joy, tolerance of errors, and a willingness to change. But, it does not require perfection. As long as our hearts are captured by dreams we should chase them. So, ask yourself, what would I do now if I knew that my dream would come true? Perhaps you just felt a breath of true belief. Breathe another, and begin.

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~ Near Kayenta, Arizona

The Poem: Mary Oliver

THE WORLD I LIVE IN

By Mary Oliver

 

I have refused to live

locked in the orderly house of

reasons and proofs.

The world I live in and believe in

Is wider than that. And anyway,

what’s wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn’t believe what once or

twice I have seen. I’ll just

tell you this:

only if there are angels in your head will you

ever, possibly, see one.

 

The Science: Alex Hutchinson (from “Endure”)

     “To sports scientists in an academic setting, placebo is a dirty word. The placebo effect is what skews the results of their experiments, and it’s what allows charlatans to get rich peddling ineffective performance-boosters. But for those working with elite athletes in real-life settings, the picture is different. In 2013, physiologists Shona Halson and David Martin of the Australian Institute of Sport wrote an editorial in the International Journal pf Sports Physiology and Performance in which they argued for a distinction between placebos and ‘belief effects’ – valuable opportunities to improve athlete performance, which should be enhanced and harnessed rather than suppressed. After all, if a metaphorical sugar pill makes you faster and enables you to win a race, who cares if the effects were all in your head?

In fact, Halson and Martin argued, the boundary between ‘real’ ergogenic (performance-enhancing) aids and ‘fake’ belief effects is much fuzzier than most people, even scientists, realize. They cited an observation by sports scientist, Trent Stillingwerff, who also coaches athletes including his wife, Hilary, a two-time Olympic 1500m runner. At a conference in 2013, Stillingwerff noted the wide variety of supplements and training methods that have been shown to produce a 1-3 percent boost in performance, from caffeine, to beet juice to altitude training. In theory, combining all these approaches should create a superathlete; in practice, studies that combine multiple interventions in athletes tend to see overall improvements of … 1 to 3 percent. If 1+1+1+1 = 1, the implication is that many different ‘proven’ training aids act, at least in part, on the same target: the brain.

That’s not an argument in favor of sugar pills, Stillingwerff emphasizes. ‘For me, a placebo is direct trickery, giving an athlete an inert substance and saying it is something else. I’ve never done that, except in studies.’ Harnessing a belief effect, on the other hand, doesn’t involve any trickery; rather, it’s ‘very strategically and slowly developing maximal trust, belief, and evidence with your athletes and coaches over time.’ In the ideal scenario, you’re offering advice with real, evidence-backed physiological benefits, while bearing in mind that the words you choose, how much info you provide, and how you describe it can all dictate the eventual performance impact of that intervention.’”

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~ Somewhere outside Reno, Nevada

The Strategy: Visualization

Visualization/ Imagery (best for mentally practicing new skills and generating confidence)

Visualization (Imagery) shares a great deal with mindfulness meditation. The difference is that imagery asks you to imagine what you want to happen in the future.  Imagery is most frequently used prior to training or competition, and should be practiced daily for optimal benefit. The athlete will imagine the scenario he or she wishes to unfold in as much vivid detail as possible. Imagery is most effective from an internal as opposed to external perspective (i.e., as if you are viewing the scene from within your own body as opposed to watching yourself on a video). It is important to involve all the senses, and “live” the experience as close to reality as possible.

Research and athletes accounts have shown imagery to be an extremely useful technique for increasing confidence and facilitating desired performance. It is critical that you imagine your performance as you wish it to be. Do not spend time imagining catastrophe’s (unless you also see yourself recovering well from them). If your mind tends toward seeing errors, simply “rewind” your imagery and try again to see the event unfold as you wish it to.

I recommend that athletes spend the majority of their time in imagery imagining themselves responding the way they would like to during important moments during their competition. These responses are the aspects of performance that are under the athlete’s control. Outcome is not. I also recommend that athletes visualize themselves encountering and recovering from adversity from time to time. Then, when adversity inevitably occurs they are not surprised and instead respond the way that they have practiced in their mind.

Below are links to my typical guided visualization meditation. There are two steps (and two guided sessions) the first time that you do this exercise:

Step One – Consider what you are going to visualize

Step Two- The visualization meditation itself

The Spiritual: Yann Martel (from “The Life of Pi”)

“Hello, Pi” [my teacher, Mr. Kumar] said.

“Hello, sir. It’s good of you to come to the zoo.”

“I come here all the time. One might say it’s my temple.” …

“Religion will save us,” I said. Since when I could remember, religion had been very close to my heart.

“Religion?” Mr. Kumar grinned broadly. “I don’t believe in religion. Religion is darkness… There are no sound reasons for going beyond a scientific explanation of reality and no sound reason for believing anything but our sense experience. A clear intellect, close attention to detail and a little scientific knowledge will expose religion as superstitious bosh. God does not exist…”

This was all a bit much for me. The tone was right – loving and brave – but the details seemed bleak. I said nothing. It wasn’t for fear of angering Mr. Kumar. I was more afraid that in a few words thrown out he might destroy something that I loved…

He became my favorite teacher at Petit Seminaire and the reason I studied zoology at the University of Toronto. I felt a kinship with him. It was my first clue that atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word they speak speaks of faith. Like me, they go as far as the legs of reason will carry them – and then they leap. I’ll be honest about it. It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for awhile. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation…

We are all born like Catholics, aren’t we- in limbo, without religion, until some figure introduces us to God? After that meeting the matter ends for most of us. If there is a change, it is usually for the lesser rather than the greater; many people seem to lose God along life’s way. That was not my case. The figure in question for me was an older sister of Mother’s, of a more traditional mind, who brought me to a temple when I was a small baby… Off we went on this Hindu right of passage, Mother carrying me, Auntie propelling her. I have no conscious memory of this first go-around in a temple, but some smell of incense, some play of light and shadow, some flame, some burst of color, something of the sultriness and mystery of the place must have stayed with me. A germ of religious exaltation, no bigger than a mustard seed, was sown in me and left to germinate. It has never stopped growing since that day.

I am a Hindu because of sculptured cones of red kumkum powder and baskets of yellow tumeric nuggets, because of garlands of flowers and pieces of broken coconut, because of the clanging of bells to announce one’s arrival to God, because of the whine of the reedy nadaswaram and the beating of the drums, because of the patter of bare feet against stone floors down dark corridors pierced by shafts of sunlight, because of the fragrance of incense, because of flames of arati lamps circling in the darkness, because of bhajans sweetly sung, because of elephants standing around to bless, because of colorful murals telling colorful stories, because of foreheads carrying, variously signified, the same word – faith.

I know a woman here in Toronto who is very dear to my heart… when she first heard of Hare Krishnas she didn’t hear right. She heard “Hairless Christians”, and that is what they were to her for many years. WhenI corrected her, I told her that in fact she was not so wrong. Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat wearing Muslims.

First wonder goes deepest; wonder after that fits in the impression made by the first. I owe Hinduism the original landscape of my religious imagination… I was fourteen years old – and a well content Hindu on holiday – when I met Jesus Christ…

There are three hills within Munnar. They don’t bear comparison with the tall hills – mountains, you might call them – that surround the town, but I noticed the first morning, as we were having breakfast, that they did stand out in one way: on each stood a Godhouse. The hill on the right, across the river from the hotel, had a Hindu temple high on its side; the hill in the middle, further away held up a mosque; while the hill on the left was crowned with a Christian church… Despite attending a nominally Christian school, I had not yet been inside a church…

I came upon the rectory. The door was open… One priest was working in his office… He read a little, looked up, read a little more, looked up again…I was filled with a sense of peace. Bu more than the setting, what arrested me was my intuitive understanding that he was here – open, patient – in case someone, anyone, should want to talk to him; a problem of the soul, a heaviness of the heart, a darkness of the conscience, he would listen with love. He was a man whose profession it was to love… he treated me like a grown-up and he told me a story.

And what a story. The first thing that drew me in was disbelief. What? Humanity sins but it’s God’s Son who pays the price? I tried to imagine Father saying to me, ‘Piscine, a lion slipped into the llama pen today and killed two llamas. Yesterday another one killed a black buck. Last week two of them ate a camel. The situation has become intolerable. Something must be done. I have decided that the only way the lions can atone for their sins is if I feed them you.’ … ‘Yes, Father, that would be the right and logical thing to do. Give me a moment to wash up’. What a downright weird story. What a peculiar psychology.

But once a dead God, always a dead God, even resurrected. The Son must have the taste of death forever in his mouth. The Trinity must be tainted by it; there must be a certain stench at the right hand of God the Father. The horror must be real. Why would God wish that upon Himself? Why not leave death to mortals? Why make dirty what is beautiful, spoil what is perfect? — Love. That was Father Martin’s answer.

Islam followed right behind, hardly a year later. I was fifteen years years old… Not four feet away, sitting cross-legged before his breads, was a man. I was so startled my hands flew up and the bread went sailing halfway across the street. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said calmly. ‘I will feed a cow. Have another one.’ He tore one in two. We ate together…

I went to see him again.

“What’s your religion about?” I asked.

His eyes lit up. ‘It’s about the Beloved,’ he replied. I challenge anyone to understand Islam, its spirit, and not to love it. It is a beautiful religion of brotherhood and devotion… He was a Sufi, a Muslim mystic. He sought nana, union with God, and his relationship with God was personal and loving. ‘If you take two steps towards God,’ he used to tell me, ‘God runs to you!’…

I left town and on my way back, on a point where the land was high and I could see the sea to my left and down the road a long ways, I suddenly felt I was in heaven. The spot was in fact no different from what I had passed not long before, but my way of seeing it had changed. The feeling, a paradoxical mix of pulsing energy and profound peace, was intense and blissful. Whereas before the the road, the sea, the trees, the air, the sun all spoke differently to me, now they spoke one language of unity. Tree took account of road, which was aware of air, which was mindful of sea, which shared things with sun. Each element lived in harmonious relation with its neighbor, and all was kith and kin. I knelt a mortal; I rose an immortal. I felt like the center of a small circle coinciding with the centre of a much larger one. Atman met Allah… my heart beat with fear and joy…

Bapu Gandi said, ‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God… I can only tell my story, what you believe is up to you.”

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~ Nevada sunrise

The Cinematic: In my essay, “The Levels of Belief” above, I shared the story of my friend Amy and her dream to have a family. This is a short movie I made to honor that story. Watch to the end: Amy and Edward

The Musical: The Fray – “Never Say Never

Question: Is there something in your life that if you were to believe it, or in it with confidence, would change your life for the better?

Friends, I wish you a wonderful weekend. Never say never. You wouldn’t believe the things that once or twice I have seen.

Sincerely,

Shannon

 

One thought on “Belief

  1. Pingback: Belief – Training Notes

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