Men, Prayer, Politics, Horses, Detroit
February 22, 2011
As I watch the push across the globe these days, one ‘Revolution’ after another defining itself, the world struggling to heal itself, I reflect back on my own efforts….the personal ‘Revolution’ so many of us traverse.
Over the past 15 years or so the term ‘healing’ has rooted itself in my daily nomenclature. As children we first learn of the term as a parent applies a plaster to our skinned knee, the healing wound soon forgotten. From there, we move into learning the repair methods for our bruised feelings: the hurt of a playground bully on our psyche, or the cruel words of our fellow 3′ peers, cured with a kind word of support from an elder. As we grow, the residual familial hurts, some spanning generations of abuse, erupt for consideration. Our own chronology of life events often force us to backtrack and vainly attempt to lay down new tracks, to replace negative imprints on our souls, to exorcise them as best we can, painfully discovering our own emotional weight-bearing capabilities.
With the rapt curiosity of a virgin, I listened to primal, funky songs of sexual healing and watched as a generation on acid discovered its wounds. The images of body bags on grainy TV screens each evening was my first understanding of the power of global events to spontaneously effect the psyche of millions. I began to see the parallel worlds of my own psychological experience and that of the masses at any given time….slowly seeing the dots and the lines connecting them….and that fateful day finally came for me when one wakes up to the realization that they are not parallel at all but rather one within the other… and spiritual understanding of a Collective Consciousness arrives….caught not taught.
The healing modalities began to captivate me as my need to heal myself deepened. In my late thirties, I found myself living out at the edge of a peninsula surrounded by the fresh waters of the inland seas. A place known in some circles as a healing vortex, my home sat equidistant between the Equator and the North Pole, squarely on the 45th parallel. Balanced. Surrounded by others who had landed in that place just in time for the arrival of the new millennium, I was never at a loss for spiritual teachers and healers.Expressed via the written word, at the hands of body workers, in the minds of clairvoyants and the patient teachings of a Lakota Pipe Carrier, the plethora of tools I wielded to become whole was expansive. As the years went by, the healing practitioners came and went in my life. In the sweat lodge I found peace and psychic cleansing. Yet, over time, I found an ever-growing sense of a missing piece, one neither lovers nor friends nor wise elders seemed to fill. I kept silent about it….but slowly realized that one thing had remained constant through these years out on the peninsula: the power of nature that surrounded me. The whisper of the morning fog off the big lake; the voluminous cosmic curtains of Aurora Borealis deep in the night; the snowy owls wintering out on the point, the crows, hawks and eagles that kept watch over my horses and I from the old ash trees and the skies above. Something was there, surrounding me, yet I knew not what.
Learning of the work of a man by the name of Walter Weston opened a crack through which a glimmer of light came into this emptiness. I had done a tremendous amount of reading during these years, from eastern philosophers to cowboy poets. Weston however was different. His first published work was one entitled Pray Well where he took the reader through his experience beginning with a spontaneous healing that occurred while administering to a dying man as a Methodist Minister in 1966, launching him into a lifetime of study in non-local healing, one that eventually got him removed from his church for all the right reasons. Simply put, he had devoted his life to scientifically proving the power of prayer to heal. He had travelled the world studying case after case of healing that occurred as a result of non-local prayer. Several books resulted from this attempt over the years. His work arrested me such that I tracked him down in Ohio and arranged to drive the 5 hours to meet with him a mere 2 days later. I had always found solace in the practice of prayer yet it was a solitary practice, done without formal teaching, executed each day in a way that felt natural to me. Uneducated as I was, something pushed me, called me, to devour anything and everything Walter had learned. His teachings blew my mind apart.
Time passed. And the guiding hand of divine forces relentlessly led me further and further down this path till one day my spiritual teacher at the time, a 72 yr. old former Southern Baptist Preacher turned Lakota medicine man thought it proper to give me a copy of Thomas Merton’s work: The Seven Story Mountain. He had thought I might find it helpful given my recent decision to summer in a rustic studio in the form of a relocated old barn which I later learned had doubled as a primitive chapel for a fledgling settlement in the early days of a small Michigan farming community. It was a fantastic structure, simple of line, tall with its timbers marked well by use and time. I had furnished it with an old iron bed, mosquito net, a claw foot tub and a handy marine toilet. A collection of lanterns kept me reading well into the evenings, an old camp kitchen supplying the basics for cooking and cleaning. I was not interested in Merton as I had been conditioned to recoil from all hints of organized religion, a conditioning which I curiously never questioned. My teacher, Sings Alone, insisted however that I read Merton, and I obeyed given his knowing smile and sparkling eye as he handed me a fresh copy. Little did he know he was passing me onto my next teacher…
As I lay reading late into the night, coyotes hunting the ridges of the bluff over the big lake, fireflies dancing between the shadows cast by trees in the moonlight, I found a friend in Merton. A friend I never expected to find under the mantel of ‘Catholic’. I had been sternly warned to stay away from a young Catholic suitor years before by my agnostic father who simply posed one question upon learning of my interest in the young man: “He’s Catholic? Do you KNOW what they do to women?” I didn’t, but I trusted my fathers wisdom and stayed clear. This fellow Merton however, was different, he was a Saint. And his words, his experiences felt as my own, my flesh, my blood in the depth of their familiarity. Once done with Merton, I became obsessed with the lives of the Saints…and I hunted down their writings, filling my small bookshelf composed of bricks and un-used barn boards with the likes of St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Padre Pio, St. Francis, St. Bosco and St. Teresa of Avila. They consumed my daily thoughts as I went to school on their lives and slowly moved myself into the communion of Saints, dwelling there through the summer months and into the fall, when the trees turned and the weather forced me back into the main house for the winter. Somehow, reading the lives of the Saints in the depths of the forest day after day changed the very nature of my soul.
In my daily prayer, I found a re-occurring desire: someone to pray with. Funny thing, when we pray daily, we are clear on our desires, requests and quiet yearnings, yet so very unclear often in recognizing Gods response afterwords…and yet he always responds.
What I did not fully realize in those early months was that I was well into a Conversion. A conversion to Catholicism. The very thought would have sent me recoiling had it been made conscious for I absolutely detested virtually all I had known of the faith my whole life, detested it as hypocrisy, manipulations and oppressive dogma. I watched the sea of people listening to a Pope whose words made me cringe. I saw members of religious communities living lives of deprivation and sexual oppression. And yet, here I was, eating up every last crumb of my introduction to it like a starved set of bones fresh in from the desert. I simply could not get enough. I had finally found a body of experiences, in the lives of the Saints, that answered the painful accumulation of questions my life to that point had created. Questions they too encountered and answered through action and faith in their own lives.
What I also did not fully realize was the nature of a conversion, how it works. I have since learned and can confirm that it is not, was not, something I consciously decided one sunny morning. I did not meander through the bookstore selection of religions and choose one. I had consciously not a clue what was happening, nor that anything WAS happening! The only thing I felt was my usual hunger and focus of study upon finding a new body of work to immerse my expansive mind into…I took it at that. While cradle Catholics know nothing else and lack self determination in the formation of a spiritual life, converts ONLY come as a result of being called to it. To experience a Conversion for me was the most natural evolution of my relationship with God…it was time for his presence in my life to pierce the veil of my own consciousness, to move beyond my interior life, where it had always dwelt, and into an affirmation in my external life. When it is time, nothing I could have done would have stopped it. This was my first, and most profound lesson in spiritual obedience, in letting go and accepting Gods will.
In the daily practice of Catholicism, I found the prototype of all the healing modalities I had studied in the years prior, an affirmation so profound, I find it hard to describe at times. The details of this conversion story are being written slowly, in chronological order of occurrence for eventual publication.
For now, as I witness the evolution of consciousness masked as political revolution sweeping the globe, I realize this desire so many of us have felt for decades now to ‘heal’ is perhaps being experienced by whole populations, en mass. God be with them all in this, a most exciting time for all of humanity.
© 2011 Nancy Kotting All Rights Reserved Reproduction by Permission Only