Tag Archives for " soul "

Jul 08

The Fine Line Between Mother Teresa and Hitler

By Peggy Haymes | Uncategorized

Elisabeth Kubler-RossElisabeth Kubler-Ross was asked to lead her Life, Death and Transition workshops all over the world. I’ve been thinking about two of those workshops recently. (I trained with, staffed with and became friends with her former staff, and they shared these stories with me.)

One was in South Africa in the days of apartheid. Elisabeth agreed to come, but only on the condition that both white and black women be allowed to attend together (it was a women’s only workshop.) The organizers agreed, but the participants were unaware of this provision.

Whites and blacks lived in two completely different worlds but for these days they were going to be asked to eat together and to sleep together in one large room. My friend said that at the beginning the tension was unbearable, and some of the staff worried that the workshop may blow up in their face.

But then the women started to do their work. White women bore witness as black women told stories of rape and incest, and black women bore witness as white women also told stories of rape and incest.

On the last evening there was a talent show. The women, black and white together, came in doing a tribal dance. The tension was gone. They’d spoken the truth of their lives and been heard. They’d heard the truth of other lives.  Where color once divided them shared suffering and healing brought them together.

The second workshop was held in a maximum security prison in Ireland. Elisabeth had been asked to do a workshop with the inmates, prisoners guilty of the most heinous crimes. She agreed, but only on the condition that the guards participate as well. So, while some of the guards kept watch, others joined the prisoners in sharing their own losses. After a while, my friend said, it was hard to tell who was guard and who was prisoner. In  speaking and hearing one another’s deep pain and hidden shame, they found a common language and a common humanity.

Elisabeth used to say that there is within each of us a Mother Teresa and a Hitler. We can react out of our deep pains and fears and unhealed wounds and create more pain for ourselves and others. Or we can do the hard work of healing and risk having our hearts opened to others as they are healed.

In the last couple of days I’ve thought about those workshops a lot. Without a doubt, there are systemic issues in our country that need to be addressed. But there is also the responsibility of each of us to look deeply into our own lives. Where do our own wounds shape our vision? Where do our own fears of the unfamiliar determine our actions? When does our past shape the assumptions we make about the present?

It is hard work, but necessary work. Only as we step out of our own places of fear and shame can we make a space of hospitality in which we begin to try to understand the fears and shame and hopes and dreams of our neighbor.

And only as we create those places do we move from the destruction of violence to the creative power of love.



May 10

Mothers Day Without The Flowers

By Peggy Haymes | Grief

It hits me late in the day.

I didn’t get her any flowers. Everyone else’s mother will have had flowers but I didn’t get any. I never do.

Sometimes I feel guilty. I think about her stone, the one carved with both my mom’s and my dad’s names, barren of decoration while all over the cemetery other stones bloom with the gifts of more thoughtful children.

A friend suggested that perhaps at this point my mom didn’t care about such things. I hope she’s right.

It’s not that I didn’t love my folks. I did. It’s not that I don’t miss them. I do. Not being a mother and not having a mother makes Mothers Day a kind of weird non-event for me.

It’s just that although their bodies are buried in that cemetery, there is nothing of them there for me. That’s not where I feel their spirits.

If  I want to honor my mother and feel close to her, I work in my yard. She loved nothing better than digging in the dirt. Or I clean carpet, She also liked a clean house. If I want to remember and honor my dad, I stand in front of his easel and paint, sometimes unconsciously pursuing my lips or resting my chin in my head like he used to do.

For some people, going to a cemetery is a powerful experience of connection. If that’s you, by all means be there. For others of us it feels about as removed from our loved ones as we can be. If that’s you, find your own way to remember.

That’s the thing about grief. Despite what we sometimes think, there’s no one right way to do it.

The Slow Down Diet
Feb 17

Slow Down Diet: Gone to Meddling

By Peggy Haymes | Eating , Lifestyle , Wellness

Better Deeper LifeThere’s a story about the preacher who preached on the evils of a various sins and vices. One of the old deacons encouraged him on, both with hearty Amens during the sermon and words of appreciation after the service. But then the preacher preached on the evils of tobacco and the deacon, a well-known smoker, sat stony faced though the sermon. After worship he had only one thing to say.

“Preacher,” he said, “now you’ve gone to meddling.”

That’s something of what I thought as I read The Slow Down Diet recently.

“I suggest you let go of all coffee for this week.”

Yeah, like that’s going to happen.

The point Marc David is making here is that many of us use caffeine as a way to override our natural energetic rhythm. When we’re in harmony with that rhythm our metabolism works at its best.

I don’t use coffee as a means for keeping myself awake. I realized, however, that I’ve been using that afternoon decaf as a way of nurturing. Holding the warm cup, smelling the aroma, tasting the bite of the beans on my tongue… even the experience of getting out of the office to the coffee shop nurtures my soul. While I’ve not been eating less I’ve been starving my spirit and even the best latte is a poor substitute.

Early on in the book this quote caught my eye was

“The way we do food is the way we do life.”

Over the last few days I’ve realized that the reverse is also true: the way we do life is the way we do food. My life got out of kilter which then became manifest in my eating.

Injury has curtailed my workouts, although if  I’m brutally honest, that’s mostly an excuse. My road bike stays hooked up to the trainer in the guest room.  I could work around the injury. I don’t have to be waylaid by the snow.

I fell into the trap of letting my schedule be my excuse. I looked for reasons not to work out instead of ways to make it happen. I’ve been reminded again that exercise isn’t an option for my life (well, for any of us but that’s for another day.) While it exhausts me it also nurtures me. While it tires me out it brings me energy.

I let my schedule push out the other necessity in my life: creating. While I’ve been busy creating courses and webinars, I haven’t been just plain writing. If I go too long without playing with words my spirit gets stale.

And when these things happen, I don’t eat as well. Exercise connects me to my body. Creativity connects me to my spirit. And connection with both is needed for eating with awareness.

What practices nurture your spirit? 


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