“ I should not make any promises right now,
But I know if you
Somewhere in this world—
Something good will happen.”—Hafiz
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”—Isaiah 41:10
Ambiguity. I stare at the black and white print. Within the word I see small words: “am,” “big,” “’u’, also known as, ‘you’.” I arrange the words. Play with them. “You are big.” “I am big.” “Big, you are.” “Big, I am.” Big, big, big . . ..
Problems feel big. Illness feels big. Crisis feels big. Parenting feels big. Aging feels big. Financial struggles feel big. Education feels big. Currents news feels big. Violence feels big. Sadness feels big. Depression feels big. Big, big, big . . .translates into hard, hard, hard.
“You are big.” “I am big.”
One part of my yoga teacher training homework for this month states, “Tapas” (Which literally means “heat,” but also translates into discipline and commitment–as best I understand it.) “’Just feel it!’ Use discipline to stay committed to the path, and use tapas to direct your anger in positive ways.” Anger often feels hot. Discipline can feel hot too, but also soothing.
Tina, one of my yoga instructors, recently stated, “I believe you must pray daily and often. Meditation is important, but so is prayer.” I am paraphrasing, but basically she added that prayer is not about a wish list, but more about gratitude and an attitude of, “Thy will be done.” Sometimes gratitude, and the ambiguity of “Thy will be done,” is hard.
Tapas. Heat. Discipline.
Recently, I shared with my husband, John, a personal struggle I was experiencing with an acquaintance. I explained that I could sense her negative energy, and even anger, when she was around me. “I want to apologize for whatever wrong I have caused her, but I honestly don’t know what I did.”
John’s reply was simple and direct, “Pray for her.”
And so I did.
One month later, this same acquaintance was seemingly happier, lighter, and more at ease. She even approached me to thank me. Unbeknownst to me, she overheard me giving one of her close friends the same advice John had given me. This friend asked me about how to handle a person who was set in their ways and would seemingly never embrace the faith-filled path she was now embodying. I shared with her what John had told with me, “Pray for that person.” Adding, “it might not change that person, but perhaps it might change the way in which you view and relate to him or her.”
The acquaintance who was confessing to overhearing my comments explained that a light bulb went off in her mind. She described a bit of her own personal struggles; and added, “So I just said a prayer, and went for a walk. When I came back, I had a long awaited text on my phone.”
Then, she thanked me, and spent the next few minutes describing to me in great detail, all of the ambiguity surrounding her due to an upcoming major procedure and potential life change. “I just turned it over to my Higher Power, and you helped me get there. Thank you.”
By turning over my anxiety and false assumptions regarding this person to my faith, I released the notion that somehow I was in control of her actions, her feelings. While I had been indeed, sensing negative energy in this person, it had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the ambiguity of the situation into which she was being thrown—one of life’s unexpected curveballs. When I focused less on the ambiguity I thought was surrounding her, and disciplined my mind and heart to direct my energy, instead, to the great, “I am,” the ambiguity still remained, but we were both released to feel, accept, and allow our faith to embrace us.
When I was young, my prayers were often the selfish prayers of a personal wish-list; such, “Please let me pass this test. Please let me get a job. Please keep my car running . . ..” As I have aged, I have certainly offered more prayers of gratitude, but my wish list is still present—only now, I convince myself it isn’t selfish because my prayers are most often my wish list for others.
“Please give Maddie (my daughter) both mental and physical strength;” or, “Please watch over my parents, my husband, my siblings, my loved ones,” and so forth. I am not saying these are “bad” prayers, but it is still my attempt to control. “Hey God, let me tell you how it should be, because I am pretty good at taking charge; and, in case you haven’t noticed, I have the perfect plan for you to follow.”
As I stared at that word, “ambiguity,” it all came together, then hit me like a strong, blustery March wind. Tapas is faith in a nutshell—embracing the heat of the unknown, the uncertainty, the unexplained—and our prayers are the disciplined connection to our Creator, a Higher Power that is so big, so vast, and beyond what we can conceive. Therefore, even when our prayers are a wish list, it is still okay as we are brought into communion with that that is so big. “I am big. I, too, am ambiguous, but I am omnipresent and all-pervading, enveloping you in my palms that are so big, so big . . .they contain you, your struggles, and all that is and ever will be.”
Life can feel like the messiness of a bird’s nest, but just as this nest is still able to envelope the baby birds and mama bird, so too can the vastness of God support us.
Most of life events are ambiguous. We think we are in control of time and space, but life events are God’s way of reminding us, “I am big. Have faith in my bigness.” The heat of life, really, is a way of demanding tapas, the discipline to pray more as well as rely on faith more. In turn, the discipline of faith and prayer taps into the greatness of, “I am.”