Category Archives: Humility

Lisa and Tom, a short story

by   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara

The healer’s hut appeared at the edge of the woods where it had stood since she built it when still a young woman. She had walked steadfast with her guides, despite seeing her mother beaten, dragged away in chains, condemned to burn at the stake by the vicar and the entire congregation. She had never forgotten both, the terror and horror of those times when a new priest had been appointed, a “witch hunter” who declared open warfare on all the women whom he fancied were opposing him whenever they performed any kind of healing on a member of his congregation. Lisa spent much time then in the wooden jail that had no heat, one small hole to look out of, a slot under a door that was always nailed shut, to pass sustenance if and when those in charge of the “house” remembered, or cared. Thanks to superstition, Lisa was never molested by the men who periodically broke down the door of the dungeon and dragged her out for more “questioning” and serious threats. Thinking that her life was forfeit in any case, Lisa did not respond to the questioning, the intimidation and the whippings. All they heard were moans and sometimes cries.

Then, it all changed. There was a King again and the rebels were defeated and mostly slaughtered. The vicar was publicly hanged when it was discovered he did not hold a proper license. All the healers were set free to fend for themselves at that time. So Lisa went back where she had been raised. Her mother’s house had been ransacked, then burned down. With the help of a neighbour who limped badly from a war injury and needed her services, she built herself a comfortable hut. When it was done to her satisfaction, just before she moved anything in from the near-by tent the neighbour had loaned her, she knelt reverently and remembered her mother’s love an dedication in a long prayer of thanksgiving. Then, in the presence of her guides and the friendly neighbour as her sole human witness, she vowed to give her life to service of the village, yes, the same people who ten years earlier had tortured her mother to death and kept her in a dungeon for close to ten years.

Lisa’s method to deal with the past was to plant lavender around the hut and the path leading to the meadow.

Old Cruickshanks, the friendly neighbour was long dead now. The old white-haired man walking so steadily and deliberately towards Lisa’s hut was none other than his eldest son, Tom. Tom had always “had a feeling” for Lisa, not surprisingly for in her youth she was a lovely girl, something that aroused even more jealousy among the females of the village. But of course, Tom’s love was not just for her beauty; he loved her. He knew, of course, of her vow, and had talked much about it at the beginning of her new life at the edge of the woods. Many a time he’d had opportunity after he drove her via the farm’s surrey, into the village, now more of a town, so she could minister in whatever capacity.

Youth is callous, and demanding. Tom did not want to be, but he had needs. Lisa was well acquainted with those needs even though she remained steadfastly a virgin.

“We could be married, Lisa, there is nothing in God’s law or the King’s law that prevails against it, only your choice. Is that not so?”

She would pull away from him a bit then, bringing her hands demurely to her lap, picking at a button on her light blue coat. “I’m sorry to hurt you Tom. You are a kind, decent, caring man which any woman would be honoured to have, but you see, marriage is not for me. I am truly sorry, but I cannot, ever, break my vow. My gift is dependent upon the vow of chastity, you must understand. I’m not being difficult, and I am very aware that I owe you so much for all that you have done for me over the years, but I can only reciprocate with as much care and kindness as I know how. I have no such love for you, Tom as you have for me. When I made my vow, lo those many years past, the desire for connubial bliss and a family of my own was taken from me. When you look upon me as a woman, you are looking at nothing more than a shell. Do not be distracted by this…” and she pointed to herself as they trotted along. Tom hid his tears as best he could, not wanting to add more injury to a pain-filled episode.

So it went through the years. Tom stopped importuning Lisa and made a vow of his own: he too would never marry. The farm would go to his nephew with a legal stipulation that his brother and his wife could live out their days on the farm, if they so chose. Tom was surprised how his choice gradually made his heart so much lighter. The years passed by fast then. He and Lisa grew older and white haired, and anyone not familiar with their story would have naturally assumed they were brother and sister, so much alike they were in being soft spoken and kind to all.

“I am getting older, Tom, and my young days were not easy. This body is hampered greatly by what was done to it. Then there’s the dampness too. But mostly, mostly, my friend, I am very tired these days. There is a powerful pull in my heart, whether from God or some other beings whom I once called my guides, but I am being called home, Tom. I needed to tell you so you would not be devastated when it happens.”

She had stopped talking that day and had turned to look over the small meadow to the north. Then she had turned her face to the cloudy skies and he saw there the deep grey distant look in her eyes. He knew she was seeing something he could never see. Something that was hers alone. Then she had started crying. That was such a rare event in Lisa’s life he was taken completely unawares, not knowing what to do. He did not want to violate any boundary between them by touching her or holding her, but he wanted her to know he was trying to share her sorrow. Then suddenly he just knew. “I understand” was all he said, or needed to say, and the tears stopped as suddenly as they had come. Lisa smiled.

As he neared the hut, now a bit more of a cottage, he smelled the crushed lavender. He stopped at the door, waited a couple of minutes, then turned around back to the farm for the wagon and a shovel.

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What more could I say, Today?

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  as expressed by Sha’Tara]

When I dare myself to write about the concept of compassion, what am I thinking?  What am I feeling?  What are my motives?

I thought I should enter into that monologue, it’s crucially important, I think.

Check: trying to impress?
I looked at that possibility, for pride is one of those vices adept at boldly walking through unlocked back doors or slinking through a partially open window, picking the most comfortable chair in the sitting room and saying, “Ah, this is home.”  I have had my days, long ago, when this was the case.  I have known popularity and experienced a degree of “fandom” which people smarter than I exploited.  Pride sustained me… and damn near killed me.  So today I can unequivocally say, “No, it is not pride that is driving my thoughts and desires now.”  I can’t work with pride.  It hurts me whenever it hovers near.

Check: the need to be believed?
There is no denying that “to be believed” is a powerful motivator.  I could easily change how I approach the subject of compassion in ways that bring individuals into my own created wake of thoughts, and locally, into my commitments and deeds.  I could start a group, a movement, register a “charitable” organization, raise money, etc.  Not difficult when you know how and you’ve been trained in it.  So I take a long and deep look at my motives and again I can say, I’ve been there; so many have been there, gained a following, and for what?  Did those followers benefit at all?  Did their lives change when they became followers?  Not at all.  A follower is just that.  A follower remains unempowered and worse, becomes more dis-empowered, filled with self-doubts.

Check: the hope that I can be the cause of palpable change?
That sounds quite altruistic, doesn’t it?  I could claim, “not for me, but for the good of (fill in the blanks)” and what comes next if I discover that yes, I did cause some change?  The unavoidable Siren call for more.  Success, however small, calls for more success.  It’s the System, how it works.  The Matrix doesn’t care if you do good or evil, it’s all the same when it becomes personal, and important.  Note that word: important.  Once we reach some level of importance, it becomes self-importance: there’s that hubris.  I may not acknowledge that I care, but everything in me, and around me, will demand that I produce more of this success.  Inevitable.  So, do I want to see palpable change from my own words or deeds?  No, not ever.  It is not for me to see it, or hear of it.

Check: the “need” to feel special, holy, superior?
Good question.  Why do I leave working for myself, eschew gainful work to go help a stranger in need who can’t afford to repay me?  What’s really behind that?  I have been a very religious person and I remember what was lurking behind my “good deeds” then.  There always was an agenda.  I wasn’t primarily helping, I was fishing for conversions.  There is only one word to describe that: hypocrisy.  The sin of the “Pharisees” in the gospels, but we were very good at hiding that from our own motivation.  So, do I want to feel those things?  I do feel them, sure, but I can state truthfully that I reject those feelings.  I am not special, “holy” or superior.  I am a servant with no other title.  I know this and I accept that this self-chosen path is the only way I will ever come to a blending of personality with compassion.

What has this changed life demonstrated to me over the last decades?  That every day can be “Christmas” in the giving sense.  I learned what giving is all about, and what it does to me.  So… I give, and give, and give and am I depleted, either of resources or personal energy?  Not at all.  I am like a tree planted at the edge of a great desert, growing tall and strong because every night an “angel” comes and pours water over my roots.  That “angel” is compassion and in time he and I will become as one and it is I who will carry the watering can that never empties.

There is no denying that I “want” something; that I have an agenda.  But what I have chosen to desire can in no way cause harm to anyone or anything else – while I am fully engaged in my quest.  Compassion is as superior to all other “virtues” as “heaven” would be from “hell.”  Many would, and will, deny this.  They will bring up “love” as another means of changing oneself, or the world.  Perhaps they will bring up other “virtues” to challenge my claim that only compassion can work without harming.  Only compassion.

How is compassion different from love which is considered the greatest of all virtues?  Only those who have made their purpose to literally become compassion can know the simple answer to that.  For others it must remain words, semantics, and their endless interpretations.  For all others, no explanation can ever satisfy, or be acceptable.

Check:  compassion is self-empowered.  It is a “stand alone” program that once fully integrated into the individual, becomes its sole operating system.  Compassion does not come surrounded by a bevy of other virtues.   Compassion is not reciprocal – those who talk about these things seem to completely miss, or ignore, this crucial point.  It means that compassion requires no support from anything or anyone.  It needs no confirmation.  It has absolutely no expectation of any positive or even negative, results.  A compassionate individual doesn’t care about results; doesn’t need affirmation or confirmation.   She just “does it” because that is her nature.   Will she be praised, ignored, reviled?  None of that matters.  Goddess-earth1

Let me quote from one of the Teachers, again:  “When none of it matters, it will all be yours.” (YLea of the WindWalkers)  They never explained this, and that was long before I decided I would be an avatar of compassion.  I simply did not know there was a connection but now I do.  None of “it” matters to me, and now I know what “it will all be yours” means.  It means taking responsibility for all of it.  It means to allow myself to be turned inside out and become an empath.  It means becoming a compassionate human and no turning back, whatever comes.

What more could I say, today?  Through a willingness to “serve” without asking questions I have become a gift unto myself.  A sobering thought, that.

The Gift of a Life Changed

                                        [a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Oh, he knew her so well.  He remembered how she came and hovered over his crib when he was a tiny baby; how she fretted over him, and kept his rattle or soother at hand.  She was his “other” mom, and the older sister he never had.

Over the years she had come to him at different junctures of his life.  He remembered the glow of her presence at his first communion and later, his confirmation.  She encouraged him, and gently taught him to notice how other people, especially his elders, teachers and parents, lived their lives.  Don’t judge them too harshly, she’d whisper, but notice the hypocrisy, always notice that.  Don’t confront them, just note and remember.  Especially remember. 

Then he grew up and he didn’t see her during his time of rebellion, anger, chaos and confusion.  He saw girls instead and he lusted after them.  He did stupid things, boastful, ignorant, hurtful; things that endangered the lives of others.  It was as if he was possessed to do evil.  The girl he dated became pregnant.  He still had a sense of the old chivalry he’d learned from his childhood fairy tales and fantasies.  He asked her to marry him and she accepted.  Not the best start, but on their wedding day, she was there again.  He saw the glow and suddenly his heart opened and guilt filled his mind to overflowing. 

The moment passed.  Life was tough enough.  Wife, kids, a mortgage, car payments, responsibilities he was trained to handle, but nevertheless, stress.  There were other things to impede the good life: a growing awareness that the world was not a great place to be.  There was “the war” that needed protesting – he’d become a conscientious objector and tried to live by some personal code of non-violence.  There were draft dodgers from across the border to help find shelter and jobs.  Then environmental issues took priority and his life grew very complex and a darkness grew in his heart. 

The marriage failed.  He found himself, thanks to his losses, freed of a commitment he felt was complete.  But the darkness held him down.  He re-discovered religion and attended church.  It provided little.  He saw more of the old hypocrisy.  He saw how the claims failed to match the lifestyle.  Disappointed and discouraged he struck out alone looking for something, not finding. 

Lost in mid-life, he was walking along the river shore one cloudy day and sat on a fallen log on the bank.  Staring at the shining waters flowing past him, he formulated a prayer, or rather a request.  He addressed her and said, “You know, I’ve made a complete mess of things.  I wanted to do right, and did wrong.  I wanted to change the world and couldn’t even change myself.  The things I’ve done are horrible to me.  I’m sorry for my ignorance and stupidity, but most of all, I’m sorry for my pride. 

I need you to help me now, though I don’t deserve it.  I’m going to ask your for the greatest gift of all, knowing full well that it cannot be bestowed on anyone, that it can only be earned through experience.  I am asking you to grant me the gift of humility.  Only with that can I re-learn to live with myself.  I don’t expect to suddenly become humble, but I need you to guide my heart into this new and alien territory I intend to walk across until I reach the other side.  I’m going to proceed knowing that you are here, guiding me, and reminding me.  Thank you.

And so it was that he gradually changed.  He did not feel any more humble, rather the opposite, but others noticed.  Always he’d be shocked when they said something, or praised him for his kindness or gentleness.  That can’t be me, he thought.  Then he’d know she was there, calming his heart, softening his hands, making him choose his words with care, showing him how to proceed in all situations.  Over time he understood what it meant to be blessed.  He thought, I find it so amazing that the less I possess and the more I give away, the more I have; the more filled I feel.  And he learned to laugh. 

He lived long past his chosen time.  Those who knew him believed he’d discovered the secret of immortality but that was only their hope he’d always be around.  One day he left.  He walked away with only a small overnight pack on his back.  She walk silently beside him, then she touched him.  He was never seen again.  

A friend of his, having understood, said, we held on to him much too long.  We made him feel guilty about leaving but finally he allowed himself to hurt us a bit so he could claim his own freedom.  He’ll never be completely gone for he lives in each of us.  What he showed us, the wisdom he taught and the changes he wrought: those are the pieces of his heart we hold within ourselves.  He’s still here, giving us of himself when we emulate his burning joy.

Quote: Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place… Nothing outside you can give you any place… In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.” ― Flannery O’Connor