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  • Writer's pictureJaime Pollard-Smith

Ode to a Baptist and a Buddhist

“You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”

– Pema Chodron

My mother and I used to share the same devotional reading. We each had our own copy of “Streams in the Desert” by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Mom and I would exchange phone calls sharing our excitement each day. “Isn’t it amazing! Today’s passage was exactly what I needed.” We both found comfort and guidance in words. We found connection. There was always a stream of hope buried deep beneath the desert. Little did I know, Mom was instilling in me the desire to pay attention and the ability to heal my own wounds. She taught me to find what I needed.

In times of uncertainty or fear, it is those same wells I draw from to find peace. My text of choice has changed, but my process remains the same. Glennon Doyle Melton writes that reading is her inhale and writing is her exhale; I would argue the same is true for me. I find that “breathing in” words of wisdom in the morning sets the tone for a more relaxed and enjoyable day inside my head and heart.

For the past forty eight days, I have started my day with a reading from Pema Chodron’s Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion.This text is perfect for me because it provides pacing. I tend to find an idea or person I like and read ALL the books. I fill a shelf of reserves at the library with all my requests.

But this book is different.

It delivers daily nuggets of wisdom crafted to shift my mind and perspective. It is currently serving as my stream in the desert.

Chodron, author of numerous best-selling books, is an American Buddhist nun and resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Y’all, I didn’t even know Buddhist nuns were a thing! But here she is, and I happen to think she is brilliant and just what my soul needs. Her words, like a quiet whisper, encourage awareness, kindness, compassion and empathy. I believe it is the message our world is aching to hear right this moment. She offers questions and meditations to turn our eye inward and crack our hearts wide open to ourselves and each other.

We battle fear on a daily basis. I can barely breathe when I watch the news or see alerts come across my phone. Another school shooting...22 in 2018. I am a teacher with two school-aged children. Pain, fear and loss seep in through every crack in the fiber of our society. I had four conversations just this week with people who are heartbroken and dealing with their own personal hells. We all seek a stream of one sort or another. And Chodron suggests there is a peace in the storm. We can learn to feel comfortable with uncertainty and look our fear straight in the face and name it. Through this process we can begin to heal ourselves and dissolve the barriers we have created between ourselves and the outer world. We can learn to welcome change and recognize opportunities for growth. We can be our own stream.

My mom taught me to be a spiritual warrior. She set me up to intuitively feel and find the answers. Wendell Berry writes, “The world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.’’ Today I am grateful for Mom, a devout Southern Baptist, and Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, for guidance and direction through the wilderness of uncertainty. I am settling down into this ground and learning to call it home.

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