I said “yes.” It was a suggestion – not a request… a suggestion:
“Why don’t you come?”
Without knowing much about what I was getting into – really, nothing at all – I said, “yes” and stepped out into the unknown.
I’m attending The Parliament of the World’s Religions.
I’m here. I’m in my hotel room in Chicago.
I have always considered her a “luminary” (the name that the Parliament is giving attendees who are, well, luminaries – like Jane Goodall, Marianne Williamson – yes, they are part of this, too!) and I was so taken with her when we spoke via Zoom (though I have been a huge fan for years) that it just seemed logical to follow up on her suggestion. I hung up the phone with her, checked out Google Flights to Chicago and booked my trip, along with a ticket to the Parliament.
I leave Maine in August!
In the excitement of the moment, I apparently forgot that I always tell people that we never leave Maine in the summer because that’s when it’s at its most idyllic. And I can tell you after my boat ride on Friday, it is truly idyllic. Seals and harbor porpoises followed us as we motored down the Kennebec River to the Atlantic. Blue water, blue skies, dark green pines and granite outcroppings lined the shore. Quintessential Maine. Loons too – let’s not forget the loons…and the osprey and eagles.
But, here I am in a hotel room in Chicago for an event I know virtually nothing about.
I got here because of an internal “yes.” Have you had them? Something inside says, “Do this.” And you do, maybe blindly, like me.
Or, you wisely choose not to. You listen to your “practical side.”
Spend money on a trip in August? You don’t know anyone! Go by yourself? You don’t even know what it will be like! Leave Maine for a city? Are you crazy?
Irrationally, my internal yes said “Go ahead” – jump. You’ve done things like this before, Susanna, and you’ve benefitted. You learn things. You meet people. You advance. You stretch yourself and stretches are always good.
Oliver Wendell Holmes said,
“Man's mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimension.”
I’m in the mood for stretching.
I have done this before.
I said yes to my friend Barb who needed a co-facilitator for her women’s retreat to France. I had never been; didn’t speak French; had to drive women around in a standard transmission car! I totally and completely fell in love with France and have been back on my own several times – and have taken women’s groups there.
I said yes to another friend Barb who invited me to accompany her to a wellness and spirituality weekend retreat in Maine.
“Come with me. It’ll be good for you, Susanna.”
I had just ended my marriage with a difficult divorce. I ended up in a workshop about hands-on healing where I was one of several people gathered around a man with constant pain who had volunteered to be healed. I put my hands on his knee and then listened to our workshop leader – herself a hands-on healer.
Five minutes in and I was sobbing. It turns out I was getting healed vicariously (I guess the healing energy goes where it needs to!) of the extreme grief I had been carrying because my grandmother had died over the summer in the midst of my divorce. I hadn’t been able to grieve my much beloved Grandmother Susanna who had been like a second mother to me.
Another unexpected blessing of that trip was firewalking. Now, that was something – a story for another time.
Seeds of Peace Camp
The experience that this “yes” feels most like is when I signed up to facilitate at the Seeds of Peace Camp. I heard the Camp Director speak about how they brought Palestinian and Israeli youth together in Casco, Maine and I knew I had to go check it out. I told him that day that I wanted to visit. (I was a full-time mediator and facilitator, so it wasn’t a reach for him to let me come observe.) I visited and was so impressed by their program that I signed up to participate the following summer. I spent three weeks with these teenagers who came to a lake in Maine from their feuding countries to get to know “the other side.” To say that it makes a difference in how they view each other is an understatement. It was a life-changing experience for me.
All these “saying yes” experiences were life-changing for me.
Those of you who know the Heroine’s Journey terminology will know these as “callings.” I was called in each of these cases to cross into a particular “unknown.” Who was calling? I believe the soul calls us when we’re ready to grow. Call it serendipity… an intuitive hunch…or your Higher Power – or however you label what brings you an invitation to step out of your comfort zone.
There are more I could list but suffice it to say that when I let myself say “yes” to what I experience as a “calling” then I am rewarded in ways I could never have predicted. And now at this moment, I’m in another “unknown” – I have no idea what will happen. I know that at the very least I’ll learn something. I’m wondering how many religions will be present here. (I know 80 nations are represented.)
What is the Parliament?
Here’s from the program:
“When people come to the Parliament, they get to experience something that everybody longs for. They get to experience the world as we all long for it to be: peaceful, curious, open-hearted, and not just tolerant but grateful for our diversity.”
Wicca is one of the religions represented here. I know there are Druids and members of the Church of Latter Day Saints and Catholics and the B’hai Faith. Also, Hindu and Buddhist and my own, United Church of Christ, Congregational. And I’m sure I’ll discover more tomorrow when I attend the first day. Here’s more about the organization and how it began:
Started in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair
The Parliament of the World's Religions (PoWR)is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization headquartered in Chicago with a mission of justice, peace, and sustainability.
The organization serves as the convenor of the world's largest, most diverse, and inclusive interfaith Convening of people of faith, spirituality, and goodwill. Its origins are rooted in the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, USA. The historic first convening of the World Parliament of Religions created a global platform for the engagement of religions of the East and West and was thereafter recognized as the birthplace of the modern interfaith movement.
I know I’ll have lots more to tell you. And now here’s a suggestion for you. See if this elicits a “yes” from you. Find something that makes you stretch and say yes to it. Some callings will be so strong that, like me, you’ll leave all practical considerations behind.
Some of them might be small suggestions and simply require a short break from your normal routine, like:
How about you get away from your screen for just an hour and go outside and find someplace beautiful to sit near or in and just be?
Go ahead, say yes, you’ll be glad you did.
Here the poet, e.e.cummings shares his view of the benefits of saying yes…:
everything which is yes
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
e. e. cummings
(in 'complete poems 1904 - 1962')