As soon as she lay down on the bed, the Seeker’s eyes closed in wearied sleep. Yet the calm and peaceful feeling that permeated the house surrounded her. A blanket of heaven itself, she thought, as she drifted into her dreams. And dream she did. But not the kind of dreams she had been battling.
She dreamed she was back at the sea shore watching the beautiful dolphins frolic and play together. They were different though. One was a sparkling gold color, the other a brilliant silver. And behind the dolphins the Seeker could see the orb of the earth. She was beginning to understand the language of the Creator.
She knew the dolphins represented the diversity of the Creator’s children, that they were to be loved and respected for who they were on the inside, not on the outside. That had been her very first lesson upon coming down from the temple mount. And the earth? No doubt it meant that love was to include all of Creation.
Between the dolphins cavorting in her dream, and set against the vision of the orb, was the universal sign for woman. A gentle reminder to her that love is a receptive force that takes time to nurture; that properly tended, love would grow from a small seed to a large tree giving food and shelter to all creatures. Beneath them sat two gold chalices, their Water of Life overflowing into the sea. And behind it all was the same white lily whose scent tended to make all who smelled its fragrance complacent and self-satisfied. Its nectar dripped into the sea, but the transforming power of the Water of Life shattered the illusion and overcame the exclusive spirit that emanated from the blossom.
It was late afternoon when the Seeker finally woke. Yawning away the after sleep from her eyes, she stretched and went to the window. Below she could see people working in a small dooryard garden. She wondered what it would be like to do such physical work. Feeling quite rested and at home, she decided to explore. The house was unassuming and comfortable. She greeted all whom she met, including an older woman baking bread in the kitchen. The amiable lady insisted she have a slice of homemade bread with honey to fill her stomach until the evening meal which the Seeker ate with great delight.
As she stood in the kitchen looking across the dooryard garden, the Seeker noticed a small chapel just beyond the garden at the edge of the woods. Finishing her bread she let herself out and made her way to the building. As she approached she was bedazzled by the beauty of its stained-glass windows. Through one she could see someone working on the small panes. She went in.
A young, red-haired woman holding a palette and a paintbrush looked up as she entered. “Seeker! You’re awake! Blessed be ye, and welcome to the chapel. My name is Joy.”
The Seeker stood admiring the beautiful flowers she had painted on the window. “How lovely they are,” she said. “So life like.”
“Thank you. Painting is my gift. Though it can be difficult, it brings me great joy to take the talent the Creator has given me and find a use for it in this material world. Our gifts are the seeds of life within us. We use them to bless others. What is your gift, Seeker?”
The Seeker thought for a minute. Never in all her years in the temple had she been encouraged to explore her gifts — if she had any… “I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not sure I have any.”
“Of course you do! All Seekers have gifts! Perhaps you haven’t found yours yet. That is part of your journey, you know, to find the purpose for your life and share it with others.”
“Are you a Seeker, too, Joy?”
“I am indeed. Like you, my journey brought me to this retreat house. And when I found they needed help adorning the chapel, I knew I had found my calling in this life.”
The Seeker smiled and considered the paints lying on the table. “The tools of your trade…” she said, running her hand over the bottles.
“Yes,” Joy said, noticing the longing in the Seeker’s eyes. She grew quiet for a moment and bowed her head as if listening for something, then said, “My heart tells me that though you may not realize it yet, you already have all the tools necessary to accomplish your goals in this life.”
The Seeker was surprised. “I do?”
“Indeed! Come, sit with me.” Joy took the Seeker’s hand and led her to a bench in the front of the chapel.
“You have been so busy learning how to treat others with love and respect that perhaps you have neglected to learn to care for yourself. This journey is not only about finding the Creator, it is also about finding ourselves. Not only are we changing on the outside in the way we treat others, there is something happening inside us as well. You must learn to treat your inner spirit with deference and respect, for to truly love others, one must first learn to love oneself.”
The Seeker fidgeted on the bench. “But isn’t paying attention to oneself a sign of self-centeredness and conceit. Surely that is not the way the Creator would have us be.”
Joy looked deeply into the Seeker’s eyes. “That is, of course, what you were taught in the temple. But consider what the Sacred Scrolls say. You are to ‘Love your Creator with all your heart, your soul, your strength and your mind, and others as yourself.’ If you do not know how to love yourself in the proper way, how can you love others as they need to be loved? I fear you judge yourself too harshly young Seeker.”
The Seeker considered all that Joy had to say. It struck her that delight and satisfaction were emotions she had not felt yet on her journey. She had been far too busy learning how to care for others to dwell on her own needs and take pleasure in her ability to learn and grow. Here again was a new teaching. It had never occurred to her she would need to learn to love herself.
© Cheryl D. Carter
Picture Credit — personal (see also www.aeclectic.net)