Minutes before noon, November 11th, in Market Square, Portsmouth, the brisk wind grabbed at the prayer flags as I tied them to the trees. Across the street, there was plenty of sunshine, warming the folks sitting outside on the cafe plaza. It is a federal holiday, so there are plenty of people passing this way and that. But I am here, in the shade in front of the North Church, standing apart.
As the church bells strike the noon, I reach into the bag of messages to begin reading. I am feeling awkward, wondering if I will do this whole hour by myself. Minutes go by.
I read many messages to the wind, to the tourists strolling by, to those locals with a sweet day off, to students free from the confines of school. Trying to make eye contact, struggling to be present to the beauty of each message, I find myself feeling self conscious and awkwardly alone.
Then I see a friend across the square. And then another friend and slowly more friends appear. Then a guy with an instrument case walks up and says "Do you mind if I play my sax?"
Friends came and went and all 250 messages were read out loud, were honored and heard. The church bell struck one o'clock, I rolled up the prayer flags that had hung in trees, packed up the read messages and dropped some cash in the saxophone's cup. All was well.
A week later as I reflect back on my emotions on that day, I realize my initial feelings of awkwardness stemmed from my need to feel a sense of validation for the act of standing apart, for doing something in public that might be viewed as "strange". The lesson I take away from this Nov. 11th reading is to hold firmly on to the vision that this project is about weaving TOGETHER voices that sing for peace and compassion for all. In that spirit I am not alone.
The folks who were able to show up are symbols for the many many others who are with me in spirit. I know and feel your affirmation for this work. Deep gratitude for all your messages, your words of encouragement and your volunteering to weave the prayer flags. We are all in this journey together.
Russill Paul at Hari Om Mandir. This was a three day retreat that culminated in a beautiful puja and kirtan to the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi.
In closing, I affirm that my voice, my effort, my prayer is but one amongst many who are singing, chanting, speaking, moving towards a more compassionate planet. Our voices weave together in beauty.
Thank you for joining me. Namaste ~ Sarah