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How a wooden samurai sword helped me heal

A wooden sword sits on a window ledge in my little office. It's a replica of a Chinese sword from the age of the samurai and it has quite a story to tell.

Not so long ago, let's say 20-25 years ago, there were three constants in my life. At least, I thought they were constants. It certainly would never have entered my head that one day one of these constants might cease to exist –let alone that all three might simply vanish and pass away within a few short years.

But that’s what happened. First, I lost my spiritual mentor, the man I had loved and followed faithfully for more than 35 years, when he died unexpectedly in January 1988. Then my wonderful wife Joy, to whom I had been married for 25 years, also died suddenly in December 1991.

Finally, on a cold fall morning in October 1994, I said goodbye forever to the spiritual community that had been my home in British Columbia for 36 years. I had no alternative. The community didn’t exist anymore. It had gradually disintegrated as more and more people left following our leader’s death.

The sword symbolized courage for me

This is where my wooden sword comes into the picture. Of course, it wasn’t the sword itself that helped me heal. It was what it symbolized to me.

My entire world had shattered. I was in a state of numbness, denial, and terrible grief. I felt I was on the edge of an abyss. I was 63, with virtually no money and no prospects that I could see  -- what was I going to do?

The first step was clear enough. It was to go to Vancouver, 300 miles to the south, where my son, Durwin, lived. I will always be so thankful for the friendship and support he offered to me, and offers to this day. A day or two after arriving in Vancouver to begin what seemed the hopeless task of rebuilding my life, I had a sudden impulse. "Go to Chinatown and buy a wooden sword,” a voice said to me in my heart. “It will be a symbol of the warrior spirit that you will need to handle this situation you’re in.”

I took a bus to Chinatown

I remember quite vividly taking a bus to Chinatown and then, because this was Vancouver, getting soaked as I walked for several blocks in heavy rain looking for a suitable sword. Finally I found one, and in the difficult, confusing days that followed, this wooden sword did indeed help me navigate the challenge before me.

I mention this little story because perhaps in these difficult times a physical symbol of some kind can be helpful or perhaps already is being helpful to you too?

How an old photo helped my wife JoAnn heal

On this same theme, my wife JoAnn was telling me the other day how for many years she was troubled by the notion that her mother loved her sister more than she loved her. One day JoAnn was looking at a portrait of herself taken when she was about 8 years old, when she suddenly realized that this idea she had carried with her for so long simply wasn’t true.

She realized, as she looked at the old picture of herself, how happy she looked, and how nicely dressed she was – and what nice Shirley Temple curls her mother had put in her hair. She realized her mother really did love her and a burden lifted in her.

Do you have a story to tell?

Do you have a story you’d like to tell about a physical symbol or object of some kind that has been a help to you in your life? Please share. I send you love and blessings. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend, won’t you?

PS Please know that my inspirational fable, The Raven Who Spoke with God, is available right now in Kindle format at Amazon at a specially reduced price of 99 cents. “It soars. This is no ordinary book, and no ordinary bird,” said the Sunday Oklahoman in its review. Please click here for more reviews and info about my book.

Picture credit: michael-angelo8008

 

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Evan Griffith June 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Chris–

You know what impresses me most about your experience? That at that moment of your greatest despair YOU LISTENED TO THAT INNER DIRECTIVE! And then acted on it.

Wow.

I am hoping you are writing an e-book that speaks to those earlier times in your life. It would be fascinating — a spiritual adventure story — and I’d buy it in a flash! (As would many others, I believe.)

Evan
Evan Griffith recently posted..Experiencing a fall (as prelude to a leap): Dr. Wayne Dyer

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Christopher Foster June 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Evan, thank you and bless you. I’m more and more getting a feeling that this theme is a good one for me to work with. Thank you so much for your support and especially I thank you for your encouragement re the ebook!! We’ll both keep pushing on, right?

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Sal June 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Hi Chris,
I haven’t commented on your site for quite sometime, but nevertheless, I always read your emails. Your little story today comes at a time for me when I find myself quite lost and feeling like I have no voice. As you know, I retired in the beginning of February and I have been enjoying that. I get to see my two grandkids more often
and I do like having the time to get to know them better. I just sent you a picture I took on Saturday of my grandsons.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a general ill-at-ease, fatigue, and hardly any excitement in anything. I think it’s time to find some people to volunteer with. I just have a general sluggish, tired, dismal feeling. I have been paying a lot of attention to politics, and I’m an avid reader. What’s going on in America right now is very frightening. Since the Supreme Court upheld the idea that “corporations are people,” known as Citizen’s United in 2010, our government and its laws are for sale to the highest bidder. Our country is deeply divided and polarized, and the hating going on is a horrible thing to see. There is no transparency in corporate giving to candidates who after election are beholden to them for their monetary favors. It’s just sad to watch what has happened and is happening to our beautiful country.

The only thing I can think of at the moment is, I heard once, I can’t remember where, but I heard that we should envision what kind of world we would like to live in, and become that world inside ourselves. That makes perfect sense to me, but I have been having a hard time crawling out of the hole I find myself in. I believe that we can’t “change the world” but we can change ourselves, which ultimately is the only thing we have any control over. If each of us cleaned up our own backyards for the better, what a wonderful world we would live in!

So, I shouldn’t be so worried about the Un-Christlike Christian right wingers; rather I should busy myself with what I can change. Sometimes that’s a harder thing to do than others.
Love,
Sal

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Christopher Foster June 14, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Dear Sal,

Your words are very touching. Thank you for sharing. Our country is deeply divided and polarized, just as you say, and it’s good to see things clearly as they are. But personally, I love the idea, that seems to be getting stronger in my awareness every day, that these changes we see going on in our country and in our world — that often seem and are so distressing — are not the only thing that is happening.

I really do believe, and experience, as I say, that back of these sometimes violent outer swings and breakdowns something else is coming to the surface. And it is a subtle dawning of a new awareness that within each one of us is something that does not change, never has changed, and never will change. I’m talking about our true nature, our eternal self, that is untroubled and unharmed by any of these outer events.

So it seems to me there are two things going on at the same time. And perhaps, paradoxical though it may seem, they are actually part of one giant evolutionary process the result of which truly is and will be a new world.

I feel your own personal feelings of difficult and despair, and I am with you in what is going on in your life. I think these feelings are rife everywhere. I feel them myself. But above and beyond these painful feelings I see the timeless beauty of your own true nature, your own true spirit, and I assure you that nothing that happens in this external flux can actually do any harm to that true beauty that is you.

With love and blessing Sal, and thank you again for writing.

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claudia treadwell June 14, 2012 at 4:53 pm

The most healing symbol I have is a an ancient cypress tree on the beach. When my husband fought cancer and eventually passed, I kept him going by visiting that tree together for a year and a half. The tree was sick, too, and need love and healing. Even if we did not walk, we would drive to the cypress tree and touch it with loving vibrations. Over four years since my husband died, I visit the tree often and gain wisdom, direction, insights and love.

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Christopher Foster June 14, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Oh Claudia, what a beautiful, beautiful story. I hardly know what to say. Of course here’s something interesting, this ancient cypress of which you speak didn’t say anything in a verbal sense either, did it. It gave comfort by expressing a different kind of love, its own unique kind of love.

I am so touched by your example. So there was you, your husband, and this ancient tree, itself in need of succor just as you say. And the love that you shared together in this remarkable story, my, who knows how far it reached? Or how much it helped uplift your husband and prepare him for whatever the future held for him?

Love and blessings to you Claudia. I am so happy to hear that you still visit the tree and continue to be blest by it. We have a large blue spruce outside our front door that I never tire of visiting and communing with.

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Ashton June 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I have a painting of the child-emperor sleeping on his large ornate throne. In China, there was a time when the new emperor was only a young boy, and yet the responsibility of this entire empire bore down on his shoulders.

In the picture he has pulled his legs up, and he only fills about half of the massive throne seat. His head is resting on his one arm, on the arm-rest, and his face is a mixture of weariness and momentary relief – with a tinge of sadness – maybe at the loss of his childhood.

When I feel under pressure, I look at this picture, and take a few moments to just withdraw. Sometimes I even put my head down for a few moments of snoozing! It does one a world of good!

I read “The Raven Who Spoke With God” by the way.
It’s really good!

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Christopher Foster June 14, 2012 at 7:24 pm

You evoke this beautiful painting so well Ashton, and its effect on you and its gift to you. I’m almost there looking at it with you and admiring it and feeling what you feel. How wonderful that it helps you let go of the outer burdens that we all feel and find quietness and relaxation in yourself.

My love to you Ashton. Stay strong. And thank you so much for sharing your story of the painting of the child emperor.

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Sal June 14, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Chris,
I forgot to mention during my above rant that I do have a litte symbolistic Buddha. He fits into my hand, is made of a hard resin-like material. He was hand-painted in pastels before he was fired and he’s got the sweetest smile. Sometimes I will pick him up and put him in my palm and study his beauty. He’s an absolute symbol of serenity. So perhaps my little Buddha is like your wonderful sword.
Hugs,
Sal

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Christopher Foster June 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

I loved hearing about your Buddha Sal. Serenity in the palm of your hand. I’m smiling right now as I think of that smile you so sweetly describe. It’s the smile that is in every one of us waiting to bless our world. Love to you and thank you so much for your interest and support.

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Terry Fischer June 14, 2012 at 6:03 pm

My objects are a couple of lawn chairs. Not the same two lawn chairs but any ones where two people can relax under the shade of a tree and really talk together. In my culture parents never complimented the child directly for fear that bad luck may befall them. I always thought my Mom loved my brother the best. She always told me how proud she was of his great scholastic accomplishments.

One warm summer afternoon my brother and I had a chance to talk after a long separation. As we relaxed into our lawn chairs he confided that he thought Mom loved me best because I gave her grandchildren and how pleased she was about this. We laughed together as we realized we had both made the same mistake and after that we became good adult friends too.

A few years later I had a chance to pay it forward. I had the opportunity to visit with my Auntie who didn’t live near her children. It was a couple of summers we spend in our lawn chairs in her back yard. Oh, how proud she was of them as she told me of their many scholastic and personal accomplishments. When she died I made it a point of going personally and privately to each of her children to tell them what she had told me about them. I hope it helped them.

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Christopher Foster June 15, 2012 at 9:31 am

Beautiful, Terry. Thank you so much for sharing. I shared your comment with JoAnn and she loved reading it too. Who would have thought a pair of lawn chairs could play such an important part in helping facilitate the lovely events you describe so well, life is very ingenious isn’t it? The visit with your brother, the times you spent with your Auntie, your initiative in reaching out to your Auntie’s children, it makes the heart glow.

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Hilary June 15, 2012 at 11:43 am

Hi Chris .. loved the story and a little more background – I’ll be getting a Kindle or equivalent soon .. then I’ll get your book .. I don’t do things like you mention .. but I guess now – I’ve learnt that someone’s trust in you can be complete .. my mother’s trust that I’m there for her and always will be in these final years as it now is.

I’m not sure what will happen anon – but certainly reading various blogs etc – my life has a different outlook … the thoughts are there …

Great story though and am so pleased you’re happy now .. cheers Hilary
Hilary recently posted..Jubilee Picnic at the Palace … held on 4th June 2012

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Christopher Foster June 17, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Hi Hilary, so good to hear from you. Thank you for sharing about your mother and her trust in you in her latter years. You mention not being sure how things will work out, and of course that’s true, but what a blessing for your mother that she does indeed know she can trust in your love and support. I’m with you in your journey. Blessings to you both.

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Suzanne June 15, 2012 at 11:54 am

A small green stone reminded me that your heart chakra will always be whole, even if it feels broken

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Christopher Foster June 17, 2012 at 7:59 pm

That is so beautiful Suzanne. Your comment made me think of a perfectly round white stone, about an inch or two deep and 3 inches across that is very special to me. I found it in a river bed in Arizona at a time in my life when when I was in deep distress emotionally. I still feel the simple strength and reminder of the enduring quality of life in this stone. Love to you.

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Genevieve Ross June 16, 2012 at 8:11 am

Mine is hummingbirds! No matter how low I may feel, at times the feeling of hopelessness and loss can be crushing, a visit from a hummingbird (literally or in my “minds eye”) and I can’t help but smile. The fast beating of their wings starts a vibration in my chest that spreads throughout my body reminding me to be happy no matter what!
I am known, by many, for my constant smile; little do they realize, they have hummingbirds to thank.
Warmest Regards,
Genevieve
Genevieve Ross recently posted..My Castle in the Air

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Christopher Foster June 17, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Thank you Genevieve. Beautiful. God bless hummingbirds. They are magical creatures aren’t they. I have marvelled so many times how tiny they are, yet how indomitable. How quickly they fly, the great distances they navigate. But their ability to bring you comfort and happiness in the way they do — that is truly remarkable.

I have a special place in my heart for chickadees, also a tiny bird. I think it started when I was grieving the loss of my wife many years ago, and I came home a day or two after the memorial service, and a whole flock of chickadees arrived and perched on the verandah of our condo as if to give me comfort. Thanks again for sharing Genevieve. Love to you.

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Sandra / Always Well Within June 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Christopher,

This is so synchronous for me as right now images of both loving and wild women (swords and all) are becoming important, empowering symbols to me. It’s so inspiring how you followed your voice and your sword help you manifest your warrior spirit. Look at where you are now!
Sandra / Always Well Within recently posted..Stay on Track with Daily Non-Negotiables

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Ellie June 22, 2012 at 7:17 am

Thank you for the touching post. I have saved many meaningful mementos over the years, but I think the one that I’ll be most careful never to lose is a note my husband scribbled to me on the third day we lived in New York City. We had been married for 3 weeks, and had left our families and friends 2,000 miles behind in Wisconsin (another world). All it says is, “For a good walk, go down 122nd to Amsterdam, walk up past shops to 116th, turn left and walk to Morningside. Enjoy the view.” It is that small bit of encouragement that caused me to embrace our new home (and new experiences in general), and I have been all the better for it.
Ellie recently posted..inspiration overload

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Veena July 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Dear Chris,

This is my first visit to your website. I came upon it just by chance but was intrigued enough to check out quite a few posts. Having just stepped into the senior years and having recently launched my own website and blog targeted at seniors and those approaching the sixties, I read the stuff here with keen interest.

I was amazed to see that I share your interest in writing stuff to encourage others to enjoy their senior years. You are a great inspiration to me, and I hope with God’s grace I will be able to achieve what I have set out to do and spread at least a few rays of happiness through my writing.

Coming to your request for personal stories about physical symbols, mine is a photograph of my late parents that I carry around with me in my purse. A photograph in which they’re both smiling into the camera, their faces exuding a glow of happiness. Whenever I’m feeling depressed or hurt I take it out and as I gaze into their faces I feel as though they’re speaking to me, the twinkle in their eyes even more pronounced. As if they’re saying, “Veena, what are you worrying about? It’s not the end of the world. Now stop moping and smile… yeah, that’s better!” And then I feel as though the clouds have rolled by and all is well in my world again.

Thanks for letting me share this.
Warm regards,
Veena Gomes-Patwardhan

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Christopher Foster July 7, 2012 at 10:08 am

What beautiful, beautiful words Veena. Thank you so much for sharing these inspiring and uplifting thoughts and experiences.

I think it’s wonderful that you have the photo of your parents with you and that it brings such support and happiness to you. Personally, I think our departed loved ones are closer than we may think. Blessings and love to you.

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