Desert Song

We’re in the desert again, this time to attend a baby blessing for our granddaughter who lives here. There’s something about deserts that call to the spiritual side of people. I remember visiting Barry Stevens in Moab Utah, in 1973, and our family vacation in Sedona, Arizona in 1997; the red rock formations, evening light shows against the mountains, dry creek beds and sand everywhere. Maybe it’s the sand. There’s so much of it, and all those tiny grains help remind us of where we fit in to it all.

My son invited some monks to bless his baby daughter, a day and a month after she arrived. Friends and family gathered for the occasion – actually the grandparents gathered ahead of everyone else because mom and dad hadn’t had much sleep and gotten behind on house and yard maintenance. So we cleaned and swept and raked the sand, inside and outside, getting the house ready to welcome the monks and the baby’s new community.

We knew that the monks wouldn’t eat anything because they would have already had their one meal for the day. They’d take water, (seems a necessity in the desert) whatever your spiritual practice, but apparently they said yes to some iced green tea. My son told me they needed one more tea and glass of ice so I brought them and placed the items down in front of the monk who didn’t have anything in front of him. Just after I did that, the head monk picked up each of the three glasses and bottles of teas and placed them down again, in the same spot as before. It seemed odd to me, but later, when I learned that my daughter-in-law had been the person who placed the other glasses of ice and tea in front of the first two monks, I realize that this action was necessary because the monks cannot eat or drink anything presented to them by a woman.

The baby blessing began with the monks inviting the entire group to mediate with them while they chanted. We were instructed to first send loving kindness to ourselves, because if you cannot love yourself, you cannot love anyone else. We were instructed to send loving kindness to all those that we love, our family and friends, then next to those suffering with ill health or recent losses. Finally, we should send loving kindness to the whole world, to those with whom we disagree, and to the ancestors on the other side. The chanting of the monks supported our meditation and I came to a place that I’ve come to many times – everything becomes easy when we love. That changes the world from the love of power to the power of love.

Especially since the baby we are celebrating is a girl, I prayed that everyone gets this message soon. The world I see for her is one where women and girls are respected and treated with dignity and respect. Where men accept with gracious gratitude, what women have to offer them. And where practices that do not reinforce these values, fall away; as the desert lets go of whatever doesn’t work in the environment, and where only what is essential survives.  

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