Playing Hurt


If I was looking for a spiritual teacher, I would want one with a stern and steely eye on the ego at all times. One who would swat you with his energy if you began to deviate from your proper inner stance.

I would also want one who embodies compassion. I had such a teacher. His name was Vernon Howard and he never made deals with the devil. He thundered at us to sit up straight and pay attention. He liked to say that we begin on the physical level, then on to the mental and spiritual ones.

He spent equal time on darkness and light because each is within us. He kept us in paradox up to our eyeballs. One minute he would say we were hopeless and the next that we were in the right place. Truth cannot be doled out to the indifferent. That is a really important point. It’s the reason why churches don’t work.

There is an old saying in the Work, “Take what you want and pay for it.” During the years that I spent studying his talks and books, I gave it everything I had because I wanted it so badly. So many tunnels to crawl through on your belly. So many prayers rising to heaven, “God help me. I can’t help myself.”

And grace was always there. Always is here right now. If you pay attention….

Woke up early having dreamt that my father had died. I was grieving. I lay in bed listening to a howling wind and I began to cry. I sent up prayers to heaven for him. I talked to him. I got up and blew my nose hard. And now here I am. These tears are proving to be fertile ground for my work. My father would be proud. He was a good writer himself and had to leave school in the eighth grade. His mother abandoned him and his family when he was two. Once she called when he was a small boy and said she would meet him at the park. He went and sat on the bench and she never came.

Everyone is playing hurt and doing remarkable things. He grew up to start the first independent pharmaceutical company in Memphis. He gave us all we needed, everything he never had. He would put rocks in his lunch pail to make the kids think he had something to eat. That, my friends, is a tough life. He was haunted by his mother’s loss so he never spoke of it. I learned those things from my mother.

I feel better now. I am grateful for learning the one great lesson. Love is a survivor. It can’t be abandoned and it can’t go hungry. For it is food. “I am the bread of life,” says the Christ consciousness. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Amen.

Vicki Woodyard
Author of Life With A Hole In It

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