On top of this, I am in the gray zone. I am between dreams. I am awaiting my next mission and find myself hanging out in limbo land, where the waiting wears thin and I have memorized every nook and cranny of my holding pattern.
I am quietly grumpy. My energy is out of whack. I am best left alone. My unspoken counsel is to step away from the snarky woman. I remember — finally — that I do have resources, and I call on the angels for some guidance.
I can use any and all the help I can get to move out of this stuck spot. What I get in response is a sign, I mean a literal sign. (Those angels do get a kick out of irony.)
Shimmering before me is an impossibly bright poster to join the Defenders of the Light, an elite branch of the Angelic Army: Human Division. Donning my sunglasses, I arch an eyebrow and squint quizzically at the message. “Could this help me?” I wonder.
No sooner do I say the words than zip, zam, zingo, lightning bolts flash. I find myself transported through time and space. I am bumping along on a squeaky bus with 12 other stunned individuals en route to a secret location for what we learn is boot camp.
“Oh, boy, boot camp,” I groan to myself. The mere thought gives me a stomachache. What did the angels get me into?
We recruits are called “Dimmers.” We are divested of our sunglasses, hats, earphones, jewelry, anything that can obfuscate our vision, dull our senses, and enhance our egos. Essentially, we are stripped of all extraneous matter. We are told to shower, dress in uniform sweats, and report to our company officer.
The C.O. is an enormous angel named Nicholas; he is no-nonsense kind of angel with a rippling wingspan. He brooks no silliness, demands complete concentration, and really knows how to use a harmonica. He tells us we are here to get our basic training in spiritual warriorship.
Nicholas begins by teaching us a very old, as in the fourth century, Hebrew hymn entitled “The Face of God,” which we are to sing when in formation. The song and footwork are more than confusing. Here’s a sample:
those on the right
now stand again to the left,
those on the left
now stand again to the right,
those in front
now stand again in back,
those in back
now stand again in front.
The first essentials to master are the Attention and Being Drills. This seems odd. I was expecting calisthenics and relays around the base. The angels have a different requirement for spiritual shape. They want us to be able to be present, be in the moment, and stay in the now.
There is no doing here, only being. There is no daydreaming, playing on the Internet, or mindless channel surfing. There is nothing to do. There are no specific, measurable tasks. We are asked to be present to ourselves, to be aware of our inner landscape, to eat our meals mindfully, and to meditate or pray in any form or fashion we choose.
We are asked to do this minute after minute, hour after hour, and day after day. It is bloody torture to get the mind to sustain any kind of mindfulness. It takes so much practice and concentration. And if your mind wandered, the surprisingly heavy-handed Nicholas would come up and tap you on the shoulder to bring you back to present time.
We learned from the “Bulbs,” the second years, that if you want the wattage to create miracles, you need to be in present time. This is motivation; we want to be able to zip, zam, zingo ourselves.
Those who mastered the Attention and Being Drills are given the ultimate test of mindfulness, a round on the Buzz Lightyear Golf Course.
The second area of training is the Compassion Exercises. We are placed in an amphitheater, where we are taught the Heartmath techniques Heartmath to decrease stress and open the heart. It’s pretty powerful stuff.
The real test comes when a huge screen is lowered and we are presented with televised news from around the world. Our assignment is to develop compassion for every segment of the news, from every viewpoint.
This reminds me of a story attributed to the Columbia School of Journalism. There is a fire in a building that covers an entire New York City block. Reporters are sent to each of the four corners of the block to report the fire. Which one is telling the truth?
The answer: All four are, each from his or her vantage point. This is a good reminder that the small-“t” variety of truth is subjective.
This compassion work literally cracks my heart open and reminds me of a phrase from a Rumi poem that reads something like “break my heart/break it again/so I can love more fully.”
Not a bad thing to learn.