PL Byrdby PL Byrd

Why are we here?

I rarely ask that question anymore because my Magic 8 Ball broke years ago and all the shamans I know are animals, not people. When in the rare instance an answer reveals itself, it is not because I paid someone to tell me; it is because I confided in my dog or spoke with a trusted friend — some of whom are gifted healers — or cleared my head, sat still and listened.

You’ve heard of it. Meditation: It’s free.

I dig walking meditations the most. Some days it takes awhile, but eventually I stop thinking about the bone I’ve been gnawing and start noticing the magic of the woods or, like my favorite guru John Prine said, the diamonds in the sidewalk. Sometimes I chant and make up songs for the trees. I open my throat and set my voice free and, as far as I know, my soul-sound hasn’t killed any birds or small children.

Inhaling light from the sun and exhaling love to the earth feels crazy cool, especially when I track how far my exhale of love extends. When I’m cranky, my breath barely reaches my toes. I adjust my attitude, breathe deeply into the sun and consciously send more love through the exhale. Eventually, my breath moves through the world on the back of a neutrino and, for that moment, I am one with everything.

Straight-tripping. Give it a go. Anyone can do it, I promise.

I pray, too. But for me, praying is different from meditation. When I pray, I talk. When I meditate, I listen. Sometimes I’m so softened up by meditating that my heart radiates love and gratitude for a long, long time. Sometimes I spread goodness like butter.

But not always.

Today I am having a crisis of kindness directed toward the healing community at large. The way I see it, healing is a calling and many people are being dialed up every day, which is a really, really good thing. If we’re paying attention, we know our whole world is in crisis and we need healers of every stripe to join hands. But it takes years or, depending on the discipline, a lifetime of practice and a major ego overhaul (as in deconstruction) to fly that flag.

Look — we can’t put on white coats, drape stethoscopes around our necks and, presto chango, call ourselves doctors. So enough already with announcing to the world that we’re spiritual healers or sherpas or, for the love of Pete, shamans when we haven’t done the work, when our concentration is on blatant self-promotion rather than meaningful, compassionate action. At this point in our collective history, we’re pretty close to the spiritual equivalent of a McDonald’s cheeseburger, regardless of our ability to use the term “hold space” in a sentence.

There. I said it.

It’s a judgmental, petty and graceless rant; it makes me sad for myself.

Why am I so out of sorts? Then, I remembered. I double-checked the December 2013 calendar to confirm. Two years ago today, I saw my precious mother for the last time. She was lying in a hospice bed, close to transitioning. She looked exquisitely beautiful. The last words she said to me were, “We go deep.” Mom flew 32 hours later.

I am mourning my mama, my one true beacon of authenticity. Holy or unholy, aware or unaware, ego-driven or burned down to ashes and regenerated, she accepted us all at her table. She dished up super-sized servings of unconditional love to everyone she met.

And I’m mourning the passing of my dad, one dear friend, two fine old horses and the world’s best dog. There’s been a lot of letting go in the last two years.

That kind of loss can make a person cranky. I’m feeling its weight today.

So, do me a solid, will you? Take a walk outside. You may feel your head tingle when you inhale the sun. When you exhale love, extend your breath as far out as you can. Send that love to the ground you walk on, then through the neighborhood, then through the United States and into the big wide world, all the way to Syria and beyond. Chant if you feel so moved. If om feels funny to you, a simple ah will do. Hold the note like you would if you were a kid in church singing the first syllable of the word amen. You know what I mean.

The world needs you. I need you. We need each other.

Author PL Byrd is an animal-loving, tree-hugging work in progress in Winston-Salem. Read more of her writing at

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