On ‘Belief’ and Believing

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beliefin3wordsBefore tuning in to the “Belief” series on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), I went to the website and saw this question:

What do you believe?

Readers could choose to answer in three words and add an image. I was drawn to the exercise and after some thought I wrote this:

Life. Is. Magic.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

That’s how I felt after writing it and adding my photo behind it.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

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As I watch this series, I am at a crossroads in my life. I can feel my own trepidation, but overriding it is this excitement. A freelance writer since 2002, part of the soaring joy of that calling is the uncertainty that comes with the transition periods. There is no way to stitch together a freelance life that is seamless; one assignment ends and makes room for another, but sometimes you don’t know what or when.

This is me now. Filled with possibility. Terrified. Somehow they co-exist in me, melding into a calm that seems unfathomable to people who don’t choose this life. I feel confident. I think it’s because of my belief that life is magic.

As I watched some of the people we met in “Belief” I thought about their decisions involving climbing and leaping. All the energy and courage that goes into reaching a peak or preparing to jump. I felt connected to their desire and their determination.

Magic.

In my mind, magic is kind of like luck. You know, opportunity meeting the prepared mind. That always feels magical when it happens, but there’s more to it, isn’t there?

Back in 2007 I had a goal of a regular column in a prominent media outlet. I had nearly 20 years of being a journalist behind me and had added a life coach certification into the mix. I had written sample columns. Then, voila. I’m at a barbecue for a beloved college professor and I leave with a contact that turns into a twice-weekly column at FoxBusiness.com. I am not aligned with the politics of the network nor am I a business writer, but the contact is seeking someone to write about “how to live life.” I can do that. Ultimately, I did do that. Magic.

After a satisfying five years, I was told the column was being discontinued; my contact had left the network. Within the hour I emailed a friend, upset. He said, “I have work for you.”

It turned out to be more than two years of glorious work. Writing profiles of people all over the country who are living meaningfully, sharing their epiphanies, heartaches, and sometimes revealing themselves in ways that surprise even them. I love that people are comfortable opening up to me. They sense I’m genuinely interested. It all comes together and in some ways their stories buoy me along. Magic.

Bring me stories. They feed me.

Watching the stories on “Belief” made me feel like I was globe-trotting. When Oprah wrote this Tweet on the last night of the seven-part series, it all made sense:

Oprah Winfrey @Oprah

@3LWTV @janetmock @OWNTV @part2pictures we sat in a room for 6 months and strategized with map of the world before shooting 1 thing #belief

And this is what they came up with in that room. I learned what it means to be a whirling dervish and its connection to the great mystic and poet Rumi and how it healed a woman with a brain injury. I marveled at images of Mecca, only then understanding its scope. I rode along on a bicycle with a 13-year-old boy in Budapest asking before his bar mitzvah why the sky is blue. I walked the Camino with an Australian doctor who was trying to shed his past with each step.

With each hour of the series, I became enthralled with how far-reaching it was. Frankly, it was the first time I questioned my decision to not upgrade my non-flat screen Sony television that is still going strong. I imagine the series had a whole different level of magnificence on a newer model.

The point that really stayed with me from the series, though, was made in episode 3. I keep thinking about it. A woman from Topeka named Judi Bergquist visits in prison the man who murdered her son. He wants to be forgiven and both want to heal. It’s a moving, uncomfortable segment. During the visit, Bergquist shows video of her son’s funeral service. In it, the presiding minister says this act of violence wasn’t God’s will.

Wait, what? Why did that give me pause?

I have been turning it over in my mind ever since. I was raised Catholic, but no longer identify as Catholic. After September 11, 2001, and the priest scandal in 2002, I went on a quest to understand my spirituality. What did I believe? What were my options? My close proximity to New York allowed me to explore all sorts of places.

For a while I landed at a New Thought church and got schooled. My reading went something like this – Julia Cameron, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, Caroline Myss, Paulo Coehlo, Don Miguel Ruiz, Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, Gary Zukav, Wayne Dyer, Florence Scovel Shinn and Pema Chodron. My language became peppered with terms like ‘universal flow’ and ‘abundance’ and ‘synchronicity.’ I incorporated all of it into my writing, my coaching … my living.

Now, when a statement like that minister’s is put before me, I do pause. Do I believe God sends some people here for 22 years and others for 95? Do I believe we – our souls – can dip in and out of what we call time and be amongst the living? Did we choose to ‘come in’ knowing we’d only be here for 18 years or four days? Who cuts a life short? A supreme being? A man with a gun? A disease that eats away at flesh and organs?

What a swirl of ideas and possibilities. I find it exhilarating to engage them. I am comfortable not knowing some things, of having uncertainty. That’s what my spiritual journey continues to yield.

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At the end of the “Belief” series, Oprah, in her narrating role, asks, “What do you believe?”

I stand by my original answer, only perhaps I stand in it more powerfully.

Life. Is. Magic.

It is.

It has to be.

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