March 18, 2022

Lessons I’m Learning from the Ukrainian People.

I’ve been glued to the news.

As I watch Ukrainian women and children enter a new and safer country, each carrying a bag, I wonder what I’d do in their shoes. Imagine. A life suddenly thrown into one bag. I know how long it takes me to pack for a vacation. How did they choose in minutes?

What if my life was in jeopardy and I was forced to flee to another country? No travel agent, no airline tickets, no carefully-planned vacation, no shopping for just the right clothes. What if I could only bring one medium-size bag? Aside from the practicalities of a passport, license, cash, medicine, power bars, iPhone, and water, what would jump out as “most important?”

Unlike the Ukrainians, I’m blessed with comfort. Before the war, they were too. Life 101. Fragile and unpredictable.

As of this moment, my life is stable and good. I’m happily married, a mother of two, and a grandmother. I’m a “peace through music” musician, sound healer, author, educator, recording artist, motivational speaker, life coach, and I lead a Facebook community of love and peace called “Shift of Heart.”

My home is filled with healing objects. My husband’s words of love and poems are in a shoebox. There’s an abundance of scrapbooks, family photographs, cherished artwork, inspirational books, birthday and anniversary cards, and meaningful magnets on the refrigerator. There are DVDs of my mother’s operatic voice and poetry, endearing letters my father wrote to me when I was in my 20s, and pictures of my husband fishing for big bass.

There are also small rocks and shells with power words on them throughout my home. Even in the bathroom. Words like “freedom,” “peace,” “faith,” “trust,” “love,” and “hope.”

As I look around the living room, I see the treasured Tiffany lamp my husband gave me for my birthday. It bears the symbolic shape of a butterfly—exuding possibility, freedom, and the beautiful process of growing into our potential. Could I stuff my beautiful lamp into my medium-sized bag?

I would need to surrender other healing objects. In my studio, I play the healing sounds of my golden gong, strum my guitar, pluck my cello, play multicultural instruments, meditate and chant while ringing my crystal chakra bowls, compose songs on my synthesizer, write my third draft for a book-to-be, and breathe in the beauty and healing around me. I have plenty of food and water, tall trees in the backyard, and the sweet sounds of birds everywhere.

What would I take with me?

I hate to be cold. I would wear my warmest socks, sweater, and coat. Ukrainians traverse rough terrain through biting winter, traveling by foot, bus, and train, forging ahead courageously, praying their efforts lead to safety.

For my bag, my choices would be meaningful, small, and light. I would choose reminders of who and what I am in the deepest parts of my soul. Reminders I am not the war or the victim. I am me. Heart-centered, playful, light, loving, musical, gifted, and introspective. I might enclose a few photos, a small book of inspiration, and maybe a few of the small rocks with positive affirmations.

I’d want my gong, conch shell, and guitar, but would have to be satisfied with my voice and inner memory of their healing sounds. I’d bring a change of clothes, comb, toothbrush, iPhone, and forget anything called “makeup,” toiletries, earrings, hair products, toothpaste, blow dryer, and matching clothes.

Most of what I would bring would already be within me.

I would have to imagine the sound of my chakra healing bowls as I meditated, prayed, and practiced the “metta meditation prayer of loving-kindness” that Buddha created over 2500 years ago. In a deep state of meditation, I would use the power of positive thought transference as a step toward inner peace and peace in the world.

There is a saying, “But for the Grace of God go I.”

As I watch the destruction, death, and suffering from the comfort of my living room, I perceive that war could happen here, too. Yes. Even here. When one democracy goes, others can fall, too. I wrote a powerful poem called, “My Dream for Peace,” and one of the lines says:

“May those who have the power to destroy the world suddenly feel a transformational shift in their hearts to save the world.”

This is my prayer. This is my hope. This is my vision.

I will continue to visualize a new story for our one humanity, and meanwhile, the brave men and women in Ukraine are all I can think about. As we watch this war unfold, there are many lessons to breathe into our souls. Lessons of strength, courage, stamina, the will to live, faith, resilience, and never-ending love.

I will continue to envision peace on our one precious planet, and with the Ukrainian people as my inspiration, I will remember that the gift of freedom is worth fighting for.

Circling around to my “just one bag” question, I haven’t decided what I would put in my bag yet. What would you put in your medium-size bag? What would help nurture your body, mind, and spirit as you become an unexpected refugee in a new land? When we are stripped of all that we know, what can we carry in our one bag, or even in our pocket, to give us the strength to keep going? I’d love to hear from you.


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