Pearls for Wisdom
Many of you know that my life has been influenced by the teachings of Sydney Banks, a humble, ordinary Scottish man who had an extraordinary enlightenment experience when he was 43. Syd died in 2009, but he left behind a body of written and recorded work.
I shared on Facebook recently that I have been sick for months with several viral episodes of unknown type. I am getting better!
Motivated by my posts, this week, a woman who knew Syd well, reached out to me in a letter to share a personal story about how he helped her, and family members, to heal. Her lifelong work as an educator was based on what Syd taught.
Her letter touched me, and I felt a subtle and powerful shift inside toward greater calm and acceptance of all that is occurring for me personally and in the world. Her story has been like rain on parched earth, as the hours pass I feel the moisture seeping ever deeper.
I asked her for permission to publish the letter. We edited it lightly for clarity and to safeguard her privacy. I woke up last night thinking about a comment the writer made to me. She said that Syd reminded her that when we share our thoughts and stories, it is important that we try for there be no room for anyone to be hurt. Sometimes he, being human, forgot that, too. I woke up out of a deep sleep last night with that ethic — do no harm — on my heart, and I cried in gratitude for the wise reminder.
As my friend writes, her story is a holy one. Among its messages: we learn from where we are, sickness can be a teacher, we are always SAFE, everything is God, and stillness is a great gig. Her story points to mysteries that puzzle the intellect but speak a language the soul knows. On one of his videos, Syd said, “if you accept the mystery, you join it.” In some inexpressible way, I know that is true.
My deepest thanks to the writer. I invite you to open your hearts to her precious gift.
Photo by Volha Kudzina on Unsplash
I dressed up and put on my pearls to write to you because this story is a holy one and deserves the finest.
I am in our sun-room looking out over the pass where the odd boat is coming through. The sun is warming my back, and there is a hint of spring in the air as the pink buds on the cherry tree get ready to burst open. I love this time of year when things that appeared dead and gone send out little signs of waking up to tell us to have hope. It is sure what we need at the moment.
When you commented on Facebook that you were unsure why you didn’t say you had been ill, I felt I needed to share my story. I am called to do this. For a long time, being sick was considered a failing by some in what I still lovingly call the “Sydney Bankers” (never have liked calling it 3 Principles). In days gone by, we would get a “workshop” from well-meaning friends who would say “if you were just high enough you wouldn’t get sick.” That may be true, but you learn from wherever you are, and Syd was an amazing teacher in that regard.
I first heard about Syd at Christmas of 1975, when a friend visiting from Australia gave me a gift, a book called Island of Knowledge, by Linda Quiring. The book shared the teachings of a wise man living on Salt Spring Island. It was interesting, kind of hippy dippy, but that is where we all were at that time.
In January I accompanied my friend to on an excursion to take something to friends of hers. It turns out they were Syd’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law. I didn’t make the connection between them and the book’s author or her subject.
I was completely gobsmacked by what I experienced that day. The couple was so calm and happy. Their three kids were playing with each other in the house, and they weren’t arguing or fighting, they were being nice to each other and laughing.
I could see and feel that something special was going on but didn’t know what. I was helping Syd’s sister-in-law pour tea in the kitchen and said to her “I don’t know what you’ve got, but I want it.” We chatted a bit about it, but I was none the wiser – it just felt good. These folks were sincere, laid back hippies, and the conversation was “far out man.”
A month or so later, a dear friend lost her son to a drunk driver. When I heard the news, I went out in my yard and was bawling my eyes out. My neighbor noticed me and asked if she could be of help. I told her what had happened. She invited me to come and sit in the winter sunshine and have a cup of tea.
We talked about life and she said she had done everything to find inner peace – church, meditation, she had even read a book about some guy on Salt Spring Island who thought he had the answer to everything.
“Wait a minute” I said, and I ran back to my house and got the book my Australian friend had given me. It was the same book, Island of Knowledge. Only a thousand copies had been printed. But there we were, neighbors, reading it. What a serendipity!
My neighbor had found out that people met weekly to discuss Syd’s teachings so after a few weeks we decided to go. Syd wasn’t there but the first person to come and greet me had eyes that said, “I love you.” I had never felt such an amazing sense of connection and welcome before. I knew I had found home. I didn’t understand what the heck Syd and this group were talking about, but it felt good.
My husband and I had a very strained relationship over money and many other problems. We had three little kids, a year between each. We had been told one of our children had irreparable brain damage. Our child was on Zarontin and Phenobarbital for seizures, enough medications to knock a horse out. A physician had suggested we might want to find a placement in a group home. That was not what we wanted although we really didn’t know what to do. Our child was sweet, learned at a slower rate and was part of our family.
My husband wasn’t interested in going to the meetings, but I went with my neighbor. In April, the group announced that there would be a gathering in Washington State in June. My neighbor turned to me and said “here is your chance. You go, I will keep the kids during the day and your husband can look after them at night.”
So, I went and that was the beginning of a new life. I had never driven on a ferry in my life or gone anywhere other than in my neighbourhood so travelling to a place outside Seattle was a BIG deal.
We spent five days having fun at a big old church camp called Seabeck. It was a hoot – tennis, boating, walking in the woods, lying on the grass listening to Syd talk. No kids – a chance for the first time in a long time to let my mind and body rest. Syd spoke more formally on two evenings. Afterwards, as was the custom then, we all sang.
One night, we were in a large circle singing Amazing Grace. I HEARD from somewhere deep inside the word SAFE. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would never have to worry again because my child was truly safe.
I wept for joy and shared the story with Syd’s wife, Barb, through big racking sobs.
I returned home a few days later. My perception had been permanently altered. I could only see my child as a perfect being full of love and the piss and vinegar of a six-year-old.
My child was in first grade and the year was closing out. A teacher called me in and said “It is like a light has gone on inside that child. Up until now, reading and math were stumbling but in the last couple of weeks, there have been huge successes. I was going to recommend a repeat of first grade but there is no need now.”
I shared this with Syd and also talked to him about the powerful medications. I didn’t know what to do about them. He said: “The pill is God too, dearie. It is all the same. It is all God. You’ll know what to do when the time is right.”
So, we kept on with the meds and never, ever discussed the issue. Eight months later, my little seven-year-old came to me and said, “Mommy I am not sick anymore and I am not going to take this medicine.” We ceremoniously dumped it down the toilet. (I know – bad to do but we didn’t know that forty-odd years ago!). Of course, we called Syd to tell him what had happened. The next EEGs showed no brain damage. How does that happen?
This was all the impetus needed for my husband to see that there was something here and he began to come to the meetings in Victoria.
Five years later, this same child had a terrible accident and broke an elbow in a T-shaped fracture. I will never know how Syd heard about it, but within hours he was at our door as we agonized over the surgery that was about to occur. He said “I was recently in that hospital in Victoria and the doctors took good care of me. They will take good care: you can trust them.” Again, we felt the reassurance that being sick or hurt was not bad. He saw through to the wholeness and pointed toward the surgery as just a process to go through.
Fast forward to three years ago. I got a lung condition that three in a million people get. Lucky lottery winner! It took months to be diagnosed and I slipped further and further down until I had no breath to even talk. I landed in the hospital.
My medical treatment lasted eight months but the spiritual treatment that unfolded over the last three years will endure a lifetime. While I thought I was a goner, such deep growth and change were occurring that it completely altered my life. I had worked and volunteered until life stopped me and I could no longer do it.
Through the recovery process, I found deep stillness. It allowed me to return home inwardly and rest in the everlasting arms of Mind. I have never come back to where I was physically but spiritually, I have been shown new depths.
My world work now is being still.
A Bahai friend shared a poem with me that says, “make me a hollow reed, from which the pith of self hath been blown so that I may become as a clear channel through which Thy Love may flow to others.”
Stillness is a great gig and if I had not fallen ill, I may never have discovered it.
We are blessed to have met Syd in our lives and to find others who share the path he set for us.
I am sending you my love and best wishes as you follow your path to wellness.
Copyright: correspondence to Linda Sandel Pettit, Ed.D. 2020