"All of the different religious faiths, despite their philosophical differences, have a similar objective. Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other people's suffering. On these lines every religion has more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal."
~ His Holiness, The Dalai Lama ~
From The Path To Tranquility, Daily Wisdom
Some of you know, and many of you don't, that I am an ordained minister. If I am to use my full title it is Reverend Mother Maitri Libellule. I was ordained online through the only place that felt legitimate, and my ordination took place in a church. I did not do this for anyone else, I did it for myself, and in doing so, I took my commitment to walk in the world as a solitary being, spreading compassion and loving-kindness all the days of my life, in every way that I could, seriously, and with my whole being. It would be an outreach ministry, practiced online, so as to reach as many people around the globe as I possibly could, having a sacred time to pray and meditate, daily, for all those that needed prayer, asked for prayer, and for all of those whom I hold deeply in my heart.
I was not ordained to impress anyone, to use the title to get attention, or to start a church in a physical building. I rarely leave this cottage, and my work here is very deep. I walk in a simple caftan, barefoot, and live amongst nine rescued animals, hundreds of books, and the material for my fiber art. I spin, weave, knit, crochet, among many other fiber arts, and I paint. Anything I sell, plus the few donations that I receive (I am too small to be non-profit, these are considered goodwill/love donations.), keep me going here. I am deeply grateful and satisfied with this way of living as a simple holy person, ordained but unnoticed, quiet and lovingly caring for these precious animals that are elderly, disabled, or unwanted by others, and to constantly read, study, pray, meditate, and "minister to" those who come to me for quiet listening, support, and prayer. No one would recognize me for anything other than what I am, a woman with a compassionate heart, filled to overflowing with love and kindness waited to be shared, as well as a very human woman who, due to many things that too place during my childhood, and since, have led me to the solitary life that I lead.
On my knees I thank God on the worst days. It is not an easy life. I would have it no other way. Our lives were not meant for all happiness and bliss -- though surely we do experience that and it is glorious -- our lives were meant to be a series of learning experiences, and to come to understand how to step out of our own skin, out of the boundaries of our own lives, to reach, and touch, and love one another. Or so I believe.
I was ordained on January 9, 2009, and struggled for months thereafter with the title. My heart, my mission, my goals, and all that I held inside of me were and are intact, but could I use the title Reverend, although it says that on my legal and sanctioned certificate of ordination, as well as the i.d. badge I carry in my wallet with my full title? I was very perplexed about this and uneasy. A dear friend questioned my purpose and did not like the fact that I was ordained online, feeling that it was not legitimate, but it is in the eyes of the law and the church I was ordained in, and in my heart it rang true, but I myself knew that I was a much simpler and quieter woman than the name Reverend might imply. My faith and dedication are strong, my heart open and willing, my intentions are honorable and true. I do want to "minister" to people, but in a quiet, almost unnoticed way. And as a mother and grandmother, the name Reverend Mother rang most true in describing what it was that I felt in the deepest part of myself, the most sincere and apt description of what I wanted my life and calling to be.
I dropped the use of the title Reverend and was simply called Mother Maitri which many people still call me. But the name of my outreach ministry was confusing for people. In 2005, after my divorce, I changed my name legally to Maitri, which is the Buddhist teaching of loving kindness and compassion. I took the name not because I thought I had achieved it, but as a guiding star to remind me of my purpose all the days of my life. I named my outreach ministry The Maitri Ministry, NOT after myself or my own name, but for the teaching, because my goal was to focus on a ministry that spread compassion and loving kindness the world over. However, too many people thought that I was either naming the ministry after myself and to that end was pompous or at the least, irreverent. People told me you had to have years of study and training and "do it" in a church.
My heart sunk. Perhaps because of my own doubts, coming from outside pressure, and perhaps because of my fear of not being able to live up to all I hoped to accomplish. At the same time my mother was losing her battle to cancer, and as we speak is just about to go on hospice, so the end is very near. Rather than continue on with trying to form a ministry, I withdrew inside myself, drew back from trying to form something that the outside world would not undertand, and concentrated all of my energies to loving and supporting my mother in her endtimes.
Recently, something has happened that sparked something in me that I have not felt in months. My solitary practice will become public in August when I perform the marriage ceremony of my middle child, Rachel, and her long-time partner and love, Jeremy. They are the parents of my precious 5 year old grandson, Lucas. I was surprised and delighted that they asked me, and somewhat stunned, a little nervous, but ready. As it is said, "The Lord works in mysterious ways." Once you perform a wedding ceremony, signing the court and marital documents with your full title and intent, with a heart beaming with love and pride, you open your heart and your arms to the world. I still prefer the formal name Mother Maitri, if I am to use one, but I think Maitri pretty much says it all. It is the teaching as well as the woman that I am. It represents the goal that I have for my life, to spread loving-kindness and compassion through my work, as I walk in the world, a solitary practitioner. My writings are my gospels, if you will, to the world. They are simple, mundane stories of real life, as I walk through my own experience and hope that the message will have meaning for others.
I was raised Catholic, have been a student of Buddhism for over 30 years, have studied many religions and modes of spiritual practice, feel deeply moved and close to the Native American traditions, and pray to the saints, the angels and my spirit guides every single day. I read, study, and practice constantly. And I am a woman, a flawed human being, and in the end, it is my very flaws and struggles that have helped me, the very most, to be empathetic and compassionate to others. I have been baptised by the river of life. I have been ordained on my knees in the garden or carrying a tiny blind and deaf pug back and forth outside to the potty, kissing her all over, and telling her how much I love her. She may not be able to see in the normal sense, but she knows. She waggles her tiny self, her wee little curly tail going 90 miles an hour whenever I am near her. She hears with her heart, and I respond to her with my own. And this is how I minister, if you will, to the people around me, as well as the countless thousands of people who have been reading my writings, or taking my classes, for over 30 years.
In the months ahead, after my mother passes, I will be moving into a larger cottage where I will have more space and the time will be right to formalize my work. (In an informal way...) You will not see me, but you may feel my presence. You may never meet me, but we will know one another through my work. I will hold out my hand to you and our fingertips will emanate a kind of loving energy that can be felt around the globe. Yes, I am a minster, and yes it is very real, and sanctioned in a church, although not in the traditional sense, and I am walking my talk, even if not in the way one might expect. And I have a heart brimming over with love. I walk in kindness.
It was the Dalai Lama who said, "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."
This is the closest I can come to explaining what I feel in my deepest heart, and what I practice in daily life. And I think of all the religious leaders and teachers we have known through the ages who have not tried to be more than what they were. "Saint" Francis, whom I love very much, was once just Francis, living simply, loving, and leading a life that many would follow, calling themselves "Franciscans" as they were part of the religious tradition that honored the once simple man. No greater or simpler leader ever walked this earth than Jesus Christ, and his life and teachings would spawn so many different churches and interpretations of his teachings as to almost be impossible to count. The Buddha sat barefoot under the Bodhi tree when he experienced the profound revelation of the enlightenment that would begin the Buddhist tradition that for many centuries has been followed by millions around the world. I am humbled by the Native American Fathers, Mothers, Grandfathers, and Grandmothers of the Indian Nation who taught of the holiness of the earth and many traditions that still hold forth today. I am a weaver who has for nearly 2 decades studied the teaching and writings of the Native American weavers, and Grandmother Spider Woman, who wove the web of the world. How can I not open my heart to all faiths when each has something to offer me? How can I not enrich my own teaching and writing with all that has come before.
For over 30 years now I have taught a very healing journal writing class, working with ministers, therapists, artists, teachers, housewives, musicians, people from every walk of life following every spiritual path imaginable. I helped them get in touch with their inner feelings, to come to terms with them, and even to honor them. Now my work has shifted and my goal is to help people honor the intuitive feelings that they have in their hearts into their lives, the silent guide within us that needs no name. The human heart is the holiest instrument that we, as humans, have.
And so yes, I am Reverend Mother Maitri Libellule, or just Mother Maitri, or perhaps easiest of all, simply Maitri. That one word says it all...
Blessings and love to each and every one of you...