“Pearls are always appropriate.” – Jackie Kennedy
As promised. Here it is. The A-ha! that prompted the poem in the last blog.
A little drum roll, please.
Several years ago, I woke one morning before the sun and slipped into my meditation routine for my daily dip into The Quiet. I closed my eyes, hunkered down, and did my best to still my heart and mind.
In the last few minutes of the meditation—quite unexpectedly—something opened within me, and I was given a teeny tiny peek at who we all really are. The depth and breadth of us, of our True Self, is very beautiful, so beyond our everydayness that when the peek ended, I had no earthly name for what I’d experienced. It lasted less than a nano-second, but that was enough. It was unequivocal; so hopeful and celebratory and companionable that I decided to take my soul out for breakfast to express my gratitude.
Peeking is not my usual meditative fare. In fact, seconds before the peek began, my ego had been spewing fire about some recent challenges to its authority. These hissy fits had been gaining steam over the last few weeks so I’d begun having heart-to-heart conversations with my soul in the hopes that, as the embodiment of all virtue, I might pick up a few tips that would turn down the heat.
I called my soul “Pearl,” from the Latin Margarita, derived from the Greek μαργαρίτης (margarites) meaning "pearl.” I’d recently read about a Fourth century saint named Margaret who escaped from a dragon—a metaphor that was not lost on me. Since this is my given name, “Pearl” seemed a good fit, so I went with it.
After meditation, I took Pearl to a little bakery in town I’d had my eye on for some time. We arrived just as the breakfast crowd was leaving so we had our pick of quiet tables. The assortment of muffins and teas was still plentiful, and I considered the menu with all due regard. Wanting our first meal together to be a simple yet memorable affair, I settled on a freshly baked gluten-free mountain of a muffin, a hybrid of assorted berries and nuts, and a steaming pot of a fruity tea with a spot of real cream. I grabbed some silverware and napkins, headed for a corner booth, and set the table for two as my heart pounded in my chest like a taiko drum.
When the muffin barista called our number, I picked up our goodies, set them on the table, and divided our fare into equal portions. We said the usual prayer for food. I poured the tea and bit into the muffin. To my absolute horror, it tasted like compost! I hoisted my teacup to rinse my palate, but the tea was so bitter it near flash-fried my mouth.
Tears spilled from my eyes onto my muffin half. I could not understand how something so well-intentioned, so innocent, so potentially celebratory had “tangled up in blue.” I sat for a minute then decided, as I often did, to just make the best of things: I slathered our muffin with a very large slab of creamery butter, drenched our tea in honey and cream, and finished our breakfast lickety-split. There was no genuine reparation in my gesture and thus, no genuine consolation as a result of it, so I bussed our table and headed for the exit. As I opened the door to leave the bakery I caught my reflection in the glass, sighed, and beseeched the image looking back at me to tell me how I had gone wrong.
And without missing a beat—in a voice clear as a bell inside my head—Pearl said, “No more making do, honey. No. More. Making. Do.”
And, you know, I understood exactly what she was talking about.
There are some things in life that come to us we must simply endure. But two hours previous I’d had what the French would call a coup d’oeil, a glance that takes in a big picture, a bird’s-eye view of who we all really are. Now that I knew the truth of us, of me, I could no longer let circumstances that did not reflect that magnanimity slip through the cracks. “Making do” was no longer big enough. Or good enough. So, I took it all in and looked it square in the eye.
If we repeatedly send a “it’ll do” message to the Universe, if we repeatedly accept a smaller version of our Self to get by, the Universe responds in kind. There’s no growth, no joy, no expansion in that. This is the real meaning of “small talk.” We are meant to continually expand.
Paramahansa Yogananda says, “The meditating devotee who has felt, even once, the inexhaustible charm of the soul and its eternal relationship with God can never forget the joy of it. He may pass through dreary tests in which he comes down from that state for a while … but as long as the devotee continues to make an effort, the haunting memory of that pure joy will call again and again to urge him forward on the divine path.” This is what I do now.
There is a Nigerian proverb that says: A pearl is only a pearl when it’s out of its shell.” Start a conversation with the Pearl inside you. Maybe even take her or him or it to breakfast. Do what your Pearl tells you. If she writes you a poem, post it here.
Margaret Wolff is a writer, storyteller, art therapist, and retreat leader. Her work celebrates the ways in which the collective wisdom and storytelling reveal the truth and beauty of our inner lives and connect us—heart to beating heart—to each other.
COMING HOME: Finding Shelter in the Love and Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda (White Pearl Press, May 20201), is a curated collection of 14 modern-day stories of spiritual awakening that reflect “the most creative and transformative experience life can offer—developing an intimate partnership with the invisible God of one’s heart.”
Available wherever fine books are sold.