I adore Ann Lamott but I had no idea that she was the one who came up with the God Box idea, something where you tuck away little notes, prayers, or bits of paper with someone's name. Just a fun little tool to help our vice-grip minds "let go" of people or relationships or situations that we would rather be controlling. It's a way of saying, "I want desperately to write the script for this one but I know there's a Higher Plan than mine, so I'm letting go and giving this to You (God, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Quan Yin, Jehovah, Allah, Mother Nature, The Universe, Source, Spirit,The Grandmothers, Great Spirit, the Angels, All That Is—or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for Pastafarians).
And good luck keeping that thing in the box and out of your head and heart. Surrendering is a practice that flies in the face of our human ego. For a while, we might have to remind ourselves 30 times every 30 seconds that the highest and best outcome for everyone involved is on the way. But the more we let go and the more unimaginably perfect solutions and miracles we begin to witness, the easier it gets to give it all away and stand in that empty space.
What I call my Spirit Box arrived "grab bag" style at a God Box-themed holiday party—the last one in the pile. Amid all the delightful, gorgeous, beautiful things others were opening, I pulled back the wrapping paper to find a tattered old book. My friend Beth had been playing around with making "secret book safes" in her garage and she was beaming like the sun that I was the one who "chose" her offering. The publishing date was 1949 (my birth year coincidentally) so the cover edges were bent and frayed, the few pages left intact were yellowing, and it looked as if she had taken a small ax to hollow out the center. As much as I love Beth, my only thought was: Wow! Mine is butt ugly.
And I could have passed this sad little experiment on to Goodwill and found something that really spoke to my soul—something inspirational or whimsical or both. But once I got the book home, it caught on fire—or more accurately, set me on fire. I started buying things for it and wanting to do things to it without even knowing why, driven like some fool in a carnival hypnotist's trance.
First came a plush velvet liner that gave the hollowed-out center the illusion of a black starless sky—no definable sides or bottom, just endless velvety depth. I ordered tiny vials of pure Jasmine and Rose oils to rub gently into the fabric of the cover in some sort of inexplicable "annointing" ritual. The free inner pages were either adorned with scrapbook lettering, plastered with strips of sticky note messages, or covered with photos of beloved family and friends on the other side. A velvet ribbon wrapped around the book and tied snugly in the front to secure its precious contents—especially the tiny treasures nestled in its hollow.
For the past seven years, this peculiar Spirit Box has been one of my most mystical and cherished treasures. During every meditation, it rests on or against my first and second chakras like a vortex of power calling forth grace and healing and blessings and enlightenment and random miracles. Of all its precious contents, one is truly irreplaceable. Less than a week after September 11, 2001, a letter came through the mail from an unfamiliar Canadian address. And within that envelope was a smaller one, yellow with age, and writing that I recognized immediately as my mother's. Her best friend in high school in Vancouver, B.C. had been rummaging through her keepsakes and found a letter Mom had written to her in October of 1948. The woman had spent a few months tracking me down through distant family members who are still living in our hometown.
Mom's voice was sweet and light and newsy—and although she didn't open with it, she had something very exciting to share. After four years of trying and hoping, she and Frank were finally expecting their own "little boss." And there I was, her "little boss," holding this letter in my hand and trying to keep the tears from falling all over it. How did you pull this one off, Mom? You found a way to reach me, touch me, put your arms around me, reassure and comfort me, right there in the aftermath of such a dark and terrifying time. The whole world seemed to be burning, but there you were. So close and so real.
HSo much dies and withers or just falls away and so much is born, even in the course of a few months or a year. All 37.2 trillion cells in our physical body go through death and rebirth in an unbelievably short amount of time—over and over and over and over. Being at peace with all this coming and going would make our lives so much easier, but letting go and standing in the empty space does take a great deal of grit. And faith, it helps if you can keep the faith.
A few years ago I had a chance to tell Beth how very much her gift had come to mean to me—that my daughters would probably be passing it back and forth after I'm gone like the Spirit Box version of the traveling pants. Beth is my evil twin, so she laughed out loud when I told her that it always made me a little sad losing my roach-clip earrings from the '60s somewhere along the way. They would have been such a fun thing to hand down the generations. "But this—this is way better!"