My brother and I recently discussed our concept of angels. We both agreed that they aren't people wearing white robes with fluttering wings.
You could say my study of Christian Science has brought angels down to earth.
I think of them as good and pure ideas that come in quiet moments or even in loud, busy moments. They're always there, we just have to listen. They guide our thoughts and our actions so we become clear transparencies for these messages. When we side with good, choose to be kind to our neighbors, and look for ways we can bless, we're communicating an angel message.
"When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts. Oh, may you feel this touch -- it is not the clasping of hands, nor a loved person present; it is more than this: it is a spiritual idea that lights your path!" (From an essay called "Angels," by Mary Baker Eddy).
I've felt this "touch of an angel" many times lighting my path. Like the time I was a college student lost in a crowded train station in Tokyo. As I stood there and offered a silent prayer, a Japanese business man spotted me in the crowd, asked in broken English if I needed help, and then paid for my ticket and went out of his way to guide me to my next train. I've never forgotten his kindness.
Or the time when I had the symptoms of altitude sickness and a friend's thoughtful prayer lifted me right out of it, instantly. She reminded me that the only way to climb higher -- or gain altitude -- is through inspiration and that's a blessing that includes no pain. The truth of her statement was so clear to me that it wiped out the pain I'd been feeling.
That's what angels do. They lift us to that higher altitude of thought, right here where we are -- on earth. I've learned that taking the time to be quiet each day listening to these good thoughts, helps me to be in the presence of angels.
At a recent conference I attended on mindfulness at Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, I found myself in a room full of health care providers who were learning the benefit of watching their thoughts and how that practice might benefit their patients.
Tara Healey, the director of mindfulness training at HPH, says mindfulness isn't about emptying your thoughts, it's about being aware of each thought you have. She said it's analogous to a microscope looking at the inner world the way looking through a microscope is to the outer world.
While I often parted ways with the mindfulness training based on my own prayer practice, several descriptions prompted an inner nod from me, like this point Healey made: "It's like a guardian that protects you. It's an awareness that aligns with your deepest values." That sounded a lot like an angel thought to me.
After the three-hour training session, one doctor commented that she wasn't sure she had three minutes in her day to be quiet and "mind" her thoughts. On the other hand, the primary care physician at my table said she was going to try it every day so she could decide whether to recommend it to her patients.
I personally can't leave God out of the equation, but I'm grateful there are practices that encourage people to take a mental timeout from the mindless multitasking, matter-focused hubbub that can become one's universe (especially during the holiday season). Because in the midst of that, there are angels waiting to bless and lift and heal. Watch and listen for them. You might be surprised.