I was fortunate growing up to have had two mothers. My real mother and my Fairy Godmother.
When I was 6 years old we moved to England and spent 10 years living in Bladon, a small village in Oxfordshire. Anne Sherman was my first and best friend. Our houses faced each other across a pasture and soon a well worn path connected our two homes. Anne and I became brother and sister in all but name and Mrs. Sherman a second mom.
I spent many afternoons sitting at Mrs. Sherman’s kitchen table, drinking a cup of tea, talking, while she folded sheets fresh off the cloths line, ironed shirts, or washed the dishes. It was a special treat when she took time to sit down and share a cup of tea with me, but even with her back turned, I always knew that she was listening.
It seemed as if the entire village sought out Mrs. Sherman at one time or another. Not for advice, as she gave none, but just to talk. Friends and strangers alike found that they could tell her anything. She made them feel as though they were the most important person in the world to her at that moment, perhaps because they were. She never judged, or gave advice. She just listened. But her kitchen was sacred space for many of us.
It occurred to me many years later that the one person who never tried to change me, ended up changing me the most.
I was 24 when Mrs. Sherman passed. For many years I felt that loss acutely. I began to practice detached observation, a style of meditation advocated by J. Krishnamurti. It is really quite simple: Pay attention to your inner self; Do not control; and Do not judge. I realized that this was the same way that Mrs. Sherman used to listen to me in her kitchen.
Meditation is the art of listening to your Self and I was fortunate to have learned the art of listening from a true master. If you do not have a Fairy Godmother in your life, you can learn to be that for yourself. When meditating, pay attention, do not control, and do not judge. In time, you will create your own sacred space within and witness the healing power of being truly heard and accepted by yourself.
Mrs. Sherman is buried in the Bladon church cemetery, a stones throw from where Sir Winston Churchill rests. Tourists visiting his grave, drawn to the sounds of laughing children, still turn to look over the stone wall down into the elementary school playground where I once played catch with Anne.