Practice of the Week
Category: Ecospiritual. These practices are oriented toward developing our spirituality through our connection with our planet home and our responsibility to care for it.
adapted from Rebecca James Hecking, The Sustainable Soul
Practices Index page.) These final six ecospiritual practices describe the path of creation. It's here that we put our new understanding to work, and begin to envision and create a new way of being -- a life and world that we want for ourselves and others. From small, personal decisions to global change, the path of creation belongs to the here and now, as well as to the future. It's time to get started creating a mindful, meaningful, and joyful life – one that heals the Earth.
We all have places we consider to be extra special, and there's nothing wrong with that. There's no doubt that cathedrals and mountaintops are extraordinary places, and that meditative retreat weekends are special times. But when we begin to internalize that those times and places are somehow intrinsically more sacred than the stuff of our everyday lives, we run into problems. The difference about holy places and times is our awareness and expectation of a spiritual experience. When we walk through a Zen garden, its quiet beauty acts on our mind, and settles us into a more peaceful state. Because of our expectations—this is a holy place, pay attention”—our subconscious subtly shifts, and we find ourselves open to the experience of the Sacred. We expect the experience, and most of the time we have it. If we don't, we may leave the sacred place feeling disappointed and a little depressed.
The problem is that most of our lives are not lived in Zen gardens, or medieval cathedrals, or remote wilderness areas. We live most of our lives in very ordinary places, where we spend our time doing very ordinary things. If we set up the expectation that the Sacred is something remote from us, something “out there,” far removed from nitty-gritty reality, then it's no wonder we flop into our beds every night wondering why life isn't more fulfilling.
How can we live in a way that honors our deepest values and our place in the grand scheme of life? It’s a matter of recognizing the sacred in the everyday. We don't need more time up on the mountaintop, however pleasant that might be. We need to grow our awareness of the Holy (however conceptualized) that surrounds us, and infuses us every moment of our lives. We need to cultivate a way of being in the world that connects us with something greater than ourselves, and situates our individual lives within the story of all life.
Each of us has singular experiences and life journeys that are not duplicated by any of the myriad of beings that have ever lived. This life is a one-of-a-kind spark of consciousness in the grand epoch that is all existence. This is the state of grace in which we live every day of our lives. Our task is to continually move in the direction of ever-increasing awakening. In the end, it really is all good. It is all holy. The sacred permeates the mundane.
Consciousness of the Sacred is not a goal that is ever permanently achieved. Some days we will be more conscious than others. The process of moving in the direction of awakening is itself holy, dynamic, and fluid. There is no end state, only the process of awakening, and then awakening some more.
We are all like fish, swimming in the ocean of the Divine every moment of our lives, unaware of the water that surrounds us and gives us life. But we can learn to feel the water moving all around, sometimes fast, like rapids, other times a slow flow.
1. EveryDay Sacred Altar. Decorate your altar with items symbolic of your daily life: perhaps a grocery receipt, bus pass, pen, bar of soap, calculator, baggage claim tag, or a wooden spoon. Choose items with care and arrange with intention. Include a candle. Light it and think about what you've created, and how you spend your days.
2. Small Miracles. Do this several times a day, every day. Pause from what you’re doing. Take a deep, slow breath. Bring your awareness to small miracles taking place around you: breath itself, a bird perched on a fence, a sleeping baby, autumn leaves, an earthworm, conscious thought, a starry night, eyes to see it, flowing water, dreaming, or the ground under your feet. Take a moment to let the miracles sink in. Finally, take another deep, slow breath before returning to your day. To remember to pause, leave yourself a sticky-note reminder, or set an alarm.
3. Ordinary Outdoors. Go to your own backyard or a nearby park and spend some time observing the animal and plant residents. Sit quietly so you don't disturb them more than necessary. Observe their activities and whether they are aware of your presence. Watch how they interact with each other. Observe plants as well as animals, see what you learn. Take them as your teachers. What wisdom can they offer you? After a period of observation time, write in your journal about your experience.
Share Sacred Moments. Take turns sharing sacred moments from your own daily lives, whether regular occurrences, or one-time moments. Focus on ordinary life and the pleasures it brings. Afterward, spend about fifteen minutes in silent meditation together, simply breathing slowly and deeply while bringing your attention to the present moment.
Questions for Group Conversation:
- Is there a special place that feels sacred or holy? What makes it special?
- Are there times in your daily life that invite connection to the greater whole? Perhaps early morning when everyone else is still asleep or maybe even a commute over a quiet country road? What feels special to you?
- What personal rituals or practices might help you cultivate a sense of the sacred amid everyday problems and challenges?
- If you knew you would die tomorrow, how would you view today?