For more than four decades, I have followed a Spirit trail. The trail took me from Protestant Christianity in my twenties; through forays into Buddhism and yoga in my thirties; through the goddess movement, Sufism, and Native American Spirituality in my forties. I made pilgrimages to sacred sites, walked labyrinths, chanted at temples, meditated at ashrams, and danced on moonlit beaches with circles of women. It was a spiritual sampling of grand proportion, a sumptuous journey!
Several dying trees in the cemetery that faces my house were cut down and removed this past fall. Before the process was complete, I had ample time to show my three children how a stump can tell the story of a tree, that each ring is a year of the tree’s life, that wider rings mean wetter and productive years, while thin ones indicate drought and scarcity.
While oftentimes society can see “legacy” in terms of what meets the eye, and what can be measured, legacy is much deeper than that. William Shakespeare wrote, "No legacy is so rich as honesty," in his play All's Well That Ends Well (Act 3, Scene 5). Catherine of Siena wrote, "For people become like what they love," in a portion of a letter (Letter T29) to Regina della Scala, a noblewoman. When fiction gives way to truth, and one scratches beyond the surface reaching the heart of the matter, therein lies what will be left behind and passed along, whether individually or collectively. What stands the test of time, whether for good or bad, is legacy.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” —Albert Einstein
My dog, Ziggy, loves to power sniff through town. Random tufts of grass, low-hanging bushes, and granite curbs grab his smelling fancy. When we go to the local dog park, he doesn’t play with other dogs. Instead he indulges himself with an intense investigation of all the local aromas. If he finds something particularly pungent, he will roll around in it with much delight. He puts his whole being into the experience.
In a way, he was the inspiration for my new spiritual practice. I call it “awe walking.”
Thirty-five years ago, American writer and social activist, Anne Herbert wrote the instantly popular phrase "practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" on a place mat in Sausolito, California, USA. Ten years later, her book, Random Acts of Kindness, was published and a movement begun. Kindness became the leading virtue of the day for many. Bumper stickers proclaimed the revival and quietly, neighbors, colleagues, friends, and strangers sought ways to do a mitzvah, a good deed, for a fellow creature.
I have many sacred places I go to refresh my spirit. Some are simple and serene, others spacious and grand. My favorite will soon be renewed—my garden. While this muddy, messy piece of earth hardly looks like a sacred site in early March, it slowly reveals itself as an urban sanctuary. I clear tangled stems and sodden leaves from autumn’s late blooms only to find tender shoots of this season’s new beginnings.
“Cindy” felt buried and in the dark when she first came for spiritual direction. She had been divorced two years earlier. Her daughters were estranged and siding with their dad. She had a manufacturing job she hated. And, her friends had stopped calling; “I wouldn’t want to be my friend either,” she quipped.
She walked into my office for the first time with eyes and shoulders that slouched. “I’ve been in therapy for a year, and feel worse than ever. My sister told me to come, but I don’t know why I’m here.”
Hopelessness loomed around Cindy like a dense fog.
She recounted her losses and failures in a monotone. Her prayers and her God had dried up years before.
I once read a definition of spiritual practice that continues to guide me: “Spiritual practice,” said that long forgotten writer, “is habit made holy.” And so, I ask myself, if we are to consider the quality of forgiveness as a spiritual practice, how do we first, make it a habit, and then second, let it be holy, particularly in our current cultural climate? There are so many wonderful words written about forgiveness as an action, but what about forgiveness as a way of life? How do we let it be habitual, a state of being, not just an item on our checklist?
We are in the midst of the Christian church season of Lent, and I have been reflecting on the theme: Let fear become love. Love, I realize, is not some warm and fuzzy feeling inside, but a deliberate step out of fear and self-centeredness. My reflections have revolved around a series of questions I want to share.
What am I afraid of? We live in a world filled with fear, especially fear of those who are different, yet most of us are afraid to confront our fears and overcome them. We barricade ourselves behind walls of hate and self righteousness.