“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.
Every day, I get a text with three things my Dharma buddy is grateful for. Today it was the snow day, the home cooked meal, and the snow plows and shovels. Other days it might be a lunch with a friend, a run, or the chance to begin again.
I love these texts.
My Dharma buddy is a friend I met at our local Insight Meditation Center. At the beginning of a meditation class we were taking, the teacher gave us the option to be matched with a Dharma buddy. The purpose was to have someone to check in with about practice and to support each other in cultivating qualities of mindfulness and joy.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” —Exodus 20:8
This commandment reminds us of the holiness of rest. Not only does it refer to God resting on the seventh day of creation, but it also guides us to the awareness that resting is a sign of freedom. Moses proclaimed his wisdom when the Israelites were in the desert after their escape from slavery in Egypt. Choosing to rest is not possible for a slave who is oppressed by a master. Only the one who is totally free can take time for needed rest. Resting becomes a sign of our freedom.
Last fall, we installed a Little Free Library in front of our house. Eager to make it look inviting, we created a little landscaped square at the base, with a couple of decorative pepper plants surrounded by stones. We lined the area with landscaping fabric, intent on keeping weeds out of our little stone garden.