I generally tell those I journey with that I can tell a lot about their lives by the state of their apartment. Esther de Waal said something similar in her book The Way of Simplicity. She wrote, “An old monastic saying goes that you can tell how a man prays by the way in which he sweeps the cloister.” It made me realize that it is not just how cluttered or uncluttered your living space is, but the ways in which you go about the routine practices in your life like sweeping the floor.
If someone were to watch the way you perform a routine act in your home or office, what would they learn about you. It has made me wonder what others think of or learn about me by the way I do things. I would like to think people would think I was mindful and intentional, but I also know there are routines I am not as mindful and focused as others.
It is easier for me to be mindful and focused when I am cooking because I am constantly thinking, especially now, about what I am eating, where it has come from, what I am doing with it. I treat each of my ingredients with a sense of reverence. However, in all honesty, I have come to realize that I do not bring that same sense of reverence to everything I do, especially chores I have not enjoyed. Read More
Last week in my personal journal, Stirring my Spiritual Waters, I wrote about The Silent Space One of the things I wrote about was how I can sit in my dining room and gaze out into the garden and soak in the silence. Yesterday, as I was sitting in my dining room and gazing out into the garden I realized that I was watching a performance, or perhaps it was a praise and worship service being led by the various inhabitants of our garden. The windows prevented me from physically hearing anything that was really going on in the garden or the sounds which things were actually making, but I could sit, watch, and hear on a different level.
One of the first things I noticed was that I had two wind chimes hanging in one of our trees in the backyard. I had remembered having someone hang one of them for me, but had no memory of this second one. This one was different and sparkled every time the sun shone on it in just the right way, it reflected a rainbow out on to the green blades of grass. Both of them moved with the wind and even though I could not hear the sounds, I could watch the chimes move and in my mind, I could hear these beautiful sounds singing to my soul. Read More
Growing up I was always told to respect my elders. I have a deeper understanding of those now that some people consider me an elder. Elders, in many cultures, are considered the libraries of knowledge and life experience. They possess essential resources for the survival of the family, and in some cultures for the entire village. They help to anchor the family in the traditions of their family and culture. The elders are in most cultures the most revered because they are the ones who preserve and nurture. It is, in any cultures, a role which one yearns to achieve. While we do not always respect our elders in our culture, perhaps this is something we can learn from cultures around the world who have a different understanding of respecting one’s elders
In African cultures, for example, the elder is as important to the community as the newborn. They are both viewed as being equal in proximity to the world of the ancestors. One has just come and one is preparing to ascend and return. They compliment and honor each other. The youth are viewed as a physical stability and strength drawn from the ancestors. They are both respected because they know in their own ways they are connected through their recognition of worlds other than our own. Read More
Have you ever had one of those days where you struggle to find anything precious or valuable about yourself, never mind anyone else? We all have those days where we lie to ourselves for whatever reason. Someone asked me if I ever wrote when I was not happy. I said no. So maybe today I needed to write during a time when I need to be intentional about practicing reverence. It is one of those days where I need to be intentional about remembering that my value as a human being is greater than any function I perform, or any title bestowed on me, or how much or how little I have in my account. What makes me valuable is my ability to see the Divine in me. As a friend of mine once told me, when people ask you who you are, just say I am. If the Divine is the great I am and the Divine is in me then I am also I am.
It is not what we do that makes us valuable, it is our attitude about life and the way we view the world. It is about seeing the presence of the Divine in everything and remembering that blessings come in ways that surpass our understanding. It is the ability to see the sacred in every human being, every object, and every situation. When we seek out the sacred in every situation and every moment, we are practicing reverence. Reverence then shapes our reality and the way we interpret every aspect of our life. It is what allows us to see the spiritual value in all of life. When we look at all things, great and small, with reverence we see the sacred in everything from turning on the water faucet to flushing the toilet to giving someone a hug. Read More
I remember years ago being told the story of a male school teacher who had back surgery over the summer and began the school year wearing a solid plastic cast around the upper part of his body. It fit under his shirt and was not noticeable at all. On the first day of school, he found himself assigned to the toughest students in the school. Walking confidently into the rowdy classroom, he opened the window as wide as possible and then busied himself with desk work. When a strong breeze made his tie flap, he took the desk stapler, in full view of the students, and stapled the tie to his chest. Needless to say, he had no disciple problems that year. I can imagine being one of his student and sitting in awe of him. That sense enables one to practice reverence because it changes the way we see someone.
I had a similar experience when I was teaching. Those who know me, know that I love SPICY foods; the spicier the better. On the first day of the semester, a colleague of mine came into my classroom shortly before class was going to begin. She had picked up a bottle of habanero hot sauce from Mexico. I so wanted to smell it, or at least taste it, but I could not get the bottle opened. I asked if someone could help me and one of the toughest guys in the class, who wanted to show off his muscles, said he would help me if I would drink it. He had no clue who he was talking to. So he opened the bottle and I took several sips, enough to make him walk away saying “I ain’t messing with you Dr J.” From that point forward everyone treated me with the utmost respect. Read More
When I was a little girl, there was nothing I enjoyed more then when my parents would tell me a story. I guess I inherited that gift because today I telling stories and using them to teach important lessons. Lately I have been thinking about one of my favorite stories. It’s a simple, but powerful story called “The Rabbi’s Gift.”
There was a famous monastery, which had fallen on very hard times. Formerly its many buildings were filled with young monks and its big church resounded with the singing of the chant, but now it was deserted. People no longer came there to be nourished by prayer. A handful of old monks shuffled through the cloisters and praised their God with heavy hearts. Read More