Tag Archives: ritual

The Sacred Ordinary Now

1 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Marco Giumelli

Photo via Flickr user Marco Giumelli

A few months ago, when the rocks were covered with snow, my family took a plane flight south to chase the sun. During our layover, we found a big open rotunda. My son, just over a year, ran around squealing with happiness. He pointed and pointed urgently out the big windows watching the planes and trucks. He could have stayed for hours.

I realized he had a different sense of time than I did. For me, this was just a necessary stop on the journey. Our destination was another time and place. We were just passing time. For him, the airport was the destination. He had no sense of where we were going or how long we’d be away from home. He was not pacing himself. He was fully present, fully open and joyfully accepting what that time had to offer. In his enthusiasm, I become more present, too. We were not waiting to live, waiting to arrive, we were living. We had arrived. The layover was the destination. I think of the airport rotunda often in my daily life as I try to live in the present.

On the first nice day of the season about a month ago, my little boy stopped along the side of the house to pick up a rock. He seemed to choose one very carefully and proceeded to hold onto it for the entirety of the walk. I thought it a fluke until he chose a different rock the next day on the way to the park. He handed it to me when we got to the playground to keep in my pocket, and held it again on the stroller ride home. It has become a ritual that I find so endearing– taking a piece of home with us on the journey until we return. The rock seems to ground him in home as we venture out. It has become a part of our routine that I find comfort in. He takes something as ordinary as a rock and gives it meaning. It becomes his companion in his little hand, something tangible to take hold of. As we explore farther and farther from home, home still awaits us. I muse about heaven as a home that awaits us and what we will hold in our hearts from this place as we travel there.

He, like so many children, seems to have a knack for presence and ritual. He invites me to my higher self, making sure I don’t miss out on what today has to offer me, hidden in the rocks. Children apply meaning to the ordinary and find awe in things adults can take for granted. In this way, being a mom has re-centered me in the present and reminded me of the importance of ritual.

Easter is a great ending to Jesus’ story in the Gospels. For us, the ones here and now, Easter is just the beginning of our story. Children seem to know that and want to remind us. There is something for us here and now, in this life, in this time and place. Mindfulness and ritual can help us to celebrate that this Easter season.

 

 

Grieving Rituals

1 Jul

Sunday morning, before it got too hot, I spent some time in our front garden weeding. Crouched between a large bush and the front of my house, I pulled a big bundle of weeds at the base to get at the roots deep below the ground. With the weeds cleared, I saw a squirrel skeleton, partially buried and partially exposed. The vertebrae of the spine seemed perfectly intact. I gasped, then pulled away, then got curious, noticing the strength of my visceral reaction to the animal bones. The unmistakable sign of death and decay amongst the thriving life of my garden forced me to think about the cycle of life and my own mortality. The skeleton felt out of place, and it felt oddly personal to see the bones of an animal in my own yard. I wondered about the squirrel, when and how it died. I wondered if I should leave it be or bury it completely to rest.

Two weeks before I found the squirrel skeleton, I got a call that a good friend of mine had died in her sleep. The family wanted me to share the news, so I spent much of the next few days making phone calls and sitting with people on the line as they wept and grieved. Every person eventually asked, “When is the funeral?” The family had decided to have the funeral for just family, so the following question was, over and over, “Well, what are we going to do?”

On the afternoon that I found the squirrel skeleton, I opened up my home to my friends. I laid out pastries and pictures. Former teammates brought scrapbooks and stories. We prayed, told stories, cried, hugged, laughed. It was so simple, and like it was not enough, but it also felt necessary to us. Two women drove six hours to sit with us. We wanted to remember, celebrate, and grieve as a community. We wanted to lay her to rest in our hearts. This is what humans do. We bury our dead. We want a tangible place to go to remind us that she is really gone from this place. We need ritual for our own growth, our own mourning. We need to remind each other that in baptism, God promised to love us and never leave us no matter what. We need to promise to each other, publicly, that we will carry our loved ones with us and never forget.

In lieu of a funeral, our ritual seemed small, but it was beautiful and holy. It was our small way of burying our friend in the hope that she now knows eternal peace, that she is now home.

Spiritual Practice

17 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Loving Earth

Photo via Flickr user Loving Earth

I opened the closet door and lifted my turquoise mat out from where it was wedged in the corner. About ten feet from the bassinet holding my sleeping baby, I unrolled the mat slowly.

The last thing my nurse called out to me was No yoga for six weeks! as I left the hospital with Simon and Dan to go home. My mind wandered to that moment. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. It was time.

I put my feet in the middle of the mat, lightly kissing each other, picked up all ten toes and placed them back down from outside to in, fanning them wide to get a solid base. I noticed how the grid of micro bumps on the mat felt on the soles of my feet. My feet looked slender, my toes seemed long. It had been months since I saw the tendons and muscles flexing and relaxing. They had been swallowed up by swollenness for so long.

I straightened my spine, one vertebrae stacked on top of the next, until I was reaching the crown of my head toward the ceiling. My skeleton engaged, creating space for air and blood to flow. The correct alignment gave my muscles instant relief. Inhale. Exhale. I smelled like milk. Shining my palms forward slowly, the muscles hugging my shoulder blades seemed to creak, so tired and forgotten, used to hours of curling forward to feed, rock, hush, embrace a tiny person who needed me. I rolled my shoulders up to my ears and back, tucking my shoulder blades in and forward, balancing the movement with gently pulling my chin back. Inhale. Exhale. Kneecaps engaged, I swept my arms up toward the sky, my soft eyes glancing between my thumbs. Both shoulders cracked, the left, then the right. Standing tall, I could feel muscles in my abdomen and womb call my attention. I breathed into those places, taking note, reconnecting with my body. Worn, but strong.

This is what I love about spiritual practice. It’s repetition gets trapped in our bodies, our muscle memory, our DNA. There is comfort in the familiar, in the tangible. Whether it is the feel of prayer beads between our fingers, the ritual of lighting a candle before prayer, the chair that molds around you and your devotional, the action ties us to the past and the future. After wandering, which we all do from time to time, we come back to the practice. God is always there, awaiting our return with grace and love. The practice, like God, welcomes us home.

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