Sunday, January 4, 2015

Everyday Sacred - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 1

This year I'm doing Spiritual Practices from A to Z - a personal challenge that includes (among many different types of activities) reading books that tie into the spiritual practice that I'm focusing on that week.

For the first two weeks of January, the spiritual practice is Attention. The book I read that related to attention was Everyday Sacred - A Woman's Journey Home by Sue Bender.

The author wrote another book that I read several years ago called Plain and Simple about her time that she spent living with the Amish. I enjoyed that book and was curious to see what Everyday Sacred was like.

The motivation for the book came from the fact that Bender was struggling to apply the simplicity and peaceful wisdom that she learned from the Amish to her busy life. One day she heard about the story of a begging bowl: each day a Zen monk goes out with an empty bowl in his hands. Whatever is placed in that bowl will be his nourishment for the day. 

She translates this practice into her philosophy and basis of this book: if we approach each day afresh, with our bowls waiting to  be filled, we will find at the end of that day that extraordinary things - some so small that we we may tempted to overlook them - have come our way.

There are some parts of the book that I want to remember including these excerpts:
=> All my thoughts, feelings, and experiences...might be connected to everyday sacred
=> A story about three bowls: "The first bowl is inverted, upside down, so that nothing can go into it. Anything poured into this bowl spills off. The second bowl is right-side up, but stained and cracked and filled with debris. Anything put into this bowl gets polluted by the residue or leads out through the cracks. The third bowl is clean. Without cracks or holes, this bowl represents a state of mind ready to receive and hold whatever is poured into it."  
=> Oryoki (the Japanese name for a begging bowl) means "just enough."
=> In the book She, the author talks about "creative ordering." Bender now spends one hour a day sorting - either a room, drawer, cabinet, closet, or file. Having a limited time frame, and without rushing, I was able to approach each job with focused attention, she said. 
=> "What you do may seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." (Mahatma Gandhi)
=> Get rid of things or you'll spend your whole life tidying up. A book about Albert Schweitzer's life said, "...a clearing in the woods - cutting out from the thicket to make way for the sun." That's what I would do - make way for the sun.
=> A person who had a knee injury had to walk slowly on a hike through a national park. "She discovered her slowed pace helped her look at the world as if through a microscope .... I'm seeing these wonderful things because I can't walk very fast."
=> In many religious traditions a monk sets out with his begging bowl and exchange is made. Food is placed in his  bowl and he accepts the offering gratefully. The offering gives him strength to do his work and, in return, he gives guidance and wisdom. Who gives? Who receives? Both are giving and receiving. The monk puts his bowl away when he is finished eating. If he ate all the time, there would be no time to digest. 
=> Even when I am doing things I enjoy, I don't leave time to digest or savor what is happening. I almost never pause before going on to the next "doing." The solution? Put a lid on the bowl (metaphorically speaking).
=> We all need a certain amount of fallow time. Watching the grass grow, sitting on the hillside, staring out the window daydreaming. When we don't have it, there is a deeper intelligence that won't come forth. These "little Sabbaths" replenish my body - and spirit.
=> Wabi sabi is a beauty of things imperfect,impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional.
=> I read one page in each of three small inspirational books at the start of each day.
=> Fresh paint, fresh start.
=> The Japanese Zen monk...The first thing I noticed was a rectangular big, about twelve by nine inches, held on by a two-inch-wide piece that went around his neck. The materials was made up of pieces of dark-colored cloth; browns, rust, deep, deep purple held together by tiny white running stitches. The Buddhist tradition has something called a rakusu which is a sacred object.

=> In the Buddhist tradition, generosity is the ground for everything else .... By placing generosity in my bowl meant I could practice generosity toward myself and others.
=> Each time you say something critical about yourself you are making that message to yourself more real.
=> Watching you wash you truck...felt [like] I was witnessing an act of devotion .... I do think it sort of reflects that my business is in order when I have a clean, well-conditioned truck. It says something about me.
=>  What if the whole family was together at Thanksgiving and the turkey exploded? If the four of you were killed at that moment, who would you want to have your worldly goods? ....This is a chance to think about the people in our lives, a chance to be grateful and express our gratitude .... Stop at the end of the day, even a particularly difficult day, and make a list: a gratitude list.
=> Harriet's father fills the trucks with flowering bulbs...[and] plants these bulbs along the way, anonymously, as he crisscrosses America - a Johnny Appleseed of the highways .... I wonder how many other things he's done that I haven't noticed! Now, when Harriet sees daffodils and crocuses growing along a freeway she thinks of him and smiles. Sometimes you need someone else's eyes to show you the beauty that's been in front of you all the time.
=> Too often we take these small acts of kindness for granted. We think we have to have a large achievement or gift to offer others. Small kindnesses make a difference - they have echoes out of proportion to the effort they take. 
=> "We can do no great things, only small things with great love." (Mother Teresa)
=> Mitzi really listens. As a result, I have the experience of being heart by another person - a huge gift.
=> "I don't think we have time to waste being unhappy about decisions we've made." (Helen Delfonti)
=> If we ask for help, we can help others. Accepting other people's generosity is a form of generosity. How we receive a gift can be a gift to the giver.
=> "We ourselves make each day what it is. The fortunate and unfortunate will always be with us, but our responses - maintaining dignity and equilibrium - to whatever befalls us, determine whether the day is good or not." (Christy Bartlett)



Robin McCormack said...

Okay, you sold me. Added to my want list. Love the story of the 3 bowls.

Rita said...

What a wonderful book to start the year!! :)