Monday, February 11, 2008

Simple Ways Toward the Sacred

How wonderful it is to be pleasantly surprised by a book! When I first picked up “Simple Ways Towards the Sacred,” I flipped through the pages and then put it down unimpressed. With titles of chapters such as “To Breathe,” “To Touch,” “The Wall,” and “The Window,” I was almost scared of what I might find. As it turns out, I had nothing to fear. “Simple Ways Towards the Sacred” is an insightful book, well worth taking the time to read and ponder.

Gunilla Norris is a well-known writer, meditation teacher, and psychotherapist. “Simple Ways Towards the Sacred” is designed to be used as a meditation tool. Her words are poetic, inviting the reader to stop and reflect on the simple things that we so often take for granted. The book is divided into four sections: “With Our Bodies,” “In Our Dwellings;” “With Our Everyday Things;” and “In Our Gratitude.” Norris encourages us to take note and truly experience the sacred that surrounds us. God is in the details.

For example, the very acts of taking a step or drifting off to sleep at night are full of meaning if we only pay attention. “Whether in protest or in praise, walking implies intention, direction, and purpose. . .As we walk we can know that each devoted step has its moment. As more steps follow, we may find that they have become momentous. . . .Could our walking be a continual awareness that we journey always in God?” So, too, when we fall asleep, we are letting go of our day. Those moments when we are between being awake and being asleep provide a wonderful opportunity to surrender to God. “Might I rest tonight in God? Might I let go? Might I learn to die daily and so live?”

The items that surround us can also invite us to discover the sacred in the every day. Our homes with their doors and windows, stairs and roofs, provide ample opportunities for reflection. I admit, I have never given much thought to the state of my roof except when it is leaking or needs to be repaired. Norris provides insight into how a roof can mean so much more. “To have a roof over our heads is to have a home. Days of storm, days of intense sun, gray days, pleasant days – the roof is there and we are sheltered. . . . Under God's wings we are all sheltered, and thus we are asked to shelter one another.” That shelter can take the form of physical shelter, but it can also mean offering emotional shelter, “willing extensions of care, lean-tos of support that can give shelter in a storm.”

Finally, living in a state of constant gratitude is, in many ways, the secret of happiness. “There is not a single moment in life in which we are not given something. We can begin to notice this; we can increase our capacity to receive daily, both that which seems small and that which is big.” The seemingly simple appreciation of the nature that surrounds us, of the food on our plates and all the effort that went into getting it there, of the relationships that grace our lives, the work and chores we must do, the challenges we face, and the opportunities presented to us, will fill our souls with such gratitude and joy. Every morning, we are invited to “be,” to accept all that the day has to offer, both good and bad. Our very being is gift. We need only be aware. “Simple Ways Towards the Sacred” encourages us to be aware, to look at our daily life with fresh eyes, and find God in the midst of it all.

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