• evansph2

One of my favorite spiritual writers is Mark Nepo who says. “Life is always where we are.” It’s not over there where we’d rather be or back then or over the next mountain or after Covid. It is right here, right now. I know that I often think to myself, “how will I look back on this time? Will I have spent this gift of time in a way that I feel good about?” Which often brings me back to the question, how DO I want to spend this time? What sort of day DOES make me happy?

Of late, I have been drawn into too many tempting Zoom webinars, conferences, classes. Each one with some wonderful teacher with some promising information. And I suddenly see that I am overwhelmed by my own choices. There are so many things I want to know and do and now seems like the perfect chance to do them. But, perhaps not ALL of them! I can get so busy going to Zoom sessions that I feel like in some odd way I am not quite living my life.

Mark Nepo also says, “let no-one keep you from your own journey” – no rabbi, no parent who has expectations different from yours, no partner who has their own journey to take, no person whom you think has it all figured out better than you. Take your own journey! And perhaps you don’t know exactly where you want to go or how. And, in this time of Covid you can’t actually “go” anywhere anyway. But, we do have a journey to take during this time. And, for me, writing is a way to sort of map the journey. I like to think of myself following my own pen to see what is right under my nose along the way. I often begin by writing about what I see in the room where I am writing; a plant, the TV, an open book, a bird out the window, a red spatula …. Whatever it is. I begin by describing it in detail – with no hint of where I’m going -- because I myself do not know where I am going. I begin to describe its purpose. And then ask I it, what message it has for me. I find this method almost always to yield something I didn’t already know! That’s why I write. To see the path as I am traversing it. And, in addition, I write because…

I write because…

I write because of the way the sun

is reflected by a million green leaves.

I write because I want to know

who is on the other side of my door.

I write because Mrs. Nye in first grade

taught us to use the thick red pencil

on wide-ruled paper.

I write because my shoulder aches

and my heart aches and my body

is wearing out.

I write because forget-me-nots

sometimes make me cry.

I write to keep myself company

and to freely admit

sometimes I am lonely.

I write to hear that loneliness clearly.

I write because I love canned tuna

with mayo and celery and onions

and I love sandwiches.

Writing is a word sandwich

my spirit can eat

when its hungry.

~Penny Hackett-Evans

  • evansph2

Updated: Aug 2

I am using (with permission) “Simply Go*d” as the title for this post – having borrowed it from a book title I recently came across. I love this title as it can be read as either “good” or “god” and both words make sense in the same sort of way. We are all “simply Go*d”. We can all worship “go*d”. But, beyond the clever title, the book engaged me very much. The author, Susan Kirsch, begins the book by talking about her own daily spiritual practice (which takes her 20 minutes each morning).

She begins by walking to the bathroom (she had me right there! If walking to the bathroom could be a spiritual practice, I was in!). As she walks, she notices her legs and her ability to walk and recognizes the privilege it is. She then turns on the tap and gets a glass of water which she drinks while appreciating this freely abundant and available source of all life – as she contemplates those who must walk dusty miles to a well to fetch water in a pot.

She goes on to do some yoga and then lights a candle at her altar with another prayer “Make me a light in the world”. She does some brief reading from sacred texts, selects a tarot card and then makes two entries in her journal. She uses a journal with blank pages and she begins by making an intuitive drawing with oil pastels on the right side of the page. She calls this her “play page”. A page beyond words -- she fills the page with color and shape. She writes “I welcome the blank page as a metaphor for the upcoming day.” And then she writes on the left hand page – stimulated by the tarot card, her own drawing or just trying to name the blessings she notices.

I intend to take up this practice myself!! It is a lovely variation on things I already was doing but that had become stale for me. So lovely to have a new palette to play with.

Here is one poem of hers, reprinted here with her permission. And, if you want more, you can order the book here.

Wealth Beyond Measure. By Susan Kirsch

Let the bankers

straighten the ties

that choke their necks

behind button-down shirts.

You and I have wealth beyond measure.

Don’t worry.

Forget the balance in your checkbook.

Appreciate the oxygen in your lungs

the radiant smiles of children

the determined ladybug

climbing the potato vine.

We have wealth beyond measure.

Fragile figures

in your retirement account


Instead of retiring


Create an emergent account.

Make monthly deposits of courage

to pursue your passion

and dance your dreams.

Weave your wealth in the realm of angels

who use paper currency as kindling

while they wrap you in their golden wings.

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  • evansph2

Updated: Jul 16

The current tissue of the newsletter of the UU church of the Larger Fellowship, is focused on spiritual practice. Many lovely articles about what spiritual practice is and isn’t. Contributor, Rev. Sharon Wylie writes that spiritual practice is “an activity whose primary purpose is to quiet the mind and bring us into deeper connection with the interdependent web of all existence. Spiritual practice is Intentional, practiced regularly and is non-productive.”

A practice that is INTENTIONAL– In other words, it’s not something you are already doing everyday anyway – like washing the dishes. It is an activity that you engage in with the sole purpose of paying attention . You do it in order to focus your mind. You do it to practice being intentional. You are going to focus and be aware of each moment as you do the practice. You do it because you choose it.

A practice that is REGULAR. You don’t do it when the spirit moves you. You don’t do it occasionally. You do it on a regular basis; if not daily, then something close to that. Like brushing your teeth. You do it because you have committed to doing it and because you have decided it’s in your own best interest. You do it regularly because that’s how habits work. You practice “staying with”.

A practice that is NON-PRODUCTIVE. This is the one that gives me personally the most challenge. Why would I do something that isn’t productive?” Well, why indeed! I seem to always demand that anything I do give me a pay-off. I’d like to learn how not to be attached to outcomes. Walking a labyrinth is not walking to get somewhere, it is walking to walk – to be aware that I am walking. It’s how I’d like to walk through all of my life. Awake. Aware.

So these are good litmus tests for deciding if what you are doing (watching birds, writing in a journal, making art, reading, meditating, hiking, washing the dishes, etc.etc.etc.) is actually a spiritual practice FOR YOU. Is it intentional, regular and non-productive? Or is it some other thing -- which might be good -- maybe it's fun, or healthy, or insightful, or, or, or -- but is it a SPIRITUAL PRACTICE? We can use these three words to help us decide.

And, I also want to lift up this idea that we do spiritual practices in order to PRACTICE. We will never achieve some sought after reward or goal or enlightenment. We are practicing noticing what IS. We are practicing seeing ourselves. We are practicing over and over to slow down, wake up, breathe. You would think that would be easy. It isn’t!

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