| ANNE WILLIAMSON |
I love to garden. No, that's not broad enough: I love all yard work. I do. I love being outside, digging in the dirt and listening to nature. I love the physicality; sawing off a dead limb on a tree makes me feel strong and capable. And, I love its tangible results; spend a few minutes and that bush takes shape; spend a few hours and that garden bed is alive with new colors. It's satisfying. Me + it = something I can see, a project done.
I love spirituality too, but hardly because it behaves similar to gardening. The nature thing is there, but often it's incredibly frustrating how head and heart and intangible the whole thing feels. Whether your chosen path to connect is meditation or chanting or "accepting Jesus" or whatever, you + it doesn't always = peace, enlightenment, you name it. Changing the shape of our hearts and minds, our lives, the world, is slow work, satisfying often only in time.
This is why I'm starting to think it takes real practice and discipline. Why "they," whoever they are, were wise folks when they named the methods we use to connect and grow in love exactly that: spiritual practices, spiritual disciplines. I'm presently smack dab in the middle of a 21-day meditation challenge, and I can hear my spirit saying, "This is what is required, if you want peace." Not necessarily meditation, but a commitment to train my "spiritual muscles," a commitment to practice until and through new habits or ways of being take shape. What do you think? LISTEN on, LEARN, LOVE...
Sit for a moment with these words. Maybe pray them. What do you hear? Keep listening...
Read this transcript of an interview Oprah did with Shirley MacLaine.
Oprah (voice-over): In 1994, at age 60, Shirley MacLaine set her sights on what is known as "El Camino de Santiago." It's a 500-mile-long trail that crosses from France into northern Spain. This ancient pilgrimage can take as long as six to eight weeks to complete as travelers make their way on foot to their final destination, the cathedral where the remains of Saint James are said to be buried.
MacLaine: I walked about 20 to 25 miles a day, sometimes 40 miles. Being a dancer, I thought I knew everything about physical pain, but this was unbelievable.
Oprah (voice-over): The people who have completed the walk say it's an arduous but deeply spiritual journey, one Shirley says is best taken solo.
MacLaine: The whole point is to go by yourself and not know where you're going to sleep and not know where you will eat your next meal.
Oprah (voice-over): Shirley's intention: she wanted to get back to basics and reconnect to her most elemental humanity.
Oprah: What did you go through when you walked the spanish trail? How long were you out there? How many days?
MacLaine: 30 days.
Oprah: By yourself?
MacLaine: Mm-hmm. On purpose, you know. It's a spiritual camino.
Oprah: It's 500 miles, so you're doing 20 miles a day?
MacLaine: Yeah. So, I was in touch, yet again, with blisters on my feet.... And when I got back to London, I found that I had to walk in Hyde Park about four hours a day. And that's when I got in touch with how everything we do becomes habit if we're accustomed to it.
This story and last line really struck me the first time I heard it. What is striking you? Keep listening.
And, if you're in the mood for a fun "how-to" video, try this 3-minute TEDTalk:
Out of what's stirring in you, set an intention for this coming week. Decide to actively love yourself, God, another by committing to something - maybe a spiritual practice - for 30 days or 21 or 3. Accountability always helps with these things, so be a little brave and share your intention with someone.