Search Results for 'everyday spirituality'

Haiku writing

The haiku is a Japanese form of poetry which evolved out of the philosophy of Zen Buddhism. Traditional Japanese haiku have 17 syllables, but it has been suggested that English haiku should have more syllables, because English is a more long-winded language than Japanese, and you can pack a lot more concepts into 17 Japanese syllables than you can into 17 English syllables.

However, I tend to stick to the 17 syllable structure, divided into 3 lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Haiku also traditionally include a kireji, a ‘cutting word’. The cutting word divides the poem into two contrasting sections with imagery that adds a surprising twist or contrast to each other. It’s difficult to find ‘cutting words’ in English, so haiku writers in English use a dash to separate the two sections of the poem.

Haiku are essentially poems about Nature, so Japanese haiku also have a season word, to indicate in what season the action of the poem takes place. The season word does not have to be the name of the season; it can be something that is obviously associated with that season – for example, plum blossom would indicate that the poem was describing spring. The imagery of a haiku is simple and unpretentious, and generally does not use similes to achieve its effects. The natural phenomena described may very well be metaphors for something else, but the haiku may also be enjoyed for the images of natural beauty, and the human response to it, that it conjures up.

Haiku poets would often gather together to compose haiku on the spot. One poet would begin, and then another poet would respond with a haiku of their own, and in this way a series of linked haiku (known as haikai-renga) would be composed by the group.

Sometimes haiku would be combined with travel writing or other prose. The most famous example of this form is The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Matsuo Basho, which describes Basho’s travels to the far north of Japan. The combined haiku and prose form is known as haibun.

Writing haiku teaches one to strip things back to the bare essentials, to distil experience into its pure form, and to observe Nature closely. It is a very satisfying process, because haiku are so short, and so complete in themselves.

 

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Buddhism

· Buddhist · everyday spirituality · haiku · Matsuo Basho · mindfulness · poetry · spiritual practices · Zen

Books by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Women who run with the wolves – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This classic book has inspired many women to discover their inner wild self – the self that instinctively knows how to sense danger, to protect itself, to be nourished by stories and wilderness. The book is structured around several classic folktales, including the story of the Selkie (retold by the author as Sealskin, Soulskin), the Inuit story of Sedna, the story of the girl with the red shoes, the handless girl, and many other stories which teach people how to follow their instincts and listen to their hearts. Following each tale is a section explaining what it means and offering spiritual practices for everyday life. The wolf metaphor runs throughout the book, as the wild instincts of wolves are key to understanding how to be in touch with your own deepest instincts.

The Faithful Gardener – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This is an interwoven collection of stories about life, from the author of Women who run with the wolves. The book begins with the story of the author’s uncle being collected from the railway station in Chicago amidst the arrivals of hundreds of other displaced people arriving in America from war-torn Europe. The heart of the book is the story of that which never dies – the spirit which moves from life to life through various transformations.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Recommended books

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· books · Clarissa Pinkola Estes · everyday spirituality · spiritual practices

Making a mandala

The idea of the mandala comes from Hindu and Buddhist tradition. In its most developed form, the mandala is a diagram of the inner world. Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas depict temples and palaces where particular Buddhas dwell, and pathways between them. A sand mandala is carefully and painstakingly constructed by pouring sand through special pointy tubes onto a surface, and after a certain amount of time, the sand is swept up and poured out as a blessing into a river, or given away to pilgrims.

Mandalas can also be drawn or painted. Carl Gustav Jung (the psychoanalyst) drew mandalas representing his inner states, and encouraged his clients to do the same. Other Jungians also did this. Drawing a mandala can be a very satisfying experience  it doesnt have to be great art; its the process of creating a picture of your inner world that is important. You can also make mandalas from seeds, pebbles or shells.

Once you have created your mandala, you can use it as a focus for meditation, following the patterns you have created, or meditating on the meaning of the symbols within the mandala.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· Buddhist · everyday spirituality · Hindu · mandalas · meditation · spiritual practices ·

A nice cup of tea and a sit down

The Japanese tea ceremony is the ultimate form of this spiritual practice; in it each movement is choreographed, and the tea is prepared and served mindfully and gracefully. The ritual has deep meaning and resonance for the participants.

However, the preparation and drinking of tea has a restorative effect on many people. The fragrance of the tea, the effect of drinking it, and the relaxation of sitting and being focused on the pleasure of tea, is all good for you. Its even better if it is accompanied by conversation with a friend.

The title of this article is taken from the excellent website entitled "A nice cup of tea and a sit down" which extols the pleasures of this activity, or should I say inactivity?

Details on the Japanese Tea Ceremony can be viewed here

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· a nice cup of tea and a sit down · Buddhist · everyday spirituality · mindfulness · spiritual practices · tea ceremony · Zen ·

Shared meals

Many religious traditions have shared meals as part of their practice.

Jewish tradition has the Seder or Passover meal, in which specific symbolic foods are eaten, representing different aspects of the Passover story. The youngest person present must ask, "Why is this night more special than all other nights?" and various other symbolic actions are performed, such as leaving the door open for Elijah, and raising a toast to the idea that one's next Seder will take place in Jerusalem.

Christianity has the Eucharist, which commemorates both the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples, and also the meal he is said to have shared with them at Emmaus after his Resurrection. The meal consists of bread and wine consumed in a sacred manner. There has been much conflict throughout Christian history about what the Eucharist means, who is allowed to partake of it, and what its effects are. Nevertheless it is a powerful ritual. Stephen Lingwood, a Unitarian minister, suggests that communion represents Jesus' radical hospitality – his willingness to eat with people marginalised by society, such as prostitutes, tax collectors and publicans.

In Wicca, the shared meal is known as cakes and wine, and is usually consecrated by a woman and a man (or a same-sex couple), and then shared among the participants in the ritual. A portion is kept for offering to the deities as a libation.

In some Hindu traditions, a portion of the food is offered to the deities while it is being cooked, and blessed food is known as prasadam.

The ancient Greeks had a ritual of sharing bread, which is where we get our word symposium, which literally means ‘together bread’. In ancient Rome, there were dining clubs devoted to the god Bacchus (god of wine), which presumably had a ritual or spiritual aspect.

Many religious traditions (including Buddhism, Christianity and Paganism) give thanks for their food before eating. Typically, the meal blessing might include thanks to all the beings and processes that went into creating the food, and a wish that everyone in the world might have enough to eat.

Cooking can also be a spiritual practice. It is in many ways akin to alchemy (the transformation of one thing into another); indeed, a cooking vessel invented by a medieval female alchemist – the bain-marie – founds its way from the laboratory to the kitchen. In Jewish tradition, the preparation of food has special rituals associated with it. The magic of a lovingly prepared meal is powerful stuff, restoring both body and mind.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· alchemy · ancient paganism · Buddhist · Christian · everyday spirituality · Hindu · Judaism · Pagan · shared meals · spiritual practices · Wicca ·

Making an altar

An altar is a focus for devotion, prayer or meditation. It can be simple or complex, small or large. It can have no images, a single image, or multiple images. It can be themed around a particular idea, deity, holy person or festival. You can have more than one altar or shrine around your home.

If your altar is for meditation or prayer, choose a spot in your home that is quiet and peaceful. Consider how you will use your altar. If you are going to place flowers on it, or use it in ritual, make sure there is space for everything you need, and that the altar is easy to keep clean. Some people like to light a candle or ring a bell before they start their ritual, meditation or prayer.

The typical altar might have a bell or singing bowl, some holy pictures or statues, some natural objects such as pebbles, shells, feathers or wood to make a connection with Nature, a candle, prayer beads, and perhaps a holy book. It may be a shrine to a particular deity, saint, Buddha or bodhisattva, or to multiple sacred foci.

In Orthodox Christianity, the shrine at which the family prays is known as the Beautiful Corner, and is decorated with icons of favourite saints. Icons are seen as windows into Heaven, and depict the transfigured face of the saint. Before praying, people will light a candle and cross themselves.

In some traditions, people build altars or shrines at particular times of year. In Mexico, people build shrines for El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) to commemorate their loved ones who have died. There might be photos of the loved one, together with their favourite foods, and flowers. Many Pagans around the world have borrowed this idea. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her classic book Women who run with the wolves, describes how women built altars to commemorate losses in their lives, and how this helped them to grieve properly and to recover from the trauma. You could also build altars for particular rites of passage, such as the transition from childhood to adulthood, or for marriage or divorce. The altar might include symbols of the phase that is coming to an end, and symbols of the new phase to be embarked on. You could even build one altar for each phase, and then have a ritual progression from one phase to the next.

Another way of making an altar is to find a special tree or rock, and decorate around it with found (but biodegradable) objects arranged in a pattern, such as twigs, leaves, berries and feathers.

There is no right or wrong way to make an altar. Each altar is personal and special. If you are following a particular spiritual tradition, it may have particular ways of making altars, but even within that, there is plenty of scope for creativity.

 

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· altars · Clarissa Pinkola Estes · everyday spirituality · icons · meditation · prayer · spiritual practices

Gardening

Gardening is well known to be therapeutic, but it is also deeply spiritual. It is a process of fostering life, of working with the land and Nature to create beauty – what could be more spiritual than that? Embodied spirituality is about responding to the world with wonder, creativity and joy; it is not some abstract process – it is about connecting the inner with the outer. The planting of the seeds in the ground teaches us hope and care for small growing things. Watching the seeds come up is an experience of hope rewarded. Then we must care for the tender seedlings, watering them, planting them out, protecting them from being eaten. We create patterns in the garden – arrangements of plants that flower and fruit in their season. The plants might be herbs that heal, or flowers with scent and colour, or leafy trees, or fruit and vegetables. Plants have symbolism and mythology and folklore associated with them.

The word paradise means an enclosed garden; the earliest gardens were oases of fertility in the desert, such as the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which must have required considerable watering. The fabled Garden of Eden was the mythological model for such gardens. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ uncle Zovár said that the Garden of Eden was really the whole Earth, because everywhere on Earth is capable of flowering like a garden, and is full of the divine presence if you know how to be aware of it.

Composting (an essential aspect of gardening) is a wonderful metaphor for the process of change and transformation. We compost our dead matter (past experience) and it helps to fertilise new growth (the wisdom that comes from experience).

 

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: UK Spirituality blog

Category: Spiritual practices

Tradition: Multiple traditions

· change · everyday spirituality · gardening · spiritual practices · transformation