Everyday Spirituality: Returning To Our Senses

 

Christine Sine’s Rocks

This post is part of an ongoing series on Everyday Spirituality. Today’s post is by Christine Sine, author, blogger, and executive director of Mustard Seed Associates. Her other books include To Garden with God and GodSpace. Her new book, Return to Our Senses will be released November 20th but is now available for pre-order. All proceeds from the book will go toward the work of Mustard Seed Associates.

A couple of years ago on my blog, I asked: What makes you feel close to God? Dozens of people responded with concrete illustrations about how they connect to God in everyday life. They talked about playing with kids, turning the compost pile, washing the dishes and walking in the local park. Even taking a shower got a mention. Their reflections became the blog series What Is A Spiritual Practice?  Two things surprised me. First, no one mentioned church or Bible study. Second, most people come closest to God in tangible everyday activities yet rarely identify these as spiritual practices or forms of prayer.

These observations started me on a journey to rediscover the nature and purpose of prayer. Starting with Madame Guyon’s assertion that prayer is an exercise in love, I started to discover prayer not as an activity I engage in but a relationship I enter into. My journey has opened windows into the loving nature of God far beyond my imaginings. It has exposed me to prayer traditions I never knew existed. It has encouraged me to create my own new and fresh expressions of prayer. It has also brought me together with a growing number of people who search for a more vital prayer life.

One result of this journey, is my new book Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray. It was written for those who hunger for a deeper, more life encompassing relationship with God. Some of the practices I share have existed for centuries and only require us to tap into the rich knowledge and practices of ancient followers of Christ to access them. Others will be newly created, springing fresh from our imaginations and creativity, specially designed for intimacy with God in our present culture.

Christine Sine

For example, I have long been a collector of rocks. As a child I loved to gather specimens when my family went on long road treks over the summer holidays. And in Australia there are some wonderful rocks to collect – sapphire chips, small pieces of opal, agates, and even flecks of gold.  But in the last few years it is not these semiprecious stones that have caught my attention. Now like the Israelites of old, who often built cairns of rocks into memorials, I gather rocks that mark significant events – and I give them names as memorials to remind me of special moments with God.

I have a beautiful green serpentine marble like rock I picked up on the island Iona off the west coast of Scotland. I found it on the beach where the Celtic saint Columba is supposed to have come ashore after being expelled from Ireland. I call it my rock of faithfulness. When I hold it in my hand I am reminded of all the faithful people, like Columba who have gone before me, embraced by God’s love, sharing the faith and building the kingdom of God.

My friend Kim uses rocks as a totally different form of spiritual practice. She calls it skipping stones into a new creation. When her husband lost his job recently, she walked down to the local beach with a handful of stones from their driveway. She tossed them into the ocean, “letting go” of the possibilities and hopes that the job had offered As she prayerfully threw each stone, she released her sadness, disappointments and hurts reminding herself that as the stones will be polished by the movement of the waves and tides, so is her life being polished by the all encompassing love of God. As she did this she felt liberated, and walked away singing.

It is my growing conviction that it is not in church or in our “prayer closets” that most of our praying is done.  Church is more a place that is meant to help us interpret and act on the presence of God in our lives and in our world. Breathing, drinking a glass of water, picking up a stone, taking a photo can all become acts of prayer, thin spaces that awaken us to the loving presence of God. Our God is a God of endless creativity and imagination, a creativity that has been passed on to all of us who are made in God’s image. This creativity is meant to be poured out in the ways we pray, worship and practice our faith. Each moment is, I believe, pregnant with new possibilities, new concrete expressions of prayer waiting to be born.

So where do you feel closest to God? What are the creative ways that God might stir your imagination through this experience of closeness, into new expressions of prayer? 

  • Andrew

    I feel closest to God in the chapel, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

  • http://www.morasophia.blogspot.com Ian Campbell

    I feel closest to God in the wilderness: fishing, building a fire, swimming in lakes and rivers, being stuck in the rain. I too find it very interesting that most people’s experience of the divine is in the everyday and the tangible.
    This experience of the Divine in the tangible is why I am so enthusiastic about the Eucharist. We proclaim our faith not merely as detached intellects affirming propositions (Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again), but, in addition, we are given the tangible symbols of the bread and the cup, to proclaim and celebrate our faith we engage in this tangible more-than-mere-speech-act.

  • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

    Difficult to put this into words. But here goes.

    As to my experience of prayer . . . It’s an unceasing connection. Every moment. Every breath. Every heart beat. An ever-constant sharing, participation, communion.

    It’s not an activity I engage in during choice moments — such as meal time, church time, study time, or bed time — where I speak or think words as if sending a telegram.

    I do take time each day to quiet myself and share Our communion free of the distractions that ordinarily attend any given day. Usually it’s at night. I suppose you could say such moments of quietude are akin to quiet alone time with a lover just before getting under the covers for the night’s sleep.

    As to my experience of God and when I feel We are closest . . .

    Typically when it’s just Us. The best times — the most intimate ones — are when I’m hiking, moving, climbing, etc. Basically when I’m participating with the physical World — where there is Life all around me — in any sort of activity that gets my body moving and my heart beating. These are also moments where my mind is quieted. For me, such moments as these are Our best Oneness times. A spiritual kind of sex, in a way, to use a carnal analogy. Because God is all Love. And Our Oneness is a total Love thing.

    But my experience with God, again, is in every moment. When I eat. When I talk with friends (or anyone). When I’m at the gym. When I watch TV. When I read. When I write (such as at this moment). When I listen to music. When I’m at a party. When I go shopping. But also when I am hurting. When I am sad. When I am angry. When I am pissed off. When I am frustrated. When I am in pain. When I have an argument with a friend (or anyone). When I’m stuck in traffic. When I can never get past a certain level of Angry Birds.

    My Oneness with God is mutually constant and pretty intense. But it wasn’t always that way. God kept insisting we get together. For years God kept chasing me, poking at me, and really just kept annoying the shit out of me. Just wouldn’t leave me the hell alone. I kept resisting, kept ignoring. Didn’t really work too well. Turns out for years I had been judging my understanding of God according to rumors I’d heard from others. And all God wanted was one opportunity for us to get together so I could make a direct, informed, unbiased, one-on-one judgment, rather than make assumptions based on third party opinions.

    So I did.

    We’ve been together ever since.

  • Amy

    One way I feel close to God is by doing mixed media art. As I approach the blank page I clear my mind of distractions and meditate on God. Each color or image or word I add to a page is another message to God or from God. Each layer I add reveals something new to me. I’m often surprised after I’ve completed a number of pages in a journal that a pattern has begun to emerge, revealing something I need to internalize in my life that I didn’t even realize on a conscious level. God speaks to me through the art process.

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