In Native American cultures, The Great Spirit is a deity intertwined with the fabric of the Universe itself on the large scale and yet personally engaged with the web of living things and the world on an earthly scale. I am creating a spiritual practice by borrowing a little from the Buddhists and the practice of mindfulness, but mostly from the strong connection I feel for the worship of Earth as taught us by our first nations. For those who hunger for the connection of a spiritual practice from someone who is learning to braid her own.

Ritual as a life skill

I can't remember if it struck me on the 3rd or 4th crepe paper streamer, but I remember I was standing half on a step ladder and half on a chair tacking the twisted strands into slings leading from corners of the dining room to the light fixture in the middle. I was into my second hour of decorating, a pig in mud, preparing the house for my grand daughter's first birthday. I had hand-made potato, fruit and green salad, a chocolate cake; and there was punch and champagne for the aunties and cousins. The curly cue wire-filled streamers were hung, gold, pink, blue, bouncing with the hustle-bustle of the house. I ran through years of birthdays of all the kids and scores of balloons and yards of crepe paper. I remembered a time when my Mom did something great at work and I got permission to get into the building after hours to decorate her office (in purple, because it was for my Mom).

I stood back and admired my work when it dawned on me. All of my awkwardness about whether or not I know how to create ritual to practice a spiritual path is silly. Mom taught me how to create ritual in the kitchen with good cooking and beautiful meals. She decorated for every holiday no fail, with kudos for years when she outdid herself, which was often. I remember one of the best parts of decorating was walking from all possible directions toward the house so we could behold our work from every vantage point. And now my grand daughter and I scour the overstuffed attic closets containing holiday decoration Mom bought me over the years. Things I've cursed and blessed, now in a new light through the eyes of a toddler. 

These things I do over and over are the rituals of my life. As I venture out on my own path of spirituality, these are the things I can draw from. Then I build--expand my repertoire of ritual incorporating less and less crepe paper and more and more things from the natural world, more and more gratitude for what I use, more and more reciprocity with an Earth that is beyond tapped out.

Another thing I realized is that Mom believed in a Spirit that took care of the Earth, and she practiced her own garden meditations and prayer on a corner city lot for some 60 years. She never went to church (although was happy to send me with friends and neighbors). If asked she spoke of the "Good Lord," but her worship was in her garden. Gardening is one of the oldest forms of communing with the Earth and is filled with ritual--sowing, growing, weeding, and harvesting.  

I already do some things well:
  • I design rituals for the person being celebrated
  • I make them pretty
  • I make them delicious
  • I try to work with products in season, meaning less footprint (but I could do better on this)
  • I initiate ways to help people get started talking when they come together--I am a community builder
  • I try to have something new and something you can always count on on the agenda (food, activities)
But there are some things I can do to expand and build my repertoire, and courage:
  • Continue birthdays, graduations, weddings, memorials, life events and incorporate songs, or other ways to connect with Spirit.
  • Expand beyond (Christian) holidays, expand to incorporate an earth component (e.g., solstice).
  • Braid gardening with meditation, prayer and ritual.
  • Continue to craft prayers and thanksgiving at meals.
One thing I have learned in my professional life is to take people where they are. When I branch out beyond my own home I will try not to freak out others by imposing practices that make them uncomfortable. I want to create enticing moments and have them ask for more. And I continue to look for subtle and lovely ways to incorporate spiritual practice in my everyday. My wooden flute practice has turned out to be such a meditation. Song as well.

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