To walk the streets of Bali at midday is to be constantly stepping over tiny, discarded piles of holiness.
Each day, the people, after meticulously sweeping the courtyards and sidewalks that spill out from their small, concrete homes and businesses - they put forth offerings. Tiny, hand-woven baskets, plaited from cane grass, filled with bright snippets of frangipani or plumeria, or some other delicate, aromatic bloom. There too, are a few grains of rice, maybe a morsel of melon, a stick of incense, lit as the sun crests the sky.
Made and consecrated each day as a nod to the deities and demons gathered there - whose likenesses are carved into the buildings and archways. Everywhere. These small hand-wrought boxes of beauty, scent and sweetness - put forth daily to appease and thank the Unseen forces gathered there.
Thank you, they say. For blessings of food and sustenance and pleasure and delight. I acknowledge the source. And I give some small token back.
By midday, the small pilings of sacredness lay forgotten, swept up into the daily maelstrom of commerce and householder life. Left to be dispersed by the wayward footsteps of dogs, hasty travellers and the winds of fate alike. Temporarily forgotten until the next day’s miniature altar, prayer and ritual rise up to take its place.
It’s not a thing per se.
Like the sweeping of the courtyard, or the going to the market or the watering of plants, the preparing of food. This tiny altar business is just another facet of the Eastern circadian rhythm.
It’s what we do, they seem to proclaim.
Just as we see to the business at hand - of food and shelter and livelihood and all that - we carve out this space for the Divine. A small nod in the morning to the hands of Nature or Grace that compose this grand, mysterious world - and we weave these tiny boxes - fill them with some small portion of the beauty and bounty which dwell all around us - and say “ Thank you”. I recognize the abundance at my feet. And I choose to daily offer it back - in what way that I can.
In this past week, we’ve looked at the practice of paying ATtention. Showing up, taking stock and slowing down just enough to notice what is there. The stories, sensations and moments that could otherwise go un-heeded, un-witnessed, un-felt, but for our gift, our practice of Presence. Being willing to sit for a moment with the silence, the mystery, the doubt, the what-if, the sadness and all else that may be lurking there inside these cells - trusting that the medicine is also there - the balm, the Light - if we are willing to sit a moment inside the darkness that we carry.
We practice looking. And seeing. Attuning our senses to the particular frequency of Grace. Or peace. Or presence. Or ease. Or song - whatever that magic key phrase that came to you in the course of journey here. How we can drop out of the rhythm of rushing and striving and doing, into the slower cadence of Opening - Searching - SEeking - REceiving. Where does this quality begin to show up? And how can I practice meeting it?
This week, I find myself singing little children’s church songs as I contemplate the words and practices and stories I wish to share with you all.
Hide it under a bushel - No!
I’m gonna let it shine…
Let it shine...Let it shine….
And I can see my good, fresh-faced, five-year-old self, perched happily upon a folding chair on Sunday morning - holding my tiny finger up - my own little lantern - and singing along with all my heart - I’m gonna let it shine….
Beginning to cultivate this awareness of Light in our worlds is a beautiful launch pad. It is a beautiful vessel with which to move through this world.
But that vessel is meant to move out into the water - beyond the safety of the harbor - and insert itself into the waves.
This week, we’re scooping up those Lights, those tiny lanterns of insight and goodness and beauty and grace which we have begun to take note of - and begin the practice of extending them back out into the larger world.
You may be already familiar with the Metta Bhavana
- or Loving Kindness Meditation.
From the Buddhist tradition.
It is one of my favorite, new (to me) practices to incorporate into my daily rhythm.
One of those simple, but unspeakably profound things that must be experienced to be truly grasped.
It goes something like this :
Find a comfortable place to sit. Maybe light a candle.
Grab a timer. Or use the one on your phone.
For a designated period of time, you will practice sending loving-kindness out into the world.
Beginning with yourself.
With the breath. With mantra (repeated words or phrases). With a steady and easy attention to the sensations arising in the body. In the heart. LEtting what wants to come forth - Emerge.
I usually go for just a few minutes each round.
Set the timer and….
- May I be happy. May I be free and able to give and receive Love. May I know peace. May I be free from suffering. May I know harmony in my body and mind and relationships and…. (the words are less important - what rings true for you? Take a moment to explore what words and phrases feel potent and alive today…)
- Then to a Beloved - a child or teacher or elder who inspires deep, potent, heart-blown-wide-open, devotional type love. For that same length of time, practice sending them Love. And goodness. And blessings. And joy. What words and wishes and beauty do you wish to come to this sweetheart of yours? Send that to them now.
- Then move to a Teacher - someone who has aided you on your journey. Who has held your hand or opened the doors of your perception or skill or heart in some way. Staying with that great fullness of your own breath, with an inner eye attuned to the energy coming in and out and around your heart center - send them Love. In the words that best fit you and them.
- A Neutral person - someone you see on your morning commute, maybe. Or who fixes you coffee, or works on your car. No overwhelming emotional attachments or stories you have associated - just a character that exists on the periphery of your Life. Send them love for the allotted window of time.
- A person with whom you have struggle or resentment, or injury or strife. Find the person who comes up for you here. IT could change from day to day. Let it emerge as it will. For the same pocket of time, keep breathing from that soft spot inside the belly and the chest - and practice sending them Love - healing - Light.
And notice what emerges. …..
*On Day 1 - practice this metta-meditation for a short segment of time. Aim for ten minutes total. Two minutes a pop. Try to start your day here. Before all else has begun. If you have an extra minute or two, take some time to write down in your journal what comes up for you. See if you can commit to this practice for the next 7 days. Watch what wants to transpire in you.
*Day 2 - Let’s put some motion behind these prayers. Beginning with the top of your list. Yourself. What would it look like to strive for happiness, for ease, for peace in your life at this moment? What shape would that take? What blocks might need to be removed (or even just gently chipped at) in order for you to be open to more Love and Joy to come into your world? Take a minute to journey into that notion. And then Give IT a Shape. A name. A task. Something you can do today - that doesn’t necessarily involve a huge investment of time or money - but that you can offer yourself. As an act of Love. Kindness. A small act of Light.
*Day 3 - Your beloved. Send them a present. I don’t know what this looks like for you at this time. A thank you. A letter. A date. A long, tender hug. Sometimes just the gift of your undivided attention for One Whole Hour. Send them something today that they can grab hold of. Can tangibly receive. LEt them know the place they hold in your heart.
*Day 4 - Your teacher. How will you send them love today? In words or praise or a small token of your devotion and thanks… What shape will that love take in this moment? Using the resources you have right inside of and before you. What can you alone give them that speaks of the impact they’ve made in your heart? Create that offering today. In whatever form it may take.
*Day 5 - Your Neutral. That dude down the hall. That lady who walks her dog the same route as you do each day. The smiling barista whose name you have yet to learn. Do something lovely for them today. Whatever that means. The fat tip in the jar. The inquiry into their life, their story, their world. Compliments and interested questions and tokens and such. The shape of it matters little. As long as the gift is made.
*Day 6 - The struggle. The betrayer. The antagonist. The constriction in your heart and your breath. The hard place to shed Light. Today we are sending it there. Find that person with whom you are struggling. And bring them a mighty fruit basket of Light. Maybe it’s a letter in your own lovely hand, letting them know you forgive them and are wishing them well. Maybe you’re not quite there yet. Maybe you can sit them down for a conversation - one in which you do nothing but quietly breathe - and allow them to speak, letting your protests sit by the wayside for now. A potted plant. An act of service or help. What need do you see that maybe you could, in some small way - meet? Be brave. Offer what you can. And know that in this moment - it is Enough.
*Day 7 - Where would you like to cast some Light? And what shape can it take today? A small, hand-crafted mandala in a public place - built with stones or flowers or bottlecaps or grains - built with love and whimsy - and left - to be enjoyed and taken in by all who pass by that day? A song played on a street corner. An impromptu pastel sketch of flowers or poetry upon a city sidewalk square. A hot meal left in an opportune place for the right hungry hands. An hour or so of your time or attention. A small act of service or value or beauty or ….. Whatever is yours - whatever small treasure you carry around inside your back pocket that is just aching to come out and do some good in the world… Put it out there. Your own tiny candle to begin to illumine and inspire others. Your own small spark.
This past week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with some of my favorite ladies and conjuring up tiny ways to begin to work some magic in the world.
Little slips of paper we wrote on. Filled with ideas about how to care a bit more for our bodies, our muse, our lives, our relationships, our time…. things like - spontaneous dance parties and bubble baths and coffee dates and writing and playing and posting stuff on Instagram and blogs. Tiny. Playful. Delicate little slips of happiness curled up and placed inside a jar.
A small, violet-hued one that is sitting on my mantle right now.
From where it does me no good.
For I must be willing to take it down. Read the words my loving, wiser self has written - and employ them in my Life.
It is a wondrous thing to pause and reflect and cultivate awareness around the Beauty and Light that that permeate our lives right now.
But the potency - the magic - the Light beginning to gather and Grow - happens only when we are willing to take that tiny candle off the shelf - and carry it into the regions - that are hungry for its glow.
Thank you for showing up here. For journeying some portion of the way with me.
I feel honored to share this space and circle with you all.
The light in me….shines - recognizes and meets - and Bows… deeply to the Light in you…