THE BLOG

The Holy and the Plain

12/19/2012 03:20 pm ET | Updated Feb 18, 2013

Have you ever exalted in something so simple as a slice of fruit, the branch of a tree, the sleeve of a shirt, an old worn sneaker, or the dripping umbrella leaning by the door? Do you believe that the magic, celebration, and depth of the world can be found in any one of these everyday things?

What I'm writing about today is cultivating our appreciation for spirit, the sublime energy within us all, through the appreciation of this same spirit in the most ordinary of objects. The reason? We are so often cut off, bewildered by, and stranded from spirit in our suffering-prone, rampant minds, that coming to experience spirit out in the world is at first more accessible than experiencing it inside.

I can't help but think of William Carlos Williams here and his famous poem about a red wheelbarrow in the rain. Much like a still life painter, WCW manages to infuse and amplify that wheelbarrow with the ethereal.

Same with our toddler Stella and the small apple she lines up for after her yoga class every Wednesday. There is nothing special about this apple, just one of a great many in the basket awaiting the children when class is over. Yet, the apple palpates with such remarkable spirit, its power obvious in how she asks for it, how she holds it in her sticky little fingers. While she takes maybe three or four bites tops, the eating of the apple is not what makes it so much more meaningful than itself. It is rather how she is able to blow up and saturate the thing with such glowing energy, how she is able to give it a pulse, as if it were alive.

The elevation of and exaltation in everyday stuff is wonderful training, our attention made crisper, our gratitude deepened. Might you practice feasting your eyes and lifting your hearts with the sight of a mere avocado, or lemon, or apple on the counter waiting to be tasted? When your understanding of ordinary shifts from basic, drab, less than excellent to containing the divine, you will know it. From here, from this feeling of rock-turned-to-gold, you can then move your gaze back to your very human and wonderfully-ordinary life -- where so much of the work is -- and behold spirit within you.

Suzuki Roshi said, "Ordinary mind is not something apart from what is holy." In even our little dramas, our bigger heartaches, our most banal and boring moments, there is spirit. The ordinariness of all these things makes us human. The sacred in all of these things is also what makes us human. It is our job, in toil, distraction, frustration, and play, to kindle and rekindle this relationship between the holy and the plain.

Start by discovering the vital energy in any old piece of fruit. That's good enough. Then slowly, with practice, you can jibe your attention and discover that vital energy in your own existence, where spirit lies embedded, gleaming and unperturbed, at all times.

In ordinary sweetness,

ML

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