We’ve heard it a thousand times: enjoy the little things. And while, perhaps, it’s easy to enjoy little things like birds singing, children laughing or a phone call from a friend if we slow down and pay attention, what about the truly mundane, routine things? What about the annoyances, inconveniences or even our own bad habits?
I was recently presented with this question: what if we treated everything as sacred? From the smallest, seemingly meaningless encounter at the grocery store to our guilty pleasures and unhealthy vices? Is it possible that even these things could somehow be sacred?
I spent some time with the word. What does sacred mean to me? Some of the words that rose to the surface were special, dear, divine, extraordinary and healing. I made a list and added a few more words and phrases from the dictionary: hallowed, blessed, revered, something that pervades all dimensions of life.
I then decided to take a full day and approach every interaction and experience I could as a sacred moment. I knew that mindfulness and patience were only the beginning of what I would need, but with my heart and intuition as my guides and companions, I accepted this challenge I had created for myself with curiosity and anticipation.
The night before, I decided to create an intention setting ritual. I took time to breath and relax. I burned some mugwort for inspiration and sage for clearing and starting afresh. I lit a few of my favorite candles and reflected on the idea of every day being full of sacred moments.
When I woke up the following morning, I took a deep breath. Before even getting out of bed I decided that today was going to be special. I got out of bed, walked to the window and took time to watch the sun rising and listen to the birds singing. The sky was a masterpiece of reds and purples. During my morning shower, I tried to engage all my senses. I paused to feel the hot water on my face, in my hair and trickling down my body. I thought of all the people in the world without clean water to even drink, much less experience a daily, refreshing shower. I closed my eyes and smelled of my soap, I felt the suds between my fingers. I listened to the sound of the water, I breathed in the steam. It was surely a different experience than the hurried bath I am accustomed to, already making plans in my head for the day.
For breakfast and lunch I prepared foods I really wanted to eat. I took the time to chop vegetables, think about where I got them, extend gratitude to the person planting the seeds and gathering the carrots. I even caught myself thanking my food for the nourishment and pleasure it provided. I felt a connection to my food and a deeper connection to my body.
While running errands I was in the check out line and the cashier was moving very slowly, pausing between scans to gossip and ramble on and on with the person in front of me. I had 4 items. The person in front of me had a cart full. My first reaction was a thought, “this is going to take all day!” but then, I remembered, “everything sacred.” I stopped, took a breath, and reminded myself that everyone in this equation was doing the best they could. I asked myself what could I learn in this moment. I remembered that others are often a reflection of ourselves and that maybe my annoyance at this person’s slow pace was an indication that I may be the one needing to slow down a little. I felt connected to that message, as though it was being provided from a higher place. A sacred moment perhaps?
One of my favorite experiences was eating chocolate. I love chocolate, but sometimes I eat it so fast I don’t really savor it. On this day, I practically let it melt in my mouth. I did the same thing with my tea and my dinner. These moments provided a kind of wonder that made me question how often I hurry through something amazing or delicious and do not even pay attention. I considered how much I must waste in this process.
At the end of the day, I was not very tired. I felt full and whole. I felt happy and peaceful. I walked out on my back deck and saw the moon and almost instinctively closed my eyes for a slight bow of gratitude for such a day.
As I looked back on my day of sacred moments, I notice something. Two very specific things had played a huge role in my sacred moments: intention and gratitude. I sent an intention to soak up everything these experiences had to offer, to see them as something more than ordinary or boring or meaningless. This intention caused me to pay attention and make more mindful choices. By paying attention and slowing down, I found so much to be grateful for. I was able to see everything as a teacher, healer or simple joy. From the feeling of water trickling down my body to the satisfying taste of my favorite chocolate to spending time with people I care about, I discovered it wasn’t so hard to find something sacred in everyday moments if I approached the world with thanks.
I though of Meister Eckhart’s quote: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” What if this was my guide for everyday living?
When I was experiencing frustration in the checkout line, instead of allowing myself to be consumed with frustration, I paused and said “thank you for this gift”, and then I asked myself what was the message? The challenge? The lesson? What a difference it makes to regard these daily inconveniences and even unexpected obstacles as teachers rather than road blocks.
I also found through setting an intention to find the sacred in everyday, I didn’t just see ordinary things as sacred, I literally transformed some routine tasks into sacred rituals and experiences. I chose my tea more carefully, asking myself what did I need and what taste was I looking for. When I sat down to journal and read in the evening, I lit a candle and opened a window to hear the afternoon birds singing. In ways, I was making a common experience or routine task special, just by slowing down to think about it. Before eating my lunch, I asked myself where I wanted to eat my lunch. Where could I relax and savor the food? During my morning work hours, I thought about where I would feel most comfortable working, what clothes I really wanted to wear and what furniture would be most supportive. These questions and ideas appeared naturally, without much effort on my part, just because my intention was there.
What I also realized was what I put aside for the day: fidgeting with my phone, extended periods of time on Facebook and even procrastinating. Whatever needed done, I just decided I’d change my approach and see if it, too, could be special or if I could at least learn from it.
Although the agenda for my day has been pretty routine and normal, it had somehow become something beautiful. I wondered how tomorrow would go. Would I ever feel the same way about a shower or chocolate or washing dishes again? I hoped my experience would stay with me and inspire me to continue to find and create sacred moments everyday.
What about you? How do you define sacred? Do you already recognize extraordinary moments in your day to day life or do you, like me, rush through many of your days checking boxes and just doing? I’d love to hear about how you find sacred moments in every day life.