Fancy churches

As I’ve mentioned before, this past weekend I went to NYC.

While there, I had some time to wander around by myself and check out things in the city that my husband doesn’t like to be dragged to.  During my wanderings I saw so many elaborate churches and had to peek inside every one that was open.

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I love elaborate, fancy churches.  I know you don’t have to have fancy stained glass or elaborate carvings to worship God (most of my worshipping certainly does not take place in such settings).  However, whenever I see churches like this, I feel transported back in time.  When I had a chance to go to Italy in high school, we walked through the Sistine Chapel.  I spent our time in there in awe of what I was seeing and how much of an expression of the artist’s mind.  I felt connected to the art and the artist and God all at the same time. I was nearly moved to tears, but held them back because I was surrounded by other kids who you could tell were bored and wanted to leave.

I just sense the amount love and passion that went into creating spaces of worship like that.  When I’m singing, I feel like that is the way I can best express my faith.  I feel like a lot of the art and architecture in these churches are the designers’ ways of expressing their adoration, their beliefs.  Of course, maybe they were just commissioned and didn’t care at all, but I still sense something when I walk into these places.

So I walk in.  I close my eyes.  I soak it in that feeling.  I sometimes take pictures.  I admire how the natural light comes in through the windows.  Then I say a prayer and leave.

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It may seem ridiculous and material… but I felt spiritually filled.

World Peace Day

Today is World Peace Day!

Actually, I didn’t know about World Peace Day until I read about it on a Whole Lotta Love.  But I’m so glad to know about it now.

The idea of World Peace Day is simple… encourage non-violence,  in all areas of our life.

While the idea of peace is relatively simple, I know in reality it is difficult, especially for those tackling peace on a global level.  So do what you can today to bring more peace to your life, your home, and your community.  Spread the message of peace, pray for peace, or do whatever it is you feel will encourage peaceful thinking.

I sincerely hope that our world leaders take today seriously and embrace the idea of peaceful communication… even if it is just for one day.

If you want to read stories and get inspired throughout the day of how people around the world are embracing world peace day, I encourage you to check the United Nations International Day of Peace Website.

Peace out.

Meditation Report

Over the past week I’ve been trying to begin my meditation practice. I took notes every day of my experiences and the information I gathered below.

Day One:  Failure.  I decided to just close my eyes and go for it.  Tried to clear my mind of all the noise.  I was traveling for work, alone in a hotel room and thought it would be easy to just sit, relax and embrace meditation.  It didn’t work.  I was fidgety.  I heard every noise in a quarter mile radius of my room.  In my stronger moments, I had a song going through my head, “Taivas on Sininen”, a Finnish folksong I sang in choir years ago.  I’m sure that the song wasn’t necessarily a bad thing to have going on in my head, but once I started thinking about why this song, I couldn’t stop the flood of other things going on my head or the itchiness of my mosquito bites from stopping my first attempt.

Days Two and Three:  Total failures.  On Monday, my meeting went from 8 am to 5:30 pm and then dinner took until 9.  Honestly, I completely forgot and just went to bed after taking care of some emails.  Tuesday involved a meeting until 2 pm and then an 8 hour drive home.  Forgive me!

Day Four:  Ah, home sweet home.  I thought I would have an easier time meditating alone, in an empty hotel room, but that was clearly not the case. I sat slouched on the couch in a most unprofessional meditative position, in the dark and began humming at the same tone as the fan… and then my dog promptly licked my face and barked at me. After I put him in a downstay, I continued on, with a much more impressive showing than my previous attempts. I didn’t have any revelations, or visions, but I was able to really focus on just the humming and breathing (and wondering how much time had passed). I only ended up doing it for 10 minutes, but afterwards I felt something in my chest. It was like my heart and lungs were calm… if that makes any sense. It almost made me want to skip Top Chef and enjoy the silence… almost.

Day Five:  This stress has started getting to me lately and although my experience the day before was encouraging, I had too many things on my mind to remember to meditate.  It reminds me of something a pastor once said in a sermon, and that is that on the days you feel like you don’t need communion or don’t have time for it… that is probably the time you need it the most.  I think today I probably needed a moment to meditate more than the other days, yet I shrugged it off.

Day Six:  Today the stress was still present and a sore throat has emerged, but I was determined to take the time to try to meditate again.  I didn’t hum or sing out loud because of the sore throat, and I definitely missed it.  Like the first day, I had a hard time focusing and quickly gave up.  The noise in my head overwhelmed me in the silence of the room.  I think I really need that chant to ground myself and focus.

Day Seven:  I tried to meditate in bed before going to sleep.  No humming today because I didn’t want to interrupt my husband’s reading.  I had a hard time focusing, probably because I was worried about disturbing him.  I gave up quickly and went to sleep.

So that was my week in meditation.  I didn’t do so well in consistency and no miracles occurred, but I wasn’t really expecting anything crazy.  I think it something I want to keep on trying though, now that I have a better idea about what/where was sort of working and what didn’t work at all.  I like the idea of focusing on spending some time in quiet reflection, and I think that meditation will be a great way to focus on that.

I went into the whole thing blindly, other than what I had read in Eat, Pray, Love.  However, I think I’m going to take the opportunity to gather more information and advice on my practice in the coming weeks.  I think my in-laws have some experience with meditation and our downstairs neighbor moved here after studying at an ashram in India for a few months.  I believe there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to meditate, but some guidance from others more experienced couldn’t hurt, could it?

I also have gathered a few website on meditation practices and benefits.  Feel free to check them out or share any you know of with me.

Any tips from experienced meditators?  Have you tried meditation and given up?

Eat, Pray, Love Inspiration–Pray

Meditation.

I hesitate to say that I kind of dismissed meditation as a healthy practice in my own spiritual life until I listened to the audiobook of Eat, Pray, Love on a car trip.  I know, it seems cliche to be inspired by a bestselling book where the author was given a large advance to do something that is supposed to be deeply spiritual… but I feel like Elizabeth Gilbert’s experience in that realm was authentic.  Her description of her struggle in her meditation practice and her eventual results were riveting (Definitely worth a read or listen if you haven’t yet).  My curiosity was spiked and I wanted to learn more and explore more, but I never got around to it.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

So, in honor of the movie coming out (going to see it soon!), this week I’m going to try some meditative practices and report back on my impressions.  I’m not quite sure where I will start, but I think that is part of the practice… getting to that point where you do something that works for you.

Until next time, om!

The Spiritual Game Plan

I’ll admit when it comes to being healthier spiritually, I am not quite sure what that entails.

And that, my friends, is precisely the issue.

I am just not sure where to go or how to expand on my spiritual health. Heck, I am not even sure how I define spirituality. I know for me, part of it has to do with faith, because I am a Christian, always have been and I find a lot of joy and comfort in my beliefs and practices. But I fully recognize that being “religious” isn’t the same thing as feeling spiritually fulfilled and many people of all beliefs have different ways of embracing the spiritual part of themselves.

I guess overall I just want to be spiritually fulfilled again. I want to feel connected to more than my body, more than the earth. I want to find some inner peace.

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I want to be this flower, embodied (Photo by me)

I feel like I have been spiritually healthy before (thus the word “again” above), that I have felt how I want to feel now. However, that was at a different time in my life. It’s almost like my bucket of spirituality needs to be topped off, but the shape or size of my bucket is different than before. I am not completely burnt out. I am not looking for the meaning of life. I am just searching for this ambiguous feeling that I can’t quite describe because I can’t get over feeling like something is missing. I just want to have a plan, an idea, a definition, something I can mentally grasp, something I can do. Maybe that is part of the problem too.

So the game plan is to try new things, try some old things again, and open up my mind and heart to… something.

Does anyone have any definition of spiritual health for them or ideas of spiritual practices for me to try (or retry)?

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