I've always been a reader. In the picture above is one of my three stacks of books in current use. These are all what I've been studying from or exploring lately. On the bottom are two versions of The Bible. Next up is Karen Armstrong's A Case for God followed by The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, then there are A History of God and The Battle for God also by Karen Armstrong topped off with the complete Robert Frost collection, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Selected Essays by Emerson, Earth Angels, Doreen Virtue, my journal, and Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman.
Every time I wiggle the table they wobble.
Looking at that picture makes me dizzy.
Perhaps because I am no photographer, but, alternatively, perhaps it is because there is so much going on in my brain when I look at this stack of books.
There is sacred mythology, academic approaches to the sacred and how humanity interacts with it (I adore Karen Armstrong), esoteric descriptions and accounts of the possibilities of this human experience, and perhaps my most favorite of all, the grounded mysticism of transcendentalism; essay, poetry, and novel.
It seems to be the middle way in all of this, and it is the way that I naturally understand most, but I would not call myself a transcendentalist. I would not label myself anything, because all I can really be is my true nature.
Chisel away the ego and the experience and see what is left. That's what I am. Everything else is a temporary experience that is not meant to be saddled on to that constant running river that is at once always the same and always changing.
Today I pulled my dust broom out of the closet. It's literally not been used since we moved into a new apartment with only small spaces of hard flooring. It beckoned me, though, and as I pushed it along I was immediately transported back 20+ years to my grandmother's house and her blue dust broom.
It was so lovely to slide it over her linoleum with so little friction and so much productivity. It quite literally filled my heart with quiet glee, so much so that I felt as though the glee would fill me up, up and up all the way to my throat which would grow tight as I tried to hold it in, always liking to keep these experiences private as could be. This was for me.
If all cleaning was like dust-brooming I'd have been like Snow White, dancing with forest creatures and singing for the glee of cleaning up after all those dirty men. The idea of sexism hadn't yet crossed my mind. At that point the idea of men making things dirty and women cleaning up after them seemed almost holy to me.
Instead of singing like Snow White, the glee shined right out of my eyes as I reveled in the task at hand and imagined myself surrounded by all sorts of beings who loved and cherished and honored my joy.
I would shake off the dust broom, and giggle at just how much dirt I'd actually collected, grab the dust pan and broom, clean up the dirt and carry it carefully to the back porch where it always smelled of banana peels, damp paper towels, spearmint, and winter, and I would watch the dust slide into the trash can.
Then, and only then, would the bliss wane, in the beautiful way it does, leaving me feeling as sparkly clean and peaceful as the yellow and orange checked kitchen floor.
Usually, Grandma would then grab one of her figurines and sit with me at the table watching me draw it. She would tell me I had talent, and I would blush. She would encourage me and build me up. She would tell me I was wonderful and important. She corralled around me like I imagine angels do now at night. She was my defender. My guide. She was my spiritual mentor. She taught me to always trust my heart, and to trust that it was God speaking to me if it came through my heart.
My spiritual experience is still very much like this. Grounded in the occasional euphoria of every day activities and experiences. As easy and friction free as pushing a dust broom over linoleum, picking up the bits and pieces of matter that have landed within while I was off doing other things, taking a look, celebrating the collection of things I no longer need, and letting them slide down the dust pan into the garbage where they will eventually become something else. The euphoria passing into a sweet peace and freshness.
Afterward, I feel supported and loved. I feel a sense of direction and purpose. I know I am being built up in a way I cannot understand. I know that when my mind and ego are quiet, that I can hear through the filter of my heart what I need to hear and only what I need to hear. I trust and I obey.
The other day, I heard Della Reese say in a sermon on YouTube, "Sometimes you need some God with skin on it."
Yes ma'am. I know I do.
Sometimes there is a scream in my throat, the longing for my Grandmother's guidance is so severe. And then I remember. She is here, right here in my heart. The skin is gone, but the loving guidance is not. I now have the opportunity to grow into it in my way, a new expression of that vast loving nature. To carry that love outward to people in need.
This is the goal of the spiritual experience, isn't it? It is not to just hoard it for ourselves.
I love the story of Thomas Merton when he leaves the monastery and recognizes in the middle of the city that he was surrounded by people that he loved. That they were his people. That he could not hole away forever, that he must put a use to his spiritual study.
All the reading, all of the meditating and prayer, all of the grasping at understanding, all of the search for truth and liberation, it is preparation. It is the filling of the cup that runs over and over and over from which giving is both joyful and necessary.
If you've made it all the way to here, bless your heart. Thank you.
What I have discovered every so recently, is that all spiritual writing and experience is a call to action. A call to shed old selves and to be our best, whatever that means, right now.
It means different things for different people.
We are all our own expression, and we should honor that in ourselves and in others.
Whatever it is we do, whatever it is we think and say and believe, we should know that the wisdom of the heart is a worthy, noble guide. And that trusting is safe.
And, especially, that there is always room for us to not be "right." Meaning that there is always a strong possibility that we are "wrong" in our thinking, and that it is safe to not be "right," as long as we are always doing what we believe to be right right now. Because moving in the right direction and "being right" are two entirely different things.
That's called humbleness.
Knowing that in some way things will turn out okay, even though we can't claim to always know what is "right" or the "truth?"
That is faith.
And the conclusion I've come to is that living in trust and faith just feels better than living in skepticism and conflict, which, to me, means the leap of faith is worth it when it is my leap and not someone else's; when it is defined through the filter of my heart and the lens of my experience, it is good.
May you hear and see clearly through your own filter and lens, and may it lead you to a life of trust, faith and humblen.
Anna Turner is the woman behind Little Hearth. She's an ordained interfaith minister, a writer, a believer in purposeful living and healing, a perpetual student, and a full time feminist mother.