Women growing older with grace and gusto


image by eustaquio santimano

We sanctify our days and nights by discovering the art of sacred living.

Some definitions:

Sacred: worthy of religious veneration; made or declared holy; dedicated or devoted exclusively to a single use, purpose, or person; worthy of respect; venerable; relating to religious objects, rites, or practices.

Living: having life, being alive, not dead; active or thriving; vigorous; burning or glowing, as a coal; flowing freely, as water.

These definitions feed each other. Living is clearly more than the state of not being dead. I love this vibrant imagery of the glowing coal, the flowing water. And sacred seems to imply single-mindedness, an intense focus on what is holy.

Sacred living is an active choice: day by day we choose to live fully and be deeply aware. It isn’t always easy. It’s a commitment of the heart, mind, body and spirit.

What might sacred living look like, sound like, feel like?

For most of us trying to live in ways that are sacred, it isn’t about moving to the top of a mountain to meditate and eat berries. It’s about focusing both on ourselves and the communities of which we are part.

At home

In our homes, sacred living might mean setting a simple but beautiful table for our meals. It might mean washing up mindfully. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has this to say about washing dishes:

I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to go and have a cup of tea, the time will be unpleasant, and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles! Each bowl I wash, each poem I compose, each time I invite a bell to sound is a miracle, and each has exactly the same value.

(From the book Next to Godliness – emboldening my emphasis)

At work

In our places of work, it might mean choosing not to gossip, it might mean trying to understand that colleague or boss who pushes all your buttons. It might mean speaking up when you believe something is wrong. It is noticing your feelings when you dread doing something, and facing up to it, not putting it off. It definitely means keeping your sense of humour intact!

With our families and friends

In Benedictine spirituality, the first word of St Benedict’s Rule is Listen. He has a beautiful phrase Listen with the ear of your heart… We forget to listen. How many times have you been on the phone while reading emails, or in conversation thinking about what you are going to say next? Listen deeply. Pay attention to the words, to the spaces between the words, to the whole person.

And please understand I’m describing aspirations. We are not saints and we will not live like this all the time. There will be moments (you may be experiencing one of them reading this page) when you get enraged and cynical about the whole thing!

But by opening our hearts we can get a glimpse of the sacred in the everyday.