"I'd heard of monasteries where an important part of the monks' daily practice was sweeping the temple grounds. Ti had often swept the sidewalk, and I decided to take up the task. The purpose of my sweeping would not be just to clean up, but to try to walk out my gate and meet Alma Street with a fresh outlook each morning, as if for the first time. No need to visit a monastery in Tibet or Japan.

"I came to be known in the neighborhood, I think, as the lady who sweeps. Sometimes I felt angry, inwardly scolding the kids who threw down candy wrappers from the corner store, the drinkers who'd left malt-liquor cans and fortified-wine bottles inside brown bags. But usually, the sweeping itself calmed me. I tackled it all in thick orange rubber gloves, wielding my broom and dustpan, dragging my garbage can along with me. I recycled what I could. There were clothes, or shoes, or car parts. Occasionally, I fished a used syringe out of the hedge. A quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., on my refrigerator reminded me of 'the inescapable network of mutuality.'

" 'This is all sacred,' I told myself. 'All of it.' "

To Practice: Find a service project in your neighborhood that will help you see its sacred qualities.