"This is my spiritual discipline, this reading of my house for heart and meaning. Of course I plug away at more traditional means, attempting meditation every morning, occasionally struggling with sacred texts, attending my liberal urban church where I fidget through the sermon. When I envision what it might look like to be spiritually at home, I see a Sufi master with sturdy, blazing eyes or a Catholic sister who has spent her life in prayer enlightened beings, recognizable by their calm aura and selfless commitment. I've never actually met individuals that pure, but I hope they exist. It would comfort me to know that devotion to the disciplines of any religion can lead to self-knowledge, faith in one's goodness, and confidence in the universe's inner workings. Unfortunately, devotional holiness isn't practical for me. I don't know how to pray, although I try. I'm too bound to the world, to the delights and foibles of the flesh, to a feminist unraveling of tradition, to my mortgage. I love my cat and my claw-foot tub too fiercely to ever follow an ascetic path.
"I wish it were otherwise. I have deep affection for the roots of Christianity, the religion of my upbringing. The model of Jesus' life gives me strong moral guidelines, a passion for social justice, and an example of living by love. I emulate him as best I can through my work as a freelance writing teacher and spiritual director, helping others tend and heal their stories. Liberal Protestantism demands that I bind my life to service. I suspect this is in part because Jesus' story is an outward story, the action and words of a man as seen by his followers. What's missing from my tradition, however, is insight into his internal life how he changed his mind about healing the Canaanite woman's daughter after she cried, 'Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table!'; how difficult it was to escape the incessant crowds for a quiet place apart; how he made sense of God's seeming abandonment at the cross. When he knelt to pray, what exactly went on inside that man's head? If I had his internal story, I might translate more fully his good model into my complicated life."
"But I don't, and instead I find myself reading the book of the world for relevant clues. Surprisingly enough, this inclination is also in keeping with Christian tradition. The concept of liber mundi arose in medieval monastic communities as a means of recognizing God's handwriting still unraveling in nature. Creation itself as a sacred text, its language resonant with symbol and silence. There's no one-to-one correspondence between the tangible world and any ineffable import residing behind it, and yet I've found that paying attention yields insights. Even my drab Methodist roots teach that human experience is a stage for God's revelation. Were I honest, however, I'd have to admit that these are Christian justifications for what I would do regardless, because it brings me such delight. On the top shelf of the pantry are the mung beans, the alfalfa and broccoli seeds, ready at any moment to sprout white tails and crisply enter my salads. All it takes is a few splashes of water and a week of growth. Is there anything more worthy of meditation?"