Over a decade ago, I attended a workshop led by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker. It was 2002, and their book, Proverbs of Ashes, had just been released and they were speaking with us about the research they had done in the Mideast before starting to write. One story, one image, has remained with me all this time and profoundly influenced my own spirituality as I passed from my early 50s to my early 60s.
They recounted a visit to a small church which – high over the altar – held an ancient mosaic of Moses kneeling before the burning bush. The startling (for me, life-changing) aspect of the mosaic was not, however, Moses or the burning bush…but the fact that behind Moses’ back, every bush was burning.
In Everett Fox’ translation of Torah, the words that Moses heard that caused him to fall to his knees in front of that bush were “Do not come near to here, put off your sandal from your foot, for the place on which you stand – it is holy ground!” But what the mosaic was proclaiming in joyful wonder across the centuries is that every bush burns with the glory of G-d; it is all holy ground.
In this season of gathering, of harvesting the bounty of the fields and the bounty of the heart, we are invited to recognize the infinite abundance of miracle that enfolds us. It is all holy. Every last atom of creation is holy, permeated with the sacred essence of G-d’s own being. As people of the autumn quarter, we are called to witness on behalf of wholeness. We are called to affirm that we cannot separate the sacred from the mundane because there is no mundane.
This means that it is not enough to keep our own backyards pristine and flowering, if we are turning the world inside out everywhere else, drawing petroleum from deep within and pouring it as asphalt all over fertile land. It is not enough to admire and protect a wetland here, or an acre of virgin forest there, while clear cutting the Amazon River Basin because we have never seen it. It is time for us to know what we know – and we know that the vast ecosystem of this earth is inter-connected in ways we cannot fully predict or understand, so it is imperative that we take intentional, attentive time to consider consequences.
The butterfly effect described in chaos theory is not merely an amusing idea; it is very real and very powerful. I invite you to join me this week in opening our spirits to a deeper connection with all that was, that is, that will be.
Close your eyes again, if you are comfortable doing that. Or you may prefer to use the flame of the candle as a focal point to help your mind be still. Become aware of your breathing and allow it to be slow and deep, until you feel centered and calm.
It is morning and you awaken in your normal way. As you prepare to rise from bed, you are aware of a voice speaking to you. You may hear this voice with your ears, or it may be an inner voice speaking, perhaps you see it inwardly as an image rather than words. The voice says, “At this moment right now, you are on holy ground!”
You rise from bed. Do you do it differently in the awareness that you are stepping onto holy ground? If so, what is different?
As you brush your teeth, or pour your coffee, or sit down to breakfast, you hear the voice again. It says joyfully, “You are on holy ground!” Look around you. Do you perceive holiness, or do you wonder what the voice means?
When you get to the bus stop or get into your car or as you are walking, the voice speaks again. You hear awe as the voice says, “This, this, is holy ground!”
How do you respond to this repeated voice? Do you believe you are on holy ground? If so, is this a new idea? If not, what is holy ground to you? Where is it?
Do you want to share this phrase with anyone you meet during the day? Who?
Imagine saying “We are on holy ground” to the people in the grocery store or the pharmacy. Imagine saying it to your colleagues at work. Imagine calling a family member or a close friend. Who responds? How do they respond?
Does anything inside you change as you try to see holiness in your own daily life?
Just as you are ready to settle into bed, the voice speaks one more time. With complete assurance it says, “Lie down now onto holy ground.” You lie down and allow all your muscles to relax.
When you are ready, take 3 or 4 more deep breaths and then open your eyes gently and let yourself become centered in this time and place. Take some time to write or draw some reflections on the meditation, something that you can return to this week and consider again.
Our paths are not linear, not smooth, not always clear. Our hope does not always come to pass in the moment. Our best intentions go awry. Your journey may be like my journey. Here is my reflection of where I am in the present. Perhaps these words will inspire you to notice your own gait and direction.
Step, step, stumble, recover. Step.
Unshod feet on dusty roads
between freedom and slavery,
between illusion and truth,
between love and fear.
Holy ground to my right,
holy ground to my left,
holy ground burning my soles.
Step, wobble, stepstepstep, fall:
bended knees, heart heavy, face first.
Delivered from running, from hiding, from wishing;
beckoned from rest
to trudge, climb, scrabble, scramble.
Breathe. Go. Speak. Overcome. Trust. Cross. Step.
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2008, Immram Chara, LLC