Preparation as Spiritual Practice




Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own
cupped hands
and you recognize
and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.

– Martha Postlewaite


In the Christian tradition in which I grew up, early December is a time of preparation for the birth of God into the world.  We prepare our homes and hearts for the coming of God in the form of the baby Jesus. No matter our spiritual orientation, there is much to be said for the act of preparation. With our lives so cluttered, so full of busy-ness, creating a clearing becomes a necessity if we are to have space into which new life may emerge.

Imagine your life as a forest of tall trees representing your commitments and activities. Where in this forest is there room for something new to sprout and thrive? Where can the sunshine reach the forest floor, the Ground of Being where new life begins? Where is there room for your sacred unfolding into the new you that deeply wants to be born?

We usually think of preparing for a future time. Preparations for Christmas begin around Thanksgiving these days. But it is also important to prepare ourselves, moment to moment, for the gifts of Spirit which are available here and now. How can we keep heart and mind open and attentive to Spirit’s own life in the here and now?

In the Korean Zen Buddhist tradition that I studied earlier in my life, there was great attention to the now moment. How one took care of each moment and each detail was important. There were no little details. Before each period of formal zen meditation, we were to carefully prepare our square mat and round cushion for the sitting to come. We were to reflect on the profundity of the act of meditation for which we were preparing. We were invited to remember that the Buddha’s enlightenment, the source of all the Buddha’s teachings, came from an act of meditation like that which we were about to enact.

Perhaps preparation is about taking life seriously. Not seriously as in with a worried look or furrowed brow, but with awareness of the preciousness and profundity of each moment. Perhaps we might also think of preparation as a way of bringing mind and body into the present moment.  Of looking here, now, for the fulfillment of our lives.

I wish you all the gifts of this holiday season. Most especially, that you give yourself the gift of some open space in your life so that new life may be born in you this year.