Thursday, March 14, 2013

Discovering the Sacred: Sacred Objects, a Post by Nancy L. Agneberg

Recently, I met a woman who had moved with her husband from a five bedroom home to a 750 square foot condo. Let that image sink in. She assured me that they had not led a spartan lifestyle. A great deal of stuff had to go, and the process (Note the word "process.") was not always easy and involved negotiating and decision-making and some grieving. Her husband had a harder time with the process, and she admitted there are still things languishing in a rented storage compartment, but the result for her is FREEDOM. She feels free. 
     Almost everyone I know in the 60-70 age range talks about simplifying their lives, and what is meant most often is "getting rid of our stuff." It is a common topic of conversation, but is often more talk than practice. One dear friend, however, methodically and on an ongoing basis since her retirement, has been relieving herself of much of what she has collected and loved over the years, and while it has not been easy, I know she feels lighter and clearer. 
     When we put our house on the market, we went through a "staging" process, which now is something that is almost a real estate law. Even though a house is almost the most personal evidence of whom one is, the idea is to remove your own personality and create a stage set anyone could adopt. "Staging," however, is not the same as "simplifying." It seems to me that "simplifying," is more of a permanent decision, a way of adopting and adapting to a different chapter in our lives. Simplifying is something I do for myself, and staging is for the benefit of others. That being said, I don't miss most of what we have eliminated from our current living space--much of what is now in our own rented storage compartment. 
     I yearn for the next stage--moving into a much smaller house. I am ready to make clear decisions of what stays and what goes. I want to know which of our possessions will make the cut and will create a sense of home in our next living space. What I am striving for is a place where care of possessions and home doesn't bypass the pleasure. I believe that is possible. 
     One of my favorite books on organization is Organize for a Fresh Start, Embrace Your Next Chapter in Life by Susan Fay West. One of the author's key questions is, "Does an item make my house feel more like a home?" This morning I considered this question as I packed a number of favorite items gathered on the bookshelves in my office. I altered the question slightly. Do these things add to the sacredness of the house and aid me in living a more sacred life? Will they live in the next house? They have been favorite things, but are they sacred objects? 
    What is a sacred object? Here's one way to think about it, according to Jean Shinoda Bolen in Close to the Bone, Life-Threatening Illness as a Sacred Journey: "Whenever we are in love with what we are doing or who we are with, whenever we are totally absorbed, engaged, and fascinated, we are in Kairos." Without getting into an involved analysis of "kairos," I think of it as a time when something special happens or is possible, and for me one time when I experience kairos is when I am fully engaged with a sacred object
     The sacred objects in my life right now include my laptop, my journal, the books I am currently reading, and a fountain pen Bruce gave me years ago, which I use when writing letters and in my journal. I suppose I could classify these objects as simple tools or even as pleasures or luxuries in my life, but when I approach them as a way to know my essence, when I see them as spiritual tools, they become sacred objects. When I use them as spiritual tools, I am fully engaged in reflection, in discovery, in connection. Use of these sacred objects takes me deeper. 

    "Pausing often helps us to remember and value our ability to choose. Doing so with awareness, remembering to ask, "What's enough here and now? takes us deeper. We will find ourselves ripening into another way of being. It happens as silently and as slowly as as an apple turning red." Inviting Silence, Universal Principles of Meditation by Gunilla Norris 

    The good news is that these beloved sacred objects travel easily and will fit into whatever space I inhabit.
     What are the sacred objects in your life? How are you simplifying your life and in what ways is doing that a spiritual practice for you?  


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