MAKE THE ORDINARY SACRED

MAKE THE ORDINARY SACRED

I am reading a book by a man I admire greatly, Edward Espe Brown.  He was the first head cook at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center back in the 1960’s and later founded Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.

His earliest book, THE TASSAJARA BREAD BOOK is a classic.

More than one dear friend remembers their well-thumbed, flour-coated and oil-stained go-to copy of the book and the loveliness that flowed from their hands and the kitchens of their youth.

Brown’s latest work, NO RECIPE:  Cooking as Spiritual Practice, is a distillation of the wisdom he has gained after more than 50 years of feeding many people, of running large kitchens, and of following the path of Zen Buddhism as a monk, as a teacher, and as a philosopher.

I devoured it in one big gulp and am re-reading it slowly and picking out the best parts to savor.  It will undoubtedly have a place on my bookshelf for a long time…just so I can dip into it again.

The following YouTube video, “Awaken In the Sacred Space” was published in 2018 by the publisher Sounds True just after the book came out.

Try look!  You might like it!

YOU START WITH YOURSELF

Brown’s root teacher was Shunryu Suzuki Rōshi who was the Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States and who founded the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia.

One of my favorite Suzuki Rōshi videos is this one “Sandokai – Sound and Noise,” posted by semillas de bambu in 2007.  It gives you a glimpse of the man and the way he talked and how he thought.

In a 2013 interview for a blog post put up by the San Francisco Zen Center, Brown pointed out, “I still appreciate Suzuki Rōshi saying, ‘When you are you, Zen is Zen.’ He didn’t say when you get to be Zen enough, then you’ll have really gotten somewhere. So much of Suzuki Rōshi’s way was to find out what’s appropriate for the occasion and what works for people.”

It is that practicality – connecting the sacred to the ordinary and grounding it there — that shines throughout Brown’s book.  It takes your head and your heart away into a peaceful place.

brussel-sprouts-before-roasting
“Brussel sprouts before roasting” by John Sullivan [CC BY-SA 2.0]

MUSINGS ON MAKING THE ORDINARY SACRED

As I was thinking on what to share with you in this post and shuffling through notes and jottings and other stuff, I rediscovered an old bit of writing from when I was focusing on developing a “manifesto” – promises to myself of how I wanted to proceed with my life.

more-abundance
“More Abundance” by Netta Kanoho via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I thought I’d share this thing with you.  Maybe you’ll find something useful in it.  (I know I still have a grand time playing with it.)


One of the choices I delineated for myself was this one: I make and maintain room in my life to make the ordinary sacred.

In order to do this, I figured that I had to do the following:

  • I give myself time to play.

Without the time to play, it all sort of mooshes into “gotta, gotta, gotta,” and it starts feeling like one giant treadmill.   Somehow, I can’t feature hamsters being real into “sacred.”

  • I help make the structure of my life a better vehicle for enhancing Creativity.

When I have spaces built in where I can play with making a Little Something out of the Big Nothing, then I start feeling like I can stop to appreciate all the wonder there really is in the world.

Everything’s a little more sparkly, a little more special, because it’s not just ME doing Little Somethings, it’s EVERYBODY doing Little Somethings.

This is a great space to be in when you’re trying to make it all sacred.

  • I ask the hard questions and I develop rituals that remind me what is Real.

Hard questions are like, “What am I doing be-bopping along here on this road to death?”  and “How am I making my space sparkly?” and “Why do I care whether so-and-so is a dorkhead?” and “What can I let go of now?” and “What do I want to keep now?” and so on and so forth.

Making rituals include things like lighting a bit of incense before I work on reconciling my checkbook so that I remember that I am working with the abundance in the universe that is flowing through my life.

It includes cleaning up the stack of the day’s dishes before going to bed so I wake up without leftover messes in my face.

It includes doing my ch’i kung routine every morning so that I feel the energy that’s out there flowing all around, just waiting for me to join in the dance.

It includes moving stuff around and checking out how the feng shui moves helped (or not) as I go through my day.

It includes writing quick notes to heart-people just because it feels good to have them in my life.

  • I make room in my life to focus on Creativity.

I always seem to get caught up in doing, doing, doing.  It is a cool thing to be able to stop and step back from it all and see where it is going.

If I can do that, it seems, that there’s automatically more space to do something that is heartful.

It also helps when I can step back and look at what I am doing and see where I can do it in a way that fosters more creativity.

I want open-ended avenues, not cul-de-sacs, I think.

I want mountain passes rather than ruts and grooves.

I want bridges rather than dead ends.

Working on it.

  • I develop creative projects and products that help other people open their hearts and play.

Part of that process is stopping every so often to see whether what I am doing is still useful or if I need to be doing some other thing.

  • I develop skill and facility in using story, symbolism and metaphor that feed and enhance my communication skills.

There is so much power in the Word, but there is also power in the non-verbal.  I am working on that one a lot right now and seeing where that takes me.


Looking at the thing now, I can see it was still a lot of half-baked ideas.

I also see that through the years since I first wrote this thing, I’ve continued working on and developing these mind-constructs.  It’s turned out okay as I keep on working them through and I’ve been mostly pleased with the results.

The whole of this, I think, is the notion that the Creative IS what is sacred in the ordinary.

Being able to slap together a sandwich or a salad depends on having the space for the fixings and for making what you want to make.  That’s honoring and making room for the Creative.

Being able to dance to your heartsong means you’ve got to have the space to turn around and move your bootie.

And, it seems to me, the only way to get to the Creative is by embracing your own self and how you feel about the way the world is working as well as what you do to recognize and honor the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary.

The best part is this: I’ve found that the more I pursue finding the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary the more my life feels like a wondrous thing.

 Here’s a poem….


SEEKERS

Seekers seek:

It’s what they do….

Looking for what is over there or over there…

just anywhere but Here…

searching for what was then or what will later be,

but never, ever, what is Now.

 

Only one problem –

take it as you choose….

Seekers are always in their Here,

they are always in their Now,

and that eclipses all the rest, ya know,

reveals the fool’s gold of their wanderlust lives and

sets them off…on the road again.

 

I daresay that’s why

Seekers track down some long-lost riddle

or pursue a thing that runs on ahead,

giggling, as it wisps off away into the Unknown –

tantalizingly close…then gone.

 

And, I guess, that’s why

Seekers beat the bushes,

chasing down some truth or other,

leaving no stone unturned,

rooting around in all that detritus and mud,

ferreting out byways and bypasses,

checking out trails and paths,

tracking down yet another cliché

that turns to dross in the sun of their eyes.

 

I suppose that’s why

Seekers quest,

seeking high, looking low,

investigating – delve and dig –

teasing forth yet another wisdom,

finding one more sacred talisman,

throwing out their old dragnets,

pulling them back in,

and then they stand around watching as

their catch (glittery and gleaming when freshly caught)

dries out and morphs into everyday, ordinary pebbles…

over and over again.

 

They say they’re looking for happy, the Seekers,

They say they want to find the Real, the True,

But, it’s a funny thing:

It seems you can only find the Real in your Here

and your Now contains the only True,

and you only get to Happy (or a reasonable facsimile)

when you notice that.

 

I suspect that if your heart is busy yearning

for far-away and some other when —

baubles and bits like a cave full of a dragon’s stash

or the resting-place of a once-and-future king,

like the ancient conundrums of a long-gone people

or the someday-visions of some mystic’s dream —

then, maybe you just cannot see your way to the Here,

maybe you cannot catch the scent of the Now,

and so you’re doomed to keep on looking,

condemned to search, to quest.

 

One day you are old.

The will-o-wisps no longer tantalize and tempt you

and the long road fades off away in the distance

as you sit there in your clown suit watching the sun set,

inventorying your memories, one by one.

And maybe ’cause you’re sitting there all quiet

Your here-and-now comes and sits by you,

Snuggling up against you,

and maybe that’s when Happy has a chance to find you,

and Real and True stop by to have a chat.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:. “Prehistoric Rock Engraving” by Merryjack via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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12 thoughts on “MAKE THE ORDINARY SACRED

  1. What an inspirational article.  I love how the first part is broken up into real life and what we really need to do if we want to keep a smile on our faces.  Then the second part is the poem that is an inspiration in itself.

    My wife is a huge worshiper of Karma, clarity and so much more.  This seems to fall right into that.  I cant wait to show her this article she is going to absolutely love it.

    Thank you for such a great article.  I look forward to reading more from you.

    Dale

    1. Dale, thank you for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m glad you found it uplifting.  I’m pleased you want to share it with your wife too!  That makes me smile!

      Please do come again.  

  2. Thank you very much for this great post, I find it interesting and unique. I have heard about Edward Brown and his writing prowess in the time past so am not surprised at your admiration of him. I like the poems you typed above especially the one titled seeker, I will read it all over again to have a full understanding .Thanks 

    1. Welcome back, Clement.  I’m glad you liked the post.  

      Please do come again….

  3. Alejandra says:

    Thanks you for sharing a good article to read to help me and anyone who is looking to make some changes in life to achieve a better lifestyle.

    After reading your article, Make The Ordinary Sacred book will be on my book list to read this year!

    Nothing better to make the right changes to achieve a better, peaceful and full of meaning in life than to learn how to enjoy the small moments in life but also to learn how to turn all those chores and task into something that add value to life.

    I thank you also for sharing a few quotes from the book, looking for inspirational quotes that help me to live better is something I do often and I like to have a list of them at hand.

    I will also add to my book list to get this year the Tassajara Bread Book, I’m sure it will have some great bread recipes to try at home.

    1. Alejandra, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do agree that enjoying the small moments are a delight.  

      Please do come again….

  4. Margarette says:

    I enjoyed reading the poem Seekers.  

    Lately I have taken steps to incorporate herbs and spices that will help me achieve a healthier lifestyle but I hadn’t considered approaching my cooking as a spiritual practice.

    I like the bit about clearing up the dirty dishes before going to bed so that when you wake up you’re not thinking first thing in the morning I gotta do the dishes.

    Do you find that going through your daily rituals help you create a bit more zen in your daily life?

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Margarette.  

      I think that the rituals I do, because I’ve assigned meanings to them that connect me to my heart-thoughts and to my body, allows me to step out of all the mad mess that rolls around in my head and notice that, for real, right now, Life Is Good.  

      I do find that being in my head too much can get depressing.  Too often the “smart” thing touted by this one and that one is fear-driven (worry, anxiety and oh-wow-what-now).  Connecting myself to what my heart and my body knows helps me remember that there is an amazing abundance in the world and that I, myself, am a favored child of the Universe.

      Hey…humans get to pick their delusions.  It’s our super-power.  Me, I like the one where I get to win.  (Hee!)

      Thanks for asking!

      Please do come again.

  5. I love your post and I love the poem.  The Here and Now reminds me of the Power of Now notion of Eckhart Tolle one of my favorite writers/philosophers. Sometimes, too often we spend too much time wondering with our minds in search we don’t know of what and we don’t realize that what we need is right here within us.

    1. Thanks for the visit, Barbara and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate them.

      I agree that we do have a tendency to spend too much time in our heads and very often that gets to be a downer.  Our hearts and our bodies know better, I think.

      Please do come again….

  6. I love love love your writing. It is really grounding and yet inspirational all at the same time. It is timely in my own current paradigm of understanding, accepting and feeling out being a human in this world. Really great pairing it with poetry too. I find sometimes that my writing likes to take on poetic tones & it is wonderful to see an example of how to integrate that. ❣️

    1. Alea, I do thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.

      Myself, I think poetry is a distillation of the thinking, thinking, thinking we are all prone to. Constructing poems helps you mix in bits of your heart in all the head-games…and that, very often can be a really good thing!

      Please do come again.

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