1. Silence: Begin your day with silence, even if only five minutes. Focus on this one moment when you have all the time and possibility in the world.
2. Body: Throughout the day, return to the sacred within body—in color, the sounds of nature, the taste of a peach, the smell of a flower. Bring attention to deep slow breath—in your car, at the grocery store, while waiting for a diagnosis, while waiting to hear from someone who is late. Include movement to calm agitated energy and deepen the breath. You can do yoga or tai chi or guided body relaxations—or create your own dance.
3. Altar: Create an altar inside your home. Clean the space so it’s ready for something new—acorns or stones, flowers, beautiful fabrics, photos that inspire you. I often begin with a fresh cloth and let a new altar evolve in time. Altars in India inspired me to create my own.
4. Ritual: Create simple personal rituals every day. Light a candle. I like flames, but LED candles work, too. It’s the intention that matters. A ritual can be as simple as that short morning silence or lighting a candle for someone you love.
5. Sacred Places: Find sacred spots outdoors. In a park, in your yard, near water or a large tree. The constants in my world are my forest and Seneca Lake, but I look for sacred spaces and beauty wherever I go. It’s often a matter of noticing.
6. Sound: Include sound that brings you peace or inspiration. Because my hearing is damaged from Meniere’s Disease, outer music is difficult for me, but I carry powerful music within from Joni Mitchell lyrics to Puccini arias to Schubert’s songs. With hearing aids, I still enjoy simple sounds of crickets, birds announcing their place in the world, and the ring of a Tibetan Singing Bowl.
7. Grounding: Bow to the four directions and then stand or sit tall and feel your body as the axis between heaven and earth. Be aware of the cycles of the season, the changing angle of the sun and the phases of the moon. These markers are noticeable even in cities. Notice the elements of water, earth, air, and fire.
8. Sacred Words: Keep a journal. Write down dreams, reflections, troubles, and inspiring words written by others. Memorize moving words from sacred writings or poetry to say to yourself. Use a mantra you’ve been given or create your own meaningful words. I often repeat Om Mani Padme Hum or All Shall Be Well. I often return to Rilke’s poetry in difficult times.
9. Service: Reach out to someone who needs your support. Maybe they need a call or a quart of homemade soup or a bouquet. Maybe a child or an elderly person needs a friend. When you have nothing left to give, remember to pull back and support yourself.
I know. The ego resists. Mine does, too. There isn’t time. Why bother? We have better things to do. And then I remember that at the end of life when I face the Great Unknown or even at the end of one ordinary day, it’s the deep inner and outer connections that will sustain and hold me.
How do you create sacred spaces and sacred moments in your life? To read an article about creating ritual on your own, see A Personal Grief Ritual of Remembrance and Release. For a taste of poetry that has inspired me (and others, since it continues to be my most read post after many years), see Poems to Grieve By.