Sometimes I’m surprised at how much I am like my parents. I suspect that as we age most people come to this realization. Yet, in the moments when I have insight about these similarities, I’m truly surprised.
Some of the similarities I’ve realized are small things. When I sneeze loudly or laugh really hard, I can hear my father’s sneeze or his deep laugh. It’s a bit uncanny. Other similarities are deeper, like the habits and patterns I witnessed in my parents that have become my own habits.
Each morning, my mother was the first one up in the house. She’d begin her day making coffee. Taking her first cup, she would sit in a chair that sat beside a picture window that looked out over the backyard. The chair was positioned so that she faced a maple tree. For about twenty minutes, she would sit quietly, drinking a cup of coffee, focused on the maple tree. As a kid, I didn’t think much of it. That was just what she did. I learned that when she sat there that she wasn’t to be disturbed. She said that she needed her time for coffee.
When I became an adult, I realized that this was not just a matter of having coffee in the morning to get the day started. This was my mother’s spiritual practice. Those were words that she would not have used. But she started each day in silence, gazing at a tree in the backyard. It was a still point for her. This time nurtured her spirit.
This morning, I went to the kitchen and made coffee. Like I do every morning, I poured a cup and went to chair that sits near a window. It’s from this vantage point that I begin my day. For twenty or thirty minutes, I sip on my coffee, pray and reflect. I don’t have a maple tree. But I observe squirrels and birds that are oblivious to me. In that time, that regular spiritual practice, I find that I become focused and nurtured…..and ready for the work of the day.
One of the greatest gifts my mother gave me was the example of quiet spiritual practice. Yes, we attended church and there were religious objects in our home. While those things played a part in my development, perhaps more profound was this simple habit or practice.
Thinking about it reminds me of a woman I knew when I lived in Miami in the 1990’s. She was of Indian descent, had grown up in Columbia, and moved to Miami. She was a pastoral counselor who did outstanding work integrating spirituality and counseling while using meditation and guided imagery. I remember asking her how it was that she learned to meditate. She laughed and said, “I’ve done it all my life, since I was a little child. Each morning, my father would sit for meditation in the living room. I’d see him and I would sit down beside him. I just tried to imitate him like a child does. That’s how it started.”
I suspect that many people who value spirituality and spiritual practice were influenced by values held by family members or mentors seeking something deeper in life. Like me, they received spiritual practice as an inheritance.
Just as my mother left me an inheritance of spiritual practice, I wonder how it is that we can bequeath to others something of the wealth we experience from the spiritual dimension of life. For my mother, it was teaching by example. Perhaps we, too, can teach by example — simply sharing the ways spirituality and spiritual practice transform our lives. I suspect that by being living examples of the ways spirituality enriches life can be a significant benefit to others. After all, if spiritual transformation is just for the individual, then it’s a form of egoism. But when shared, that same transformation is life-giving for others.
Photo credit: dlco4 via Foter.com / CC BY
© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.