Excerpted from Spirituality & Health--The Soul/Body Connection
What an exciting time to be alive! As the millennium unfolds, we find ourselves moving from being a culture that knows to one that discovers. This focus on the eternal journey has deep roots in the world's great wisdom traditions, from Jesus' call to enter the kingdom of heaven as a child to the Buddhist concept of beginner's mind.
These ideas for spiritual adventures come from our readers, advisors, friends, and editors, describing experiences they've had, or yearn to have. Some are grand, others are bold in their everydayness. We hope they'll inspire your own journey into the year 2000--and beyond.
1. Make a pilgrimage
In honor of our mother's 70th year, in June 2001 our family will walk, bike, and/or bus the 850-kilometer pilgrimage from the town of Roncesvalles through the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where legend has it that the remains of the apostle James are buried. In the Middle Ages this was the most notable pilgrimage after Jerusalem and Rome. Today's pilgrims experience not just spectacular scenery but some of the best medieval architecture (and the best food) in the world. Then, as now, those who complete the walk earn a scallop shell.
2. Locate yourself in the cosmos
Embark on a year-round adventure to learn the stars and their positions. Imagine cold, crisp evenings in winter as you find a moment of peace by looking to the sky for a friendly formation. Imagine warm summer nights sitting quietly and studying the heavens. You can enjoy this adventure throughout the year in any location or climate, and you could share it with others.
3. Feel the power of nature
Don't just look at a waterfall, sit in it. Feel its power to wash away whatever you need to let go of.
4. Write love letters
I plan to write all the people I love: my husband, children, parents, and friends. These letters will include my feelings of love and gratitude along with some of the things I find special about them.
5. Take up acting
Don't worry about being good, just about showing up. Deal with ego, fear, desire for attention, fear of failure, working with others, and taking direction. Discover your playful, theatrical side. Learn about your own emotions and to respect what others do. Feel the benefits of getting involved in something you and others care about deeply.
6. Find your holy space
A few months ago, as a tour leader I traveled to different cities of my country, Iran. I went to many mosques, mostly historical. They had this wonderful effect on me. There is a mosque in Naiin, nearIsfahan, which has a basement used for meditation and prayer. It's a wonderful place. It makes you think about your whole being--who you are, where you came from, your purpose in life. It's a perfect place for soul-searching.
7. Coach someone
In college, a bunch of the other athletes and I had a "leadership coach" who helped us in all kinds of ways: from advice, to meals, to money for books or, in some cases, tuition. The condition? We had to promise to provide the same kind of help to someone else.
8. Build your dream
Ours began as a received opportunity: a small piece of land on a lake in rural western Mexico. We embarked on building a small shelter. Traditional adobe construction, was a given. It was also a given that we would build it with our own hands and the help of village compadres, godchildren, and friends. Construction has reached the time to top out and put on the roof. We expect to finish this stage of our journey at the beginning of the new millennium. The next leg: dwelling.
9. Revisit the trees of your childhood
For me, they are the majestic, moss-covered oaks of New Orleans. Walking under their canopy on the wide boulevard where I grew up, or leaning against a massive trunk by the lagoon where my dad took my sisters and me canoeing, I find many of my. Revisiting the oaks will require learning more about the termite infestations that threaten their survival. Perhaps the termites are a reminder to leave sentimentality behind when embarking on a spiritual adventure.
10. Ride the blues dragon
I have a 12"-x-12" official pity-party box. When I lose perspective on how glorious life is, I open it and play until self-pity is a thing of the past. My body has multiple sclerosis, so the outside of my box is decorated with funny pictures and sayings like, "What good is a disease if you can't use it?" and "If you can't feel sorry for yourself, who can?" Inside, it's filled with Groucho Marx glasses, bubble wrap (to POP!), a kaleidoscope, Narnia paper dolls, a Patsy Cline tape, blinking heart, false eyelashes, love notes from friends, etc. The point is, we all have to face the blues dragon from time to time. If you can't slay it, why not have fun riding it?
Every time you finish anything, stop, sit (if possible), relax, and ask "Now what?" Listen for the answer. Then do it.
12. Celebrate with fellow crones
On my 60th birthday I invited 25 of my closest women friends to a Crone party, celebrating women's wisdom. Each was asked to bring a story to share of a woman in her life who had made a difference. We shared the stories, a wonderful collection that brought smiles and tears, toasted the women with champagne and song, and made ice-cream sundaes. It was a marvelous, spontaneous, loosely planned party that people are still talking about two years later.
13. Sail a tall ship
Reading of one sailor who "saw God in the sails" inspired me. Using my whole body (it's back-breaking work), relying on personal strength and the strength of comrades, appreciating the sun, wind, and rain, coming to terms with the sea from which we all came--yes, that is finding God in the sails. I would like to serve on a tall ship for a week, to test my physical, spiritual, emotional, and creative mettle.
14. Be a stranger on a train
Try the old American trains that run from small town to small town. You don't have to go anywhere in particular. I bring some favorite books or my journal. Get a window seat and relax. People come and go and seem at their friendliest.
15. Find your sunrise
In early spring several years ago, I drove before dawn to the farthest point on the Point Reyes peninsula in western Marin County, California. I watched the sun rise over Tamalais Bay on my right as the brilliant colors of the sky reflected over the Pacific Ocean to my left, and herds of elk grazed peacefully all around me. Finding myself completely alone with creation at its most splendid, I found myself.
16. Let people take care of you
As I was nervously embarking upon a long (for me) trip, my friend Rabbi Rachel Sabath said, "Let people take care of you." That was a real challenge, as I am usually either taking care of other people or trying to cause no trouble to others. But, as in Jewish tradition, it is a great mitzvah, a holy obligation to be a kind, attentive host to guests, I
realized that I rarely allow others to perform that mitzvah for me. And so that's what I did. I experienced what it was like to be cared for, and through that, I understood better how we can allow ourselves, if we choose to, to receive divine care.
Spend an entire day sitting in one place being completely attentive to the world immediately around you. Follow the path of one cloud as it moves across your field of vision. Close your eyes and pick a sound--a birdcall, the song of an insect, a lawn mower, a truck moving along the highway--and follow it from beginning to end. Watch the movement of life in and out of the space you have chosen, whether it be a flock of birds feeding in the newly mown hayfield or a group of teenagers walking, talking, and giggling down the street.
18. Spare 10 seconds for appreciation
Being a breast-cancer survivor, my priorities did a somersault. The "curse" of having a life-threatening disease has now become a blessing. Having answered this challenge, every day is a treasure. Helping other breast-cancer survivors, volunteering to speak at various functions, and just being kind to other human beings have made my life contented and peaceful within. Taking t'ai chi taught me how to really relax into gratitude in about 10 seconds. I take a huge, deep breath and slowly, slowly let it go. Let my thoughts concentrate on my breath and listening to my heartbeat. I treat myself by taking a few more breaths and appreciating what I have in life.
19. Fly to freedom
Riding, gliding, flying my bike down a steep hill .. . gripping the handlebars, up off the seat, standing on pedals, leaning back . . . cool, breezy, whistling pressure against my face, my body . . . the descending rush filling me up . . . suspending me . . . I am freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!
20. Meditate on this
While meditating on the Scripture, "Be still and know that I am God," I experienced a powerful expansion of spiritual awareness and understanding with the reduction of the verse:
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know