Simple WaysSimple Ways Towards the Sacred
by Gunilla Norris

This was a wonderful book to travel with through the season of Lent this year. It’s a quiet book, a great help towards finding quietness in myself and in the world around me.

The book’s organization is restfully simple. There are four “movements”, so to speak — Our Bodies, Our Dwellings, Our Everyday Things, and Our Gratitude. Within each of these areas, the author encourages us to look closely at one simple object or idea at a time. Under Our Bodies, for instance, we might consider what it means to Breathe, or to See, or to Walk.  When we come to Our Dwellings, we spend a day meditating on the Door, then another day reflecting on the Staircase.  Among Everyday Objects we pause to really notice a Bowl, a Table, and a Clothespin. The fourth section of the book takes us into a fresh style of attentiveness, as we turn our minds towards the act of Receiving with Gratitude. We consider the implications of receiving Nature, receiving Relationships, or receiving Challenges, with grateful awareness of the gifts of each day.

There are 32 “chapters”, which makes this book just a good length for a season like Lent or Advent. Each is only three pages long, yet those three pages provide enough material to carry through an entire day’s reflective prayer.  First, there is a brief one-page essay on the topic of the day, a place to begin by organizing our attention. Then, there is a “Meditation”, a free-flowing poem which helps carry the mind away from the busy-ness of active thought into the quietness of prayer. Finally, there are three questions to ponder, which the author calls “Considerations for the Heart”, suggesting that we would do better to search for the answers with our heart more than with our brain. Roll them around in our being, but don’t over-think them, nor look for a single “right” answer.

The daily “Considerations for the Heart” made up the impulse to each day’s Lenten action.  “Today, could I learn to pause just a little moment before i speak? Might I consider whether my hasty word might limit me or someone else?” … “Could this day be one in which I allow myself to be defenseless for a moment in the presence of another?” … “Today, could I ask if the direction I am walking in my life is my choice, or merely habit?” These were calls to live more mindfully, to be aware of the intentions and the impact of whatever I do.

The poems were what I loved best about this book, because they gave me something to carry with me through each day, little sacred mysteries to ponder. The poems “spoke my language” in the same way Emily Dickinson poems do. I liked to copy them put and carry them in my pocket for the day. During quiet moments, over lunch, while waiting in line, while walking across a parking lot, to take them out and read a few lines, letting them wash around in me like water washing over stones. Here was one of my favorites:

The blind rolls up. Light enters
and shows us where we are.
Windows allow for no fooling.

 What would it mean to realize
that every one of us is a window
where life shines through?

 Could we stand to know
how every moment reveals this?
Anyone paying attention could see if we were open
or shut, spattered or clear!
A blind could not hide us –
we would only be revealed as covered.
No one would be fooled.

 Could we trust that it is safe to be
without subterfuge?
Then we would be clear enough
for light to come through us naturally.

What does it mean, to pray that I may be like a window without blinds? What am I praying for? Do I know what I’m asking for? Am I willing to be that clear and open?

One poem a day, this little book showed me how to come out of a dry desert place into a fresh flowing stream of prayer. Refreshment for the soul, that’s what I found in these quiet pages.