let me walk in beauty

I’m relieved to end 40 Days of Beauty as Spiritual Practice (BASP).  The next post will be at The Sacred Ordinary.

It sounds like such a simple and pleasurable practice. BASP is hard to describe. Beauty is not ornamental or superficial even though in the land of lipstick and liposuction it appears that way. 

Forty days of practice causes change. Last year’s 40 day discipline made my yoga practice as familiar teeth brushing or laundry.  (hey, some people like to do laundry.)

Friday afternoon when I finally had a long-awaited block of free time, I wanted to play with color and texture and spent the afternoon potting paintbrush plants and geraniums then arranging them artfully on the porch. 

Did you know that potted plants can bring you closer to God?

I was pleased to read about beauty as spiritual practice in my current bedside book, “Code Talker”, the co-written memoir of Chester Nez, a Marine who helped create unbroken code based on the Navajo language during WWII.  Nez describes the soldiers’ approach to Guadalcanal – the fear they experienced, knowing some would die.  He writes,

“A chaplain addressed us, reciting a blessing….. I said my own silent prayer. Give me courage. Let me make my country proud. Please protect me. Let me live to walk in beauty.” Around me the other Navajos seemed to be doing the same, each hoping to “walk in beauty” again in their native homes….”

Thank you, friends, for reading Beauty as Spiritual Practice.

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enid’s four great teachings

Enid has been one of my Great Spiritual Teachers, instructing in the ways of salvation and higher consciousness. 

First, she taught about Thrift Stores.  My God, where would I be without Thrift Stores?  Specific teachings on how to find the best stores.  How to use a shopping cart rather than a little basket.  How to buy a white leather jacket just…because.  How to buy a crystal bowl to keep lipsticks in.  I absolutely plan to get one of these when I start wearing lipstick.

Second she taught about Kindness.  Enid will scrape up any lost animal or human, bring them to her house, feed them, give them work to do if they need it, give them a bed to sleep in, or invite them to lunch.  Even if they’re boring. 

Third she taught how to appreciate The Nice Things in Life, which is what she calls yoga, going out to lunch, music, art, theater, literature, a glass of wine, a spa treatment, a beautifully prepared meal, and a lovely home, all in a scenic setting if possible.  These things feel more higherly conscious and salvific when one is also kind.  I have every confidence that when I become kinder my house will be transformed.

The Fourth Great Teaching was how to address feelings of Envy.  Enid says the only way to combat the beast of Envy is to give yourself the thing you have been deprived of. 

The Fourth Great Teaching was delivered in an antique jewelry store in Taos, New Mexico where Enid tried on silver bracelets.  Large, old, expensive silver bracelets.  My Teacher had experienced Envy when a family member inherited estate jewelry that might have been passed to herself or her daughter.  Knowing the beast had to be slain, Enid did the necessary deed and drew out her credit card, all the while instructing about the Envy’s evil power and the importance of abolishing it.

At the time, her teaching was theoretical.  Although I understood the logic and had no reason to disagree, I couldn’t remember a personal experience of Envy.  I just tucked the teaching away in case need should arise.

Last week, I recognized the beast in my own heart while visiting the National Gallery of Art.  I looked at masterpieces from Japan and Italy and felt Envious of the creators. 

Deeply Envious. 

This is an old Envy that art repeatedly draws out of me.  Am I the only one who experiences this?

And so, this afternoon, Following the Fourth Teaching, I am taking up a sheet of paper and some beautiful rust colored sticks of oil pastel. 

It’s time to Get Even.

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spiritual nomadism or the one seat

I am a spiritual nomad, as were my ancestors, as are my descendents (so far anyway). 

This is the way of our people.

Jack Kornfield’s book, “A Path With Heart” includes a chapter entitled, “Take The One Seat.”  Kornfield explains that taking one seat means “selecting one practice and teacher among all the possibilities.”  By claiming one seat, the seeker will deepen in spiritual practice. 

Kornfield’s premise taunts me.  I long for this, but it is not the way of my people.

So in my spiritual nomadic existence, I have set up a camp chair for 40 days in the land of beauty.  At the end of 40 days I will pack up, bringing along what I’ve learned. 




1.  a member of a people or tribe that has no permanent abode but moves about from place to place, usually seasonally and often following a traditional route or circuit according to the state of the pasturage or food supply.
2.  any wanderer; itinerant.
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natalie goldberg workshop

This is the third time I’ve worked with Natalie.  definitely a love-hate relationship.  How many times can you write, “I remember”, “I’m looking at”, “I don’t remember”, “I’m not looking at”? 

It was better when I was brand new.  Now I’m a ruined advanced-beginner.

The workshop includes a lot of meditating between writing.  I used to ache for the timed quiet.  Then I dreaded the time quiet.  Now I draw pictures during the timed quiet. 

I am unschooled and untalented at drawing, and so drawing in ink has been a surprising experience.  I must use a pen because pencils make a little scratching noise on the paper and the people around me are serious meditators.  Shhhh.

The jury is still out on how the writing was this week, however I have remembered again that I adore Hemmingway and wish that I could hold his pen in my hand and draw a picture of his house in Key West. 

I flew to New Mexico to take a writing class and sat and drew.  Traveled across the country to sit and either face silence or really see.


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I became intoxicated in an art gallery yesterday.  It wasn’t alcohol, but imagination, color, texture, and the idea that with a piece of plastic, I could buy something.

Last year in Taos I went to galleries with Enid – watched as she opened her fancy purse and bought a large painting of rolling hills.  I felt a vicarious thrill, like a woman hanging on the arm of a gambling man – balancing with him on his slippery slope.

“Just one little painting won’t cause any harm.”

“It’s not like it’s a habit.”

I am Mabel Dodge’s long-eared cousin from across the tracks.  I collect art collectors, bring them to Taos and lure them into galleries.

This year, Pat and I go into a Pueblo shop.  She tries on a ring and buys it, just like that.  I buy a card to send to a friend.  Pat buys a dream catcher.  We egg each other on.

“I don’t know about the Little Orphan Annie mug…”

“You have to buy it.”

We’re co-dependent users.

A large watercolor entitled “Mystery” catches my friend’s eye.  Excited as a child at Christmas, I clap my hands.

“You have to get it.  It’s not like you buy one every day.”

She closes her eyes and breathes deeply.  She asks her Higher Power for help, and, admitting that she is powerless, hands over her credit card.

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through the eyes of a stranger

Some months ago an old friend from Maine visited.  Jean has been like a mother to me, which I sense both in her affectionate support and the particularly maternal way she has of embarrassing me.

Here’s an example:

Setting:  gourmet grocery store. the prepared foods aisle.

Sign: No Sampling.

Jean (loudly): “Look at that tortellini salad!  It looks really good.  I’ll try some and see.”

Jean (with exaggerated emphasis): “Diane, this sign says No Sampling.”

She pinches tortellini salad between finger and thumb, holds it up high and eats it, smacking her lips.

Jean (in a voice commanding nearby customer attention): “Ummmm, Diane.  These tortellini are reeeaaaly good!  Here, try some…..”

Mortified and speechless, Diane waves No!  No!  Diane puts her face in her hands, and eventually escapes down the cereal aisle.

For the trip to Washington, Jean purchased new clothes, including an enormous white caftan that looks like a nightgown.

She says, “I bought this dress from a catalogue.  Rachel thinks it looks like a nightgown.  Do you think it looks like one?”

“Oh no.”  I lie politely.  “It looks terrific.”

An expert at crochet, Jean has offered to help my neighbor with an afghan project.

Walking in the door the neighbor stops suddenly, “Did I come too late in the evening?  You’re already in your nightgown.”

I jump in with repairs. “It’s not a nightgown.  It’s a dress.”   The neighbor rebounds, “Of course, I see now.  I didn’t have my glasses on.”

The next day Jean and I have plans for the National Gallery.  She blow dries her hair, does her make-up carefully, and puts on the nightgown.

We’re taking the bus and plan to use a museum wheelchair since Jean no longer walks long distances.

I’m both anxious about Jean’s stamina and paranoid about a trip downtown with a lady in a  nightgown.  I also know what she’s capable of in a grocery store.  What do you think could happen in front of Renoir and Picasso?

At the museum Jean waits on a stone bench while I ask the clerk to bring a wheelchair.  A young woman, weighed down with camera equipment approaches Jean and asks if she can take her picture.  Jean’s vibrant eyes sparkle.  She’s happy to have her picture taken.

And that’s when I’m able to see, through the eyes of a stranger, how beautiful my crazy friend is in her holy robe.

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blogging practice apology

When I was an undergraduate organ major (centuries ago) our department hosted “Night Pipes”, a 10 p.m. weekly organ concert.   Students signed-up to play a few times each semester for experience and to test pieces for recital-readiness.

My freshman friend, Gilbert and I were decidedly less skilled than the other students.  Both of us came to college with sketchy musical backgrounds.  Both of us also had determination and tenacity.  Every single week Gilbert and I exposed our undeveloped skills by playing at this concert.  (To do this EVERY week was unusual, demanding, and frequently humiliating.)  We kept up this practice for four years , persevering  through wrong notes, immature articulation and visible fear.

The experience and pressure of deadlines built skills fast!  Also, the supportive community as we took these toddling steps into public performance assured we would survive the inevitable bumps and bruises.

Thank you, readers and friends, for cheering me on while I practice blogging about beauty and spirituality in front of the whole wide world.

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