Thursday, February 26, 2015

Earth's Crammed with Heaven

"Afire with God"
- in my meditation garden -

Every day as I sit at my desk in my office I can look out into my beautiful meditation garden- an olive tree, a bubbling fountain, fluttering hummingbirds, flowers and plants and a large bush of bright red bougainvillea blossoms. To be honest, while working at my desk I often don't pay all much attention to the garden in my view,  but yesterday when I looked up something caught my eye- something looked different. 

I suddenly realized that overnight, the bougainvillea bush had gone into full bloom and I was overwhelmed by the beauty and mystery of it all - the stunning, brilliant red flowers set against the backdrop of the majestic stone mountains in the horizon. It really was breathtaking.

How could I have possibly been pecking away at a computer (writing a blog about spirituality), almost missing such an indescribable spiritual experience?

I immediately called to mind one of my favorite quotes by the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God.
But only he who sees takes off his shoes.
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

In my life I have often experienced transcendence in places that are designated as being "sacred" - beautiful churches, great cathedrals, holy temples, and I have also experienced the awesome mystery of Holy Presence in a common bush afire with God. There is no difference between the sacred and the secular, my garden is as much a temple as those buildings of stone and stained glass windows.

I think of something author and poet, John O'Donohue, once wrote in his book, Beauty:

Sometimes the urgency of our hunger blinds us to the fact that we are
already at the feast.
To accept this can change everything; we are always home, never exiled.
Although our minds constantly insist on seeing walls of separation,
in reality most of the walls are mere veils.
In every moment, everywhere, we are not even inches away from the Holy Presence.

I think that people do indeed hunger for "God" - the deep desire of every human heart is to be pulled out of our tiny little "ego" into a sense of transcendence.  I also think it's true that while we may be on a spiritual journey eagerly searching for truth and wisdom, we are "already at the feast." In the everyday routines of our ordinary lives, in the mist of the most mundane things we do and see each day, we are already at the feast - separated from the Holy Presence by only a mere veil; however, we need eyes of awareness in order to realize it, otherwise we may just "sit around and pluck blackberries." 

My experience yesterday again called my attention to the importance of "paying attention" in everyday living. It reminded me of the importance of cultivating a mind that is awake and alert in every single moment of every single day so that I am always prepared to see "even the most common bush afire with God."


  1. God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made

    sing his being simply by being

    the thing it is:

    stone and tree and sky,

    man who sees and sings and wonders why

    God goes. Belonging to every riven thing he’s made,

    means a storm of peace.

    Think of the atoms inside the stone.

    Think of a man who sits alone

    trying to will himself into a stillness where

    God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made

    there is given one shade

    shaped exactly to the thing itself;

    under a tree a darker tree;

    under than man the only man to see

    God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made

    the things that bring him near,

    made the mind that makes him go.

    A part of what man knows,

    apart from what man knows,

    God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.

    (“Every Riven Thing” from Christian Wiman)