On our property in the forest in Mount Macedon, Australia we had a special tree. It was an old eucalyptus (Messmate – Eucalyptus obliqua) that had seen scores of years and from several fires was scarred and hollowed at the base. When Fiona and I arrived at the property in 2004 I thought it may die as it looked terrible after a long drought. But come the rains that year it recovered well and over the following years this scraggly old grandfather greened up nicely.
This wonderful tree became our sacred prayer tree – our place to acknowledging the Living Spirit and give thanks. Our devotion of prayer became a ritual that we would perform whenever we felt the need to give thanks to people, places, or things in our life that were special. It became a dedication to see the goodness in the events and circumstances that came our way. Saying our little prayer was a way to centre ourselves and remember those who helped us, those who we helped and the difficult things that needed redress.
We would always started with a saying: “Living Spirit, sing us a story of our land. I give thanks to….”
We have sold our property and are travelling. I miss our tree. Since then we have been visiting the beach quite a bit in Australia, using that as our place of prayer. Looking out across the water we ask the Living Spirit to “sing us a story of our ocean. I give thanks…”
There is a sacredness to all things – the living spirit breathes across the universe. The epitome of a sacred life (or spiritual life for that matter) is a daily, gentle, meandering of “beings” and “doings” that push and pull your energy along. It’s not about having to meditate in the Hindu Kush or tithing to the church or doing good deeds by helping out your neighbour. A sacred act can be something as simple as “doing” the dishes – and why wouldn’t it be, as that is what you are doing? (Or being.) Your whole attention is on that one act. Mindfulness.
So wherever we travel, we find a tree or place that feels special and we continue our sacred ritual of prayer. In this soggily, self indulgent world I feel that it’s important to give thanks. Especially to the people in our lives that support and nurture us. But it doesn’t have to be people that are overly special. It could be someone you meet this very day who helps you out: a shop assistant; a person in the park; a neighbour. Or it could be someone who is irritating you and you give thanks for the good things that they bestow to the world. Maybe you need to remind yourself of the things they have done that have made your life better.
I don’t see our prayers as forgiveness but of acceptance; even addressing atonement, and feeling the Living Spirit in all things. Through this ritual we breathe in the heartfelt goodness – but also we let go of the idea of always trying to be positive, acknowledging that life at times can be tough and difficult. By giving thanks in this way, it can help us make peace with ourselves and all living things.