The Sacred Life-Arts 7 Facets of Illumination provide a way of visioning life from a spiritual and creative perspective. Become acquainted with the 7 facets of illumination and work with the suggested Sacred Practices you’ll find here. The more you experience the 7 facets, the greater the opportunity for your spiritual life to merge with everyday moments.
Contemplate witnessing life as a Sacred Life-Artisan. Imagine how your world would appear if you were to look through a kaleidoscopic lens, with seven unique facets. As you turn your inner kaleidoscope to reveal your world, facet by facet you watch your life become illuminated with sacred and symbolic meaning.
Through your commitment to the various practices accompanying each of the 7 facets, you will experience more balance, clarity, spaciousness of time, and an overall sense of centeredness. You will connect to new levels of untapped creativity as your senses are reawakened.
The invitation offered for you within the 7 facets is…. Be inspired by what you find here. Then take what you discover as stepping stones and create your own unique pathway to crafting your life as your sacred art.
In time, as you explore and practice the Sacred Life-Arts you will experience a deepening connection to God in co-creation as you move through your day.
The Sacred Life-Arts 7 Facets of Illumination
The following descriptions offer an overview of each of the 7 facets of illumination with simple practices you can begin to weave into your life. New practices will be added as the Spirit leads. Suggestion: You may benefit from keeping a journal to record your experiences and observations as you come to embody the 7 facets of illumination. Think of this journal as a record of your inner pilgrimage. Click here to visit the Sacred Life-Arts classroom and learn about how you can take a course to craft The Sacred Life-Artisan’s Book of Wonderment.
Facet #1. Behold and Cultivate Beauty
Beauty is altogether in the eye of the beholder. –Margaret Wolfe Hungerford
Think of the way a child gazes at shadows on the floor for the first time… wide-eyed, full of wonder and curiosity.
When you behold an object, a person, even a situation or circumstance you shift your consciousness from “looking” at the surface to “gazing” with reflection and reverence. Gaze, in this sense, means to look with a soft focus in contemplation of what is before you. When you behold you are seeking the sacred within the moment.
Behold and Cultivate
When you behold what is right before you, explore what you see with your gentle focus and your heart. Beholding requires you to drop judgment and open your mind and spirit to experience awe. Embrace the moment with innocence and curiosity. Allow questions to arise. Begin the sacred practice of asking yourself the following informative questions in various situations and circumstances throughout the day:
- What is being offered as a teaching (as wisdom) in this moment?
- How am I being inspired?
- What am I being invited to cultivate from this moment/encounter/experience?
- Is this moment a call to a particular action or response of loving and compassionate service?
These are helpful questions to return to time and again in your journal. Make notations regarding any subtle or profound interior shifts as you practice the first facet of illumination and begin to behold and cultivate the moments of your life.
Create a Tableau… Ode to Beauty
It’s important for the Sacred Life-Artisan to know and understand her particular resonance with beauty. Here’s an ongoing sacred practice for beholding and cultivating beauty.
Spread a cloth on a table and create a tableau (a visual representation) of objects, images, colors, and textures that are beautiful to your eye. Take time as you move about your home and nature gathering what speaks to you of beauty. Allow this creation to be a work in progress. Your tableau may change daily, weekly, monthly. Add to it, simplify it, allow the objects and images to tell you a story as though they are symbols in a dream. Don’t edit or judge your choices.
Cultivate what beauty has to teach you. Sketch your tableau in your journal. Photograph it as the light changes throughout the day. Notice your choices of what you find beautiful. Give a title to your particular aesthetic.
Is it Earthy…. Romantic…. Zen…. Eclectic, etc? Create a name for your personal perception and understanding of beauty. Begin to cultivate your understanding of your special resonance with beauty. Learn what truly inspires and nurtures your creativity, sacred imagination and spirit. Add your photographs and reflections to your journal or Book of Wonderment.
Facet #2. Arrange your life as a sacred reflection of order, purpose, and simplicity
When we are authentic, when we keep our spaces simple, simply beautiful living takes place. Alexandra Stoddard
The conditions that surround us, in our homes and work spaces, provide a mirror of reflection for the climate of our interior lives, the acclimation of our spirits. The creation of an atmosphere of tranquility for your life, may be considered as spiritual practice. Order, purpose, and simplicity inspire serenity and foster feelings of equanimity.
Sorting and letting go of things (tangible and intangible) that no longer serve your life, is a practice that promotes healing and nurturing of the spirit. “Things” in this context refer to material objects, possessions, places, circumstances, work, thoughts, activities, ways of living and being, and sometimes even relationships.
When you clear your life of accumulated outworn or outgrown belongings, beliefs, and behaviors you open space for replenishment and renewal. Prayer and sacred intention are foundational to the work of arranging order, purpose, and simplicity in your interior life and your surroundings.
Discerning and Letting Go
Begin to arrange order, purpose, and simplicity in your life. Assess the internal place where you are holding onto that which no longer serves who you are becoming. Spend time with your journal. Create two columns on the page. One column is labeled “Inner” and the second column is “Outer.”
Prayerfully contemplate and reflect on the following question in your journal. What are the behaviors, addictions, and beliefs that no longer serve the woman I am becoming? Acknowledge you are making a committed intention, with God’s Grace, to create space in your heart and spirit to illumine your life with new light. Experience the following ritual to celebrate the process of letting go, and to also acknowledge your awakening openness to receive spiritual illumination.
Release into New Life
Write on slips of paper what you are letting go of. Burn the papers in your fireplace or a safe place out of doors. Light a candle (a taper works well for this) from the fire of your letting go. Burn the candle in your sacred space to remind you of your commitment. Add the cooled ashes from your “fire of release” to potting soil and plant a small plant in a pot or in your garden as a symbol of the new life you are welcoming from the ashes of your old ways of being. Tend this new life lovingly, as you grow the new life within your heart and spirit.
Prayerfully contemplate and reflect on the following question in your journal. What are the material possessions in my life that no longer serve the woman I am becoming?
You may find it helpful to go from room to room in your living and work spaces and create a list on paper of what you are letting go of. As you go through things ask, “Is there someone I know who could benefit or appreciate this (material possession)?” Keep notes about your process and discernment of how you will disperse the things you are clearing from your life.
Blessing and Opening to the Mystery
When everything you are letting go of has been gathered, have a blessing ceremony. Give thanks for the service you’ve received from your possessions. Bless your belongings and release them to wherever they are meant to be. Open your arms wide in a gesture to acknowledge you are both releasing the old and creating space to welcome the new into your life.
There are several ways to pass along your possessions:
- A garage or estate sale (consider donating a portion of the sales to a personally meaningful cause)
- Donate possessions to a shelter or local organization/charity
- Give away to friends and family
- Leave small things where you know they will be discovered by someone in need
If you find it difficult to let go of something but you truly want to let it go…. Dialogue with the object. Ask the image or the object itself…. What is your hold on me? Then respond in your journal as the object’s voice with your dominant or non-dominant hand.
You may wish to photograph the things you are releasing. Print the images and create a collage as a visual prayer with the intention of blessing and release.
Keep an empty bowl or basket in a prominent place where you will see it often throughout the day. This empty vessel is a reminder that you have spaciousness within and around you ready and open to receive new inspiration, experiences, abundance, joy, health….. RENEWED LIFE!
Facet #3. Tend your heart and hearth to nurture your relationships and surroundings
The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. Thomas Moore
What soothes your soul? What nurtures your body and mind? What are the colors, textures, sights, smells that offer comfort for your tired or wounded spirit? How do you celebrate joy ? How do you serve others? How do your gifts and talents uplift the spirits of your friends and beloveds with hope, and inspiration?
Discerning the beneficial vitamins or supplements for your physical health are a way to practice self-care for your body. The third facet of illumination offers the invitation to discern the necessary “spiritual vitamins” to insure the health of your emotional/spiritual “heart and your hearth,” your home and relationships.
Discerning Your Needs
Discovering what the heart and soul truly need often takes coaxing and patience. It takes time to discern what we have lived without for a very long time or perhaps never experienced. It takes stillness and contemplation to tap into the inner knowing of the heart and spirit. Spending quiet reflective time observing the workings and wonders of nature helps to shift the mind from rational thought to a primal understanding beyond language. In nature we connect with Creation and our innate (though often forgotten and ignored) animal instincts. Information awaits us in the stillness of nature.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves…
Spend some time journaling with the following questions and be aware of other questions that may arise:
- When my heart and spirit are feeling low I know I need to…
- When I think of practicing “Extreme Self-Care” for myself this is what I imagine….
- When I imagine creating community….calling a circle of friends together to share our stories, gifts, and wisdom, the people who come to mind include…
- I foster and tend my precious relationships with friends and beloveds when I…
- There is a relationship I long to reconcile. When I think of this I feel…
- When I tend my home as a sanctuary I…
Return to these questions periodically. Tending your heart and hearth is an ongoing process. Often the heart won’t reveal what is needed until you provide time and space for reflective awareness.
Contemplate and Create
Consider the following questions and select one or more as a creative and spiritual focus to actualize.
- Where do you find spiritual medicine and tonic for your heart and soul?
- Will you write your prayers on stones or gather poetry and words of inspiration, images and symbols and keep them in a jar?
- Will you collect roots, tree bark, shell, and seeds and wrap them in cotton soaked in lavender oil, frankincense, or spikenard?
- Will you send post-cards to your beloveds from sacred sites or catalogue old photographs of kindreds?
- Will you create a welcoming space in your home in preparation for an unexpected visitor/pilgrim?
- Will you prepare a festive meal on a random day in celebration of LIFE and invite your neighbors?
- Today will you phone the person you’ve been thinking of for months to say hello?
- Today will you forgive yourself for whatever it is that troubles your heart?
Gather things that nurture your spirit such as; your favorite teas, hand cream, a DVD or two that lift your spirits, favorite music, prayer beads, devotional/spiritual books, aromatic oils such as lavender or patchouli, chocolate, photos of your beloveds, a special journal for holding your deepest thoughts, colored pens or pencils, postcards to send a note to friends or relatives, a stuffed animal or doll, knitting or needlework, tissues, a soft comfortable wrap or shawl, a candle, etc.
Arrange all of the above (add to or delete the contents according to your personal needs) in a large basket. Think of this as your triage kit for your heart. When you’re feeling depleted, tired, depressed, and/or out of balance go to your comfort basket and pull out what you need. It helps to be prepared. Tending your heart may also require taking your dog for a walk or going for a swim. Ask your heart what it needs. The answer may surprise you.
E-mail is a wonderful tool but it has become an ever-ready substitute for many for the blessing of a hand-written card or letter. As you contemplate ways of tending your hearth and the relationships of your life, here’s a suggestion.
Keep a bundle of post cards on your desk or workspace. Write a post card each day, as a meditation, to someone in your life. Get out your address book and make a list of names of those you want to connect or reconnect with. Write the names and addresses on slips of paper and put them in a little box or bowl. Each day draw a name at random and jot a message on a postcard. Simple, fast, and very meaningful for both you and the one who will receive your heartfelt hello. Adorn the postcard…. with a stamp representing your personal symbol. Practice and cultivate beauty.
Like e-mail vs. traditional letter writing, online communities vs. real-time communities are incomparable. Contemplate calling a circle of friends to come to your home to journal, pray, or study a particular book or topic. Set your intention and gather your kindreds… create community. To learn the basic guidelines for calling a circle click here. Further information available at PeerSpirit.com
Facet #4. Pray, listen, and devote your spirit to co-creation with God
In the morning when I began to wake it happened again that feeling that you,
Beloved, had stood over me all night long keeping watch…
that feeling that as soon as I began to wake, you put your lips to my forehead and lit a holy lamp inside my heart.
Prayer is personal. St. Paul reminds us, “Pray without ceasing.” The fourth facet is centered around praying and trusting that your prayer is received and heard. This facet is also about listening to God. Sitting or resting in stillness is an ancient practice experienced by people in nearly all religious traditions.
The senses, your built-in conduits to the Divine, connect you to your sacred imagination and to the heart of God. Prayer and listening to God, and the practice of sensual awareness enrich your internal environment for co-creation with the Divine.
Marking Life’s Rhythm
Discerning how you are acclimated as a spiritual being in a human experience is an important aspect of the fourth facet of illumination. When you imagine being a full co-creator with the Divine, it’s important to know where you resonate and where you experience harmonic discord as you respond to the world… to life? Knowledge of this genre is important to self-understanding and essential to opening your heart to the Creator in co-creation.
Be conscious of the tempo of the day…. dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, dusk, evening, night, pre-dawn… eight cycles. Where do you resonate in the rhythm of the hours? What hours of the day are your “still-point” that time when the veil between the worlds is thin? Are you a “morning person” or a “night person?” Contemplate the ebb and flow of your energy, your life force. When are you at your zenith during the day…. or night?
Understanding your particular affinity or dissonance to the hours of the day, the seasons of the year, the climate and phases of the moon…. this self-comprehension puts you in touch with your syncopation with the heartbeat of God.
Create a chart in your journal. Draw 7 columns across the top of the page and eight columns down the page. The 7 columns represent the days of the week. The 8 columns are the 8 cycles of time throughout the day. For one week, mark a + (plus) in the squares that mark the hours for particular day when you felt your peak energy and connectedness with life. Mark a – (minus) sign for those hours when your energy or life-interest waned. At the end of a week’s time discern any particular patterns or themes that you notice.
Understanding how your senses resonate within the context of your life is also important. Are you warm natured or cold natured? Do you enjoy the bright sunny warm golden palette of the tropics or the gentle foggy gray coolness of the forest? What sounds soothe your mind or irritate it? Do you prefer the taste of sweet or savory?
Practice sensual awareness as a sacred practice. When you’re cold, notice what happens physically and emotionally. Be consciously aware there are others in the world who have no way to warm themselves. Let your awareness become a prayer. When you’re hot, be present to how heat affects you and know there are others who are parched and thirsty. This awareness is a prayer. If you are in physical pain, be present to the pain. Dedicate your suffering to the suffering of the world. Stretch the bounds of your physical body to feel connected to others who are suffering and your suffering becomes a prayer through your conscious awareness. If you are hungry, before you eat something ask God to bless someone in the world with an empty belly the sensation of fullness as you take your meal. There are a hundred ways each day to connect to our brothers and sisters on this earth. In this way, we are invited and called to pray without ceasing.
Prayer is an intimate language between you and God. You should always pray in your own way, in your own time, according to the needs of your life and your heart.
However, if you want to explore various forms of prayer here is a suggestion. Mantram prayer. Try it and see if it speaks to you.
- Choose a line of Scripture or sacred poetry that nourishes your heart. Memorize it. Or select a word or name….
- Beloved Jesus Holy Wisdom Sofia Holy One Yahweh Creator Divine Light Mother of Mercy, etc.
- Repeat your phrase or word/name throughout the day and night in silence. Pray your mantram without ceasing as you go about your work, drive carpool, cook a meal, fold laundry, shop, as you are going to sleep at night.
- Continually focus your mind and heart in silence on your word or phrase.
Author, scholar, and Sacred Activist, Andrew Harvey, suggests memorizing the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and repeating it every day as a transformative spiritual and sacred practice.
Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine One, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
Facet #5. Craft your creative tools and sacred practices for your authentic life
We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell
Creative tools and sacred practices for your authentic life are uniquely your own. Just as there is no presumption to tell you how to offer your prayers, there is no exact science regarding what creative tools or sacred practices are best suited to serve your unique and authentic life.
However, throughout time there have been archetypal symbols, patterns, and experiences left behind by our ancestors like a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow. Creative tools and sacred practices for the Sacred Life-Artisan are limited only by imagination. It is suggested you spend time exploring the landscape of sacred tools and practices in your journal.
Here are a few journaling steppingstones to get you started. Please have colored pens and markers nearby. Think of this creative time as a blessing. You are going to the well of your heart and spirit to draw forth what is there waiting for you. Light a candle and offer a personal prayer to honor your intention. Take a deep breath and exhale whatever you need to release before you begin (anxiety, preconceived notions, resistance, etc). Inhale what you need for this experience (an open mind and heart, spontaneity, trust, etc.).
Spread your colored markers, crayons, or pens on the table. Turn to a fresh page in your journal and date the page. Dating the page will give you a marker for future reference.
- Choose colors that represents Serenity and Peace for you. Without editing or judgment, allow your sacred imagination to draw an object representing serenity and peace. Take as much time as you need for each drawing. These sketches may be as literal or abstract as you choose. You can’t make a mistake.
- Choose colors that represents Courage and Protection for you. Again, without self-criticism or editing of any kind, draw your personal symbol for courage and protection.
- Lastly, choose colors that represents Love and Trust for you. Once more, giving yourself permission for total freedom of expression, draw your intuitive and imaginative image for love and trust.
Spend some time reflecting on your symbols for Serenity and Peace, Courage and Protection, and Love and Trust. You might want to journal with each image… asking questions in a dialogue fashion such as; YOU (pose a question to your symbol): “Courage and Protection, why did I choose red and purple to represent you?” YOUR SYMBOL (respond in the voice of the symbol): ”Red and purple speak to royalty. I am the eternal protector and guardian of all that is royal within you. I will give you the fire of courage.” This is a powerful process. Both voices may use your dominant hand. Or you may ask the question with your dominant hand and respond to your question with your non-dominant hand.
The next practice will help you to synthesize your symbols in a three dimensional way.
Your Pilgrim Necessities
Contemplate your life’s journey as a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage of discovery as you walk with God into the Mystery of becoming the truth of who you are meant to be… a co-creator with God, and sacred artist of your life.
In medieval times when pilgrims made their pilgrimage they carried their spiritual tools and ritual objects with them. These included but were not limited to:
A coquille shell A symbol of pilgrimage, carried by pilgrims and used as a marker on the road for other pilgrims. Also used as a scoop for one portion of food or drink. The lines on the shell all lead to one point… representing the routes of pilgrimage leading to one destination.
A pilgrim’s badge Collected and worn by pilgrims
A staff Walking stick
A special handbook called a Vade Mecum (a pilgrim’s journal full of maps, prayers, and guidance for pilgrimage. Also a place to store souvenirs along the journey…. Vade Mecum is from the Latin meaning, Go With Me)
For Your Life’s Pilgrimage
Drawing on the inspiration of your three symbols as a starting point, contemplate creating a pilgrim’s badge. This could be sewn using fabrics from old clothing that you have been saving. Add charms, embroidery, buttons, whatever your imagination offers.
Again drawing from the inspiration of your three symbols, craft your walking stick. You may choose a tall branch (5′) from nature that you use in its natural state, or paint a wooden pole using your symbolic designs and other images you are inspired to include.
Craft a special journal not unlike the Sacred Life-Artisan’s Book of Wonderment as your contemporary version of the medieval pilgrim’s Vade Mecum. Use it as a sacred container for the “maps” of your life. Stuff it full of inspiration for your life’s pilgrimage.
For your version of the pilgrim’s coquille shell, use an actual coquille shell if you have one or assign a special cup or mug to represent this symbol.
Allow your sacred imagination to guide your pilgrimage, as co-creator with God and the sacred artist of your life.
Facet #6. Archive inspiration to quicken your sacred imagination
Most true happiness comes from one’s inner life, from the disposition of the mind and soul. Admittedly, a good inner life is difficult to achieve, especially in these trying times. It takes reflection and contemplation and self-discipline.
A large part of the Sacred Life-Artisan’s life is dedicated to gathering and archiving inspiration. Imagine being the curator of all that inspires you. Why is inspiration so critically important? Inspiration is the kindling for your creative fire. Inspiration is also the key that unlocks the door to your sacred imagination and the possibility for co-creation with God, with the Sacred.
How do you archive inspiration? First, you must gather whatever inspires you. Here’s a list of possibilities. Take a look at the list and hone it to fit your needs and desires.
- People (you know, you don’t know, living, deceased)
- Nature (weather, animals, plants, trees, flowers, seasons)
- Pets (living, deceased, other people’s)
- Fabrics (patterns, textures, colors,)
- Colors (in nature, clothing, your surroundings)
- Textures (clothing, furniture, food, nature)
- Sounds (music, nature, environmental)
- Images (magazines, books, T.V., Internet, film)
Begin to pay attention to your resonances within the context of the various categories. You may add additional categories not listed here. Collect the ephemera (printed memoribilia of your life) and add it to your journal or Book of Wonderment.
How does the inspiration you gather encourage your creativity? How are you motivated to respond to inspiration?
Several years ago I was inspired by my friend and artist, Jane Cather, to begin gathering bits and pieces of creative stimuli including; various kinds of string, yarn, inks, rubber art stamps, treasures from nature… seed pods, snail shells, twigs, stones, etc. Inspired by Jane, I contained by findings in glass jars of varying sizes and these were stored in a hall cupboard. Over time this cupboard became my Cabinet of Curiosities. Curating my collection through the years has become a sacred practice. Only the most treasured inspiration is selected to be added to the cabinet. My grandmother’s earrings, black and white photos of beloved family members now gone from this world, greeting cards received on my 60th birthday tied with ribbon, my bridal veil and gloves, a note written to me by a friend the week before she died. All of these precious items are loving “housed” in my cabinet of curiosities.
Contemplate the curation of your own cabinet or cupboard of inspiration and personal treasure. The artwork of Joseph Cornell will no doubt fuel your creative process.
You might want to create a shadowbox filled with your curiosities,your special brand of inspiration. Become the curator and archivist of inspiration and engage your sacred imagination.
Facet #7. Share your creative/spiritual gifts with others
Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.
Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. Jane Howard
You carry a particular and unique brand of wisdom and creativity. As a co-creator with God, your gifts and talents are purposefully grown and cultivated through your prayers, intentions, and sacred practices. Over time these gifts come to fulfillment like fruit of the Spirit. The gifts God has graced in you are of you… but they do not belong to you. They are given to you to share with others.
In Matthew 5:15 We are given the following passage to contemplate: No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.
Contemplate how you will share your gifts, your “light” with the world. How will you serve God and the People of God?
The image above is a painting by California artist, Erin Gaffill painted on the wall of the little prayer room in my home. It is Erin’s interpretation inspired by the 16th century painting, The Visitation, by Jacopo Pontormo. The image is of Mary, the pregnant mother of Jesus, in greeting with her cousin, Elizabeth, also pregnant… with the infant, John the Baptist. The two onlookers are, one imagines friends or companions of the women. This is a potent image for me personally and I believe it holds a powerful message for all women.
The story depicted in this painting goes something like this…. Mary who is early on in her pregnancy travels to visit her cousin who is also pregnant. When the women greet one another, Elizabeth, feels the child within her womb leap with recognition of the blessed infant in Mary’s womb. The women “behold” the gift within one another.
This image reflects how as women we are called to support one another, to recognize the blessing and gift within one another, and to call forth those gifts as spiritual midwives for one another. The times we are living call us to create community. We are meant to share our gifts, to call our circles of kindred spirits. We come together to co-create prayerfully then to offer service through our crafts, our prayers, our spiritual and creative wisdom and talents, our activism. We offer our service to our greater communities where we live and ultimately globally, as well.
Each of us is called to serve in her unique way. Some in quieter ways…. some in more visible ways. Spend time discerning how you are called to serve your community, your family, and our world.
Remember that you must also serve your Self, your spirit, and your heart. Honor the blessing and the sacred vessel that you are as one of God’s magnificent creations. Celebrate your Sacred Life as a Sacred Life-Artisan and be a co-creator with God!
Together we are creating a Spiritual and Creative Renaissance of Hope and Beauty!