This spring, I did something long overdue.
I took off my shoes and socks and walked around the front yard barefoot, pausing every now and again to stand still and let my feet soak in the Earth's rebirthing energy.
I would like to think I was, as Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh would say "walking as if I was kissing the Earth with my feet."
This Christmas season, millions of people will race through the stores, either physical or those in cyberspace, searching for gifts for their families and friends, buying into the notion that to celebrate the holiday appropriately we must compete with ourselves and with each other to satisfy every little material longing in our individual and collective hearts.
And then, we have a 24-hour news cycle and social media news feed we can't escape even if we tried, even though many of us want to do just that.
Add to that our already fast-paced work and family lives, transporting kids to activities, cleaning up after the dog, trying to keep the house looking decent while making a semi-healthy supper (with the iPod playing continuously in the background, of course) and the result is inevitable.
And even though we know we are caught amid chaos, we refuse to take the time to sit still and just be, which, if you must know, would go a long way in healing the negative effects of all that activity.
We are a culture that needs grounding.
Yes, we are entering a season when walking barefoot outside isn't advisable, if we want to avoid illness.
Nevertheless, grounding ourselves is more important than ever.
Advent begins this weekend.
It has always been one of my favorite seasons of the year as the darkness and colder temperatures do their best to force us inside and slow down.
One year, when I was living in Normal, I had my Christmas tree and Nativity scene set up in my living room in front of the patio door.
Each night after work, I would come home, turn off all the lights, plug in the Christmas tree and pull the curtains closed. Then I would sit on the floor in front of the manger in quiet reflection. For me, that meant slowly moving the beads of my rosary through my fingers and contemplating the five Joyful Mysteries, reflections that center around Mary's "yes" to God, the birth of the baby Jesus and the early years of his life with his parents.
It was magical.
And it is one of those heart memories that has outlived so much of what was going on in the rest of my life at the time. (As a matter of fact, I sure don't remember what I was given or what I gave as gifts that year.)
This practice grounded me.
I urge you during this holy season — yes, despite there being Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to me it will always first and foremost be a holy season — to take a step back, turn off all the noise in your life, sit down and ground yourself in something that will last far longer than anything you will find under your Christmas tree.
The Spirit of the Living God.
- SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality in The Times' readership area. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at firstname.lastname@example.org to share how you engage your spirit in your life and community.