A Practice Worth Sticking With?

Yesterday, in the heat of the afternoon sun, my husband and I picked up sticks in the front yard. We worked a solid half-hour, and though we saw some progress—two trash barrels full—we were nowhere near done. (Our children were blissed out on air conditioning and an episode of Caillou while we worked to get the hang of this, us with our gray thumbs.)

As I picked up sticks, I slid into a bit of a meditation. I had a single point of focus, and stick by stick, my mind began unwinding its usual knot of thoughts. I struggled a bit to get comfortable. Then, following the stick-picking rhythm like I would my breath if I were just sitting, I moved into the groove. In a yoga-like way, I made slight shifts to my lower back and neck, feeling for a reasonable level of comfort. Knees deeply bent, spine long, chin slightly tucked, arms moving freely. Although more comfortable, I still felt as unpracticed in stick-gathering as I am in meditating.

Despite the fits of fidgeting and the thinking-thinking-thinking—or maybe exactly because of that—I’m thinking that stick gathering as a meditative practice could be life-changing. Or, at the very least, lawn-changing. My mind and my yard would be clear, if only til the next storm rained down a pile of tiny, broken sticks and loosed the occasional mid-size branch from the tree canopy that filters the light in my life.

I’m also wondering if all of this might feed into a deeper longing and a pledge I made to myself this year to cultivate a more consistent spiritual practice. At first, this was something I wanted just for me. Now, I’m craving it more and more for my family, for all of us together.

I grew up with the weekly ritual of church with my mom and sister. My dad stayed home, often working on the lawn. We had a beautiful yard, and our church experience wasn’t too bad either. And yet it feels like there could have been something more for the four of us, together.

And so I’m wondering about the possibility of that something more for my present-day family of four. All of us with our hands in the earth and the heavens sheltering us from above, clearing the sticking points, creating a ritual rich with meaning and ripe for memories. I’m not sure yet. The husband and I need another round of stick gathering with Caillou keeping watch over the kiddos, and a heart-to-heart about the rituals and remembrances we crave, together, for our family.

For now, I’m just checking it out, and trying it on. What happens if, when, I tend the yard myself? What happens if we pick up sticks together? Maybe our practice would mature from clearing weeds this season to tending a garden next summer. I’m curious about how we can, as a family, tend to the outside of our home in a way that feels nurturing—and not like it’s just another chore.

What works for you and your family?
In deep gratitude for your inspiration,

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