There are a myriad of books, websites, podcasts and workshops dedicated to spiritual practices meant to give our wandering minds a compass pointing us toward practicing the presence of God Today I’d like to lift up a groovy little book that frequently reminds me of my connection to the divine in, with and through all things.
How to Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith is an art journaling book that offers “a variety of prompts and assignments” to help the wonderer and wanderer on their journey. Smith begins by sharing how she herself began the process of putting together this little travel guide.
She says: “This book started with a list that I wrote one night when I couldn’t sleep…these ideas are an accumulation of things that I have learned from various teachers and artists over the years and have become the basis for all of my own exploration.”
I’ve read her list many times and it keeps speaking to me, prodding me, asking questions about who I am as a person of faith and offers me one way of thinking about who I WANT to be as a spiritual being.
I spoke with Keri years ago when I intended to blog my way through her book (I only got a few assignments in… squirrel!) and interestingly enough Keri told me that she never intended this work to be about a journey of faith – for her it seems to be wholly about art and about living fully in the world, knowing yourself and the creative potential of your life and connecting deeply with world around you. And folks, for these ears that sounds a lot like practicing the presence of God. Each item continues to help me understand my walk of in this world in new ways.
The list calls me forward, but a is also a pretty good map of my past. As a child I was always looking, looking, looking. Wonder and delight were found in the simplest of things – like the seasonal textures of the red clay of Georgia or the endless ways to play in a pink pom-pom adorned mimosa tree. That sense of delight has not gone dark, but one’s vision has a way to narrow as our bones age. I still look – but more and more I am looking in a straight line to whatever the next task is. The next project, the next grocery list, the next pile of laundry, the next dog walk, the next filling of the dishwasher…
I am aware that I constantly need to slow down and REALLY look.
SO I am starting all over again – looking, looking and looking. And this time, in my new country with all new sights, sounds, smells and potential awakenings. I plan to work though this list in a prayerful manner because I am called back to the crazy notion that God is everywhere – in the pages of holy scripture and secular texts, in the overexposed corners of travel photographs and in the bobbing heads of a thousand tulips, in the slumping shoulders of a tired neighbor and in the raucous laughter of passing students, in the swarm of happy, hungry faces in the Leiden market and along our morning bike rides through farmland as mist rises from the lush earth and even in the worried eyes peeking just above the masks on faces as COVID-19 rears its ugly head once again in The Netherlands.
Once we start looking closely, listening deeply, noticing patterns and tracing things to their origins – truly using all of our senses – well, how can we not notice that everything is interesting and laced with a shimmering connective tissue beyond our comprehension. When I am fully in touch with my own existence, in this world now, as a transplanted southern gal living a life previously unimagined in Holland. And if I really look and listen to the intersecting lines of my life within me, and remember that the Divine, known by many names and no name, is present in every person, every moment, I am invited into the mystery of interdependence and agape.
Ok, enough already, here’s the list. I encourage you to read it a few times, slowly. Think of how you might apply this to your daily life, your faith journey, your mindfulness practice and your personal relationships.