An Altar-a-Day Challenge: Deepening Daily Practice

“To learn to appreciate difference, you must attentively contemplate apparent sameness.”

– Venkatesh Rao, from “On Staying Grounded

For Yule this year, my aunt gave me a beautiful Word of the Day calendar – the kind where the same words spiral through every month as the dates and days of the week change and shift around them. I keep it on the windowsill by my desk, and now each day when I sit down to work, the first thing I do is shuffle the little cards into place and sit for a moment contemplating that day’s word.

To dig my soul-toes deeper into this fertile soil, I’ve decided to pair my Word of the Day practice with reflections on the #UULent Photo-A-Day challenge. My Word-of-the-Day calendar is full of verbs. The #UULent reflections are mostly nouns. Each morning, I sit down and craft an altar that expresses an aspect of these two words in combination. I’m looking forward to discovering what intriguing combinations I’ll spiral through over the next six weeks!

I’ll be sharing my altars daily (along with some inspiring quotes and a few words of reflection of my own) on both my Facebook page and my Holy Wild Tumblr, if you’d like to follow along. Here are some excerpts from my first week of practice:

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20160211_empower_devotion1 20160211_empower_devotion2

20160212_plant_quiet2The rain is pouring outside my window this morning, turning the leaves of the laurel tree into a shivering, wet green tangle.

I love today’s words: plant quiet. It reminds me of the deep peace of growing things – root-quiet, leaf-quiet, soft-moss-quiet, rough-dark-bark-quiet. The quiet of pressing your ear to the earth and hearing the tiny bugs trundling along beneath the litter and rot. The quiet of the rain dripping from limb to limb. The quiet of early spring, that makes me lean in close to listen.

But it also makes me think of planting quiet, as if quiet were a seed. Am I going through my life treating quiet like a thing that only happens to other people? A luxury, an expense? A commodity that somebody else has already made, and all I have to do is buy it up (at a discount, if I’m lucky – maybe they have a groupon for it)? Am I taking responsibility for cultivating quiet?

I imagine making space in the rich humus of my heart, poking a hole in it with one gentle finger – just a few inches deep, but it’s enough. Then dropping in a few seeds… covering them again… leaving them to nestle quietly together in the dark….

I think it’d be nice to be a Johnny Appleseed of quiet. Traveling from town to town, reaching into my chest to pluck the blossom-quiet, the fruit-quiet that I’ve grown there – and tossing the quiet wide in all directions. Then everywhere I go, the seeds of quiet would be sown in the muddy waiting land. And the hush would spread out across the hills and valleys. And all the people would come out of their houses, and kneel down to press their ears to the ground…

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20160214_dedicate_love1 20160214_dedicate_love2

20160215_create_difference

It is said by some of the goddess Brigid that she has two faces: one that is beautiful and bright, and the other dark and terrible. Like two faces of a fire: glowing ember and crumbling ash.

Every act of creativity is the creation of difference – the remaking of a material or medium, the transformation of an old way of relationship into a new one. We long to “make a difference” in the world, and to make ourselves different as we strive to learn and grow.

Brigid is a goddess of creativity: the divine inspiration of the poet and the hard spark of the forge.


If you want to join in with the #UULent Photo-A-Day challenge, check out more info here. And let me know in the comments so I can follow along!

Alison Leigh Lilly
Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.

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  1. An Altar-a-Day Challenge: Deepening Daily Practice | Alison Leigh Lilly - […] This post originally appeared on Holy Wild, at alisonleighlilly.com […]
  2. A Leap Day Altar (and more) | Alison Leigh Lilly - […] you been following along with my Altar-a-Day Challenge? Today marks the halfway point in my journey of daily altar…

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