Expansion, sculpture by Paige Bradley

“Empty your mind… empty yourself…you are nothing and nowhere… just floating in the embrace of the universe…” It is a nice idea and one I have heard at the start of many a meditation… and in meditation, such a vision has a place. As a way of living, it is not particularly practical though. Someone has to walk the dog, take out the trash and clean the bathroom… and a person wafting through life being ‘nothing and nowhere’ is unlikely to be getting down and dirty with a scrubbing brush or chasing a recalcitrant hound across a muddy field.

It is such concepts that, for some, consign the whole idea of spirituality to the odd corners of life. It becomes a pastime, something to ‘do’ in spare moments or with a group. It isn’t reality, is it?

For many others though, it is just that… the most eminently practical way to live… not something to do, but something to Be.

But just how can you reconcile the nitty-gritty needs of everyday life with living a spiritual life? Especially when the daily grind seems to get in the way and haul you forcibly back from the Threshold you long to cross?

As a young mother with two small boys creating daily havoc and a longing to pursue my own spiritual studies, I read a chapter in ‘The Training and Work of an Initiate’ by Dion Fortune, one of the most respected esoteric teachers of the past century or so. She wrote of the Path of the Hearthfire and how each moment, each task, every dirty cup or grazed knee could be part of the bricks and mortar of a spiritual life. She explained, with her customary clarity, how every experience and every chore, if the attention is focussed and the intent conscious, becomes a rite… and is, therefore, a very real part of the spiritual journey. She wrote of the Unseen Guest for whom we may keep a place beside the hearthfire and, slowly, I began to understand.

Everything we do, learn or feel becomes part of the fabric of our being. Every choice we make takes us to another fork on that personal road and leaves its mark on who we are and who we will become. Our lives, our experience and our actions are a spiritual journey, whether we recognise it as such, or not. The only difference between those who walk a deliberately spiritual path, regardless of its name, and those who do not, lies in conscious choice, awareness and intent. Each of us may learn and grow without turning our backs on everyday life. All of us have the same rich vein of experience from which to extract alchemical gold.

There comes a point in most of our lives when we begin to question and may turn to whichever spiritual path seems to call us.  It is at this point we are also called to question the nature of the vessel we have formed from the gold of experience. ‘Know thyself’, phrased in innumerable ways, is a core tenet of the Mysteries, whatever path we choose.

We learn to see ourselves as a chalice, a vessel made from the raw materials of our personality and experience into which the wine of life has been poured. That vessel may be a thing of beauty… but is more likely to be a little skewed and battered. It may be jewelled with knowledge or made of an earthier clay. It matters little… we do not taste the vessel, it serves only to hold the wine.

There may come a moment when we wish to offer that vessel in dedication, to serve the Light we see.  To hold up that vessel and allow the Light to fill it… and to do so, the vessel must first be emptied. Many texts seem to teach that we must turn away from the world, ‘rise above’ our flawed humanity or become detached from the humdrum life. I do not believe that this is so.

Detachment is a cold thing, very different from the non-attachment that embraces all but is enslaved by none.

We are what we are… fully human, full of flaws and imperfect. Yet there is purpose to our imperfection for without it we could neither learn nor grow. Our imperfection is perfect in its design and mirrors something greater. To turn our backs on our humanity is to deny our nature and refuse the value of our unique experience upon this earth.

We craft the vessel from the sum of our experience, its light and its darkness, our gifts and our knowledge, bringing all that we are to its making. We offer our whole self willingly and with love…and such a dedication empties us of the fears and desires of the fragile and transient personality that thinks itself king. There is no ruler in unity.

To be no-thing but whole, to be now-here instead of nowhere…to be present and conscious within the universal embrace…empties the mind of who we think we should be…and allows us to be what we are.

39 thoughts on “Chalice

  1. I love this post!

    Right, experiencing emptiness, living in a state of universal nothingness that is the all and having “no self” gets you nowhere in the physical world. Yes we’re all light, I’ve seen it! But I think I’ve been way too excited and interested in living that oneness lately and that might be why I have trouble setting any plans or acting on them… 🙂

    How can you reconcile? I’ve asked myself this question too often lately. At least for me, when I spend a whole day in the gritty ins and outs of physical world doing and schedules and computer keyboards I “come to” at the end of the eight hours dissociated from my body and spiritually disconnected. I got a lot done! At what cost? I don’t have a clue, because I wasn’t Present for any of it.

    I can cross from this world to the next. The sacred is everywhere, no matter the world. But still, It’s a struggle so far to occupy both the connection of oneness and the individuation of the many simultaneously in a balanced, healthy way … and not get problematically lost.

    Sometimes I get frustrated with myself and fear I just don’t get it, that I’m a slow learner. Hearing that you wonder about this too and it isn’t easy for you helps me not get so discouraged or scared of the next time I check out for several hours and have to reorient.


    1. The inner and outer life should be the same for us, but the nature of balance is a perpetual wobble between the two that becomes equal and so appears stable. Achieving that state of poise is an active process. Recognising th sacred nature of the wobble helps 😉


  2. Beautiful, Sue. I really like the metaphor of the vessel. It goes beyond the practice of mindfulness by incorporating not only the now but all the pasts that brought us to the now. Poignant and serene.


  3. Some of lifes problems do not allow such freedom, not if it would come at others expense. No matter how much we wish it sometimes… The light is still inside me, but growing ever smaller in its imprisonment…


    1. That is such a sad statement, Jaye. We may have little choice in what we do, thanks to the demands and duties of our lives, but we still have a choice in what we bring to that doing… and there lies the inner freedom.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sadder than you know, Sue. It doesn’t matter what I bring to the situation, it’s never right or good enough, but far too old to really do anything constructive about it.


  4. Inspiring writing, Sue. I agree with the concept of Dion Fortune every little thing is a ritual and brought to our heart. Making a cup of coffee for my wife in the morning with love is a ritual or a little spell. Great writing Sue.


  5. I remember how happy I was to learn about ‘walking meditation’, which was described to me as above; doing each thing fully, with focus and immersing yourself in the experience – made the ‘doing’ of life so much more enjoyable! 🙂 Had I not been introduced to the concept yet, I assume I would still be scoffing at meditation and quipping, “Yup! I know, I most likely shall have a monkey mind forever, but sit still? for how long?!? ” LOL


      1. It was a saving grace for me – since I was at a time in life where there was a multitude of ‘chores of life’ to be done and sitting still for a soothing meditation meant, I simply fell asleep and disrupted the ambience with my snoring… 😀


        1. I’ve always found movement to be conducive to contemplation. Bringing heart, mind and body harmoniously together is one of the things we see as an integral part of the teachings in the school. Without falling asleep 😉


          1. Well, sleep walking, I can see – but I have NEVER awoke to find myself doing the dishes or weeding the garden! LOL (although I have written articles or fixed database codes in my sleep – – LOL)


  6. What a gorgeous analysis of life and human spirit. So true, we need to be acknowledging all that we are, all the time, not only when we find the time. I do try to live that way (most of the time). And I loved this, ‘We learn to see ourselves as a chalice, a vessel made from the raw materials of our personality. . .; ❤


    1. Thanks, Debby. We’re human, so it gets hard to remember sometimes. with the pressure of living, that we are not designed to be fragmented and doling ourselves oout in pieces to people and situations.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a beautiful post. I need to be reminded sometimes to be present and see the spiritual in the mundane. I feel that way when I feed my cats. What a pleasure and privilege it is to serve them.


  8. Thank you, Maria. Life tends to lull us into forgetting the living presence that we are. Service, with love and a whole heart, reminds us very well. The animals we live with are great teachers, both in love and in presence.


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