On a day when the weather was particularly lovely and uncommitted hours stretched before me, I found myself at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia.
When I noticed stone stairs leading into a hidden place, I could not resist them. Curious, I skipped my way down carefully. I found a quiet place among a few grave markers dating from the early 1800s.
On a brick wall above a grave marked Washington 1837 were the words:
Let my soul live and it shall praise Thee.
I paused to consider this. This seems to be the purest form of spiritual expression. Although I know the reference is from the Bible (Psalm 119:175), the statement itself is inclusive of all religions as it does not specify one in particular. It also doesn’t use gendered pronouns to identify a Higher Power, which is much appreciated from the feminist perspective.
The expression is simply one of gratitude for a life lived fully. At the heart of it all, there is mindfulness inherent in “let my soul live.” What a beautiful sentiment!
So often, we can get caught up in our particular form of religious practice. The concept of worship is one that gets lost in ritual and is defined only by what our particular denomination or religion specifies. However, when we live in gratitude for the small, beautiful moments of our lives we are truly expressing a deeper form of spirituality. In this form, we are not excluding others or judging their practice.
We are, quite simply, deeply grateful for the lives we lead.
In these moments, fully alive and aware, we can express gratitude for our relationships, our opportunities and even the struggles that inspire our growth.
When we redefine our concept of worship, we can discover peace and mindfulness by spending time in nature. Our worship can involve a mindful hike or a walk in the woods. For more urban dwellers, there are parks and gardens that offer a respite from our busy lives.
We can let our prayers be unspoken expressions of gratitude throughout our day and not formulaic appeals to a deity only at specific points in time.
When we find ourselves focused on our own growth and gratitude, we are less concerned with how others practice their spirituality or religion. Our concerns for others tend to be for their well-being rather than on how similar their spiritual expression is to our own. In this place, we can more easily love our neighbors rather than condemn them.
When we let our own souls live, we become too busy and enriched to try to manage the lives of others. Instead, we can choose to send out positive thoughts and compassion for them as a part of our spiritual practice.
I stumbled upon the words in a quiet place, when my soul felt fully nourished. I felt quiet contentment and self-possession, and when I paused to consider the words, I reflected that this is what someone chose to have engraved on stone above their resting place.
This was someone’s dearest hope: a desire to live fully and to express gratitude for what matters.
Although the words are now worn by weather and time, nearly 200 years later I was able to read them still and have them inspire me.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Volunteer editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Marina Blazevic at Pixoto
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