A Handy Spiritual Practice By Barbara Ardinger


Here’s a simple spiritual practice that I’ve been doing for longer than I can remember. During the regime of the Orange T. Rex, I started doing it at bedtime to calm my mind so I could go to sleep. We’re hopefully living in a more optimistic and peaceable time now, but that’s no reason not to add a new spiritual practice to our lives. I hope you’ll like this one and will try it for yourself.

We’re accustomed to seeing people praying with rosaries or reciting mantras and counting repetitions with strings of beads. We can do that, too. But how about using a simpler “tool” to keep track of our mantras and affirmations—our own hands?

How to use your hand? Make a fist and extend each finger as you say its affirmation. If you’re seated, lay your hand on the arm of the chair or in your lap and tap one finger at a time. Or just find your own way to keep track.

In the next paragraphs, I interpret what the affirmations in the illustration mean to me.

Thumb: All seems well. Yes, this is ambiguous, but consider what we’ve been living through since 2016, especially in 2020 with the pandemic and the election. Perhaps things have improved now. Perhaps some things do seem well. This ambiguity is the baseline upon which the rest of the handy practice is built.

Pointer finger: All things shall be well. This and the next finger are my paraphrases of the writing of Dame Julian of Norwich (ca. 1314-1416), a medieval English anchorite. Dame Julian lived through the Black Death and the Peasants Revolt and was the author of Revelations of Divine Love, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revelations_of_Divine_Love which is the first surviving book in the English language written by a woman. An interesting note about the conjugation of English verbs: the declarative (everyday) mood is I/we shall, you will, he/she/it/they will. Note that when the “shall” and the “will” are reversed—I/we will, you shall, he/she/it/they shall—we get the imperative mood. It’s emphatic. “All things shall be well” means that’s how it’s gonna be. When you say this affirmation (aloud or silently), say it emphatically.

Long finger: All manner of things shall be well. Again, my paraphrase. (What she really wrote is what she heard Jesus say in a vision: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”) Let’s look more closely at my version. “All manner of things”: not just a few things, but many things. What do you see as “all manner of things”? Your own welfare? The welfare of your family and friends? What’s happening in your neighborhood, city, state, nation? Think as personally or as generally as you want to when you say this. (You can of course change what things shall be well every time you repeat this affirmation.) Emphasize “all manner” as you think about what you want to be well. Then also emphasize “shall be well.” We’re not giving orders to the universe, of course, but we can shout if we want to.

Ring finger: All can only be well. A typical metaphysical affirmation. As you repeat it, see it as a universal goal. Try saying it five times, stressing each word in turn. ALL can only…. All CAN only…. All can ONLY…. Et cetera.

Pinkie finger: Om tare tuttare ture soha. Because I took refuge with Green Tara during a weekend workshop taught by Dagmola Jamyang Sakya many years ago, I use the Tara mantra. Translation: “I prostrate to the Liberator, Mother of all the Victorious Ones.” (Well, I don’t do the proper Tibetan prostrations. It takes me forever to get up off the floor.) Another goddess mantra is Vishwa Shakti Avaham. Translation: “Universal energy of the Divine Mother [Shakti], be present in my life.”

You can of course make other choices for your pinkie finger affirmation. Here are half a dozen ideas. Use them and/or make up new ones. Let your littlest finger be strong enough to hold a big intention.

  1. Deena Metzger’s Goddess Chant: “Isis Astarte Diana Hecate Demeter Kali Inanna.” You’re invoking seven powerful goddesses into your life.
  2. “We are the flow, we are the ebb. We are the weavers, we are the web.” (Probably composed by Shekinah Mountainwater.) We are active parts of the benevolent universe.
  3. A Beatitude. Here’s one I like: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” I have long believed that if Christians paid more attention to the Sermon on the Mount there would be less conflict in religious discussions.
  4. The opening line of a Psalm. Here’s Psalm 19 (AV): “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Open your own Bible and select the Psalm that speaks to your heart.
  5. These lines spoken by the exiled Duke in the Forest of Arden in Shakespeare’s As You Like It: “And this our life…/ Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,/ Sermons in stones, and good in everything./ I would not change it” (II, 1, 562-65). As we’ve seen in many posts by the FAR community, we can find much good in and learn much from Mother Nature.
  6. The first line of this Jerry Herman song from La Cage aux Folles: “The best of times is now.” Here’s the whole song from the 2010 Tony awards broadcast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBZLCnF4KC0 as sung by Douglas Hodge (who won the Tony that year) and the whole cast. It’s enormous fun to watch. (Those are the Cagelles dancing in the aisles.) For a cheery and inspiring conclusion to your handy spiritual practice, learn and sing the whole song.

[Note: Many thanks to Jennifer Ardinger for turning my sketch of the hand into real art. Many thanks to Meloney Hudson for teaching me the Shakti mantra.]

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic.  Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every DayFinding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations.  When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.



Categories: General, Healing, Ritual, Sacred Space, Spirituality, Women's Spirituality

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25 replies

  1. Love this and sharing. Thank you Barbara! Almost every night for about the past year, I go to bed listening to the Om Tare tuttare ture soha on YouTube. And love the ‘finger idea’ but also can get some lovely Goddess prayer beads from Jude Lally. I have a Sheela Na Gig one I am quite fond of.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Caryn. I just registered for your Divine Feminine site. I have two Goddess rosaries and a set of beads I made for my Dianic Wicca initiation. But if I try to use beads at bedtime, I sometimes fall asleep and drop them. My hands stays attached. Haha.

      Are you aware of Starr Goode’s book about Sheela na Gig? It’s excellent. (Starr and I are old friends.)

      Like

  2. I absolutely loved this “practice” of yours – often I awaken in the night fearful of (? – lots to choose from) and reciting a few words on five fingers seems like a great antidote.

    I appreciated your detailed explanations as well as the fluidity – You leave it to each individual to decide what to use….

    Julian of Norwich has always moved me deeply but I did not know that she was the first woman to write a book that survived…

    As for the Beatitudes… well, if we ever needed them we need them now.

    THANK YOU BARBARA!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks to you, Sara. You’re one of the people who inspired me to add the “nature” quote from Shakespeare. I think I first read a book about Julian about 20 years ago. Yes, she’s very inspiring. And hooray for the Beatitudes! Blessed be they…….

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  3. What a wonderful practice. Thank you for sharing it! I sometimes think that the simplest and most personal practices can be the most transformative because you have to really think about what they mean and how they relate to your own life. I love that you include options for everything from the Bible to Julian of Norwich to Shakespeare to La Cage Aux Folles. Wisdom doesn’t need to come from ancient and religious sources to be meaningful and true! I really appreciated this post and plan to make your hand practice a part of my routine.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Thank you for sharing this comforting, inspiring, and handy practice, Barbara. It is good that we have a more compassionate leadership in the White House, but I am know I am not alone in needing to give and receive comfort–and to find a way to affirm that all manner of thing shall be well. I love the suggested pinky practices. The bard’s words are so moving. I shall memorize them. Going to listen to the “The Best of Times is Now” right now. Thanks again!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I hope you enjoyed the song from La Cage aux Folles, It’s one of my all-time favorite shows. I have a fan-shot DVD. A major theme of this show about gay men and straight people is kindness and understanding.

      I bet you’re in the path of that new nor’easter. Stay safe!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Barbara, you’ve written many helpful, insightful (and, may I add, clever and amusing) posts, but this one is beyond that: direct, close at… uh… hand… practical help as we all try to thread our way through a very dark labyrinth.

    I love this, and fingers are a great mechanism if you’re clumsy like me, and always find your beads on the floor in the morning being happily batted around by a cat.

    Your inclusion of a variety of religious traditions in your practice mirrors my own eclecticism, too: Lady Julian, the Psalms, Tara, the Beatitudes… why not use anything we find helpful (I think of Terry Pratchett’s witches making “shambles” from things they happen to have in their pockets) or imbedded in our memories and psyches? The whole idea is, to me, freeing and enabling.

    Thanks for writing and sharing this.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thanks for your comment. I didn’t even think about Pratchett’s witches. What a good idea! They’re hilarious. Gee, all the Discworld novels are good and largely hilarious. Bright blessings to novelists.

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  6. What a wonderful idea, Barbara! I love that it is so easy to do and so calming. I have been reciting Dame Julian of Norwich’s for years, and your way will help me deepen my practice. Blessed Be!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Thanks for sharing this practice, Barbara. Connecting the lines of the prayer to my hand, blesses all that i touch in the world and all the work I do with my hands. Blessed be!

    Liked by 3 people

    • And as an artist, you do a lot of work with your hands. I guess your work with computers and websites is also “handy” work. Thanks for your drawing.

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  8. What a lovely post, Barbara. I’ve been singing Julian of Norwich’s “All Shall Be Well” for years and love the addition of the hand gestures. I’ve been using my hand every night for years for a gratitude practice. Pinkie: something small that I’m grateful for. Ring finger: some relationship that I’m grateful for. Middle finger: instead of flipping the bird, giving a compliment. Index finger: something I can point to that I’m grateful for. Thumb: two thumbs up for myself having done my gratitude practice. I think this kind of gratitude practice has changed me into a more loving and joyful person.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for your detailed look at the fingers. Yes, I agree that “All manner of things shall be well” is lots better for the middle finger than the usual, impolite gesture. I often think of things I did during my day when I’m “doing my fingers” before I go to sleep at night.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for sharing this wonderful practice. I’m going to try it out.

    Though we now have a sliver of hope there are still so many problems we all are confronted with. I particularly resonate with the underlying feeling of all the fingers – variations of “All can only be well.” Keeping this thought at the front on my consciousness really helps deal with life’s disappointments, opening one to an understanding that even what appears as bad can really be good in terms of our life’s lessons.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wahe Guru!
    Miss you. I’m glad you’re well. Like the idea. I tap my fingers on my thumb and do the Sa Ta Na Ma to calm myself. Can’t wait until we can do lunch again.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree , using the digits while affirming positive statements helps with focusing on your work.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you, Barbara! What a beautiful post and practice. Reading your words and brings me peace and helps me feel optimistic about today and the days ahead. I’ll never look at my fingers the same way again! Thank you for your writings and your teachings. I love them and appreciate you so greatly!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment. How’s things on your day job? Looking for something new yet??

      Just got back from the coin laundry. My downstairs neighbor came in, sat down next to me, and talked nonstop until the washer and the dryer were both finished. Then he walked me home and carried my rolling basket up the stairs. He’s one of my chauffeurs.

      Yes, the finger routine works. I do it nearly every night. Thanks for giving me the little finger mantra.

      ba

      Sent from Windows Mail

      Like

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