From the Archives: A Handy Spiritual Practice by Barbara Ardinger

Originally posted on February 7, 2021. You read the original comments here.

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.

ThumbAll 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 fingerAll 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, 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.]

BIO:Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (barbaraardinger.com), is the author of Secret Lives, a novel about crones and other magical folks, Pagan Every Day, a unique daybook of daily meditations, and other books. She really enjoys writing her monthly blogs for FAR. Her work has also been published in devotionals to Isis, Athena, and Brigid. Barbara’s day job is freelance editing for people who have good ideas but don’t want to embarrass themselves in print. To date, she has edited more than 400 books, both fiction and nonfiction, on a wide range of topics. She lives in Long Beach, California, with her rescued calico cat, Schroedinger.



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

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5 replies

    • And it’s fun and easy to do. I like to do this handy practice when I go to bed and review my day. I hope everyone who reads this post will enjoy the practice. It’s so simple. Bright blessings to us all!

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  1. I loved this post when you first posted it and I love it even more now, when we are all trying to take in and respond to so much from the past weeks. I can never remember complicated rituals, prayers, or practices, so this is perfect. I appreciate the ambiguity of the first phrase because in these times we need to live with ambiguity, to find both solace and a commitment to making things well even when there is no guarantee. The variety of possible “pinkie” affirmations is wonderful since we all find meaning in so many different ways and it’s important that we have choices, even day to day. It reminds me of Elizabeth Warren’s “pinkie promises” with little girls during her campaign and afterwards! Your posts are always wise, compassionate, and presented in ways that are easy to bring to our own lives. Thank you for sharing them with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I prefer simplicity, too. Keeping track on our fingers lets us free our minds to fly into visualizations or songs or even biblical texts (some of which are, yes, excellent). And yes, choice, is good. Why pray the exact same way every day? Rote prayer gets boring and ineffective. Let’s hope that all seems well. Thanks for your kind words about my posts. I like to be creative when I write them. Bright blessings!

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  2. I remember this and like it still – these days my mantra is “just keep going” – I leave it at that –

    Liked by 1 person

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