A lamp outside of the towering iron window casts an eerie glow on the white and black checkered marble floor. The balls of my feet tread slowly across the slick tile, that even the slightest hint of a muffled echo wouldn’t disturb the outstretched shadows.
Gradually my pupils adjust to the dim half-light. Blocks of stone reveal soaring statuary shrouded in twilight. Free from overhead light, the sculpted figures loom taller, reaching upwards into the dome overhead.
My head tips back, perpendicular with the floor below, as I join the millions of wondering souls who have traveled to this space. Wonder is too weak a word for the smallness that wraps around me when looking into the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral London. Hundreds if not thousands of carvings cast one gleaming blanket in the crepuscular light.
And yet, for all the heartbreakingly beautiful artistry, there is something more precious in this space. Something invisibly held in the hushed, hollowed hall:
A story of hope, perseverance, and devotion is etched into every stone. Love and courage flit across the vaulted arches. The same arches for which men risked their lives keeping watch for fires during the nine-month Blitz in World War II.
When we enter a sacred space, our thoughts are turned like shards towards a magnet to those fundamental questions: Why am I here? What is my purpose?
These questions realign an inner compass with our core principles and beliefs.
Did you know that St. Paul’s Cathedral, known for its towering dome rising from the heart of London, is itself a gargantum compass?
More than St. Paul’s – most Anglican, Roman and Orthodox churches are oriented in the same geographic direction. The art, the pews and the altars point in one direction: East.
The Cathedral walls hold collective history that points the way forward.
Wherever I wander in this inky darkness, I know where to find the rising sun come morning.
How do you calibrate your inner-compass?
This year, my Lenten spiritual practice is to calibrate my inner-compass every day.
Each morning I take one to three minutes to remember and reflect on my values and core beliefs. The principles I aspire to realize throughout the day.
For me, this practice involves reading a few pages in an ordinary orange journal. The thick, cream pages hold a collection of values, visions and beliefs – from core character traits to the deep truths that guide my decision-making. A few inspirational quotes are sprinkled around too!
It can feel a bit silly to read a home-made book, scrawled in messy cursive (using my signature collection of paper mate colored pens). But how else can I keep all of those life-giving moments top-of-mind?
Day two in my first consulting job, on the 45th floor of a highrise in Manhattan, a colleague asked me, “Do you know what your principles are?”
Locking eyes, I spouted off three guiding ethical maxims. It was all I could do not to break into a self-satisfied grin.
Walking home on the ever-crowded sidewalks of the Lower East Side, dozens and dozens of answers kept jumping into my head like pop-corn on a sizzling pan.
The easy practice of recording and re-reading my core beliefs helps me start the day refreshed and connected to my highest self. Cathedrals have captured and held peoples’ truths for hundreds of years. Why shouldn’t each of us have a little help to point us in the right direction, even in the dark?
With all of the concern and precautions surrounding COVID-19, now more than ever, we need to stay grounded and run the long race. Taking 1-minute a day to steep in your core values and beliefs helps each of us to prioritize and remain resilient in the face of uncertainty.
Does it take time, thought and care to record your core values, visions and beliefs in one place? Yes yes. But the discipline of grounding your day in what really matters spills over into every domain of life.
Do you have any personal practices to help focus and bring your intentions to life? I’d love to learn from you! Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below.