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Excerpted from Work As a Spiritual Practice by Lewis Richmond. Copyright 1999 by Lewis Richmond. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"These humble objects are, indeed, capable of becoming your close spiritual friends."

Lewis Richmond, Work As a Spiritual Practice, Part 6

To understand that a sound is not something outside ourselves, but something within, is a shift of consciousness that can lead to a different understanding of who we are for others and who others are for us. From that insight comes generosity, compassion, and wisdom.

It may not seem like such a great accomplishment to tap our fingers in time with the ringing of a phone. But spiritual learning is nothing other than the accumulation, over time, of such small, modest awakenings. Eventually this can lead to a fundamental shift of perspective, a change in the sense of who "I" am and what "the world" is.

It is said that the monk, on hearing the words the cypress tree in the garden, experienced such a shift in perspective. In understanding such a story, it is important to realize how intimately that tree was a part of the monk's daily life, just as the ringing phone was a part of Julie's. The cypress tree in the garden was already in his heart. He passed it every day as he carried water to the kitchen, or firewood to the bathhouse, just as we might pass the office copier or the paper cup dispenser as we walk down the hall. That is why hearing the words the cypress tree in the garden caused his heart to open. Through spiritual practice, through concentrated attention over a long period of time, the tree was already growing within him.

The cypress tree in the garden can be anything, as long as we really see it and hear it, are open to it, and have an alert, caring, questioning mind.

This is the koan of everyday life. This is the potential of the workplace to be, for each of us, a spiritual place. This is the world seen with the eyes of awakening, a world in which everything we see and touch is offered to us as a gift.

Lift your eyes from this page, look up, look around you. Notice the first thing you see. What is it? A desk lamp? A window shade? A pencil? These humble objects are, indeed, capable of becoming your close spiritual friends.

Greet them as friends, because as you peruse this book, they will befriend as well as challenge you.

If nothing else, the next time the phone rings I hope that you will remember Julie, her tapping finger, the monk, and the cypress tree, and consider the possibility that the voice on the other end of the line might be someone other than the person who placed the call.

It might be you yourself.

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