Sue Bender, in her book Everyday Sacred, uses the symbolism of the bowl to depict the spiritual life. She relates this image to Tibetan monks, who as part of their training must survive with begging bowls: they must ask for what they need and make use of what they are given before they can beg for more.
Everyday Sacred literally fell off the shelf and into my arms one day, as I was reaching for a novel in the library. It could not have appeared at a better time. I was mesmerized by Bender’s words, and loved her analogy. I could relate to the idea that we are bowls, or vessels for Spirit, and that whatever comes into our life must be consumed and processed before we can ask for more. In this way, we make life sacred.
Shortly after discovering the works of Sue Bender, my marriage ended, leaving me shattered and scarred. I prayed for a sign that everything would be okay. Signs and omens surrounded me, and I felt comforted. Then I got my new phone number. I was disappointed that it had no obvious pattern to remember: 2695 were the last digits. One day as I sat musing over how I was going to remember the number, I had a thought: what did the numbers spell?- b-o-w-l. Bowl!
Life had served me up a full helping of misery, and it would be a long time before I could empty it, but I came to understand that emptiness is what I needed before anything good could come my way. As long as I hung on to anger, grief, or resentment, my bowl did not have room for anything else. Empty was the goal.