The Sacred Year: Mapping the Soulscape of Spiritual Practice — How Contemplating Apples, Living in a Cave, and Befriending a Dying Woman Revived My Life by Michael Yankoski is a book about one man’s exploration of various ancient and modern spiritual practices. With a monk as a guide, Yankoski embraces spiritual practices so he can focus on living more attentively, more simply, and with more gratitude.
I will admit I was drawn to the book because of the subtitle. I am glad I was. This book is worth it.
There were times I was thinking this Michael guy is a little weird. In the beginning chapter, he spends about an hour looking at an apple. “And the color!” he writes, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you an apple is red. To generalize is to miss the thing entirely, to lose the spark in the blizzard, to lose the hazelnut in the harvest.” So the “contemplating apples” practice is probably not something I will incorporate into my own life, but there is so much richness found in this book. Do not write him off as a spiritual lunatic. He wants to notice, attend, observe, and contemplate.
The book opens with Yankoski in a life crisis. To combat the feeling where “everything is getting lost in the chaos,” he embraces various spiritual practices. Maybe when you hear the words “spiritual practice,” you feel uncomfortable. I was once in a church service where we were invited to sharpen pencils as a way to reflect that we are to fully enter into the Advent season. Or something like that. Honestly, I do not totally remember because I was silently mocking it in my head. I will tell you this: that service is indelible in my memory whereas many other church services blur into a mix of repetition. The Sacred Year has the potential to make an impact on your life.
A word of caution, though: if you are looking to read a book that will tell you how to embrace spiritual practices yourself, this is not your book. This book serves as a memoir and not a guide to the spiritual practices.
Spiritual practices, he explains, “are not isolated silos of focused spirituality. Rather, when taken together, the spiritual practices form an interwoven, mutually reinforcing whole. […] Gratitude flows into simplicity, and simplicity reverberates […] in care. Justice and protest and community stand in healthy, invigorating tension with solitude and silence and Sabbath.”
I really enjoyed this book. I appreciated Yankoski’s writing, but it was more than that. You can tell he is genuine. It does not feel like he was simply trying on different spiritual practices so he could have material to write a book. He writes, “We aren’t meant to accomplish the practices, to check them off our lists.” It is that authenticity present within the pages that will make me remember this book. Perhaps it is not a book for everyone, but it has potential to impact you. Do not just read this book, but chew on it as if you are on a diet that requires you to chew each piece of food twenty times before swallowing. Let it simmer in your mind.
You can buy The Sacred Year on Amazon here.
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.