In her latest book, Gunilla Norris introduces a spiritual practice she has found meaningful for more than 25 years and continues to use today. MATCH – Bringing Heart and Will into Alignment, 90 Days of Practice, was released in 2014 by Homebound Publications. It is the 21st book in a long line of accomplishments by this prolific author who entered the literary world writing children’s books, 11 in all, followed by a book of poetry. Since then she has spawned a series of down to earth, inspiring, spiritual selections that keep her many readers coming back for more. Aching to be inspired and to experience different paths that might bring us closer to our source, closer to an enlightened consciousness, we seek and search hoping to make some connection. MATCH introduces a practical way to get in touch with our spirituality through a 90 day practice to do just that.
“Like a low grade fever, I think we have a yearning for more consciousness, more engagement and more meaning about things we don’t pay attention to when we are rushing about,” says Gunilla. “And when something big happens like the loss of a partner, or a big change, we realize we have this yearning for more wholeness.”
And that was exactly where she found herself so many years ago. After sharing her very personal experience of what led her to this practice, what follows in MATCH are two parts, About the Practice and The Practice itself. That consists of 90 short thought provoking daily reflections that can lead to further reflection or a journal entry, but definitely leads toward a deeper experience of the practice. The practice is simple yet powerful and involves a household item as mundane as can be…an old fashioned box of wooden kitchen matches. Who would have thought? “We are creating a symbolic furnace out of a box of kitchen matches,” she writes. The box gets covered with carefully chosen symbols that will encourage alignment with the heart, mind and spirit. It becomes a guide, an inspiration and a treasured work of art. The matchsticks are bundled in a certain way and kept in the “hearth.” I don’t want to give away the entire process but MATCH is filled with this analogy. We have a fire within us that creates greater authenticity, guiding us to be who we are meant to be. The practice helps us to discern and grow closer to that intention and purpose.
She says, “When people do any spiritual practice it’s because they have a deep yearning. The thing I like about it is it uses the senses. So when you can identify something that you deeply wish to become, or have in your life, and I’m not talking about Cadillacs and lovers, I’m talking about qualities of being. And when you get in touch with that, and identify such a longing, then very often images come to us inadvertently in the world. Something invokes that feeling. And when we put that image on our matchbox it serves as a reminder. This is a practice that keeps you in connection with your longing. There is constancy. When you are constant with something it grows within us.”
She doesn’t believe we ever fulfill that longing. “Most of us yearn our whole lives for a deeper connection, for more meaningful dailiness because the television, advertisements and the new shirt are not gonna do it.” We think they will though, and she reminds us that it is in surrendering and giving ourselves away that we are fulfilled. The practice helps you give yourself away, turning the self over to the desire. Our yearning is about authenticity and wholeness.
“People want to be more kind, more loving, they want to serve more, be more present. It’s longing to be more of who we really are and we get to that through different qualities. It’s about needing to live what you really are.”
It is a concrete practice that Gunilla considers “doable.” “It’s 90 days and through that you’ve proven the practice, proven that you can do this for that period. You can smell the sulfur, you can see the flame, you can feel the heat with your finger, you can see the burnt matches representing a day in your life. It’s real and symbolically concrete. It’s really incarnational. It’s in the doing of it and the material itself that we touch the flame. You’re holding something real. You’re holding an image that you glued together. It matters. When we anchor something in physical reality and stay with it we can see how that reality is infused with spirit rather than separate from spirit. That’s what I mean by incarnational, we are infused with God’s desire for us to be whole.”
These matchboxes are vehicles of growth she says, and Gunilla has all her matchboxes that she considers almost a “spiritual biography.” She recounts using one for three years because she couldn’t quite get the message. So she stayed with it until she did. She didn’t mind because it was more important that she learn what it had to teach.
The lessons keep coming as Gunilla maneuvers the ever changing world of publishing. Her 17 year old granddaughter Naomi Middleton has made a YouTube video (www.youtube.com/watch?t=67&v=txVN7G0_VHE) about this practice with interviews of people who have done it. And a new book called Embracing the Seasons will be released in June and a collection of her poetry will be released in 2016 by Homebound Publications.
“I practice my matchbox practice every day to try to listen to my heart’s deep longing and try to bring my will toward serving that longing. That is like a promise to myself, to do that every day, to somehow live that every day. If you keep that promise to yourself, you’re striving for truthfulness in your being … an authenticity. Tending the flame is about bringing the will into surrender with the heart’s longing. Our egos want to go trotting off to anything that looks interesting, rather than follow what the heart longs for which is different. It’s practice, practice, practice. We have to be willing to feel what is knocking at our heart’s door. If you want to live more authentically you have to be more honest and move toward that which your heart longs for.”