At the end of the service, everyone who wishes is invited to the altar to burn a bit of incense.
I didn’t know what to expect as I stood in the line that formed up the center aisle. I could see each person bow, and then I saw a thin plume of smoke rise and chase after them in the wake of their departure. When I got to the front of the line, I bowed with my hands at my heart as I had observed others do. I was surprised to find that the incense wasn’t a stick, but a heap of fine granules like sand. I took a pinch between my fingers and placed it in a box with a red-hot surface. Instantly, it smoldered and I inhaled the intense woody scent.
As I turned, I could see the smoke bend in my direction. I followed the smoke from the previous person, and mine followed me. It was already dissipating in my wake. Like the words of chants or songs or prayers, like appreciation itself that starts in our hearts, it was moving up and out into the world in ways I was only beginning to understand.