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.

16 thoughts on “Oshoko

  1. Corinna, I appreciate your sharing. I love your willingness to dive in and try everything and to report on it. I recently had a realization that I had my own philosophy. It was a good feeling. For a long time, now, it seemed as if I wondered about being something outside myself. Was I a Christian? A Buddhist? Some hodgepodge of New Age or New Thought?
    It seemed suddenly that I realized I wasn’t any one of them but simply someone living in his own philosophy that didn’t have to be defended. I walk a simple path of love, life and laughter with a bit of psychology and spirituality thrown in and it feels wonderful.

    • “And what religion are you?” someone asks.
      “Oh, I am a member of the ‘Hodgepodge’ community, We accept many different and diverse ideas. We.embrace them….change them….re-commit to them….toss them up….toss them out….redefine….
      until they become our own philosophy by which to live.”

      Works for me, Frank. Sounds like my journey of the past 60 years. And now Corinna’s journey has very much helped me to hone in on….or maybe that is to come home to…..my own philosophy by which to live. None of the above…..all of the above. “To walk a simple path of love, life and laughter”…..with a healthy dose of appreciating my spiritual connection with the world….total interconnectedness with the universe. There is a constant search for truth, but it feels like a good search. Solid, not frantic. I am good right now, too.

      BTW Walt. You have never sounded confused to me….at any point! It always sounds like your search is solid, too. MET

    • Thanks, Frank…and, as always, thank you for being with me on this journey. The further along I get, the more I ask myself, “can being a “none” be a legitimate choice in terms of spiritual identity?” If I stay a “none” can I sort of be everything or “all”?

  2. Corinna, I’m assuming that this ceremony of burning the incense and leaving is Oshoko?
    It sounds as though you are leading us into some understanding of what you have learned thus far in the next post.
    I was just considering how far you’ve come in all your “sampling” and tasting of different things….Do you ever feel confused by all this? I have some very distinct memories of being greatly confused at various times in our early journey (I’m sure some think me confused now!) by the bombardment of disconnect that we seemed to be receiving….and we were trying to follow only one way! 🙂

    • Hi Walt, yes, the incense-burning ritual is called Oshoko. I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been times during this exploration that I’ve been really confused. I suppose it’s a confusion less in my mind and more in my heart–like a deep discomfort at all the divisions people create between one another. Sometimes I’ve even felt very depressed by it and it’s made me wonder what I’m doing even trying to understand. But I feel a deeper, greater clarity coming on. Can’t say I’m quite there yet, but I hope I’m on the right path.

      • The older I get, the more personally I am at peace with how I’m coming to know God and how he is helping me to know him….and at the same time, more deeply pained at the confusion and pain in the world. Today, was watching a testimony of a Holocaust survivor along with some students and wondering what these 16-year-olds were “getting.” The lady was 15 when she was taken away, and that hit some of them….
        I appreciate that, in your search, you are not “playing” with religion…people need real answers….or at least to know that others are uncertain as well….

      • One of the tragically fascinating things about humanity is that, throughout history, we seem to know innately we are connected and should treat each other with dignity, yet we so consistently fail. I was just reading an entry on the Huffington post site about “13 Stories That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity”: Muslim women in Pakistan guarding a Christian church from attack; Christian men in Berlin wearing yarmulkes after thugs attacked a rabbi on the street; and the list goes on. They’re great stories, but how many of the differences these people are overcoming–religious, ethnic, economic–were created and perpetuated by humanity? If aliens were to land here tomorrow and ask us why so many divisions exist among us, what would we answer? More importantly, if we believe, as I do, we are all God’s children, how would we explain to Him why we choose to define those who are different from us as the “other”? It can be depressing at times, but I choose to believe that, given the chance, we can look past those differences. I think this blog is proof of that.

  3. Dear friend, Thank you very much, I was really happy to have been following your blog. I’m still a lot to figure out, and here I can only say that you are an awesome blogger, full Inspiring and hope you can inspire more readers. Thanks and greetings compassion from Gede Prama 🙂

  4. Along the lines of What Tim was saying, about the ‘good’ stories that are out there……there is something I am finding much comfort and even joy in these days. I am deeply impressed with Pope Francis and deeply impressed with what he seems to see as his responsibility in the role of the Rock of the Church.

    I am thinking that in his short tenure there has already been more healing amongst people than we have seen in many, many, many a year. I look forward to an pray him a long and fruitful life.

    Corinna, will it discourage you if I say that, in my opinion, the questioning never goes away? Even when we are truly in our faith, we have the minds God gave us. I remember reading once a statement to the effect that Jews considered the brain God gave them and it’s gift to constantly ask “Why?” as the greatest gift of all. I personally would consider it the second greatest gift He gave us, but you know what I mean.

    Here is to your continued safe journey. Just be honest with yourself….and always listen to that whisper in your heart. I continue to enjoy your blog greatly,

    Yours in Christ

      • With this wildfire, it left many many dead trees. We are cutting them, piecing them out if there is an acceptable log in there later to build with, using other logs for later firewood piles, but piling the crisp leftover branches…and burning them, pile by pile in the snow…they must be tended to, adding in the burnt branches as they fall out of the fire, put back into the fire….

        I can understand oshoko, without even have done it in a temple…

        catching up to all your posts!

  5. Perhaps, eventually, the “searching” turns into observation and observation evolves into personal revelation. I like to think that therein lies what the Bible calls, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.”

  6. Corinna…..the questioning I am talking about is the questioning you face about life. No matter how strong my faith, I always have questions about WHY? Why this and why that, and why another sorrow. Or sometimes it is questions about the strength of my own faith and understanding. But I do not hesitate to say that I search no further than the belief and faith I have stated here before. The questioning I am speaking about is the questioning of being a human being.

    My personal opinion, whether is is shared by others or no isn’t important, is that there is a homeplace and a place of faith to lay your head and heart. I encourage you to continue your search for that, and pray that when you find it, you will embrace it.

    Yours in Christ

  7. I love Frank’s realization that he has his own philosophy. Now it’s my realization too. I’m glad not to have to affiliate myself with an organized religion in order to have a philosophy!

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