Speaker: Mary Ann Brussat

Everyday sacred renaissance: Exploring the potencies of being spiritually literate

Mary Ann Brussat learned as a young teenager how to see the sacred in the everyday, and in every culture and context. When her South Dakota-based family moved to Karachi, Pakistan, in the early 1960s so her father, a physician, could work with a USAID-affiliated project for Pakistani doctors, Mary Ann became foundationally trained to be open to and aware of the beauty in the ordinary. She met local Pakistanis through the interdenominational church her family attended, the bazaars, villages, and people right next door -- and began recognizing the sign of the universal connection in that new land and people. "Our family used to say that every time we left our house in Karachi, we would see something we had never seen before," she reflects. "And it was the little things I was most fascinated by."

Along with her husband Frederic Brussat, Mary Ann for the past several decades has co-architected SpiritualityandPractice.com (S&P), an excavation of cultural and spiritual resources across faith, culture, and ethnic lines. The website's curation of materials -- from quotations and poems, to reviews of books and films, to virtual courses by leading wisdom teachers -- serve as insightful companions for those on spiritual journeys.

She lives and works with the tenet that eternal, universal truths are not localized to holy places. extraordinary acts, or a special day in the week. Instead, they are embedded in our contemporary lives -- in signs, symbols, poems, music, films, rituals, places, daily chores, and relationships. She believes anyone can develop the capacity to connect with the passage of spirit through the quotidian landscape - if they are open to "start where they are." The crux of cultivating this spiritual perspective is to entrain our cognitions -- a subtler form of re-cognition -- to relate anew with the materials of our day-to-day lives.

She shares: "a snowflake melting, a bee sucking honey, a seemingly ordinary (hu)man at a traffic light giving you directions. That's it to me. Little acts. Everyday things. Moments when we feel connected to something greater than our individual selves. Times when we serve others."

Her lens of perception shares roots with diverse religious traditions and also upholds secular and spiritual sensibilities. "Sufi mystics share that the fingerprint of the beloved is in everything," she shares, "whereas Islam holds that everything that happens inside and outside of us is 'a letter to be read', and medieval monks called it reading the book of the world." In that sense, the practice of being open to the sacred in everyday, ordinary reality propels a multi-faith worldview.

This goal speaks through Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life, a book she and Frederic co-authored in 1996 as a collection of more than 650 examples of spiritual perspectives on everyday experience. They introduced the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy -- 37 spiritual practices that are common across world religions. In 1999, a Canadian film company turned the Brussats' Alphabet of practices into a 26-episode television series. Soon after, the Brussats wrote Spiritual Rx: Prescriptions for Living a Meaningful Life, an experiential book that helps readers explore practices befitting their particular path.

Mary Ann is an interfaith Minister ordained by the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary and a 'Christian-Sufi' Initiate of the Mevlevi Sufi Order that traces its inspiration to Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi. She remains actively attuned to the idea that "in our era of extreme polarization, we need to find points of connection among groups." She and Frederic, who is a United Church of Christ clergyman, have embraced a far-sighted view of their work from the get-go. They arrived in New York City in 1969 with no jobs and to dream up their own careers at the intersection of spirituality and culture. This was largely unheard of -- but they were persistent. Together they brought along interests and degrees in philosophy, history, media and arts, religion, and political science.

In 1972, they started their first publication Cultural Information Service (CIS) where they reviewed movies, books, and events. They described it as a "monthly rendezvous with serious art which offers us opportunities to deepen our perceptions, expand our vision." As their creative approach rippled across New York, they began producing educational materials and television guides -- eventually working with leading media houses to launch a constellation of projects merging the internet, art, media, and spirituality. Their work eventually culminated in SpiritualityandPractice.com, which consolidated previous newsletters and websites to establish sections on more than 2000 spiritual practices. Bonus: Enjoy this 2018 review Mary Ann wrote for Bruce Springsteen's Broadway show in New York City, and the sermons on place, relationships, and service underpinning the show.

Mary Ann is a member of Judson Memorial Church, a United Church of Christ congregation in New York City. Judson's long-standing commitment to arts and social justice for LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities bears special meaning for her. The Brussats live in Pilgrim Place, an intentional community in Claremont, California, since 2015, together with their Maine Coon cats, Rumi and Shams.

Come join us for a call with this explorer, culture-shaper, and practitioner of everyday sacred adventures.

The call will be moderated by Charles Gibbs, an Episcopal priest and Sufi by adoption and Janessa Gans Wilder, a CIA officer turned peacebuilder.

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