I asked readers to define “Sacred.” Here are the winning comments.
A few weeks ago, I asked readers to tell me what “The Sacred” meant to them.
Because I know I am not alone in developing a sense of spirituality that has little (or nothing) to do with religion.
I grew up in a very religious community, and attended Catholic schools until I went off to college at age 18. But even before I left, my experience with my religion left me feeling alone.
There had to be more to spirituality than morality, authoritarian organizations with hierarchical structures, and deities that demanded my obedience (even if obeying them was for my own good).
There had to be more to life and the Universe than a parent-child relationship between me and a deity. Or even a “follow me to salvation” relationship between me and a deity’s son.
So I began to develop my own spirituality. Now, when I say something is “sacred,” I don’t mean it’s dedicated to a god or set aside for use in a ritual.
I mean it exists on a level beyond that which we commonly experience. (Everything exists beyond that level.) I mean it can connect me with the eternal, and with all of life. And when I say “all of life,” I don’t only mean all of humanity that exists right now. I mean all of humanity that ever has, or ever will exist—as one family, one body. I mean the world we live in and the animals we live with in it.
I mean something that can expand my consciousness beyond my small experience from day to day, and remind me that there’s more going on here.
“Sacred” is more of an understanding, a way of going about life and relating to the people and things I encounter, than any specific object or event.
My interpretation and definitions are always evolving. Something like “the Sacred” kind of resists being defined anyway. You know—“The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.” That kind of thing.
But we don’t need definitions to have ideas and expand our understanding. So I asked readers to define what “The Sacred” meant to them, and picked two comments as “winners.” There were more responses than I expected, and they were all so insightful. I had a really hard time picking two that stood out, because they all did. (I know, I know—it’s kind of expected that I’ll say something like that before sharing the winners, but it really is true.)
So here are two that kept coming to my mind again and again, even while I was away from the computer. (These comments won $25 gift cards to Amazon.) Their names link to their websites.
Christa Avampato: A force that makes me believe in magic and wonder. A force that makes me feel connected to those around me as well as to those I will never meet. A power that shows me we really are all in this together.
Sharon Bohnenberger: We have all experienced moments in our lives when our words seemed to fail us, and we could do nothing more than stand in absolute awe of Life. I have experienced this when standing on the beach at twilight as the first stars became visible, when sitting beside a mountain stream in the forest-filtered sunlight, or lying in a tube being pulled across a massive lake behind my dad’s boat. I know the science. I know what makes the stars shine and what makes a tree grow. I know how lakes are formed. None of that diminishes the wonder and beauty of all that surrounds me.
An old Native American proverb acknowledges that, “The Wind that gave me my first breath also received my last sigh.” I believe that we (every living thing on this planet) are far more connected than we have yet realized. Our lives, our words, our thoughts, our actions affect everyone and everything around us. Faith, for me, is trust in that connection. The Source of that awe, the Ground of Being (whatever that is) is where words fail and Life is experienced.
Imagine how vastly different the world would look if we realized our interconnectedness with all of life. What could be accomplished in terms of cleaning our environment, feeding our hungry, healing our sick, and sheltering our homeless if we would simply, and honestly, love each other? The sacred is here, now, in the dirt and the muck of everyday life. It is seen in the innocence of childhood, in the waves on the shore, in the man who gives up his life to save a stranger’s, in the mountain spring, but also in the homeless shelters, in the asylums, in the jailhouses, nursing homes and hospitals.
There is nothing supernatural about it, except that most people do not consider it “natural” to love the entire world so much that you would give up everything you have for the life of another. Our lives consist of many small decisions that, in the end, either leave this world a better or worse place than when we found it. We die (as everything does) into the very Ground of Being, the Source of Life. We return from whence we came and continue nourishing new life. Life isn’t a holding pattern until we get to “a better place.” Life is our chance to make this a better place.
Thanks again to everyone who entered! You can see all the rest of the comments here.
© Leslie Hedrick 2015. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact me to request usage.SUBSCRIBE