Scared is what happens when the sacred gets scrambled.
What does it mean to enter the sacred?
Sacred is something that is essential, something with great meaning, something we can’t do without. It is a moment of stillness so full we can’t afford to lose a drop of it; a moment of meaning so illuminating that it opens the combination lock of life and lets grace pour through. It is that moment when someone gets in touch with a great truth inside themselves, and feels the juice of their vital energy pouring into their chakras, a moment when we are incredibly alive. It is alignment with our deepest core.
Too many religions have scrambled the sacred. They have dictated what it is and what it’s not, surrounded it with fear, taken it from the hands of common people and sequestered it to the privileged. The result is a culture of fear, politics without meaning, education without wisdom, separateness without unity.
In truth, the things most sacred are the air we breathe, the land we walk upon, and our moments of deep connection. Sacredness is a space, not a thing, an experience, not a concept.
There was a time—and there still are places on this earth today—where the sacred was part of everyday life. In Bali you see little prayer offerings on the streets everywhere. In India, shrines are found in the most unlikely places, and worship of the sacred continues under the harshest of conditions. Native Americans saw the entire land of North America as sacred, without boundaries or divisions. Our Pagan ancestors saw the dance of the sun and moon as sacred, with holidays that marked the passing of the seasons.
I see many things as I travel about the world, but one commonality that stands out is a hunger for the sacred. When a ritualistic element is added, attention changes, energy quiets, and something unifies in the group. At the end of a workshop, it is not what people have learned or written in their notebooks that stays with them, but those moments of touching into the sacred: whether it be the sacred centers of the chakras, the sacredness of being centered in themselves, or the sacred gathering of people coming together to learn, to grow, to celebrate, and to open to something larger that gives their lives meaning.
Sacredness is a mystery. It can’t be described but we know it when we touch it. It can be invited and honored but it is a co-creation of our highest aspirations. It is something we remember when we do it, and something we do when we take time to remember.
Take time each week to enter into the sacred, however, you create it or find it. Whether it’s going into the forest, or celebrating your child’s birthday, whether it’s entering a church or temple or a moment of staring into your partner’s eyes, let those moments define the rest of your life.
Getting our Priorities Straight
I once heard about a science teacher who did a demonstration with a large glass jar, a bowl full of golf balls, a pile of pebbles, a cup of sand, and a thermos of coffee.
What do these things have in common, you might ask?
First he asked a student to place the golf balls in the large jar until it could hold no more. He then asked the class if the jar was full and they agreed that it was.
Next he asked another student to pour some pebbles into the jar. They slid down around the golf balls until the jar could take no more.
He asked the class if the jar was full, and they said that it was.
Next he poured a cupful of sand into the jar, which found its way around the pebbles, until the jar could hold no more.
Warily, the students suggested that the jar was now completely full.
Then the teacher poured a cup of coffee (some say it was beer. . .) into the jar, which seeped in around the sand. Holding up the jar for all to see, he then explained:
“The golf balls are what is most important to you. They are the things that have the deepest joy, your highest purpose. Extraordinary experiences, learning, time with family, time for yourself. Always place them first on your priority list and on your calendar.
“The stones represent your work and the things you do to make a contribution and a living. They are important, but they can fit around the golf balls.
“The sand represents those things we do everyday, like washing dishes, doing the laundry, and taking out the garbage. We fit them in after our work. They too, must be done, but they can always fit in around the more important things.
“If you started with the sand or the pebbles, you would never be able to fit in the golf balls, which represent what is most important. But if you start with the golf balls, you can always fit in the rest.”
A curious student raised his hand. “What about the coffee?”
He replied: “The coffee represents your unexpected moments with friends. We often think there is no room for it. But you can always make some time for a friend if everything else is in place, even when your life seems totally full.”