To Live in a Sacred Manner

To live in a sacred manner…

These are the words that hummed in my core this morning as I sat with my cup of fragrant tea by the window, reading the inspirational book that I have been slowly savoring for the past weeks.

I sit now in the early spring sunshine, still wearing my ‘hoodie’ for warmth but feet bare upon cool bricks and earth, a notebook and pen in hand, my back pressed against the roughly furrowed skin of the Grandmother, the great Monterey cypress that presides over the front of this small cottage. It is cold in the house, warm in the sun, and sitting quietly against the trunk I am enfolded by the conversations of crow, jays, sparrows, robins, and juncos throughout the trees, hedges, and shrubs of the neighborhood. A soft breeze murmurs overhead, carrying ageless stories through the green boughs.

I unwrap the blue scarf from around my neck, run fingers through a mane of unruly greying hair, press my back firmly against the tree. In my feet and lower legs, I feel the slight energetic tingling that comes from being connected directly to earth, sole to soil, as we were born to be. I decide that I will write my Morning Pages, three handwritten pages of stream of conscious writing, here, soaking up the morning sun and ruminating on the timeless question still echoing inside.

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What is it to live in a sacred manner?

deer_lavenderIt means to remember the Larger Story of which we are a part. It means to live like any other creature of nature, playing a small but essential role in the place we dwell, interconnected to everything else. It means seeing the Divine in everything—the unbridled intelligence and creativity of the Universe at work, from earthworms to eagles.

No easy thing, this. We are each swept up in the daily demands of life—work, family, bills, traffic, coping with pain, getting a meal on the table. How easy to lose sight of anything larger than whatever is most pressing, or the loudest and most distracting. Yet to live in a sacred manner means, partly, to listen for and notice those things which are often hushed, subtle, and easily missed. The Holy speaks softly. Morning sunlight streaming through the dusty windows, illuminating the curtains and the wood grain of the floor… or glinting like silver on the crow’s back. Bulbs pushing up from dark earth. A polyp of young round fruit swelling daily on the branch. A luminous crescent of moon through a tangle of dark boughs. The warm, familiar feel of a lover’s hand taking your own.

To live in a sacred manner is to welcome the moment, senses cast ajar, whether it brings happiness or heartbreak.

This is what you came for, reminds the angel. To experience the daily moments of a sensual reality, each thing seemingly distinct and separate but all part of the seamless web of energy and life.

Ah, but how easily we forget. We drop the thread of wonder and appreciation, or lose it entirely in the thicket and thorns. We become so tangled up in our struggles, drama and distractions that it requires serious magic to break the spell and bring us back to our senses.

Coming to our senses. Isn’t that what it’s all about? To touch, taste, smell, hear, see—and feel—with a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the moment. We remember… and forget. Remember once more, and forget again. We are each traversing the sacred spiral of life, traveling forward (or just stumbling) along the arc and then seemingly moving backward, yet really still going forward all along. Sometimes it is the back loop that helps us remember—or a dream, a poem or story, an email from a friend, an unexpected encounter with a person or thing—and suddenly the perspective shifts, refocuses and becomes wider as we go forward once more… even if our heart remains heavy or wrapped in blue.

We are only passing through, some of us more briefly than others. To live in a sacred manner is to appreciate and acknowledge the brevity of all that breathes. “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?” Yes, yes, so painfully true.

I woke this morning in the early morning light, unsettled by a long and troubling dream, grateful to be reemerging to this ordinary day world. A cold house and a cup of warm tea. Stepping out to greet the Holy, arriving in beauty in every moment. Quiet reading by the window until the earth revolved enough on its axis that the sun ‘rose’ over the cottage and I could sit here on bare earth in early warmth, watching the feathered ones who arrive to feed on the millet and seeds I offer each morning. Feeling a gratitude for ancestors and guides, for my beloved, an appreciation for life in all its forms, from microbes to mice, jays to jasmine, fields to friends.

To live in a sacred manner is to treat the bodysoul as the sacred vessel of life that it is, as if it mattered and had unspeakable value. Nourishing food, clean water, adequate sleep, exercise and movement, deep breathing, sweet sex… knowing each of these is a gift in itself. Gratitude, gratitude.

To cohabitate with the sacred doesn’t require being a monk, a nun, or a saint… only human. It doesn’t mean we can’t have a bad day, suffer our disappointments, or lose sight of our dreams. It means being ‘embodied’ rather than enlightened; celebrating the bones and breath, uncovering our wounds, finding the gifts of them, and blessing them as holy… holy.

To walk a sacred path means carrying an appreciation for the cycle of life, grateful for each thing that dies, carrots to cows, that we may be fed. It means receiving each gift in the spirit of acknowledgment. To take what we must—not more than that—in a gesture that is humble and honoring rather than entitled.

It means being mindful of ‘resources’, and appreciating the clean water that flows from the tap like a modern miracle—knowing where it comes from, and where it’s going. Strive to do no harm.

See the universe in a grain of rice. Or sand. And your child’s eyes. The dying bird.

To live in a sacred manner is to understand that the Holy is not in a row of wooden prayer pews, or a cathedral of stained glass, nor in a sacred well or grove of oak trees, or the misty heights of Machu Picchu. It is here, in the heart and opened senses. Everywhere.

To live in a sacred manner is to be other than merely productive, worthy as that may sometimes be. It is to live with heart wide open and senses ajar, gathering in the moment and what surrounds. It is to cultivate a sense of harmony, deriving nourishment from our environment, and offering something of value in return—even if that is only our praise. Or our song. A poem. Or tender hands laid upon the coarse bark of a tree, an animal’s fur, our beloved’s cheek.

Grieve and weep for the deep suffering of the world, sing and dance for its ravishing beauty.

To what will we offer the gift our attention? To what will we offer our gratitude and praise?

Gather together to console the heartache, to share and celebrate the goodness. Say in words and actions each day, over and over, yes, I am awake. And grateful. Blessed be.

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(transcribed directly from Morning Pages)

Friend, there is so much more that could be said. Or expressed more eloquently, perhaps. Books could be written (indeed, they have been), filled with page after page of heart-rendering beauty and soulful inspiration. I’m choosing to let this week’s post be simply the three pages as I wrote them in my notebook, stream of conscious, while seated in sunlight of a spring morning. I pass the question now to you to carry in heart and mind for awhile, finding your own true answers that guide your footsteps. What does it mean to live in a sacred manner?

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