The world is filled with power and wisdom, we’ve just forgotten how to see and feel it.
With all of the challenges going on in the world today it’s easy to feel like everything is doomed and that humanity is to blame. From the mishandling of the Covid pandemic, to police brutality and the climate crisis, the evidence that we are somehow failing feels undeniable. There could even be the sentiment that if human beings were not here on earth, everything would be fine. There is a prevailing feeling that we don’t belong and we have forgotten who we are in the natural order of things. I’ve heard it said that the Corona virus was created by the earth to “shake off” human beings. In this atmosphere it’s hard not to feel embarrassed about being a human being and a sense of hopelessness about how we’ll all survive together on this small blue planet.
What is being called for is at this moment is a remembrance of what’s sacred and true. Of course we could say that’s different for everyone, and to a certain extent that’s true; but it’s important, especially in times of crisis, to connect with the self-existing sacredness that pervades all of life and existence. By self-existing I mean no one is responsible for creating it or maintaining it. It doesn’t belong to any one tradition or belief system. The world is filled with power and wisdom, we’ve just forgotten how to see and feel it. When we are in nature we are reminded of it: the way the light falls on the grass and trees, the way the water sparkles, the sounds of birds and wildlife. This power and wisdom exists in things as they are.
But it also exists in human interactions-the simple kindness humans show toward each other, even strangers, is happening all the time if we pay attention. This sacredness exists in architecture, in poetry, in how our systems work. It’s so easy to focus on all the ways humanity is messing up, that we forget to pay attention to how we help and are continually offering our beauty to the world. The sacredness exists in how we share our humanity with each other. I’m thinking of a video I saw where a flash mob of classical musicians plays Ode to Joy from Beethoven in a beautiful European square and more and more people stop their busy lives to listen in awe. The best part of the video is to watch the children’s faces light up. There is something about this moment-the music, the gathering, the architecture, the light-that demonstrates sacred world.
In ancient philosophies of China and Japan there is the notion of heaven (or sky), earth, and human-which is an expression of how humans could be integrated into the natural order of things. Our ancestors were much more in tune with the connection with earth and sky and nature because they did not have as much distraction and busy-ness. Time moved more slowly and their livelihoods and survival were more resonant with the seasons, with the natural environment. They acknowledged the sacredness of things and were more in tune with magic. I’m not proposing some kind of ancestor idealization or that things used to be better, that would be way too simplistic. But we could acknowledge that we have this sort of natural connection with sacred world built into our DNA.
We can still find this connection in our everyday lives through how we interact with our world. How do we connect with the earth, not only the actual earth but our earth bodies? The earth can be a metaphor for how we’re grounding into what is. We can pay attention to our homes, to what we are eating, to how we carry ourselves. What brings us home? We can pay attention to our sense perceptions-to the light, to the smells in the air, to the sounds. They don’t need to be pleasant-we may be in a city where the smells and sounds are intense and sometimes unpleasant, but we can still use our sense perceptions (sound, sight, smell, touch, taste) to ground ourselves into the earth and our bodies. Then we connect to the sky (heaven) as a sense of what’s possible, what’s unknown, what’s coming. The sky can pull us up and make us more awake.
When we feel this connection to the earth and sky we can feel our humanness more fully. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the great Buddhist teacher, talks about how healing society goes hand in hand with healing our personal elemental connection with the phenomenal world. When we attune to the elemental world by anchoring into our sense perceptions, we create an inner coherence which is the basis for healing. We can not help others when we go into situations fragmented and disconnected. According to my new favorite teacher, Thomas Hübl, coherence is the number one capacity that is needed to heal systems. And how do we create coherence? We pay attention to what’s already here. When we do that we can tap into sacred world and remember our place in the order of things.