27 August 2012

Returning Sacredness

When I was growing up, the sounds and scents of Buddhist rituals often trickled up through my bedroom from my grandparents´ altar in the basement below. The sharp knock of hallow wood, the deep musk of resinous incense, the gong of metal and murmured prayers, lit candles and fruit offerings. My grandparents never taught me their religion, but they imparted unto me the impressions of their rituals, their daily sacredness in moving about the world.

In real life, that is to say the life in which we shared out loud at school or at work or on official documents, my parents raised me Roman Catholic with masses every Sunday morning and religion classes on Tuesday afternoons. I was baptized, confirmed, indoctrinated in all the rules and rites, wore a gold cross around my neck for many years. There were times that I held the sound of a congregation recanting prayers and the melting of a thin wafer on my tongue as sacred, the stirring desire for acceptance vibrating in my heart. But mostly I found disquiet in the teachings, questioning the dogma, never reconciling a violent Roman past with the modern offering of unconditional love. My image of the sacred in this world has always held multiple, oftentimes mutually conflicting visions and values. I may not always agree with the religious perspective, but I do always recognize and honor the sacred in our human attempts to gain greater perspective or to obtain inner peace, no matter the dichotomous cultural context in reference to my personal cosmic worldview.

Each day that we wake and breathe and revel in our particular human consciousness is a miracle of Nature whose inherent sacredness deserves recognition. Returning sacredness to our lives is not about committing to daily rituals, though the discipline can be very rewarding, nor so much any particular dogma. Returning sacredness to our lives is awakening into an awareness that all life is sacred, that even mundane chores can be performed in a sacred manner, that no matter our unique circumstances our connection to our sacred nature is always present.

On this year´s visit to the States I brought back to Los Brujos one of my grandparents´ metal singing bowls, sending its bell-crisp song vibrating through our forest, recalling childhood memories, mixing my sacred spaces. It is a harmonizing sound, simply fitting in my life like a tuning fork for a musician. It brings me back to center, some internal calm, and helps me view my every surrounding as sacred: the construction projects stacking wood towards the tree line to become new living spaces, the smaller cherry trees being cleared for chicken runs or bean poles, all our preparing for Spring activities simultaneously destructive and constructive seen together with gratitude in spite of tired eyes and limbs. I walk our forest paths with the metal bowl of my childhood singing me into my adult consciousness, giving thanks for the connection, returning the sacred unto myself and letting it spill out around me. The ground vibrates in recognition and sunlight returns to warming our skin as I plunge into the next task of sweeping out chimney ash or stuffing plastic garbage into old milk containers for use as insulation. It is all a sacred exchange of energy, stored for later or already received like rainfall collecting in a forest stream. I hold a warm tea in my hands and its heat is sacred, nourishing me inwards and out. We are each powerful beings dancing among our awareness, forgetting and remembering in turn, but when we return to sacredness we can see though the material before us, connect to a cosmic flow, become more than only that which we see.
My grandparents´ singing bowl sounds and it is at once a chime before the blessing of holy communion, the reciting of a quiet mantra, and the vibration of light captured in the dew on a blossoming branch. Sacredness, past, present, and future, returning to consciousness and celebrated.