The Sacred in Our Lives

By Sarah Belle Dougherty
the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you.
. . . the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it. -- The Gospel according to Thomas, 3, 113

The world is a sacred place -- its grandeur and beauty refresh and renew us, awakening something expansive within. How do we approach our sacred surroundings? The tendency to see all things as separate is deep-seated, yet the fundamental insight of mysticism is the essential oneness of everything and the superficiality of distinctions that loom so large in our minds. To see distinctions is often useful and even necessary, but to perceive underlying unity is essential.

The sacred reaches to the core of our being, and each of us has the potential to experience it directly. This is not a matter of taking something on faith or accepting a set of beliefs or facts. It is a matter of experience combined with observation, particularly self-observation. Western schools of self-analysis have unfortunately tended to fixate on the ego, with its neuroses and psychoses, a type of awareness that seeks to diminish the sacred to its own dimensions and attributes. The antidote is to realize increasingly that all are one, and that our fundamental awareness partakes of that absolute unity.

If we could but understand it, we would see that every aspect of life is an expression of that underlying unity working out its consequences in matter and consciousness. We feel comfortable seeing the harmony in nature and mankind as sacred, but what about chaos, conflict, and destruction? We tend to distance ourselves from raw experience, inner and outer, through language, patterns of thought, ideologies, and selective awareness. We pigeonhole existence into categories and systems: good and bad, positive and negative, high and low, true and false. But reality -- all-inclusive and absurd, mysterious and unutterable -- remains untamed, occasionally intruding into our customary awareness, disrupting complacency. We can open ourselves to ineffable actuality by stepping back from entrenched psychological habits to become more fully aware of each moment as it happens.

The sacred exists in nature, in our hearts, in each person we meet. The keys to expressing it in human life are love, compassion, empathy, fellow-feeling. We do not require new religions or tenets, nor the re-imposition of dogmatic thought, institutions, practices, or morality -- whatever their benefits may be. What is needed is the practical application of love in daily life, a broadening of our circle of identity. We become more aware of the sacred in our lives by transcending self-imposed limits, by attempting to practice what we believe, by opening ourselves to what is more comprehensive than our ego-self.

The kingdom of God is within us and outside us, yet for the most part we do not see it. Let us seek to express the oneness at the heart of being in our dealings with the many sacred inhabitants of our globe -- our family, neighbors, and co-workers, friends and strangers, animals and plants -- in practical, concrete ways. Let us pay less attention to ideology and more to compassionate action and mindful living. Every day, every instant, is a precious opportunity. As our hearts expand, self-righteous and exclusive views will fall away naturally, and the sacred will become ever more fully manifest in human affairs.

(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 2005; copyright © 2005 Theosophical University Press)

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True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by. -- E. S. Bouton