Being Sacred

If you want to be filled up and cleared out by the power and beauty of orange-ness, I highly recommend a trip to the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve. I had never seen such a dense carpet of flowers.

My mom and I visited last weekend along with thousands of people wending their way along the paths. “They’ve all come to receive a blessing, whether they know it or not,” Mom said. The wind was whipping the poppies about, and I thought, perhaps they’re prayer flags. Maybe each petal sends a message to the Divine every time it flutters back and forth.

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A few days later an interior knowing arrived: we are not here to improve—not ourselves, not the world. Along with this thought came a feeling of a layer lifting and beneath it a joyful thrumming of life was released.

The Tao Te Ching says, “The universe is sacred./ You cannot improve it.”

How can this be given climate change, racism, poverty? What are we to make of the reality that some people appear to live into their full potential and others are destroyed by life? Don’t we need to work toward changing these conditions?

Of course we do, and yet some years the hills are blanketed with poppies, and some years the rain doesn’t fall. Some days everything we touch turns to gold, and some days it all ends up in the trash can. “Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily.”

Far more important than improvement is to allow ourselves to be the blessing that we are, to allow the wind to blow through us and spread our beauty and love to those around us. We can live in that joyful thrumming on the easy days and the hard.

This sacred universe is evolving. We participate in that process, but we don’t make it happen. We are the doors through which evolution passes, but we don’t initiate the transformation. “If you try to change [the universe], you will ruin it.”

Being Cosmic

One morning, watching the sun’s rays light up a tree and considering a new day, I realized I was literally looking at new light. The photons hitting the leaves had never been seen on Earth before, had not existed before forming in the sun’s core. The two hydrogen atoms that fused into helium to create the packet of energy that travelled almost 93 million miles had been around since a few minutes after the Big Bang, and after 14 billion years suddenly found themselves transformed.

This is cause for hope. We are an intimate part of this cosmic becoming.

We tend to hope for small things—that a presentation will go well, that people will like us. Sometimes we hope for larger things, such as a loved one’s recovery from illness or greater justice in the world. And at times we lose hope because none of these things come about.

Perhaps the times we live in call us to a wider vision of hope. That is not to say that the stuff of our daily lives is unimportant but rather that it is inextricably connected to something unimaginably larger than we are. We can learn about ourselves by observing how the universe works because we are part of the universe. What the universe is capable of—constantly being made new—we also are capable of; what is happening in the universe—unending change and evolution—is our natural state, too.

Our lives—our collective life—is sustained by these brand new packets of energy arriving in Earth’s atmosphere. If the very stuff that fuels our existence is ancient stuff in endlessly new forms, why would the pattern of our lives be other than that?

We will experience joy and heartbreak, our internal supernovas and black holes. Though we’re learning how galaxies form, it’s harder to observe how our own lives contribute to Creation’s unfolding, but they surely do. “Behold, I make all things new,” the Creator says. That is what’s happening through us, with us, and in us.


Note: Though I have no direct citations, this post undoubtedly results from reading Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Beatrice Bruteau, Ilia Delio, and Cynthia Bourgeault, most recently in meditations by or quoting Delio and Bourgeault from the Center for Action and Contemplation.

Stumble Upon

Here is what you can do with a paper thesaurus that you can’t do at thesaurus.com: You look up the word “happening” and somehow work your way around to “existence,” which you discover is the first entry in the thesaurus, a location delightfully fraught with meaning. Along the way you somehow manage to pass by the word “yeshiva.” (Yes, this really happened to me, though I cannot now reconstruct how “yeshiva” got in there.)

I worry sometimes that this running into what we weren’t looking for gets lost online, that when all our content is algorithmically processed to appeal to who we already are, we can no longer stumble across those things that will shape us into who we will become. E-books can’t fall off the shelf at you. Google can’t tell what’s in your soul from your geographic location and the list of Ted talks you’ve downloaded recently.

I think of chance encounters as the universe’s way of trying to get through to us, of circumventing our too-busy minds with well-targeted wake up calls. So I suppose it’s a little egotistic to think that the universe can’t handle this electronic device we’ve invented, as if we’re clever enough to disrupt cosmic communications by snagging them in our World Wide Web.

Here’s how synchronicity might happen online: You Google “couples snuggies,” and one of the links sends you to a scary website that puts a nasty virus on your computer. You take your computer to the computer store, where the person who helps you uses the word “yeshiva,” which happens to be just the word you needed to finish that poem you’ve been stuck on for weeks. (No, this didn’t really happen to me, well not exactly, but don’t Google couples snuggies and don’t ask why I did.)

I will still take the paper thesaurus down from the shelf sometimes just because it’s so much fun to wander around in the relatedness of words, but I’ll also keep in mind that the bigger relatedness out there can use any of the tools at its disposal.