In Arabic there is an expression of gratitude that holds a sacred vibration, Alhamdulillah. It translates to mean “Praise to God.” It’s a much deeper way of saying “Thank you” in response to a compliment because you are essentially saying, “I accept your compliment because you are only seeing in me an expression of the Divine. All glory goes to God.” Doesn’t that feel amazing? And what about the Eastern greeting “Namaste” which means, “I bow to the divinity that resides within you.” It provides the ability to speak one’s heart in a much truer sense than the standard greeting of “Hello.” In the epic-movie Avatar, the people of Na’vi greet each other with a phrase that means “I see you.” Not just “I see you with my eyes,” but “I see into you, I see the truth of who you are.” Can you imagine if we all started greeting each other this way? Not just in church, but even out on the street? Surely changing our language to convey more honoring of one another would be a step in the direction of peace.
We’ve lost a sense of sacredness and reverence in our society today. There was a time when humanity generally held an attitude of “Take off your shoes, you are on holy ground,” at least in certain situations. How often are we in a space today where that is the attitude held by those around us? Hardly ever.
For many of you who are reading this, I realize I’m preaching to the choir. But one thing I’ve learned is that truth is drawn to truth. Light is drawn to light. Often times when I’m listening to one of my favorite speakers, the notes I write down are absolutely things I already know to be true. But I love hearing it again. When I write it down, it’s my own affirmation of truth and I’m saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” to it. Funny how I’m drawn to speakers and teachers who are teaching what I already know. I don’t know much about advanced mathematics and yet I’m not interested in attending lectures by mathematicians, even well-respected mathematicians.
So I offer this information today, not in the expectation that I’m teaching anything new, but rather in the spirit of honoring the dynamic that truth is drawn to truth and I hope it resonates with you, my beloved reader.
How do we get back to a sense of reverence?
Let’s begin with a quote from Gary Zukav from his book Seat of the Soul. “Reverence is engaging in a form and a depth of contact with Life that is well beyond the shell of form and into essence. It is contact with the interior of beingness. Even if you cannot sense the interior, it is enough to know that the form, the shell, is merely an outer layer, and that underneath it the true power and essence of who a person is, or what a thing is, is present. Reverence is an attitude of honoring Life. Whether a person is reverent depends essentially upon whether he or she accepts the principle of the sacredness of Life, any way that he or she defines sacred. Reverence is not respect. Respect is judgment. Reverence is perception, but it is a holy perception.” Take off your shoes, you are on holy ground.
Reverence is all about perception. We can not wait for external circumstances to qualify as worthy of our reverence, we must feel we are worthy of the sense of reverence, and when we do, opportunities to experience reverence will be found around every corner.
I find it funny that this year I’m understanding the meaning of Christmas for the first time. I mean, I’ve been celebrating the holiday my whole life, but was clearly missing the point. I was raised in a traditional, charismatic, evangelical Christian household so the Christmas story and the birth of Jesus was told often by my mother around the holidays. As I grew older and began to think more independently, I started a journey in which I began to question what I was raised to believe and found myself doubting the whole “one way to heaven” idea. At that point, I adopted the attitude, “Okay, we’ll just go with Santa and Frosty then.” However, I gotta say, Santa and Frosty just don’t command the same sense of reverence the manger scene commands.
I’m realizing Christmas is about reverence. Think about it. The wise men didn’t come to hear Jesus teach, preach or inspire them; he wasn’t old enough yet to do any of those things. They came to worship him, and offer reverence for the miracle of life. Pretty compelling, huh? Makes me want to get back to my roots and breathe in the manger scene at Christmas.
So getting back to the question at hand, how can we begin to cultivate a sense of reverence in our own lives? There are several keys that can open the door to an inner-sense of reverence. I call them the Big 4: Creativity, Gratitude, Silence and Presence.
#1 Creativity~ When we are in the presence of our own creativity, or the expression of someone else’s, a doorway is open to the miraculous. Most of us have been lucky enough to experience the electricity that shoots through the core of our being when we are hit with creative inspiration. Whether it’s writing, painting, dancing, singing, sculpting, etc., when the Hand of Creativity moves, we are no less than in the presence of the Divine. The same goes for when we witness someone else’s expression of the Divine in them. Music can move us into a state of reverence. Beautiful artwork can take our breath away. Watching two dancers move as if they are lost in another dimension can bring tears to our eyes. Take off your shoes, you are on holy ground.
#2 Gratitude~ Nothing can throw one into a state of wanting to fall on his or her knees quicker than an intense feeling of gratitude. A wonderful young woman I know, Amy, is a cancer survivor. As a result of her treatments, she lost her hair. She’s been cancer-free for almost a year and her hair is slowly growing back. I ran into her recently and she said, “Tara, look how long my hair is getting.” I said, “I know Amy. I always notice your hair. It’s so beautiful.”How many of us experienced the sense of gratitude about our hair this morning that Amy experiences every morning? I wish you could have heard the tone of reverence in her voice when she asked me to notice the length of her hair. She went on to say, “I’m not going to cut it for a while.” I was thinking, “Of course, I wouldn’t either after not having hair at all for so long,” but I quickly learned the real intention behind her comment. She finished by saying, “Yeah, I’m going to let it get long enough to donate it to Locks of Love.” Take off your shoes, you are on holy ground.
#3 Silence~ When we are silent, a space opens which connects us with the very source of life in the Universe, which is the object of our reverence. Eckert Tolle says, “Stillness is the language God speaks, everything else is a bad translation.” Francis Chan is the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in California and a Christian author. He speaks the language of Christianity, but his message is universal. In his book, Crazy Love, he writes, “Have you ever met someone who was utterly and desperately in love with Jesus? I have. My wife’s Grandma Clara. Every morning Clara would kneel by her bed and spend precious hours with her savior and lover; later in the day, just the sight of that corner of her bed would bring joy-filled tears and a deep anticipation of the next morning spent kneeling in his presence.” Wow. Can you imagine what Clara experienced during that time by the corner of her bed? I bet she wasn’t gabbing away that whole time, she was in deep silence, and enjoying every minute of that reverent state of being. Take off your shoes.
#4 Presence~ This key is a prerequisite for all the others. Whether soaking up the beauty and brilliance of creative expression, feeling a deep sense of gratitude about an aspect of our lives, or swimming in the sacred pool of silence, it’s essential to be present. Bringing a sense of presence to everything we do, enhances even the most mundane tasks. God can be found everywhere. A case for reverence can be made in all situations, but we have to be present to find the evidence. In Deepak Chopra’s book The Way of the Wizard, Merlin says to Arthur, “If you could really see that tree over there, you’d be so astounded you’d fall over. But, I can all but hear your mind groaning, ‘Oh, that old thing again,’ as you rush past.” When we are present, like Zukav says, with the interior beingness of a person or thing, when we seek to experience life through this holy perception called reverence, we will be so astounded by what we find that we could fall over in awe. Eckhart Tolle says this about being present, “When you take your attention into the present moment, a certain alertness arises, which is different than thinking. Thinking compared to that is almost a dreamlike state, you’re up here (in your head), not present here. A certain alertness arises, you become more conscious of what’s around you. But, also, strangely, it’s hard to talk about but I will, a sense of presence arises both within and without. We could call that a Divine Presence.” Take off your shoes, you are on holy ground.
Alhamdulillah and Namaste.