Throughout recorded history women and men have gone beyond their everyday preoccupations to seek the dimension of existence that we call the sacred — and to be transformed by this seeking experience. Seeking, yearning and “tasting” the sacred becomes the very heart and soul of existence. Beliefs, dogma, theologies — all the costumes of religion — vary dramatically through time and place. But the call to know love as the ground of our being, and to honor our gift of life through the way that we live it: this does not vary.
Seeking, yearning, tasting and transforming are certainly heart, soul and meaning of my own existence. And always in the midst of what we call “everything.”
Transformational Power of Life
My children have transformed me more than any spiritual teacher. So did the death and absence of my mother, as well as her short life. My years of writing have been essential to this moment. So has conversation, praying, reflecting and coming up hard against my own shortcomings. Relationships that have ended have transformed me at least as markedly as those that remain buoyant and continue.
Grief, joy, creativity, openness, disappointment, despair, courage and rebellion: my entire vocabulary of experience is present in my transforming. Religious experience. Not-religious experience. All one. Some things become easier. Other things become irrelevant or impossible. Life makes a different sense.
Heeding the call to love and heeding the call of Love, we are already transforming. Theories abound about the nature of that call. But like the famous finger pointing to the moon, they may give an accurate direction but they do not give the essence, the experience of “moon” and its light (in the darkness) that we may be craving.
Who Do You Believe You Are?
Transformation occurs in ways for which we barely have adequate words. Despite this imprecision, its effects will be profound. The vital element is perception: who we believe we are and who we believe others to be.
“Do you know that your heart is a temple?” we hear, not from an esoteric source but from Paul’s epistle to the people of Corinth (1 Corinthians 3:16–17). “And that the Divine Spirit makes its home in you? . . . The temple of God is sacred and that is what you are.”
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Our decisive narratives about who and what we are will differ according to time, place and culture, including the cultures of religion. But this same simple truth rings out repeatedly.
Responding to the Sacredness of Life
Glimpsing existence as sacred, our relationship to it changes. Our relationship to all of life changes. We see differently. We respond differently. Living with concern for others makes sense to us. Living self-respectfully and with gratitude makes sense. Harming or disparaging others makes no sense. Peace of mind becomes possible. So does consolation in times of agony, loneliness or terrifying confusion.
“Sacred” doesn’t mean detached or self-important. It doesn’t necessitate calling on the language of mysticism or even spirituality. On the contrary, it means not much more (or less) than quietly knowing our unconditional place in the universe.
Seeing our part in things, seeing what we can do for other people and how we can most fruitfully develop ourselves, creates the ultimate path of learning: of learning as we go.
What kind of person are we becoming?
What is usefully challenging our self-focus and self-interest?
What is softening us inwardly and expanding our horizons?
Awareness & Transformation
Increasing awareness is part of it. Choice, too. Transformation happens to us or within us — if we are willing to be moved by it. Moved, our lives deepen as well as broaden. Awe and gratitude revive. Forgiveness becomes possible. Mindfulness becomes natural.
Transforming, we understand instinctively how interconnected our lives are.
Transforming, we understand how much we have to be thankful for in the infinite ways that others support our lives and keep us safe. We understand that the externals to which we pay such close attention are often little more than labels. We understand the mutuality essential to cooperation and cease trying to plunder other people for what we can get from them.
Transforming, we observe with care what is influencing our thinking, what we are “taking in” as well as giving out. We notice what will affect and influence other people, whether we leave them better or worse off for knowing us. Such awareness is vital.
Transforming, we understand that we are part of a wondrous universe. No effort. No “trying.” We are.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin,
a member of Penguin Group (USA). ©2011. www.us.PenguinGroup.com.
This article is excerpted with permision from the book:
Seeking the Sacred: Transforming Our View of Ourselves and One Another
by Stephanie Dowrick.
Can changing our view of ourselves and others affect the world? Bestselling author Stephanie Dowrick's major new book is a compelling look at how we can transform the world by seeing the extraordinary everywhere we look, both without and within. Through her intimate, beautiful, and encouraging writing, the author shows that it is only in altering our perception-seeing all of life as sacred-that we will challenge the usual stories about who we are and what we are capable of being.
Read additional excerpts from this book.
About the Author
Stephanie Dowrick, PhD, is noted for her highly encouraging, accessible writing on key issues affecting our personal and collective wellbeing. Her international best sellers include Choosing Happiness, Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love, Intimacy and Solitude, Creative Journal Writing, Seeking the Sacred and In the Company of Rilke. Formerly a publisher, and also a trained psychotherapist and literary critic, Dr Dowrick draws on the latest insights from the worlds of psychology and spiritual activism as well as timeless universal wisdom teachings. Her past achievements include founding the prestigious London publishing house, The Women’s Press, where she was Managing Director from 1977-1983. Visit her website at www.stephaniedowrick.com.
Watch a video with Stephanie: Transforming Our View of Ourselves And Others