Sacred Discourse
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What is Sacred for You?

March 30, 2018

Sacred Discourse was born from an experience in the natural world, surrounded by trees, next to a rushing creek, in the mountains. 

I was on a six-day backpacking trip in Yosemite National Park; the theme was “Walking Your Path.” We were seven seekers on the trip, each with a question. I was seeking direction for how to respond to the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Many people I knew were distressed over the election result, and I also knew there were many people, whom I did not yet know personally, who were thrilled. I was searching for my role in responding to this growing divide.

One day, we had time in solitude. I chose a spot by a creek we had passed by the day before. When I arrived, it became clear that I was really in this particular spot because of how the trees shaped a container for me to walk and talk — and to listen.

Arutum, the Spirit of the Forest, was present. Arutum is a Quechua word, and I had my first experience of the Spirit of the Forest many years previously, in the Amazon Rainforest. I immediately felt the connection between these two experiences, these two places on earth. And, I listened. Arutum, for me, speaks through the wind, and as I moved into stillness, the direction became clearer.

Whatever one’s political views may be, I venture to say most would agree that the discord in politics and in society is perhaps at an all-time high. Our public discourse is largely not Sacred. As I listened in the wilderness, I heard a call for Sacred Discourse — to create and cultivate a new way of relating and connecting with each other.

I invite you to join in the collective work of Sacred Discourse. What is Sacred for you, and what sacred experiences have you had? And, from that foundation, what new conversations do you want to have in your life?

A sacred experience, or an experience of the Sacred (if that is more in line with your beliefs), is available to all, regardless of personal belief, history, tradition, or experience. Sacred is the moment in which there is an experience of moving beyond oneself toward the other, the experience of a connection that is noticeable and recognizable.

Yes, Sacred can indeed be experienced in a more traditional context of a religious service or a spiritual experience. In these contexts, often the source of what is Sacred is a relationship with a deity. There is often the calling in of a being, whether personified or not, of a force that is greater than oneself.

Sacred can also be experienced in moments that are not centered on the presence of one or more deities. For example, time spent in nature, whether sitting by a tree outside your home or embarking on a wilderness experience in the deep forest or a mountain range, can often be experiences that you might characterize as Sacred. 

In that moment, the experience may be one of feeling something deeper within, something internal, as well as external, perhaps a feeling of connection or oneness. That was my experience of Arutum in Yosemite.

The Sacred can also be experienced at any moment in our daily lives. Perhaps within a group, sharing a common experience that takes you further than you  have been before. When have you had such an experience? In a workshop, community singing, a prayer circle? 

And the Sacred can be experienced alone, when you feel inspired, experience intuition, see something in a new way, etc. In these moments, something shifts, so that our understanding is different; and, at the same time, possibly our understanding of what’s possible may also expand. 

I invite you to explore what is possible. Are there specific conversations you want to have? Is there someone with whom you are experiencing a divide, or separation? What do you think may be possible if you were to share what is Sacred for you, and ask that person to do the same?

Thomas McSteen