What is sacred? What does that mean? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary list five different definitions for sacred. The one I like best states that sacred means “Highly valued and important.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of sacredness, and I’ve come to realize that nothing is sacred. Not churches, synagogues or mosques. Not the student-teacher relationship, nor the bond between friends, or even the relationship between a mother and child. Nothing is inherently sacred, but everything has the potential to be sacred. Sacred is not a state of being. It is a choice. It is an action. It requires that someone keep the space, the action or the relationship as sacred in their mind, heart and actions for it to actually be sacred.
The practice of yoga is not inherently sacred. For some people it is a workout. For some it is a thing to be achieved, for validation or attention. “Give me the next asana.” “I want to do third.” “I want to demo and show and feel special because of the things my body can do.” For some people it is a chore. Something that they have to drag themselves through every day. Sometimes their minds make skillful arguments, coming up with the cleverest reasons why they don’t need to practice. I’ve been all of these people from time to time. I’ve had transient moments of workout/show-off/resistance. My mind has tried its damnedest to trick me into thinking that I don’t need to practice. That the practice demands too much sacrifice from me. These thoughts and feelings come and go. I am very happy to see them leave, but I know that they will reappear again one day and so I must be vigilant. I must actively work at keeping my practice sacred, by giving it consideration in the choices I make.
What makes my practice sacred, really, is the narrowness of the path it requires me to walk. We cannot have it all, let me make that clear. We are not meant to have everything at once. We are supposed to make choices in our lives. To dedicate ourselves to the things, precious and few, that we deem the most worthy. My mind’s reactions of temporarily inflated ego identification, resistance and of doubt, are what lets me know the practice is actually working. Binding myself to a life of practice in which I am constantly, on some small level, aware of my practice is what makes it effective.
I think of my practice a lot like I think of the other most sacred relationship in my life, my marriage. The man who married me and my husband compared married life to a garden. Gardens require constant care and tending to really bloom. They will give you back what you put into them. Gardening require that you get your hands dirty. That your back be sore sometimes from pulling up the weeds that threaten to choke what you have sown. It requires your time; tilling the soil, planting, watering, harvesting and then preparing the garden for the winter. There are seasons in both a marriage and a practice. Sometimes it is summer and things are in full bloom and easy. Sometimes it is winter and the work you do may seem pointless as growth is slowed or stalled. Yet it isn’t. If you continue to tend to your relationships under the harshest and most discouraging of conditions, be it to your spouse, child, friend or your Self, then you will see that your efforts weren’t wasted. If you stop just because conditions aren’t ideal, if you give up, then you are right back where you started.
There was a time in my life when nothing, least of all my relationship to myself, was sacred. I know how easy it is to return to that place. But I don’t want to live in a world where nothing is sacred anymore.