Tendrils of smoke swirl around in the evening air, as the familiar scents of sage and cedar envelop me with their calm, cleansing energy. I return the smudge stick to its bowl and gaze at the glowing embers, already feeling my mind and body release the cares of the day. A drum beats softly in the distance, and I hear forest creatures rustling in the underbrush. The full moon beams her soft rays down to the sleeping earth, and I soak them in, feeling grateful for this moment. I am in kindred with all people who have ever performed this simple act of purification under the same radiant moon throughout time and space. I feel their hopes, their visions, and their blood carried forward inside of me. It is time. I am ready. I enter the circle…and the ritual begins.
I learned to prepare for group rituals by smudging, chanting, and anointing with sacred oils. Sometimes I would also fast and take a salt bath prior to the gathering. It always seemed to take a lot of effort to quiet the monkey mind and shake off my modernity—and that was before smart phones and social media.
Now more than ever, we are bombarded with a continuous stream of information that can be helpful in some circumstances and quite annoying in others. The demands of this life often run contrary to the rhythms of nature, making it especially challenging to shut off the noise and find that soft inner channel of tranquility.
Where do we find sacredness in this age? What is sacredness? The very word, from its Latin root sacrare, means to consecrate, to set apart, or to dedicate.
Let’s face it—most of us don’t have the luxury of moving into a wilderness retreat with an herb garden out back and a bubbling cauldron over the hearth fire. We can’t drive downtown and find massive stone temples dedicated to our gods, either. Yet, we do try to cultivate these sanctuaries in our minds. We learn to make room for the sacred in our lives wherever we are now, even if it’s only a closet or a designated spot on the dressing table.
I’ve lived in places where I’ve had an entire room dedicated to my spiritual practice, and I’ve lived in places where I had nothing more than a bookshelf. Gaining access to untouched wilderness has often meant traveling quite a distance to get beyond cities and suburbia, so I’ve made do with fenced back yards and public parks.
While I’m not the greatest fan of areas where nature is overly designed and controlled, the elements are still there, and so are the gods. All that ever really mattered was my willingness to be fully present in that space. That is still true, and I am noticing, more and more, the humble sanctities of my life. I’m becoming aware of the peace I don’t have to work so hard to achieve, and the little objects that I keep displaying, no matter how many times I move. Though I love and appreciate the formalities of ritual, I rest and find myself again and again in everyday sacredness.