Merriam-Webster says a sacrifice is “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone”
But SACRIFICE is a word that holds meaning beyond its simple definition. It carries an emotional response. It begs the question, “why?”. It needs a context in order to be fully understood in its usage. Therefore it needs all context to be fully understood.
As a teacher of spiritual practices my students are often surprised when they get a question they feel they’ve already answered. In my experience, spiritual growth depends on asking the same questions over and over. We hope to find a new perspective and new insight each time. One of those questions is “What is Sacrifice?”.
I’ve touched on this topic before in the blog. I’ve talked about harvest and about corn but I’ve never written about it here directly. I do talk about sacrifice in my book, Manifest Divinity. There’s a whole chapter on “The Hart of Sacrifice” in When Gods Come Knocking:An Exploration of Mysticism from a Deist Perspective. The idea of sacrifice and how I feel about it pops up pretty regularly for me. It’s one of those markers that says “time to take another stab, or acknowledge the success, at spiritual growth”.
I find myself exploring this question again as I prepare for my upcoming surgery (see last week’s blog). I am definitely “giving up something in order to get or do something else.” I want to get healthier. I want to be able to do more things. I want to have more energy. I want control of my relationship with food. It’s the giving up part that’s ambiguous. I feel like I’m writing a blank check to the universe. This surgery is my “whatever it takes”.
In order to justify that act of giving up I need to have faith that I will see positive results. In order to be 100% behind the “whatever it takes” I need to recognize the sacrifice. I need to acknowledge that this is a sacred act. I believe I’ve got a talented surgeon. I believe I’m capable of following the protocols and going through the motions. That’s not enough for me. I need this to be a ritual of sacrifice, a holy undertaking, a sacred act.
Small sacrifices can have large results. Large sacrifices often set us free to follow a new course. They mark a new beginning, a different way of being in the world. That is my adventure. And apparently the sacrifice that is called for is the willingness to write that blank check. I don’t know what I will be giving up in the long-term. I do know that whatever it is, invoking the sacred helps to ensure it will be worth it.
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Enshrined, such a static verb. When something is enshrined it’s being put away, in a sacred space, to be there forever. Tucked away, but not forgotten. When something is enshrined it can change the space that it’s in. It’s like the shrine becomes a fountain of sacredness that radiates out into the room, or the temple, or the universe.
Maybe that’s the reason it’s so nice sometimes to just sit surrounded by the sacred, by shrines. It doesn’t take much. Most hospital chapels are pretty barren, but they provide a space of peace and reflection. Great cathedrals are filled with shrines and side altars and sacred objects. There are spots in many of them where it seems like all the shrines are vie-ing for attention. Where it’s a “noisy” rather than “peaceful” sacred, but in a “fill you up” kind of way. Nature makes shrines, special places tucked away where the sacred seems to pool. Shinto shrines acknowledge this and foster it.
My women’s group got together this week. For our monthly ritual we made shrines. We each chose a word and created a shrine around it. We ended up in a circle of shrines to beautiful things we would like in our lives. When we finished construction we walked together around the circle of shrines and then sat in the center and just soaked up the sacred. It was really nice. Sitting among all those shrines, fountains of sacredness gushing out attributes of tranquility, and joy, and wisdom, present/patience, receptivity and prosperity.
The active form of enshrined (as per LisaSpiral): being in a space surrounded by shrines. Stepping into the sacred and allowing yourself to be present with it. Opening one’s awareness to the sacred and soaking it in.
So I thought I’d share. Please spend some time today surrounded by blessing given in love.