Reclaiming the Sacred by Dr. Tom Garcia
“Indeed, it is the most difficult thing in the entire human experience—to claim your Self, your Life, your Light, your Truth and your God.” ~ Emmanuel
A hospice nurse was in the room with my sister when our dad drew his last breath. The nurse, working efficiently, got on the phone and started making arrangements for dad’s body to be removed from home. My sister called me and explained what was happening. I told her under no circumstances was he to be moved until I got there. I was 8 hours away. I didn’t want the mortuary to come and whisk dad’s body away without having time to prepare for his transition. We would handle this last sacred rite in our own way and in our own time.
The room where my dad spent his last days was transformed into a place of honor and beauty. My sisters washed and wrapped dad in white linen, draped him with serapes, and covered him in marigolds. I gently laid down feathers, sage, sweetgrass and tobacco and performed my blessing. We kept dad for three days, packed in dry ice, much to the consternation of the mortuary, the medical examiner and local police. We called the mortuary only after we had finished our ceremony, and then they took dad away.
The rules of our society are often fixed and sometimes rigid. We are conditioned to live in accordance with precepts that regulate our behavior and thoughts, from how we are birthed to how we die. Reclaiming our sovereignty can be a daunting challenge when it appears that other people and agencies are more knowledgeable, or have more authority and power.
Not long ago, I sat in a circle of boys and men, sons and dads together around the fire. Each of us shared our feelings in the moment and some of what was going on in our lives. The men weren’t there to fix or give advice to the boys. We were there to listen and witness one another, an act profound in its simplicity.
The things we talked about in confidence were surprising and sobering. At the fire there is no BS and it doesn’t matter how old you are. What’s real and true finds its way out into the open. A fire circle of committed listeners draws out what lies at the heart of our experience in the world. The element of fire lends itself to the creation of sacred space where the deepest truth we can find in the moment is laid bare.
I have imagined our ancestors 800 years ago sitting around the fire. The fire was a gathering place for warmth, sustenance and community. They told stories, passed along wisdom, and experienced a connection to the elements that was a natural part of life. When someone spoke of loss or sorrow, gratitude or joy, they listened and affirmed each other’s essential value and place in the tribe.
At a recent graduation ceremony, I heard the timeless advice of Dr. Seuss and a popular excerpt from Robert Fulgrum’s book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It was all very good and fitting, but left me thinking, “What original pearls of wisdom do I have to offer my own children?” I was thinking not of advice, but of spiritual wisdom; the kind wrought from my own experience of life, plumbed from the depths. Deep truths that came at a cost and were realized at the outermost reach of my understanding.
When my children were much younger, I was concerned about how to convey to them a sense of their own spirituality. I felt that it was my sacred duty as their father. I didn’t want their religious education to occur by default, or be filled with notions of God distorted with judgment, fear and shame. I didn’t want them to grow up righteous in their beliefs, condemning others because of their sexuality, politics, or differing beliefs. Mostly, I didn’t want anyone else telling my children what or how to believe in matters of the spirit. I wanted them to have respect and reverence for all life and to cultivate their own relationship with God. I especially wanted them to honor the sacred within themselves.
I have often thought about the prophets and disciples down through the ages and wondered, “Did God stop talking to us after He stopped talking to them?” I don’t believe that was the case.
I felt that before I could offer anything of spiritual value to my own children, I had to reclaim the sacred for myself. Reclaiming the sacred for me meant that I had to turn my back in silence on an upside down world of confusion and distraction for periods of time. I needed to forge my own relationship with God, to hear His (or Her) Voice as It spoke to me. I wanted answers to questions I’d had since I was a child, not canned biblical responses or someone else’s interpretation. For me it was very personal and the deepest work I would ever do – and still do today.
How do we reclaim the sacred in our lives? How do we find the way to the truth of our being and to the full expression of our spirit – for ourselves, our children, community and tribe? Reclaiming the sacred means remembering who we are and Who walks with us. Knowing the ground we walk upon is sacred ground because of who we are, and because those who have gone before us have blessed it with their innocence and their peace.
Reclaiming the sacred means revitalizing the language of the soul, becoming conversant with words that express our deeply held values and nebulous stirrings of the heart with a meaning that is our own, and to use this language unabashedly and often.
Reclaiming the sacred means being willing to stand between earth and sky, utterly alone, and surrender ourselves to a Will that is not our own, but belongs to us all the same, to discover the truth that lives at the heart of our existence.
Reclaiming the sacred is an act of great clarity and courage. It is the one thing we must do for ourselves if we are to be true to our calling, our purpose, and our Creator, and to give the gifts we came to share in this lifetime.
Dr. Tom Garcia is a devoted husband, father, grandfather and chiropractor. He works at the fire’s edge, listening, taking good notes, and hosting fire ceremonies that heal, bless and embrace the human spirit. He can be reached at email@example.com or 970.759.4463