The wind was so fierce that I couldn’t keep a fire and so cold that I couldn’t sit still. It whipped wildly through the canyons and across open fields as if the spirit of the place had broken free.
In the pitch-black night I walked away from my camp along a narrow dirt road. Deliberately veering off the road, I stumbled through a choke of bushes and brambles descending into a dry river bed. I knelt down in the soft, cracked soil, thankful for respite from the incessant wind.
The moon hung close and a million stars twinkled in the night sky. Kneeling in the river bed, I became aware of subtle, nearly imperceptible movement all around me. I was alone, but not alone, as though the ancient inhabitants of Chaco Canyon had never left. They were still here carrying on and I was in their midst, a visitor from the future. Quietly I offered prayers, acknowledged their presence, and felt their gratitude in return.
I thought to myself, this place is sacred and it’s their home. What am I doing here?
Experiencing the Sacred
No one knows for sure why, but around 1300 AD the Anasazi, ancestors to present day Hopi, Navajo and Zuni tribes, vanished from Chaco Canyon in Northern New Mexico. They were an ancient civilization that left behind distinctive architecture oriented around solar and lunar cycles, buildings several stories high with hundreds of rooms and thick walls of timber and stone, great kivas and sprawling plazas that held large numbers of people. Chaco Canyon was a thriving center for ancient astronomy, ceremonial activities and commerce, and then abandoned.
Several years ago I decided on impulse to visit this sacred site for the Spring Equinox and a ceremony in the canyon. The day following the windblown night, I walked through the ruins awed by the size and complexity of the buildings, kivas and plazas. Upon returning home from my experience in Chaco Canyon I contemplated deeply the revelations and insights that came to me, memories I have kept sacred all these years.
Sacred sites exist all over the world—the Wailing Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the Pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in England, Machu Picchu in Peru. Many are well known and many more are lesser known. For some people the pinnacle of a lifetime is to make a pilgrimage to one, or several, of these sacred places.
The question my inner voice asked me when I returned from Chaco Canyon was this:
“Why would you travel to a distant place where ghosts from the past live to kneel alone in the dark, battered by a cold and relentless wind?
Why would you do such a thing?”
So I would come to know that the sacred is with me wherever I go.
Finding the Sacred Place Where We Are
The realization dawned on me that we don’t have to travel any distance to find what’s sacred—it’s right where we are. This is a great lesson.
We are sacred beings, right where we stand.
The ground we stand on is sacred because of who we are and what we bring. The ground we stand on is sacred because of those who have gone before us and have blessed it with their innocence and peace.
What is sacred is what we value and treasure, what we give meaning to and giving it all the meaning we have to give.
What is sacred is to know we are worthy, that we have intrinsic value simply by virtue of our being.
What is sacred is to know that we are beautiful, whole, innocent and loved.
What is sacred is to know that God is in everything, including us.
What is sacred is to know our own wholeness and to see wholeness everywhere we look.
What is sacred is to offer our gratitude for what we call sacred.
What does sacred mean to you?
How to Apply the Sacred to Your Life
Wherever you are, no matter the circumstances, you make sacred the place you occupy, and if what is sacred is lacking, it’s because you failed to bring it forth.
Bring the sacred into everything you do and with everyone you meet. Be gentle, be grateful and listen, for the sacred is everywhere and in everyone. It is the still small voice.
Honor the spirit of creation all around you and return the gift with love.
Make a circle and put fire in it, the fire of your heart.
Offer your prayers and let love come through you.
Now I know and understand that wherever I go the sacred goes with me whether I’m in the Notre Dame Cathedral in France, a Sweat Lodge in Taos, or the sanctuary of my Fire Circle at home in Colorado. These places are sacred because of what they are and the meaning they have been given. They’re sacred because of the meaning I give them and because of who I am, a child of God.
The same is absolutely true for you.