Reverence Thyself First: Where the Sacred Journey Begins

While we may prefer roses over weeds, it doesn't mean one is more sacred than the other; the Divine imbues itself equally in all living things, which includes each of us. What value shall we place on all that our eyes gaze upon today?
03/02/2012 07:58 am ET Updated May 02, 2012

"By having a reverence for life, we enter into a spiritual relation with the world. By practicing reverence for life we become good, deep, and alive." -- Albert Schweitzer

Where I live in Southern California we are blessed with year-around weather that encourages growth of just about anything planted in the ground. With the recent rains and 75-degree days there is a preponderance of green showing up everywhere. As I sat peacefully in my meditation garden this morning, my eyes were drawn to some weeds that were beginning to pop up among my beautiful lilies and bamboo. My first inclination was to pull them out because I didn't want weeds to encroach upon and spoil the "perfectly groomed sacred space" I had dedicated to my meditation practices.

Thankfully, before I could act, that ever-present quite voice within gently whispered, "Be still and know, this too is sacred." So I sat with the weeds and invited them to be my teacher. What was it I could learn about myself and life from the intrusion of a few errant weeds in my meditation garden? Emerson was on to something when he said that a weed was a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered. Perspective is everything. In an instant, what had, one moment earlier, been perceived as an inconvenient, unsightly nuisance instantly became another opportunity to practice reverence.

It was then that I recalled something I heard Dr. William Hornaday share long ago regarding reverence. He told the story of how Ernest Holmes, the author of The Science of Mind, would, on occasion, dine with a vase of weeds on his dining room table. What great insight and wisdom he had. He considered it a beautiful reminder that the creative intelligence of life flows equally through every living thing, and that the only real difference between a weed and a rose was the value we choose to place upon one over the other. Of course we can extend the same premise to every form of life, from snails, to whales, and everything in between, including you and me and every human being on this planet.

Reverence is the act of seeing through the form and recognizing and honoring the divine presence at its center, as well as its circumference. In other words, to see the sacred in a weed can be a spiritual experience if we are willing to look beyond form and see the divine essence therein. No less true, to see the sacred in ourselves can, likewise, be a spiritual experience; in either case, the only thing required of us is to deepen our perception by dropping our judgments. Our judgements are the primary thing that separate us from the awareness of our oneness with all of life. The practice of reverence is how we transcend our judgments, which sets us free from the tyranny of the ego-self, which thrives on fear and separation by labeling everything and everyone as good or bad, desirable or undesirable, right or wrong, and so on. When it comes to how we tend to place other people in these categories, Swami Vivekananda spoke with great elegance to the issue of reverence when he said: "The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him -- that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free."

Is it easy to rise to Vivekananda's high call to practice reverence with every human being? It's fairly easy with those people we love, like and respect. However, it can be a bit more challenging with many others, especially if they hold core values and beliefs that differ from our own. Between the pending presidential election and a war-torn world, we don't have to look too far for ample opportunities to begin practicing reverence outside the circle of our comfort zone. While it may sound very idealistic, can you imagine a would where reverence was practiced by more and more people? Maybe so, maybe not, but there is nothing to say it can't start with you and me.

The takeaway for me is this: While we may prefer roses over weeds, it doesn't mean one is more sacred than the other; the Divine imbues itself equally in all living things, which includes each of us. What value shall we place on all that our eyes gaze upon today? Where might we begin the conscious practice of reverence? The ancient philosopher Pythagoras offers us the perfect place to start: "Above the cloud with its shadow is the star with its light. Above all things reverence thyself." In other words, above and beyond all appearances, opinions and circumstances, know there is a light, a sacred presence, within you. Recognize it, honor it, and revere it, and it will set you free to love the world. A spiritual experience awaits you in every moment of this day if you have eyes to see and it begins in the mirror. Reverence thyself first, remembering, as within -- so without, and your life shall become the sacred journey you came here to have.

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