Friday, April 5, 2013

Walking on Holy Ground

Today is Friday, April 5, 2013.  

I've always liked the phrase "walking on holy ground."  It's taken many years, however, to figure out for myself what it really means.  

Last fall, the people who owned the land in the Black Hills that the Lakota Indians call Pe' Sla threatened to sell it.  The Great Sioux Nation almost didn't get their sacred land back, but thanks to the donations of thousands of people, they were able, at the last minute, to raise the amount of money needed to cover the purchase price for the land, which is regarded among the Lakota as the genesis of all their creation stories.

In fact, there are thousands of places all over the world, in every continent except Antarctica, that are regarded as sacred.  Some of these sites are kept secret from the public, while others are well-known, and host thousands of visitors each yearThese places are and have been important to the various ancient cultures of the world.  Certain sites seem to have special energies or vibrations that are lacking in other areas.  People feel the presence of God in these places.  You can study a map of these places online.  It's interesting to note how many of these sites are located in the United States, which, ironically, now hosts probably the youngest culture in the world.  

Many people think of their local church, temple, or synagogue as "holy ground," as well.  It's interesting to note how people's behavior changes when they are in a location that they consider holy.  They lower their voices, and their behavior becomes dignified and reverential.  Most people would never think of arguing with others in a holy place, or committing a violent act.  When we read or hear of an act of violence in a church building, we are especially horrified.  

Some people like to say that they will behave well in church on Sunday, but the rest of the time, they want to be free to have their fun, as if fun is something that one cannot have in a holy place.  What do they mean by "fun," anyway?  It seems that all they really want to do is follow their desires without their conscience getting in the way.  They want to entertain themselves without regard for the consequences to themselves or others.  They want to tell lies that they think will get them out of trouble, or gossip about others to make themselves feel more powerful or more in-the-know.  They want to drink to excess and have sex anytime they like without someone (God?) looking over their shoulder and disapproving.  Some people attend services grudgingly, knowing they can get a little catnap in during the sermon, and hoping that their attendance will get them off the hook for whatever they might have done during the week.  Others skip worship services altogether in favor of sleeping in, having a leisurely breakfast while reading the comics, then tuning in to the Big Game on TV and guzzling beer while porking out on munchies.   As comedian Fred Allen put it, "Most of us spend the first six days of each week sowing wild oats; then we go to church on Sunday and pray for a crop failure." 

But what if people realized that they are walking on holy ground everywhere they go?  How might their behavior change?  Would they still lie, cheat and steal?  Would they still argue with others? Would they still commit violent acts?  Would they continue to drink to excess and have promiscuous sexual relations?  And if people realized that all ground is holy, would they still consider certain pieces of land as more valuable than than others?

Sabine Barnhart described in her blog a realization that she had after visiting some places sacred to her ancestors.  "It is in the decent actions and pure hearts of people that a ground becomes holy. It furthers the betterment of new life and can change hardened hearts into a giving spirit.  If a society can learn to understand the significance of holy ground, mankind could walk this earth with less fear of conflict. They would have the wisdom to know that holiness is spiritual and the land gets blessed by how well a man will expresses his heart to his fellow man."  It's interesting to think in these terms, because we realize that human beings are the ones who defile certain ground or make it holy.   

If we think of holy ground as a place where we recognize the presence of God, and if we consciously practice the presence of God in our lives in every moment, then anywhere we walk can be considered holy ground.  In a seminar talk several years ago, recorded in his book Drumbeat of Time, Harold Klemp, the spiritual leader of Eckankar, expressed it this way: "We are not trying to find truth in so many words or to find wisdom in some undefined quality.  What we are trying to do is to become the path of truth ourselves, so that wherever we are, we recognize the presence of God; wherever we walk, we know we walk on holy ground."   :-)

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