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1 (855) EMPATHY

Life and communication coaching for women.

Reconnecting to the Sacred


Reconnecting to the Sacred

Marina Smerling

The more time passes, the more folks I have the honor of working with in my coaching practice, I wonder: how much transformation can be sparked through coaching, or therapeutic techniques, alone? 

When, if ever, is it helpful to turn our long-standing problems and deeply-entrenched dilemmas over to a sense of something larger, more powerful than you or me alone – to a sense of the sacred or the divine? 

The longer I go, the more I believe: you and I alone are not in charge.  The more folks I meet with, the more I sense: we are not the changemakers here.

When I sit with folks, something happens.  An “energy” is present that isn’t there when I am alone.  I sense a larger possibility, the Great Unknown doing its work within and between us.  So much of it feels like a magic that springs into being precisely because we are together. 

More and more in this life, I want to bow to the sacred.  For what it brings to my own life.  For what it brings to my time with others.  For the full-bodied exhale of “ah ha” when there’s no human logic to be found.  A sense of connectedness to something much, much larger than this finite body of mine or the one that sits before me.

Yet connection with the sacred is not automatically at the forefront of my mind.  Every day, I have to remember to reconnect.  To remember the miracle of earth, sunlight, plants, trees, animals… the gift of the first rays of morning sunlight and the last strokes of color above the trees at the end of the day… the miracle of daily birth and death alike.

Recently, I had a profound experience of reconnecting to a sense of the sacred – this time, through my ancestors.  I was at a Nonviolent Communication and racial justice retreat, participating in a breakout group for folks of Jewish descent. 

Somehow, in this circle of just six of us, sitting with the intention of reflecting upon our Jewish roots and our relationship to racial justice work today, it hit me: the lie of “whiteness” has both veiled my eyes from sensing my innate interconnectedness with folks of color, and has simultaneously cut me off from a sense of connection to having a people, a “tribe,” and a place of belonging on the earth.

Amidst many tears, the words that came were, “I’ve been cut off from my cosmic juice!”  It sounds a little funny in retrospect, but in truth, it felt like this – losing my Jewish identity, and masking myself with the false and shallow one called “white” has cut me off from ancestral wisdom, history, rich cultural practices and knowing – my cosmic juice indeed. 

I remembered, and I mourned. 

I remembered a sense of “we’re in it together” with all peoples, a sense of innate equality and interdependence.  I mourned the centuries-old conditioning that tells us white folks we are separate from our sisters and brothers and gender-non-conforming kin of color.  

I remembered what it was to feel interwoven and a part of.  I mourned the isolating impact of not just whiteness, but the deeply-entrenched belief that “white is better,” that pulls the thread of my people out of the fabric of humanity and sends us floating into an abysmal void. 

I remembered the “cosmic juice” of a long line of loving ancestors, and mourned the flattening of cultural identity into a strangely confining box called “white.”

Coming home from that retreat, I have been grappling with the question of how to live in connection to the sacred – including a sacred sense of having “a people” – every day. 

Within this inquiry, I’ve found it’s essential to ask: how does this practice support the liberation of all beings, not just my own?  When does connection with the sacred bring me a sense of greater connection to and compassion for humanity, and when does it bring me a sense of greater disconnect between my hearts and others’ hearts?

If it further reinforces my sense of isolation and difference, something’s funky in the fridge.

A sense of “the sacred” can be used in manifold ways.  On the one hand, I can use it to justify separation, to justify inequality, to blame others for their less-than-just allotment in life (believing, for instance, that poverty and oppression are a reflection of “poverty and/or victim mentality”). 

On the other, I can use my sense of the sacred to help dismantle the systems of oppression that rock not just others’ lives, but my own.

For example, if I believe I can “manifest” abundance, awesome.  But can I manifest not only my own financial gain, but a living wage, discrimination-free workplace, and accessible healthcare for all?  Can I help to manifest those, too?

When I connect to a sense of my Jewish ancestors (hello ancestors, if you’re reading this!), I have a sense of reentering the fabric of humanity, where we are equal sisters and brothers and genderqueer kin all.  This reintegration naturallypropels me to want to stand for the rights of my entire human family to a life of dignity, respect, and safety, a life of feeling their own belonging and mattering in the fabric of humanity.

And yet, as I share this, I want to acknowledge that reconnecting to a sense of the sacred is not simply something we “tack on” to our everyday lives.

Rather, for many of us, it means turning our lives upside down, rearranging entirely the model through which we understand what it means to be here. 

It means seeing our lives as occurring within something larger, unfathomable, limitless perhaps.  Seeing the sacred as containing us, rather than us as containing the sacred.

And it very well may mean being willing to topple false prides, to uproot shallow identities … “masculine” male identity, white identity, able-bodied identity, to name a few… and to exchange these for a sense of belonging that carries our blood and our bones and each DNA-filled cell back to a profound sense of home. 

I write about this today to stir the pot, to ask questions, even if I don’t have all the answers.

I invite you to reflect: in what ways do you live in connection to a sense of the sacred?  In what ways do you live separate from it? 

What sacred-feeling identities may you have exchanged for other, more shallow and/or isolating ones? 

And what does it mean to let your sense of the sacred serve not just your individual, but our collective liberation?

As always, I welcome hearing from you – your wisdom, your questions, and your own unfolding answers.