The Sacred Door Trail
The Sacred Door Trail (SDT) is a 165 mile inter-faith pilgrimage trail located in western Montana that is a celebration of spiritual unity, peace and our connection to Earth and each other. The trail is a compilation of already existing trails that make up a loop around the Philipsburg Valley, exploring some of the most beautiful mountains, rivers and valleys, not only in Montana, but in all of the United States. What is special about the trail is that it is a shared sacred path, shared by as many people, faiths, and indigenous cultures that care to support such an idea. The trail serves to reconnect people back to our original church, our original temple -- Mother Earth. The trail also acts as wonderful bridge for the environmental, interfaith, social justice, and peace movements to come together to re-establish our sacred reverence for Earth and each other.
The opening of the trail will occur in August of 2012. It will involve three days of dedication ceremonies and blessings for the land given by representatives of all the different faiths and indigenous cultures who support the project. The purpose of the blessings will be to establish the land and trail as a shared sacred space. The American Indian Institute, a 501(c)3 organization, will act as fiscal sponsor for the project. Our current support for the project includes indigenous and faith-based leaders from around the world, as well as inter-faith and environmental organizations that believe in such acts of unity. The Trail recognizes our rich spiritual diversity as humans, but more importantly, it honors the spirit that unifies all things, thereby turning the many into one.
In the following essay I explore two steps that need to be taken in order for us to reconnect to our true role as caretakers of life here on Earth rather than dominators over it, and how the SDT might aid in that reconnection process. The essay is composed of thoughts and insights that have come to me over the past year of exploration both on and off the Sacred Door Trail.
Reconnecting to our Collective Role as Caretakers
As within, so without. When the cells in our body stop communicating with those around it they become isolated, and they break their connection to the community of life that surrounds and supports their own well-being. From this place of disconnection and isolation cancer arises in the cell. Cancer is always in our cells but is kept at bay through healthy communication with the greater life system. However, when a cell breaks away and isolates itself, that is when the cancer grows. The cell then no longer works in cooperation with the greater life system; instead, it takes on its own agenda and begins to try and take over that which originally gave it life, not realizing that its own life is intimately connected to the well being of the greater life system. Sound familiar?
At one point in time long ago, deep in the shadows of our history on this planet, a certain group of humans turned their back on their sacred connection to the Earth. They ceased to acknowledge that they came from the earth and instead began to believe that they were above the earth and in being separate from it they believed it to be their right to manipulate it for their own needs, thereby ignoring the needs of the greater community that they where once a part of.
In losing their connection to their source, they lost connection to the balance within themselves which then created lifestyles and beliefs that perpetuated the imbalance on both an internal and external level. These imbalances lead to unsustainable ways of living. No longer could these people survive on the land they had been using for generations upon generations. They began to run out of resources, so they had to acquire new land, which meant going to war with their neighbors.
Having acquired their neighbors' land, they had to integrate the conquered people into their own way of thinking, which was done by wiping out their cultural and spiritual beliefs. They did this by simply erasing in one or two generations the conquered people's connection to the land and life source. When the people lost their connection to the land, they had no choice but to fall into the new paradigm of belief that was being presented to them. As a result, they lost internal balance and became a part of the zeitgeist that had over-taken them. That pattern repeated itself, and here we find ourselves today still repeating this age-old pattern of domination over others and the environment.
War, greed, environmental degradation, the oppression of the feminine and of indigenous peoples, racial and religious persecution are all symptoms of this imbalance in ourselves that is a direct result of our disconnection from our greater life system, Mother Earth. Through this spiritual disconnect, humanity has turned into a cancer upon the Earth. However, unlike the human body, thankfully the Earth is much stronger and can easily withstand a small revolt of one aspect of her body. Her white blood cells are strong and when called upon could easily wipe out the aspects of herself (us) that are no longer engaged in productive communication with the larger life system.
As human beings alive in this time period we have a responsibility unlike that of any generation before us. It is our responsibility to reconnect to not only the Earth's life system but to the greatest life system of them all: the Universe. We must recognize that we are expressions of both Earth and the Universe and that everything that is created in this life system has a role to play for the evolution of creation. If that role is not honored it will be overtaken by some other aspect of creation that can fulfill that role.
This responsibility is not owed to the Earth or the Universe . . . as I said before, they will do just fine with out us. This great responsibility is owed to the human family, to all those that have come before us and all those who will hopefully come after us. By shirking this responsibility we will be closing the door on the human story. So what is our role here and how do we reconnect to it?
Our role is simple. We are the caretakers of this planet, just as a gardener tends her garden or a sheepherder tends the herd so must we tend the planet and all life that lives upon it. Can life survive here without humans? Of course it can, but it cannot flourish. When a gardener comes to a plot of soil that is overcome by weeds, the gardener can clear the weeds and add compost and nutrients to the soil, allowing it to grow multiple crops, which then give back to the nutrients and health of the soil and land. By tending the land the gardener has made a clearer channel for creation to unfold through, and in turn the gardener is given food to feed his or her own family.
Through reconnecting to our true role as caretakers of the Earth we are not only actualizing our own purpose but we are actualizing the purpose of the universe and of the Earth which is to offer a space for life to exist and evolve in a reciprocal fashion. Creation is not about stagnation; it is about change and evolution. Evolution allows life to express itself in fuller, more complex ways that are constantly changing and reflecting a higher order in which life unfolds.
We are conscious beings. This means that we are a doorway for the Earth and the universe to be conscious of Itself. As we begin to reconnect to our true role as caretakers, we will become co-creators with the Universe and Earth, helping creation to move and express its self with ever-evolving efficiency, complexity, and beauty. However, if we are not honoring, fostering and caring for creation, the circle of reciprocity is broken and we will be removed and replaced. That could be the natural order of things . . . however, we do have a choice.
There are two steps in the process of reconnecting to our collective purpose and re-integrating back into the greater life-systems that we are a part of. The first step lies in redefining what success and progress mean on both an individual and collective level. To do this, we have to look at the paradigm from which the old definitions come. In the current societal/global paradigm that has been running the show for thousands of years, success is defined differently for men and women.
Men are taught that success is achieved through what we make in this world. Are we making a lot of money; are we contributing to the three main pillars of society -- business, industry and consumerism; are we leaving a mark, a legacy? If so, then we are successful, for we have contributed to the ideals that our society believes necessary to progress.
For women, they have been encouraged to define their success through their ability to nurture relationships. Are they nurturing their friendships, their partnerships, and their children? If so, then they are (historically speaking) successful. Of late, the success of the women's movement has resulted (in part) in women being encouraged to define their success in masculine terms, and this is the trap of our contemporary society.
We are encouraged to embrace a type of masculine energy that is out of balance and defined by what it conquers. Operating from this belief structure will only perpetuate imbalance, further destruction and further disconnection both in us and in our world. Instead of defining our success by masculine ideals shaped by ages of imbalance from a dominating mindset, we must embrace the feminine definition of success which is embodied in our ability to nurture and to be in right relationship.
Right relationship entails ourselves, our family, our community, our ancestors, our descendants and most importantly right relationship with the Earth. If we are able to embrace this new definition of success for both ourselves and the collective then we will naturally fall back into alignment with our role as caretakers for life on this planet. We will no longer reward that which conquers but instead reward that which nurtures, heals and creates space for the fullest actualization of life.
As I stated earlier, reconnecting to our collective purpose is a two-step process. Redefining our societal definition of success is a good place to start; it lays a foundation that can guide us through the changes that we need to make both on an internal level and an external level. However, change on any level requires a great deal of courage. We need the strength to dream big and the courage to step into those dreams with our greatest gifts. The only way we can find that courage to dream big and follow it up with action is by redefining our relationship with our own fear.
For most of us fear is a paralyzing force: it is an aspect of ourselves that keeps us from growing, it ties and binds us to our comfort zones, those places inside which we cannot be hurt or be vulnerable in. It tells us what we are not capable of, and what is not possible. Fear is directly threatened by the prospect of change and growth and it will stop at nothing to prevent such forward movement. When an aspect of ourselves grows we realize there was nothing to be afraid of to begin with and the fear connected to that aspect of self dissipates. However, fear never really dies, it just shifts from here to there, and it is up to us to realize that fear only has power when we are afraid of it and in turn give it power.
To redefine our relationship with fear, we must first accept it and accept that it is an integral part of the human experience. No matter how much work on ourselves we do, no matter how much therapy, meditation, yoga or prayer we engage in, we will never rid ourselves completely of fear. However, where the choice comes in is in choosing how we react to it. Are we going to allow our fear to shut us down and prevent us from growing, or are we simply going to recognize it and welcome it because its presence is an indicator that we are pushing ourselves into uncharted territory? If how you are living your life does not scare you a little bit, or a lot, then you are not living your life in a way that promotes growth.
It is those dark unknown places within that we are most scared to go into that we must access. We must go there because it is in those places where true inspiration and growth lie, it is in those voids that we touch creation and creation touches us. If we are living from a place of openness, then we allow creation to come through us, pulling us higher and higher towards our own evolution, our own highest potential. It is from that place that we all must challenge ourselves to live right now . . . because now the world needs openness more than ever.
So much of our society is asking us to live in fear, to shut down and to disconnect. When we do that, we shut ourselves off from growth, inspiration and our connection to creation. The answers and ideas that will save us can only be found through our ability to live in a state of fierce openness. When you live from that place then you are automatically giving people the permission and the inspiration to do the same, helping to move the collective that much closer to our highest potential, one insight, one dream, and one step at a time.
It is from this place of fierce openness in ourselves, guided by the highest shared ideals and aspirations of nurturing life and right relationship to ourselves, each other and to the Earth that our path towards reconnecting to the Earth and Universe as caretakers shall reveal itself. As MLK said, "faith is taking the first steps even when you don't see the whole staircase." The more we walk down this new path the more it shall reveal itself. We cannot wait for the path to reveal itself entirely before moving forward; by then it will be too late.
No matter what your work is, what your passions are, no matter what aspect of society you involve yourself in, you can bring these ideals to the table and by your actions encourage others to do the same. Through these small steps, down a trail that we are blazing together, war, environmental destruction, and oppression in all its forms will no longer be rewarded or tolerated because they will no longer be in alignment with who we are and who we want to become. Thusly, we will have created a space for peace to flourish both within and without.
The Sacred Door Trail offers us an opportunity to take the first important steps along the path toward reclaiming our role as caretakers here on Earth. It is a doorway into the essence of self from which the individual can move through their own limiting fear and illusions of disconnect into a deeper space within that holds our connection to the spirit of creation that lies in all things. It is from this place of oneness and openness, surrendering into the nurturing arms of Mother Earth that the answers for a better tomorrow will come.
The time is now, we are the ones we have been waiting for. Together, may we walk through the sacred door of our future into a world of peace. May this be our gift to ourselves, may this be our gift to our children, may this be our gift to the world.For more information, click here.
Image by Elliott P., courtesy of Creative Commons license. http://www.flickr.com/photos/pesut/