"0ur sacred values are implied by our ritualistic choices, whether we agree to them or not. We may not have thrones for gurus or kings, but we do have award shows and tabloids for enthroning and dethroning celebrities. A life lived without ceremony is never possible. Ritual is part of our daily rhythm. Whether or not we treat the rituals of daily life as sacred is completely up to us.
"What if you viewed getting a coffee with your best friend as a kind of sacred ceremony? You might bow to your macchiato in gratitude for all of the interdependent beings who brought it to you, and then you and your friend might really listen to each other, holding the stories you tell each other as sacred narratives. I know it sounds cheesy, but that's only because we don't do it enough to normalize the practice as a shared rite. What if you treated money as a kind of sacred energy that you neither feared nor worshipped? You would stop judging it as 'dirty,' stop chasing after it like a hungry ghost, and start to really think about where your money went and what values it empowers. What if you treated your clothes as sacred? You would really gain confidence in your own embodiment, and you'd also take care of what you wear. What if pizza was treated as a sacred expression of our cultural heritage? We might learn how to make pizza as a form of participation in a cultural ceremony, totally changing our experience of each slice. What if we treated the work we did and our intention to help others through work as sacred? And most profoundly, what if we treated emotions like desire and sadness as sacred, and developed meditative rituals to honor their place upon the altar of our lives? We would no longer treat our own emotions like garbage. With this sort of approach, as well as with practices to encourage this view, all of life becomes meaningful and worth elevating and protecting.
"If we hold the view that our spiritual and secular lives were never separate endeavors, we stop commuting toward exalted, peak experiences and start appreciating what is happening right now. Making an omelette becomes just as meaningful of an act as going to a temple. Going to work on Wednesday morning could reveal the meaning of life to us just as well as an ayahuasca ceremony might. This celebration of the sacredness of the experience we already have, this divinity of the world that already exists, is the core view of the Shambhala Vajrayana teachings. Celebrating the world as it is does not, by the way, mean that we are acquiescing and giving up on progress, no longer interested in helping others, no longer striving to make the world a more compassionate place. Quite the opposite — it is through a sacred appreciation of our world that we can figure out how to connect with it even more fully and find inspiration to conquer the problems we collectively face. The only reason to accept things as they are right now is to find the strength to alleviate more suffering in the future. The only way we are going to gain the inspiration necessary to help the world is if we view it as sacred.
"This view of sacredness needs to be understood theoretically before we look at the reason for engaging in Vajrayana practice rituals. The Tantric practices, with their iconographic symbolism, devotional aspects, visualizations, and mantras, are an attempt to create a microcosm of a life lived entirely with ritual dignity and sacred imagination, because when we view our activities as sacred, then we begin to view the space of our own awareness as sacred.
"Vajrayana rituals — like bowing, incense, offerings, and mantras — are not just a culturally imported fairy tale. These practices simply mirror the truth that our life is already composed of daily rituals. How sacred ritual manifests is up to each practitioner. But in order to fully awaken, we have to dissolve the false dichotomy between secular and spiritual truths, and start to view ourselves, each other, and the world we share as sacred, 24/7/365."