Nearly two years ago at the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life Pope Francis called religious to wake up; "wake up the world" to the beat of this time. That is exactly what Jesus did. He was an awakened person and spent his life waking up the people to a fresh experience of the Holy One.
For me one of the major beats of this time is awakening to the New Consciousness, to the sacredness and oneness of all life. Our Only Home is the dwelling place of the Holy One.
We are awakening from a paradigm of separateness and domination, division and discrimination, to one of sacredness, communion and oneness. Humanity is waking up deep in its collective being. This does not hit the headlines. Drawn by the Mystery and by listening to the wisdom of mystics, Earth, indigenous peoples, the economically poor and the New Story, humanity is waking up. In the words of Karl Rahner, "In the days ahead, you will be a mystic . . . or nothing at all."
With or without us, it is happening. It is wonderful to be alive and be part of this awakening time and put our drop in to lift the spiritual ozone layer of the planet.
A shift in consciousness is not just the work of the mind or the accumulation of good information. It is the work of the Spirit — Light within all life, Heart within all hearts. It is a conversion, a shift in spirituality for our time, opening our hearts to a Great Big God. It is the shifting of our heart, mind and our action to make visible the Oneness and Holiness of all life.
A shift in my God experience will colour all my other relationships and my practice of "Godness." A conversion of heart occurs when we recognise the visitation of the Spirit, showing us that all life is sacred, all life is one. Peter Mayer's song "Holy Now" captures what I mean.
In the heart of Zambia's rural area, Presentation sisters, together with people of the local community, have created a small center called the Garden of Oneness. It is a Sanctuary of Peace and Harmony which celebrates the heartbeat of God in the community of life and invites us to deeper communion with ourselves, others, nature, all beings and with God.
With the blessing of my community I began this initiative with conversations with the local community. They were so enthusiastic right away and have worked hard in creating it and making it into what it is today. I started with not a penny in my hand, but people told me, "Don't worry, Bo (a respectful term in the local language), Terry, it is God's dream. It is Nano's dream and the money will be found, the place will be found." (Nano Nagle is the foundress of Presentation Sisters.) They have been proven right. They had more faith than I had, and I am grateful. We have received help both at home and across the world from Presentation Family and friends.
In the beginning we and some elders of the community walked the land together and asked it to speak to us. This led us to identify sacred spaces like the Ant Hill, The Ancestor Tree and the Tree of Life. We have had many rituals in the Garden. Often we gather under two mango trees. When we first got the land these mango trees were so sad looking, with not much life or fruit in them. I felt sad. But the wise local friends of mine would say, "Bo Terry, wait 'til we come and sit under this tree and it will come alive." We have sat many a time under these trees for meals, for rest, for rituals, for meetings. Behold they have come alive! Last year they flourished and were laden with fruit. We are grateful for these shady trees who generously share with all who come and sit under their shady palms. I take such delight when I hear the local community being so enthusiastic about protecting our tree friends and zealously guarding them.
Bo George, a faithful friend and voluntary worker at the Garden, is 75 years of age. One day after a ritual at the Journey of the Heart (the garden labyrinth) he told me, "Sister, all my life I have never had a ritual like this. We never get this in our churches." This Journey of the Heart is a reminder to every pilgrim that every heart that loves is sacred.
Recently we had a peace walk and prayer for our national elections in Zambia, and one of the walkers said to us, "I never had such a prayer before." In the spirit of Abraham Heschel, we believe when we are walking for peace we are praying with our feet. Many times I have experienced people moved to tears as we walk, share and pray at the sacred spaces in the garden; all within the natural cathedral of God.
A few months ago a couple of women from the local community brought two chickens, two ducks and two turkeys. And when my companion Sister Lucy offered to pay them, they said, "No, no. This is our garden and we want to bring these birds here." People who have little always give from the necessities of life — a lesson I have been taught over and over again in my encounters with the local community. It's an expression of the Living Presence of the One.
Now is a new time; a time of the fresh breathing of the Living Spirit. Like great mystics before us, we too are entrusted with the revolution of the Spirit calling us to expand our consciousness, widen our tent and be drawn deeper by Mystery to take a contemplative stance. To hear the cry of Earth and her poor ones.
I walk the garden in the early hours of each dawn. As I reach the Heart, a symbol of the Heart of God, Heart of Mother Earth and of every heart that loves, the sun is rising before me. What a splendor of the Holy One! I believe every morning is a visitation of the Holy One expressed in the visitation between the sun and Earth. Look what it does! Life springs up, flowers bloom, seeds grow, new shoots burst forth! Earth is waking up teaming with life . . . singing in birds, laughing in children, dancing in colors, and smiling in people. Sunshine brightens the life of everyone.
Every morning is a new Pentecost in the story of the Earth, a fresh visitation of the Spirit at the heart of creation. Do we notice? Do we miss the visitation of the Holy One? I invoke this Living Energy to shine on us so that we may shine on all life.
Recently a priest friend of mine from India visited the garden. One day we invited the Friends of Nano, lay companions who share the charism and mission of Nano Nagle, to join us for Eucharist. We celebrated the Eucharist at the Heart, as the local community call it. It was a moving experience and it stirred my spirit as I heard Martha share, "When there is a program on at the garden we can hardly sleep, because we want to get up early and walk." (She and her husband Clement have to walk 16 kilometers to come to the garden.) "We so much want to do it because we experience the Spirit alive at the garden." It is wonderful to hear people sensing the presence and action of the Spirit in all that exists.
My own Indian spirituality is about the deep knowing: "I am Divine." That is the core of life. You and I. We are Divine. Every one of us is glowing with Divine light — every leaf, every petal of a flower, every grain of sand, each singing bird, every fish in the waters is aglow with Divine light. Do we see it? Believe it?
No wonder Jesus said: "You are the light of the world." Let us honor this Light within all life. "Om Nama Christa" — the God in me greets the God in you. Everything is a beloved of God. We are beloved of God. How do we stay connected to this identity, our true identity which gives meaning and purpose to our lives?
We live our small story under the big story. In fact our lives revolve around story: cosmic story, Jesus story, our founding story, our world story. It is the same story. But now is a new time, and we are the people to read the story with new eyes, experience it with new hearts and understand it with fresh minds. Whenever we gather, our time together affects our relationship with the Mystery, with the community of life, with those made poor, and with future generations.
The Great Work today is to tell the Love Story of God with new eyes, which science and our mystical tradition is showing us. Our epic story of evolution is one of deep spirituality and boundless love. We turn to this One Story to help us find meaning at this turning point. In this One Story are all our stories.
Here at the Garden of Oneness we hold this larger story as the Love Story of God and passionately share it with all who come here. This story has the power to connect all people, all nations, all religions, all tribes. The primary root cause of all our problems in the world today is our mind set of separateness. Understanding this Great Story and experiencing this Story in our everyday lives helps us today to wake up to who God is, who we are, where we came from, why we are here and where we are going. It helps us wake up to the Oneness and Sacredness of all life.
Song of the Ancient Love
All life is holy
All life is ONE.
[Teresita Abraham is a Presentation Sister from India living in rural Zambia. She is passionate about the new creation story and spirituality of being in communion. Together with the local community she has created the Garden of Oneness, a Sanctuary of Peace and Harmony where she lives and works.]