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It's a familiar analogy, but quite accurate, to talk about our relationship with the sacred in the same way we describe a beautiful gemstone. There are many facets to a gem, and depending upon the angle from which we view it, we see light reflected and refracted differently. Several people looking from different angles may report seeing something different, and yet they are all describing the same gem. In the same way, there are many facets to the sacred, and we all see it differently depending upon the "angle" of our culture and experience. And yet there is but one sacred.
There is an old saying that actually comes prior to Walt Whitman (who is often credited with saying it) that "the central urge of every atom is to return to its source." When you look at the gamut of religions - all of which describe their own versions of the many-faceted gem - the one truth that runs through every one of them is that each of us is called to discover our true essence - our connection with the Divine.
That discovery is the whole of the spiritual journey, no matter what the religious path or discipline may be. And the beauty that is inherent in all of these individual religions is that they each provide an opportunity for individuals to discover the truth of themselves through their particular tradition.
It's essential for us to realize that in spite of all the differences that seem to exist between us as individuals - color, race, creed, religious background - we all have a need within us that almost never leaves us alone - an almost incessant sense that something vital is missing from our life.
According to each different culture and tradition, that which is vital is named differently. Individuals pursue what has been named, hoping that somehow it will put an end to the sense that something is missing.
But when people get caught up in the particulars of their own religion, they often lose sight of the fact that the vital thing that seems to be missing is already within them, it has always been within them, and the same vital element that is within them lives within every human being on this planet.
To find it in myself is to see it in everyone else. And if I can see it in myself and in everyone else, I can't be in conflict with others anymore. I can't judge them. It's impossible not to be compassionate if I see that I am everyone, and that every one of us is born with the same central need and the longing to fulfill it.
Now, more than ever, it is critical that individuals come to realize this common bond between us. There has probably never been as much conflict in our world, as much individual suffering, and as much global potential for a nightmarish situation, including what is happening to our environment, regardless of its cause. When we look at the planet at this moment, we're looking at what has come from all that we've known, and known to do, from our understanding.
If I can see for a fact that the world that I am in today is not a better place than the one I came into, then inherent in seeing the world as it is, and recognizing that I am the world that I see, comes the understanding that the world cannot possibly change until something in me changes - until I begin seeing in a new way.
And this is where we come back to the unifying principle across religions. All true spiritual teachings help individuals see the truth of themselves as they are. When we see the truth, in the very seeing of it an action is mandated. We must stop blaming others and start working to change ourselves so that we can experience personal fulfillment while also making the world a better place.
We must realize that every other human being, regardless of the surface differences, is after the same thing we are. We are all here to find the sacred, and it's a difficult journey for every one of us. That understanding can lead to compassion, peace, and a world where instead of tearing ourselves apart, we work together, creating an environment where all of us can fulfill our greatest potential.
Guy Finley is the bestselling author of The Secret of Letting Go, The Courage to Be Free, and 40 other works that have sold over a million copies in 20 languages worldwide. His newest book, The Seeker, The Search, The Sacred (2011, Weiser Books) reveals the common thread that runs through every human heart: the wish to unite with the Divine. The book is part of a larger project to share this healing message with the world. Visit www.onejourney.net to learn how you can help change the world.