The Art of Sacrifice

Updated: May 20

Thoughts from the middle of a pandemic...


I have been thinking about not being able to do the things we want to do at the moment. Back in the day, when people were writing scriptures or forming the bases of religions, cultures, and ways of being, a key theme was that of sacrifice.

[Matthew Barney - Drawing Restraint 2, 1988]

I find the idea of sacrifice fascinating, I spent hours discussing the topic with my teacher. Sacrifice comes in many forms. There is the sacrifice of animals, birds and even people that is central to the message of the Bible, features strongly in the Mayan Empire, and is a key instrument for people of the Yoruba. You offer something up and hope to be energetically rewarded or cleansed. Then there is the sacrifice of your time in the pursuit of learning, or sacrificing your habits for your well being.

In Hinduism, people sacrifice things they love - their favourite piece of fruit for a year, for example - as an offering to support something / someone in need. This act is said to strengthen the mind. Plus every time they reach for that beloved fruit, rather than eating it, they are reminded of their pursuit to support that thing, and it leads to loads of mini prayers being sent throughout the day / week in that direction.

People say that the key to a successful relationship is compromise. Understanding that our desires cannot always be fulfilled and that our needs are not greater than someone else’s. Compromise is like a sacrifice, and what if we could view it like that; as an offering, to something higher. So each time you don’t get what you want, or you do something in someone else’s way, let it be an offering to that person, to God, or to something that might just might be supporting you.

I find great strength in this, it is like the beginning of an act of surrender, loosening thebuckle of control in every situation and every thing that happens to you. Buddhism and Hinduism talk about a balance sheet. This balance sheet has to be kept in balance for you to continue to live happily in this life and the next. You can’t just take take take, more than you give, and if you do, you’ll likely have to give it back in some form, somewhere down the line.

Ayurveda is all about balancing of forces - giving and taking of qualities to create harmony in a system. Sacrificing one thing in order that another can come about. Like increases like. And often we like the things that aren’t supportive in the long term, sometimes leading to addiction and disease.

The 19th Century American philosopher and environmentalist, Henry David Thoreau had three rules for living in harmony with nature: ‘simplify, simplify, simplify’.

So what parts of our lifestyle could we offer up? Give as a small sacrifice to our beloved world that is crying out for our support right now. If we were to simplify our lives a little - how would that look? I bet it would strengthen our minds and resolve too.


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