Reverence and Respect

In trauma and addiction, intentional love practices and the practice of stillness are aimed at healing our habit of being. Our habit of being stems from our overall sense of ourselves before words. It is our experience of consciousness before thought. In our still Awareness, we can sense our basic attitudes towards Life. There are two principles of being that underlie health. They are reverence and respect.

If we have suffered neglect or trauma, our habit of being can be damaged. Our spirituality suffers, as we are not in harmonious, loving connectedness with the imminent and transcendent dimensions of Reality. Either this connectedness was not cultivated through love when we were young, or we were so badly harmed that our reverence for and trust in ourselves and others was damaged. Instead of loving connectedness, we experience fear, hurt, numbness, disconnection, hatred, anger, resentment, or emptiness. Or, we feel indifference, disdain, disregard, arrogance, or animosity. A rare few even take delight in harming others. Consciousness is suffused with pain. Our being becomes suffused with negative attitudes that then trigger negative thoughts, outlooks, and behaviors. We are not right with Life, and thus our life and the lives of others suffer.


Wise living requires paying attention. Attentiveness to This Moment is necessary. We need to look closely to see and listen closely to hear.

Paying attention is healing. Spiritual practices can heal our damaged habit of being if these practices are combined with the practice of loving connections. In meditation or deep prayer, we sense the still ground of being. From this state, we can know our core attitudinal states of being before thought. We transition out of mindless submersion in thought through the practice of mindfulness. In mindfulness, we can directly know our felt sense before thought. We can see how is it that we are—our way of being. In the seeing, we achieve a certain distance from our automatic, default ways of being. Seeing is freeing. In the freedom of still Awareness, we give ourselves the opportunity to see deeply the core principles of being from which healthy existence arises: reverence and respect.


Reverence arises from our experience in stillness of our unity with all that is. It arises from seeing the bare, miraculous fact of existence. There is wonder and awe. From stillness and unity spring love, our reverence for Life.

While stillness cultivates love, movement cultivates life. Our goal is to stay in touch with stillness as we go about living our lives. We want to be in Awareness before thought even as we are thinking and acting. Stillness fuels our love practices. Loving action triggers love to come back to us, enhancing our reverence. It is a virtuous cycle of stillness and loving action. Out of reverence, we engage in loving, interdependent mutuality with others. In this game, the rule is that everyone gets to win.

Love practices transform our habit of being through loving actions. They include being compassionate, empathic, contented, generous, hopeful, affirming, forgiving, patient, humble, grateful, helpful, and yielding. Our loving behaviors impact Reality. If our loving is skillful, Life benefits from our actions. The practice of love creates a loving resonance with Life that enhances our experience of reverence as we experience the abundance of love surrounding and flowing through us. We gratefully receive the loving abundance of the Universe.

Thus, stillness and loving practices together cultivate an attitude of reverence. With consistent practice, reverence becomes a habit of being—a fundamental attitude we have towards Life.


If we look closely, we also see that Life feeds on Life for its sustenance. We feed on the plants and animals we eat for our sustenance. Through civilization, we receive the innumerable benefits of the efforts of countless others to sustain us. We feed upon and take advantage of Life for our sustenance and vitality. This awareness enhances our reverence though gratitude.

Looking closely, we also see that, although Reality is loving and supportive of us because we are part of Life, Reality is at the same time impersonal to us. Life is about Life first and foremost. Life is about us only to the degree that we are a part of Life. Life can not only be indifferent to us, (as many people and most animals are), but Life can also exploit, consume or destroy us. Life consumes and coopts Life to feed itself and enhance Its vitality. Thus, we too are vulnerable to being consumed and coopted. We are vulnerable to exploitation. We only need watch the news to see daily stories of crime, tragedy, evil, and disaster.

There is the specific reality of evil, which we can think of as Life (people) consuming or coopting Life (other people) without regard for the Life taken or exploited. Evil is a uniquely human violation of our human interdependence. Yet evil is yet another sacred aspect of Life and Realty, even as it is unskillful.

As an exquisitely organized dynamic process, (Gracious Orderly Dynamic, or G.O.D.) we require a certain set of conditions to exist. Reality is firm on this. Disease, accidents, violence, hunger, and catastrophes take our lives every day when the conditions for Life cease to be.

Seeing deeply that Life can consume or coopt us, that evil exists, and that conditions must be just right for us to exist helps us see that the Universe can be a dangerous place. Some degree of fear is healthy. Life can sustain us or consume us. This realization cultivates the habit of being called Respect.

The following table shows the two principles of Reverence and Respect with some of their derivative attitudes:

Reverence Respect
Grateful Fearful (healthy fear)
Appreciative Surrendered to
Wonder Humble
Awe Cautious
Joyful Protective
Concerned Recognition of Power differentials
Kind Dutiful
Caring Accountable
Compassionate Responsible
Nonviolent Integrity
Mutual Patient
Interdependent Yielding
Committed Accepting
Connected Honest
Nurturing Trustworthy
Empathic Discerning
Contented Mutual
Hopeful Interdependent
Affirming Skillfully trusting
Forgiving Nonviolent
Helpful Considerate
Yielding Thoughtful
Nonjudgmental Assertive

Some qualities, like mutuality and interdependence, involve both reverence and respect.

Life both invites us to participate and makes demands on us. There are both feminine and masculine aspects to Reality that call for our reverence and respect.

Seeing things clearly though mindfulness combined with experience cultivates wisdom. We see the invitation to cherish existence as well as the mandate to be careful. We see our proper place in the order of things. We see that Life can harm us if we are not careful, as Life lives on Life. Yet we have reverence for Life as the source and sustainer of our life. There is gratitude, yet there is caution.

Seeing clearly is humbling. There is a much greater Life than ours that we are called to serve. Seeing clearly, our gifts inspire gratitude, not pride. Though people vary in power and ability, no one is more important than anyone else. We are all just Life.

Seeing clearly inspires a healthy fear. We see that our life is resilient yet fragile. Trauma happens. We all get hurt. People can hurt us. We need to be careful. We need to be attentive and vigilant.

We see that Life is about Life, that the One Life takes priority over us. This too is humbling. Life is for us to the degree that we are for Life. We see that Life feeds on Life, and can feed on us if we are not protective. Thus, we need to be cautious in our business dealings and keep our doors locked.

In looking, we see that power exists. There is injustice. People can exercise power for love or evil. If people act out of ego uninformed by love, they may enslave us, destroy us, or exploit us for their own purposes. The ego uninformed by love is “a-relational,” disregarding, and coercive. It leverages power for its benefit only. It is myopic, in that it does not recognize the mandate to respect and reverently connect to that which sustains us for the benefit of all. By standing on the side of love, we can shed light on the darkness of human evil and injustice while maintaining our reverence and respect for Reality.

This is where respect as discernment is very important. Look carefully into people’s hearts. See their relational attitudes. Do you see respect? Do you see reverence? Then look at the relationship. Does it go both ways? True loving relationships are not 50/50. They are 100/100. Are you engaged in 100/100 relationships? If not, look closely to see if your way of being emanates reverence and respect. If not, then you need to mindfully tend to your way of being.

As you go through your day, repeatedly stop, get still, and pay attention. Be present. Practice it over and over and over. Tap into your way of being. What is your attitude? Is it one of reverence and respect? If you get very still and very clear, these qualities of being will arise. With time, and intention, your default way of being will come into accord with the principles of reverence and respect, and your life will flourish.

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