September Practice: Sacred Spaces and Places
Your sacred space is where you find yourself again and again. —Joseph Campbell
As we cope with the difficulties, the losses, and uncertainties of this time, visiting a sacred space or place can be a refuge, a reminder to take a deep breath, to re-center ourselves, to pray, to meditate, or to engage in meaningful ritual.
So what is sacred space? In “Visiting Sacred Space: ‘How To’ Guide” for the 2010 PBS series, God in America, Deirdre Colgan Jones wrote that French sociologist, [Emile] “Durkheim believed that ‘sacred’ was not the same as ‘divine’ and that not only are gods and spirits sacred, but also things like rocks, trees, pieces of wood, in fact anything. For what makes something sacred is not its connection to the divine but the fact that it has been set radically apart from something else.” It was this sense of being “set apart” that was used to select sacred spaces featured in the series. "You will discover as we did," Colgan Jones wrote, "that there lies an abundance of sacred space within and around your life."
This month, two of our colleagues take us along as they experience their sacred places. We invite you to share yours in the comments below.
Sandy Oaks: Sacred Neighborhood Space
During the last four months, I have tried to take an early morning walk with my hubby around our small neighborhood. It is a reminder that nature is teeming all around us despite humans staying close to home. We stop and have conversations with the many deer that roam in Oakwood. They look at us, but don't run away. Hearing and trying spot woodpeckers enjoying a snack on the older trees, listening to the squirrels chatter to each other, and breathing in the refreshing air, is what calls me each morning.
My dad passed away four years ago. He was an avid bird lover (except blue jays who tormented his beloved chickadees). His favorite was the Cardinal in all its resplendent color. We had a memory card at his funeral with two of his beloved joys: a verse from the Bible and a beautiful Cardinal. Our ritual as we walk is to try to spot one, enjoy how it stands out from the blue of the sky or the green of the trees, and I pause to remember dad.
Wendy Karrick: “The Awakening”
Like most, pulling myself out of bed way before I feel ready is tough. I am a master at convincing myself, “Ten more minutes,” followed by a readjustment of my body into a deeper snuggle with my pillow. The thing is, though, the extra ten minutes of sleepy bliss may cause me to miss The Awakening. The Awakening could care less about my phone’s alarm snooze feature. The Awakening won’t “hold” until I’m ready. No, The Awakening is going to happen whether I participate or not and I really don’t have any say in the matter. This morning, I need to roll out by 6:05 AM in order to get dressed, make coffee, grab my gear, and beat it to the end of the dock so I don’t miss the main event.
Relative darkness interrupted by a faint glow of pending daylight (coming from somewhere I can’t identify) welcomes me as I trek juggling a chair, blanket, phone, Bible, and Yeti mug of coffee to my front-row seat. Once settled, and after three or four deep breaths, I take a sip of the hot goodness and wait for the show. Lake water utilizes the night’s darkness and lack of wind to calm its waves and seemingly take its own deep breaths. In the wind and heat of summer’s afternoons and the wakes of other boaters, we usually navigate this lake’s choppy waves. But for The Awakening, only surface bubbles from creatures lollygagging beneath draw my attention from the water’s stillness. An adult duck leaves her babies in a safe hiding place and slowly, mutely swims in the dark water as if she’s enjoying the solitude of a gentle morning workout without needing to parent for a few minutes. A couple of stray seagulls, who, I notice, show up on this shoreline only when the purple martins begin their migration in August, cry out their screechy calls, and take a slow dive into the water as they prowl for breakfast. Off in the distance, I can hear the hum of an outboard motor from a fishing boat as the eager anglers head to their favorite spot to catch their own breakfast. The Awakening is beginning.
The colors are magnificent: red, orange, blue, purple, yellow, gray, against the black of the water and the green of the trees. A white cloud aloft in the atmosphere shines brighter than it did four minutes ago and I notice it for the first time. Then, it’s as if all nature holds its collective breath for thirty seconds when the star of the show peeks from behind the curtain of trees for the first time and teasingly offers just a sliver of its glory. I dare not take my eyes off center stage, even for a moment, as every second brings a brand new sight to behold. Finally, the main act appears on this stage of nature. The sun sheds its hesitancy and bursts out rapidly in its full-throated song to The Awakening: a new day.
The full-on temptation of my bed and its fluffy pillow for “just another ten minutes” is far from my thoughts now and I feel great satisfaction to have resisted its lure so I didn’t miss the glorious performance of The Awakening. The purple martins swoop, flit and chatter over my head as they chase the sluggish seagulls away and dance to the day’s new bright light along the water and in the sky. Perch break the water’s surface and leap for my attention. I wonder if it is a singular fish doing all the dancing or if it’s a gang of them. My face is warmed by the glow of the sun as it climbs higher and higher with each passing minute. More sips of coffee. I can’t help but pray to God to offer thanksgiving for the magnificent show and for helping me not to miss it. I feel His love and open my Bible.
This is my sacred place.