The other day the chaplain of our college put out an email to the entire faculty and staff. Getting this kind of email among all the usual day to day business is enough in itself to justify having a chaplain, if you ask me! We happen to have a particularly wise, loving and luminous chaplain here, in my opinion. Anyway, here is her email (the images are my insertions):
“As spring takes root in my soul, I have been reflecting on sacred spaces here on campus and beyond. Then I wondered, what do others think? So I pose the question: What, for you, is sacred space here on campus or in the broader North Country? To encourage your reflections, I have included a short piece asking the same question about space in Santa Barbara CA.
‘What is a sacred space? At its most basic, it is a place which invites the contemplation and encourages an attitude of spiritual openness. A sacred space is not necessarily where answers are grasped or understood. Rather it is where questions are asked, conversations occur, rituals are perpetuated, dances are performed, songs are sung, and silence is heard—all in the attempt to find answers. …. The notion of a sacred space is complex, encompassing a range of aspects: architecture, geography, core beliefs, community stories, and not least of all the receptivity of one’s soul. When several of these elements come together, the result can range from breathtaking to overpowering. ….
In the end, sacred spaces reveal themselves. They have a way of growing on the visitor, almost like something organic. Some would say they “breathe,” and that the old stories which their walls have witnessed are somehow “whispered to those who listen.” Usually sacred spaces are found in inviting places, which somehow retain the aura of those who have passed that way. Finally, they can be a wonderful antidote to all that is superficial and frenzied in modern society.’ [From: http://www.sacred-spaces.info/sba/index.html]”
I was inspired and wrote back the following:
It’s a place, it has borders, it is not everywhere, it’s set aside, and you have to move yourself to get there; you can’t stay there all the time (unless I guess you want to be a religious hermit, then more power to you, that’s fine too).
It’s a place where what you do/feel/think or don’t do/feel/think gives you power to go back to the everywhere with more balance, peace of mind, and compassion. It’s my garden, it’s anywhere within ten feet of my horses.
Sometimes it’s an event or action that makes an everyday space temporarily sacred: it’s my living room chair at 4:30 am when I get up early to sip coffee, meditate, and write in my journal. It’s the hospital room where I first met my niece and nephew within hours of their births.