“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” ~ Joseph Campbell
I have been on a path of self exploration since my early 20’s and through many experiences, overcoming trauma, exploring the healing arts, and learning how to work with my own needs for self care, I have been drawn in my own life to create sacred spaces. Growing up in a family of divorce and a mentally ill mother, I learned at an early age to find comfort in the beauty of nature and, over time, to develop a deeper connection to the spiritual and sacred aspects of my existence. Through help from many teachers and a determination to heal, I am learning how to let go of pain and reconnect to the mystery within and around me.
Experiencing this sacred, deeper connection to our lives is available to all of us. Astronaut Edgar Mitchell shared an inspirational story about his relationship to the sacred which happened while he was aboard Apollo 14. As a lunar module pilot he was basically a space tourist on the return from the moon. His job complete, he sat for three days, looking out the window, contemplating and integrating the vastness around him. During that time, he experienced an overwhelming feeling that linked his mind and the cells within his body to the void of space.
In his own words Mitchell explained, “It was the experiencing of unity, of feeling at one with the universe, of recognizing that I was star-matter, literally a physical construct of the universe; that was the key thing. I had studied stellar formation and how the furnaces of the stars and galaxies created our chemical elements, but I suddenly realized that those were my molecules being manufactured and prototyped in those stars.” Mitchell continued, “As I looked at the planet from the moon, and from our spacecraft, it was kind of a signal event in human consciousness, a symbol that we were evolving into a new level of humanity. The pictures that we took of the earth are the most published pictures in the history of humankind. They’re enormously widely published pictures. Why? It’s because they speak to us at a rather deep, emotional level and they beg the questions, ‘How did we get here? How do we fit into all this?’ Those are the questions I was asking when I came back to earth. Instead of being an intellectual experience, it became a very deep, personal, emotional one, a knowing.”
“If you want to understand yourself, you have to understand the universe.” ~ Buckminster Fuller
Mitchell’s experience was quite dramatic but there are countless ways that we can experience the sacredness of life. We may feel it in a sunset, a baby’s smile, a bird’s song, an intimate encounter with another, a favorite place or activity, a roaring ocean, or a gentle breeze. My meditation teacher Brenda Morgan, PhD. shares how simple activities or certain places that help us feel more relaxed and open can lead us to experience the profound mystery of life.
Sometimes it is easy to feel a connection to a deeper part of our lives but often, the tensions caused by ongoing challenges, career issues, money concerns, constant change and unknowns make it difficult. Many of us go through our days in survival mode and forget to slow down, breathe, relax, feel deeply, and “smell the flowers.” Our lives can easily become a balancing act with stress as the norm and time for self care and self love lost in a busy schedule. I notice that when I overwork, criticize myself, feel doubtful or fearful, I become emotionally reactive, hard on myself for not doing enough, and feel like a victim to circumstance. I have to remind myself that I am a human being not a human doing.
So what is the first step in changing gears and moving in a more positive direction? In my own experience the only way to deal with discord is to embrace it. Say to yourself, “I am really being hard on myself and being self destructive. Do I really want to do this?” If the answer is yes, ask yourself why. Sometimes our pain is comfortable in an uncomfortable way. The next step is the most difficult step to take: self acceptance and self love. By accepting your imperfections and forgiving your mistakes you can learn how to love yourself unconditionally, slow down, and move from a “thinking and fearful mode” into a “feeling and loving mode.” After realizing that you are not a victim and can take care of yourself, you can create sacred spaces and activities that lead you toward self love and self nurturance.
There are many things in life that can help us create a bridge to the sacred. Nature can provide us with a deeper connection to ourselves, the universe, and all that life has to offer. Make a note of your favorite places in nature that help you feel more relaxed. It may be streams, waterfalls, mountains, valleys, pine forests, trails, campfires, or oceans. My love of nature began as a small child. I remember running across the street to play on a neighbor’s swing. It was dusk and the sun was a golden orb on the horizon. I could smell the freshly cut grass and all my senses came alive as I felt in harmony and one with all things. While you are in nature you can also create a sacred space by adding your own touch. When I go to the beach I create a sacred space by bringing an umbrella, blanket, pillow, sunglasses, lotion, a beach chair, and a good book. I breathe deeply, take walks, meditate, read, people watch, look for dolphins, and after several hours pack up feeling fantastic, relaxed, and nourished.
“What art offers is space - a certain breathing room for the spirit.” ~ John Updike
For you a sacred space may have a religious connotation and be represented by a church, synagogue, or temple. It could be a place like a room in your home or an altar. Or it could be a space of experience such as a moment of gratitude, surrender, self love, or being with a partner as you share each other’s sacredness. You may have a special or extra room that can be dedicated as a “sacred space.” Start new and add a fresh coat of paint. Bring in colors and objects that inspire and support your well being. Place photos of loved ones, nature, or your spiritual mentors on walls or a small altar. I enjoy crystals, candles, soft light, and music. For me, my bedroom is a sacred space where I can nurture and practice self love through meditation, reading, and enjoying the healing scents of aromatherapy or gentle exercise like yoga. I have photos, flowers, and a beautiful view of nature.
Sometimes sacred spaces are in the most unlikely places. It can be a favorite coffee shop, book store, restaurant, or amusement park. It can be an activity like a yoga class, working out at a gym, or swimming in a pool. One of my favorite sacred experiences is having a soy chai latte and chocolate cheese cake while I am on my computer at Barnes & Noble.
My husband recently bought a new car. I was glad to see how happy he was driving, owning, and having this new vehicle, and was surprised when he opened the glove compartment and took out a dust cloth and dusted the dashboard and console. He had created a relationship not only with his car but, through his additional loving attention, a comfortable and sacred space for himself where he can relax and feel nurtured.
In essence all of life is sacred. Throughout history mankind has used rituals, religion, vision quests, and other activities as a bridge to the divine. Cultivating self love and creating sacred spaces can be one way to bridge and foster that connection. The sacred is always there and broadcasting its signal so it is up to us to tune into its channel. Take a note of your self care activities and become creative with new ways that you can create self nurturing spaces, sacred spaces where you can experience and hear your heart’s song.