If you’re anything like me, there are times when you need to draw aside. I’m fortunate to live in London and north Wales, and to travel between the two places. In London I meet more people, clients, but I am more time-governed, and like all cities it is known for the hustle and bustle of activity, its busy-ness; and in Capel Curig, Wales I can relax, take my time as time seems slower, and draw aside so much more easily.
And yet, there are times when I’m in London that I need solitude, stillness, a time to ‘go deep’, ‘recharge my batteries’, and place to ‘get away from it all’, to draw aside.
Are you like that?
In a city, here, of over eight million people it can be, seemingly, difficult to find that peace….but it is not impossible. And, here’s one way of creating sacred space.
I have ‘pooled’ the views and resources of some of my Christian friends, latter-day celtcs, and my druid, wican, pagan and other friends, not forgetting ‘light-workers’ by that or any other name, and my gratitude goes to each one of them for their provision on ideas and information, and their patience with me.
Ofcourse, if you listen to some (other) people, they will tell you that you have to go to the ends of the earth to find that space and peace, and though it is good to travel and there may be some value in experiencing the ‘judder’ of another culture, another spirituality, I don’t believe it’s not a necessity to travel to find that sacred space.
In a very real and profound sense, the whole of creation is sacred.
A Himalayan mountain-top, Grand Central Station in New York, near the post office in Masod Road in Multai (at the heart of India), at Waterloo Station in London, or in a corner of a room in your house or apartment in Bend, or Glasgow, or Truro or wherever you are; to me, as a latter-day Celt, all places are sacred spaces. What do you believe?
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! ‘. Genesis 28.16-17 part, The Book
And so, in this article I’m looking at creating an awareness of sacred space and intentionality – both important concepts, and both will bring us benefits, as we long to draw aside. Yes, I’ve found that, if I’m aware and intentional, that sacred space can be found even in the City, and so I can forge that awareness of awareness [sic] anywhere.
And, one way of drawing aside, daily, wherever I am (and, wherever you are) is with a home sacred space! Still with me?
In my house, in a small room at the back, in almost total darkness, sitting in front of a small table, I light the three candles on the table, carefully placing the spent match on a little saucer that I had placed, earlier, on the edge of the table just for that purpose.
As the candle-light flicked, throwing a warm and gentle glow on the room’s walls, I could see items I had placed on the table: lit candles, prayer beads, small rocks gathered as a memento of a spiritual pilgrimage to St Nectern’s Glen some years ago, and palm-stones of carnelian and jet and serpentine, a photo of my late-mother, a home stoup (a little trough usually for water, and in this case, containing fragrant oil with little bamboo sticks in it to diffuse the delightful aroma), a ceramic goblet and jug…
I sat cross-legged, back upright, relaxed, quietened my thoughts, closed my eyes (almost), breathed deeply (‘in through the nose and out through the mouth), and waited. This is the first stage, the stage of separation (from thinking about the mundane), and I waited…
For some, the notion of creating (an awareness of) sacred space may seem odd or artificial, or outside their ‘normal’ mode of spirituality. Some would use such times to pray for others and such prayers can easily take the form of a ‘shopping list’ of prayers. There may be nothing wrong with that, but this way of using sacred space, I believe, slows us down, takes us deeper, and is something that we can put our heart into.
It was as though, in the darkness, a delightful, benevolent, positive-energy and loving Presence had surrounded me. I knew if I tried to think about it, to rationalise the experience there and then, that thoughts would get in the way, and it would ‘disappear’. And so, I waited, did nothing, and in the stillness and darkness, basked in that Presence and enjoyed the encounter with the Friend. This is the second stage, the stage of encounter.
And so, I would very much like to encourage you to give the idea of creating a sacred space, say, a special table, a start; to adapt it to your spirituality and needs, and see what happens. I do believe you will benefit in a myriad of ways, some of them completely unexpected.
It may be best to start off with a low, small table in the corner of a room, a place where you can go and not be disturbed.
So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. Genesis 28.18, The Book
Think deeply of what you want to achieve.
Is there usually the need for peace after a busy day? Would you like to spend time ‘journeying inward’ to meditate? Would you like to use the table as a prompt to pray/send positive energies to those in need? Would you like a book of prayer or chants to hand, or an outline of some form of ritual to do? Be inventive. There are many uses for sacred space, and they’re not mutually exclusive.
After what seemed like five minutes, I opened my eyes fully. Because I wanted to use this time to think of another, I reached out from that seated position, and took hold of the carnelian palm-stone. I moved in onto the little wooden plinth on the corner of the table, and centred my thoughts of this friend in need.
What you put on the table is up to you. I would suggest it should be meaningful to you: photographs of loved ones or pictures of saints, and/or rocks or pebbles that have some meaning to you, oil, anything that encourages you to be more thoughtful, to go deeper, and to encourage spirituality. Some may like to place a small crucifix on the table, others a small plant or a small vase of twigs, still others, might like to place a little statue of a saint etc.
‘Everything is a symbol of something, it seems, until proven otherwise.’ Thomas C. Foster
I have a carnelian palm-stone on my sacred space table. To me, it is a symbol. It is said the carnelian protects against poverty, and the friend I had in mind, as I sat in front of that table, had money worries. Some believe that such stones have magical qualities and that that palm-stone is the right one to use. What do you think? It’s what you believe that matters! That action helped me to focus on my friend in need.
Intentionality is important
It could be that that palm-stone has no magical qualities at all, except that which we give it. It’s intentionality. Being intentional is important.
For me, I try to ‘look beyond’ that palm-stone to the Source of all, and then the palm-stone is a visible reminder, an enacted parable (the kind you read about in the Hebrew Scriptures) of where the Answer lies, and to remind me of the friend I’m thinking of.
There are no wrong ways of doing this. Enjoy the selection process. It too, is a spiritual exercise.
I half closed my eyes once more and thought of this friend in need. In my mind’s eye I asked the Presence to embrace this friend and to supply their needs. For many minutes after, I did nothing, thought nothing, imagined nothing, knowing that the Source and the Source’s power were sufficient and right my friend was being cared for. I paused for some minutes.
This is apophatic prayer or meditation.
I then deliberately used my imagination – entered the imaginal realm. Rather than just list this person’s name (and others) in a shopping-list type of prayer, I spent some time visualising them. I wanted to slow things down and go deep…
Just picturing them in my mind, and seeing them ‘hugged’ by the presence, and their money problems ‘evaporating’.
This is kataphatic prayer or meditation.
Once, again, intentionality. Is this magical? Is this pictorial prayer? Is it (just) imagination, or more? What do you believe? You decide.
I do believe in the Power at work here, because of our request and intentionality. And so, I could ‘see’ this friend in a better state, and felt as though power had gone out
And then it felt right to finish. But, not too quickly.
Over a few minutes, my breathing returned to ‘normal’, I became aware of my thoughts, I slowly stretched my muscles, and slowly opened my eyes fully.
Even then, I waited a few minutes, basking in the ‘after-glow’ of encountering the Presence. This is the third and final stage: the return.
This is but an outline of one element of creating (an awareness of) sacred space and being intentional in what we do.
Do bear in mind, action in the physical realm is (still) needed.
Having prayed or meditated, having dwelt in that imaginal realm, what was imagined there, should be ‘worked towards’ in the mundane (always supposing that what you sought was legal, decent, honest and not dangerous).
And of course, in that realm a lot of symbolism takes place. Some work may be needed to put into practice what one saw or felt in that imaginal realm – so, please don’t be too literal about it, in the mundane. If for instance, say, in the imaginal realm you saw your friend, for example, being protected by a brick wall, it doesn’t mean you have to entomb them in concrete in the physical realm! It may mean that you need to surround them with loving acts of attention. Common-sense is needed.
But, of course, all of this starts with an awareness of awareness, and one good reminder of this is a sacred space in your home that you have ‘built’, that special corner or special table, a sacred space.
If you would like more information about sacred space, apophatic or kataphatic prayer or meditation, so please contact Tadhg, direct. Similarly, do please contact him with you views and constructive ideas. We are all on this journey of exploration and adventure, together.