‘Thin places’, to recap, according to ancient and latter-day Celts (and others) come from the belief that the distance between here and the Other, between Earth and Heaven is closer, and palpably so, at certain locations, certain times and specific events. They encourage us to pause, draw aside, breathe deep, be objective, and realise our status in the universe as someone who is much-loved, and give us that ‘feeling’ of awe and being embraced by an invisible – a Divine hug.
‘Thin places’ have been recorded all over the planet, throughout history, and in the Bible and other sacred text; and by light-workers, Christians, those of Other mainline faiths, Druids, ancient and latter-day celts, Wiccan and others.
For an introduction to them, do see my previous article: here
So, how do we go about ‘looking’ for hints of ‘thin places’ (locations, or certain times (yes, they may come and go), or certain events (either one-off events or perhaps ‘periodic’ events through ritual))?
I do believe that we encounter far more ‘thin places’ than we’re aware of, and maybe they are a daily occurrence. For example, as regards a location, I’ve found them at Stonehenge, north Wales and Waterloo Station in London, and other places. As regard times, they could happen in a place one day and not so, when you visit that place again. Events? Maybe you’ve witnessed a ‘thin place’ when you saw a young baby smile, or that ‘magical’ moment when two people said, ‘I do’, or as the temperature cooled as the sun set.
So, how do you increase your opportunity of finding ‘thin places’? The following is an outline and is, by no means a definitive list, so do please add to it your comments (either at the end of this article or by emailing me). So, you might:
1. Research local places that have some kind of ancient spiritual or temporal heritage eg old churches or other faith buildings, standing stones, shorelines etc. As well as overtly spiritual buildings being ‘thin places’ you might be surprised that historically crowded places might be thin places, as people over the decades and centuries may have been unwittingly attracted to them, unaware. So, do check market places, historic castles, market places or crossroads etc. They need not be that far from you – maybe just around the corner, on in your living room?
‘…seek and you will find… ‘ (Matthew 7:7a, The Book)
Someone once said, ‘Seek and you shall find’.
2. Be alert. Thin places can occur without warning. That liminal space (a threshold experience) could occur during a traumatic moment such as the passing- on of a loved on, a baby’s innocent smile, the calm before a literal rain- storm, a change in wind when things, even bird-song, quieten in anticipation, and the air seems ‘heavy’.
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
3. Be aware. It’s amazing how, in ancient scared text, the numinous happened when people were resting under trees at mid-day, or dreamed about thin places (and both these references occur in the Bible). So, take ‘time out’ rest and relax in a place. Watch the world go by – metaphorically be in it, but not of it! Be an observer. Wait. If possible and safe to do so, why not day-dream? In that almost-meditative state you open yourself up to a wealth of possibilities. You might even try this at home. But, be aware of those odd happenings, synchronicities, that ‘warm’ feeling we get even if nothing physical happens.
If you’ve practiced meditation and know about ‘centering’ yourself (as in centering prayer, or apophatic meditation) then use that technique as a preliminary step to become receptive.
‘We are so busy, so occupied with many little things, that we are blind to the one great thing. Only in the pauses between things, in the brief contemplative spaces of just being, can we catch a glimpse of love itself. (Gerald G May)
4. Use your sixth sense. Ofcourse, our usual five sense will take us so far, and are good ‘indicators’, but are limited. However you regard it, use your sixth sense – that undefinable sense that seems to inform us without direct information, but fills us with a ‘heavenly confidence’. I’m sure you’ve had that feeling of something about to happen, but no physical indication apparent – check for that kind of electric ‘feeling’. It’s like a ‘Divine, invisible prod.’ The Presence.
5. ‘Open the door’. It has been said that within each one of us there is a ‘thin place’, add I believe that to be true. In one sense there is no dualism – no separation between here and the Other, or us and God. But, the physical world we live in does seem to ‘crowd out’ the numinous and so we need reminders to encounter ‘thin places.
Ritual can act as a reminder and open that door, meditation can. Indeed anything which we do with a deep spiritual meaning and with intentionality can open up that sacred space, liminal space, a type of temporary ‘thin place’. In doing this we open the door to that which the Divine has placed before us – it’s as though the Divine was knocking at the door and our response is to open it, by ritual, meditation etc.
The caim can also be adapted to suit this function. More about ‘opening the door’ will feature in a few posts over the next week or so.
So, what are you waiting for?
Go with a questing spirit, with a child-like excitement, and with intentionality. Go, expecting to find.
You might like to make notes or keep a journal of your adventures (remembering that even if we perceive nothing, it is still worth journalling what we’ve found, what we haven’t found, and our response to it, and ‘lessons’ we’ve learned).
So, what are you waiting for?
[Apologies: this is more than 200 words. Wrong ‘banner’ used. To err is human…’]