Some people fantasize about exotic trips around the world. Others crave fame, or recognition for their work, money, or admiration for their educational and professional accomplishments. Here’s what I fantasize about, right here to your left: sacred space.
The idea of sacred space is as old as man. It’s a concept I’ve seen played out by the Native American’s in beautiful ways. When I was young, we had a friend who was the matriarch of a Northern California Native tribe. Her daughter was the tribal shaman for a period of time. The daughter would go up to a mountain top (a place no non-tribal person could ever go) and she would stay there overnight while her mother kept guard on the ledge below doing ceremony. They knew this space would help accelerate the healing that needed to take place between tribe members and they gave it great respect and reverence.
The desert is also one of these places. Once in Sedona, we had a trail guide take us to sacred sites and perform Native rituals intended to help us see the world in a more connected way. He wrapped a native blanket around us and took us through a guided visualization commonly performed in Native traditions. Just being on the top of a mesa, looking out at the stunning valley of red rock and indigenous plants, with an eagle soaring through the lavender-blue sky, accelerated the experience in a way that couldn’t happen in a Safeway parking lot. The Sacred Space cemented the journey.
A friend and I were recently discussing this idea. She and her dying son had taken a sojourn to sacred spaces all across the country before his death. Each morning over coffee, they would share their dreams. Not long after their journey started, they started having the same dreams, and attributed that to the sacred spaces they slept in.
Sacred Space is palpable. N. Scott Momaday said when you’re in this space, “you touch the pulse of the living planet; you feel its breath upon you.” People sense it. They seek it out. They know when they’re in it. And when I’m in it, my creative flow gushes through me in a way it doesn’t show up in other spaces. Building one writing space, for this very reason, is something I crave. (Now, when I write, it’s often on the couch, or at my childhood home where I can get quiet and see the vast green outside, or in some other nomadic location, including my car while waiting to pick up my kids.)
I dream of a place like the one in this picture. A simple place, where I can see out into nature and crack open to that creatively flow. The same space where I can go every day. A place with a desk and a chair and maybe a small bed. I picture Thoreau’s cabin, which we’ve visited on Walden Pond in Boston. (I’ve only recently learned that he and Emerson were friends and Emerson let Thoreau put the cabin on the land as a place to fully commune with nature.) In this phase of my life, I care less about accumulation and more about the simplicity of space, the space that allows me to hear that quiet voice flow through and feeling its breath on my neck.
“If you have been in the vicinity of the sacred – ever brushed against the holy – you retain it more in your bones than in your head; and if you haven’t, no description of the experience will ever be satisfactory.”
― Daniel Taylor, In Search of Sacred Places: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands