Most of us have had the experience of visiting a sacred space–a cathedral, a temple, a mosque. Depending on our nature and perspective, the places can be humbling and inspiring, or just buildings–lovely, perhaps, impressive, often–but buildings nonetheless.
But every so often, our experiences in these places are transformative. From a snowy evening Mass in a quiet church to a private ritual in the deep woods to a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca or Lourdes or El camino de Santiago, certain places inspire us to connect more deeply and meaningfully to our spiritual selves.
Personally, it’s been a while since I’ve stepped foot in a cathedral. Moving beyond my Roman Catholic upbringing was a healthy thing for me, but I will admit to missing the grandeur of Gothic cathedrals, the quality of sunlight through stained glass, and the echo of sacred music from stone walls and ceilings.
In our increasingly secular world, it’s more important than ever that we take responsibility and set aside time for the sacred in life. Now, for the atheists out there, I’m not talking religion. As Kim Knott wrote,
“… those forging social identities in secular contexts – who draw on non-religious commitments and beliefs including atheism, humanism and secularism – mark as ‘sacred’ those occasions (such as marriage), persons (a lover), things (a ring), places (a registry office) and principles (equality and justice) that they value above all others, and that they see as set apart and inviolable: those things that may be deemed to be both secular and sacred.” (2013)
In that sense, we can all experience the sacred (as opposed to mundane or profane), regardless of our religious persuasion. Freed from the dogma of traditional religion, the definition of what is sacred in our lives expands to encompass our unique perspectives and personal experiences and values. I’ve known people so entrenched in their favorite college team that they attach an almost sacred value to the symbols of the game–their favorite team jersey, an autographed baseball caught at a playoff game, even the stadium where they commune with fellow alumni and fans each week.
The sacredness, therefore, is not in the object or place itself, but in the meaning and value we apply to it.
When I started to truly work on my spirituality, I had a difficult time finding a sacred space since Kat and I share a small apartment without a lot of privacy. When the earphones go on (with my sacred or classical music) and I assume meditation stance, Kat usually knows to give me my privacy.
But a sacred space, private and alone, without even a chance of interruption? I was sort of at a loss, until I came to a startling realization.
My sacred space is my car. (Now hear me out.) Each work day, I travel 30 minutes each way to and from work. It is the only time at all that I’m ever truly alone. And when I commute, I am very particular about it. I am very specific about what I will allow with me on my trip. Screaming or goofy disc jockeys are strictly forbidden, as are news shows. Classical music is acceptable on my solo journeys, but not pop music.
What I usually listen to is instructional podcasts–The Akashic Reading Podcast, Mindful Living Spiritual Awakening, or America Meditating Radio are some of my favorites. I will also listen to non-spiritual, but healing podcasts, like The Hilarious World of Depression or Hay House Radio Podcast.
By carefully protecting my space, through repetition and thought and careful monitoring of the tone and emotions within, I transformed my 2013 Kia Soul into a rolling cathedral of my very own.
It is possible to create a space of your own, one that is sacred and healing and safe, where you can meditate, think, pray, journal, or explore any undertaking that you find sacred and valuable. Here are a couple of ways to get started:
- Make it accessible. Find a place that feels comfortable, where you feel safe to relax and be yourself. This could be a room in your home, a special spot in nature, your car, a remote picnic table outside your office that you can walk to during lunch–whatever works for you that you can retreat to with a minimum of trouble.
- Make it private. Nothing kills a good meditation faster than Joan from Accounting tracking you down to ask you about next month’s stretch goals. Many corporate offices now offer “Quiet Rooms” as an antidote to cubicle culture. If you prefer your space to be mobile, go for a walk or ride your bike or take a drive. A meditation podcast or soft music on your earbuds can transform a simple jog into a spiritual experience.
- Clear the space. Not to get all “woo-woo” on you, but buildings and spaces retain energy. I worked in an office once, a cubicle farm, which was so negative I could actually see a dark haze over the heads of the employees when I unfocused my eyes. There was not enough sage in the world to clear that place. Most spaces are more forgiving, and you can use several methods to clear them, including smudging, bells, singing bowls or wind chimes, and many others.
- Make it your own. Whether it’s saving your favorite podcasts to the Jukebox in your car or setting a statue of Quan Yin on the altar in your home, your sacred space is just that–yours. Objects of power and reverence will help you calm, center, focus, and connect. If you are using an office quiet room, bring something of your own with you–prayer beads, a crystal, anything that is portable and has meaning. I have a Native American blanket Kat and I bought on our move from Kentucky to Arizona which I bring with me when I use the quiet room. It always grounds and connects me to what I value most.
- Set the intent. Just as a church or temple or mosque is consecrated, you can consecrate your space. It can be an elaborate Wiccan ritual where you call the quarters and invite the Goddess to bless your altar, or it can be as simple as a silent prayer or meditation setting your intention.
Bringing a space of spirituality into your life doesn’t have to be a major production. You don’t have to take a year-long sabbatical and journey to a temple at the top of a mountain in the Himalayas to find a place where you can connect to a higher plane. Your sacred space can be a nearby, as portable, and as convenient as you want it to be.