My friend Mara, a number of years ago, touted the importance of a designated spot for meditation and contemplation rather than just using my comfy chair after coffee and the morning newspaper. She had a good point as usual. So I pulled together an old metal plant stand and plopped a jagged piece of slate on top, squeezed it into a teeny spot opposite the papa-san chair in the upstairs bedroom, added a garden Buddha figure and a candle and some incense and called it good.
A few weeks ago Pastor Sarah of the Shepherd of the Prairie Lutheran Parish invited me to be her guest at a day-long women’s retreat in North Dakota. The theme was Renew, Respond, Rejoice and we covered the gamut with everything from meditation to some good old physical exercise, but the resource which really resonated for me that day was a section regarding sacred spaces which came from writings by an Inez Torres Davis (to give proper credit) from the Women of the ELCA Lutheran organization.
She definitely covered the subject of sacred spaces in depth and, like Mara, stressed the importance in this crazy, modern world, of creating a personal place just for oneself. And in creating that place, she even admonished that “energetic clearing and healing are NOT New Age or new-fangled ideas!” Imagine that. I always said the Lutherans were a progressive bunch. She cites the age-old practices of laying on of hands in prayer and the blessing of a home or church.
And so the first step after you have chosen that special spot, is to remove everything within it’s circumference and clean it well – even to the admonition to using “mild, environmentally friendly soap”. I like that. And while you’re scrubbing, hold a mental picture of the beauty and fresh new energy of the space.
The choice of my sacred space on Mt. Faith was easy. At some point in this old house’s over hundred year history, the top of the stairs acquired a small – very small – landing to nowhere. It opened off from an upstairs room (the Grumpy Room to be exact) and jutted out above the stairwell and just might have given access to an outside balcony in the past for it seems to serve no obvious purpose, but that is just my surmise.
However, it now has access to the most wondrous view looking down on the front garden and into the tall ash tree and it seemed perfect for the purpose of quiet and reflection.
So once I had chosen and cleaned the spot, I was ready for the next step – the Blessing. Take your pick – or indulge in all! The first suggestion is to use incense or smudging sage, wafting the smoke in all directions. I used both. And then she recommends calling upon healing energies by sounding the notes through bells, gongs, rattles or drums. I hung my Tibetan bells from the ceiling and actually unearthed the old maracas that my father brought back from his travels to South America in the 1930’s. He loved Latin music and just shaking them about made me feel happy. The third cleansing can come from blessed oil or water. I always rather envied the Catholics their holy water. It seems like such a comforting ritual. But I do have essential oils which are used for all manner of healings – via the Bach Flower Essence practice and I did put a few drops of lavender and rosemary in my cleaning water for good measure. As well as spritzing the air from a bottle of Aura Cleanser which is made by Clifton Harrison in Santa Barbara, California. This is the spray I always included as part of our ritual whenever my granddaughters would take a gift and make a wish at the Angel Tree on Castenada Lane. The final blessing suggestion is prayer. Simple as that. Just quietly “setting your intent” whether written or just from the heart.
After the Cleaning and the Blessing you’re ready for the Creation itself – what she calls “the Feeling and the Filling”. How perfect a description is that. And before you begin to add chairs or candles you need to start with color. I chose a dusty rose – a hue I can just “sink into” and feel enveloped and relaxed. And a small soft red Indian kilim for the floor. And an old lace curtain I had been carrying around for years from our Victorian house in Ferndale and fit exactly the side railing, making the small spot soft and cozy. Then – a small wicker chair I found at a garage sale with a silk brown pillow that says “dream”, and my old faithful plant stand/pink slate table with my praying Buddha, candle and incense. Behind the table an old Christmas card framed of angels flying up past leaded windows. And on the wall my favorite – a large framed photograph by John Wimberley entitled “Descending Angel”. So I have them coming and going. Both directions covered.
Inez Torres Davis, the author of this piece, says you must put into your sacred space whatever moves you and strikes your faith and fancy. It could be a music source, inspirational books, photos of those near and dear, rocks and crystals, a bubbling fountain, personal amulets and icons. It could be busy or austere. She only suggests that you add one element at a time – carefully, with meditative thought about each specific significance.
And – your sacred space might just be a sequestered garden nook, a private bench beside a bubbling fountain, a fanciful recreation of Oberon and Titania’s Bower of Bliss, or even an Angel Tree – the garden possibilities are endless.
Finally the most important part. Using your sacred space. Whether it be to pray or meditate or dance or just find peace and quiet, she says – “be focused but gentle with yourself as you establish your rhythm and methods. Just know that the more used, the more blessings your space will provide.” Amen.