By Patricia Brooke
The author Edward Hays, in his book Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim, says that just as travel in space requires a rocket or other spacecraft, pilgrims of inner space need a base to launch them on the journey inward. We need a special space/place of prayer where we are especially willing to be open to meet the Divine Presence.
Creating such a sacred space is not like decorating; it is a search for meaning or a process of discovering what has meaning for you. This process reminds us that creating sacred space literally involves putting spirituality into a physical form. Sacred spaces can be a place to stop — be still and listen to the voice of God and deepen that relationship.
My first recollection of a sacred space was an “altar” I created some 20 years ago, in my kitchen window. Unconsciously (or maybe consciously), it grew out of a need for personal space and evolved into sacred space. I realized that I had gathered items and placed them in my window: a small candle, a bird feather, a picture of my sons, a favorite quotation, and some tiny blocks that spelled “friend.” I would stand at that window and offer small prayers of thanksgiving and intercessions at different times of the day or sometimes just “being” — a stillpoint for reflection.
Since that time, I have created other altars: at the ranch house in Goliad, the kitchen window holds a turkey feather, heart-shaped rocks, and a candle; upstairs in our bedroom is a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe with a candle. Even in my office when I worked at the NixHospital, my space was a bulletin board that was a functional part of my office. It also held Bible quotations, prayers, posters, and other things that were meaningful to me. When my day became hectic, I could turn toward the bulletin board and find a quote to sit with just for a few seconds.
More recently, my study in San Antonio has become my sacred space. When we were remodeling our house, this space was to become an office but soon became more of a study, and I found myself beginning to create sacred space. I have a comfortable chair with a table that holds my books, my journal, a small water feature, and a candle. This is where I go to meet the Divine Presence almost every morning, beginning my day in prayer. I have added bird feeders outside my French door where I can watch the birds and hummers. It’s a way of bringing creation inside my sacred space.
This space in my study is organic, living; it changes from time to time. I may add to it or take something away. The very act of creating sacred space makes us spiritually receptive to the sacred, as well as giving us a physical place to pray or meditate.
Joseph Campbell in The Power of the Myth, has this to say: “This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something will eventually happen.”
Now that I have created this sacred space, I need to show up, be present, and wait, trusting that, indeed, something marvelous will happen.
Putting It Into Practice
When creating your own sacred space, be intentional; what is meaningful and reflective of the spirit within you? What has the power to make the presence of God immediate and real to you?
Listen to yourself; don’t be in a hurry. Relax and trust the process; visualize your sacred space and decide what speaks to you. Allow the space to invite you from the busyness of your life into that inner stillness where you can meet the Holy.
Think about where your space might be and what you might put into it:
A corner of your house or office, maybe a deck or garden outside
A comfortable place to sit, possibly a prayer stool or kneeler
A cloth or fabric
A religious image, icon, cross
An earthen icon, such as a rock, feather, flower
Prayer beads or rosary
A candle, prayer bell or prayer bowl
Devotional, prayer book, Bible, journal
Or maybe even a space empty of images and clutter
Sacred space allows us freedom from distraction. It allows us to “enter his gates with thanksgiving,” as we read in Psalm 100 (vs 3) to open our personal window to God’s continuing presence, to be patient and wait to see what happens.
Patricia Brooke often leads retreats and seminars. She is a member of St. David’s Episcopal Church in San AntonioTX. Reach her at email@example.com.