An important part of a satisfying spiritual life is the experience of encountering the sacred, the holy. But what is sacred? What is worthy of reverence, respect and devotion? If we have eyes to see, we may find holiness virtually everywhere. In the sweet song of a little bird. In the beautiful face of a questioning child. In contemplating the miracle that there is something, rather than nothing, in the world.
I believe that the sacredness of things and places is not so much something inherent in them that sets them aside from others. No, holiness is more about the way we look at and experience something.
Given the right attitude, everything has the potential for holiness. Any space may be experienced as sacred, whether it be a majestic vaulted cathedral, extravagantly bedecked with gold, great artwork and religious symbolism, or a simple shrine in the corner of your living room or bedroom.
One of the aims of my own spiritual practice is to achieve that ability to experience a sense of sacredness in everything I do and see. Needless to say, however, I often — nearly always — fall short of that ideal.
The mundane practicalities of life routinely push aside the sacred dimension of life’s experiences. And so, in order to bring sacredness into our lives, it may be necessary to be intentional about setting aside particular times and places to foster it.
So where might that be? One stereotypical — but legitimate — response is “out in nature.” I’ve heard many people talk about how the most sacred spaces they’ve known have been in a majestic forest, or along the shore of a river or a lake or an ocean.
For me, one of those places has been on a mountaintop, where I was able to survey vast stretches of nature all around me without distractions. One thing common to this sort of experience is a separation — a distancing — from the typical humdrum busyness that feels anything but sacred. Thus, we are able to focus on the transcendent nature of the world around us.
But is it necessary to go out into nature to find a sacred space? No. We can turn our homes into sanctuaries and havens that allow us to pause and reflect; that can move us into a deeper connection with ourselves, our physical environment and perhaps our God.
One way to create a sacred space for yourself is to dedicate a spot in your home for that purpose, whether it is a room or a corner of a room. Then, create your own altar using items that are meaningful to you.
Remember that holiness is not so much an inherent quality of an item as it is a quality of how you relate to it. You might go so far as to create a ritual. How will you honor your space? Your ritual may be simple or complicated, but whatever you choose to do, make it meaningful to you.
Your sacred space may become a place to seek spiritual guidance, to connect with the divine, or simply to practice deep breathing and create a positive vision for your life.
As you refocus on your inner life, you may find yourself calmer, clearer, happier and more inspired to follow your heart.
Mark Hayes is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County, 780 Waupelani Drive Ext. He can be reached at email@example.com.