Sacred Space


Sometimes I'll come home after a long day and close the door behind me and just stand there. In the dark. Enjoying the quiet. I'll breathe for a few minutes and let my nervous system settle. I'm home. I've entered into that safe, welcoming space that reflects myself back to me.

There is my hook where I hang my bag. There is my hat hanging above it. This is my book I'm half way through, resting on the arm of my oversized chair welcoming me to sit and be comfortable. But before I do, before I really even take my bag off my shoulder,  sometimes I'll just stand there and soak in the silence. I will, however, take off my shoes. After all, I'm standing in a sacred space, my home.

What is sacred space? And how does a space earn the title, “sacred?” There are designated sacred spaces, like temples, churches, holy ground yes, but what makes a space “sacred” for you? Where is your sacred space? Why do we need sacred space?

I feel sacred spaces allows us a chance to remember who we truly are. I think we are born into a perfect natural state of awareness that has no differentiation between world and self. Naturally, we grow, differentiate, and become selfish and awkward in relation to the world. We learn that I’m this and you’re that, forgetting the oneness of everything. Then, somewhere in life we start to remember again. It's almost like we work all our whole lives to evolve back to the simple understanding of Self and the universe that we enjoyed as infants, only better this time because we will have had a life-time of experience under our belts, making us wise by choice and practice and not merely innocent by nature. This work is all internal and requires a workspace. Establishing sacred space gives us that workspace to forge the path toward self-realization.

We all get to choose our path toward self-realization and we get to choose our sacred workspaces. It’s fun. Here are some ideas about how to create a sacred space. In my sacred spaces often make shrines dedicated to the jazz gods John Coltrane, Theloneus Monk, and Miles Davis. Also, I have an altar space where I have some candles, a special table, some pictures and statues of things and people that evoke for me my own sense of wonder and contemplation and mystery of the Universe. It’s where I choose to mediate or pray. I like to light incense and candles there while I’m there. I keep objects there that have heart-felt or spiritual significance to me and I change those regularly depending on what's going on in my life. I also like to keep something living on or near my altar. I keep that space clean and free of clutter. And when I come home from a long day, sometimes while standing in the dark, I can often smell the trace of incense as an echo of my meditation I did earlier, reminding me that I'm at home in sacred space.

The tiniest bit o' space can be designated as sacred. The smallest little shrine or statue, or flower in a vase can fill the entire house with significance. I used to live in a wonderful old apartment, built sometime in the 1930s, which had a little alcove in the hall that once housed a rotary telephone. In this age of micro-technology, for those who don’t know, a rotary telephone was a communication device that attached to the wall by a wire. It probably weighed about 10 pounds and could double as home security device if wielded with a deft hand.

When I lived in that apartment, there was no longer a phone in that alcove but that little space worked perfectly as a little altar. Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, sat there comfortably, reminding me of my ability to navigate through tough spots. It doesn’t have to be a statue of Ganesh. Any object with spiritual or emotional connection placed in a designated space will serve as a subtle reminder of that connection.

I guess the real question is how to transform the rigmarole into the regal, the ordinary into the ordained. Even rolling out your yoga mat in a designated corner of the bedroom is a wonderful way of making sacred space. So much transformation and self-elucidation happens on our mat, in some ways our mats are like prayer rugs. No wonder everybody is so reluctant to recycle those things, even when they are riddled with holes and have acquired so much yoga funk that they could easily constitute a bio-hazard. By designating regular things into sacred objects and places we transform our daily grind into temples: the Temple of Dishes or the Tabernacle of Driving to Work. 

Make whatever your space you have sacred, no matter how humble. Allow it to be the workspace to explore your journey toward understanding Self.


Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he's not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.

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