Exploring Sacred Space: What do we mean by sacred space?

FairfaxSpiral_1Ever since I was a girl, I have been creating altars. From memorials to pets that had passed to a candlelit desk for contemplative studies to a full ritual altar at the center of a circle, I love the act of setting the stage for my intentions. Sometimes I find places where nature has created an altar of sorts: a sheltered cove between sand dunes with an interesting layout of shells, a hollow in the roots of a tree, or a mountaintop with an amazing view. As I think of these altars, I know they are sacred space. But why?

Sometimes an elaborate collection of objects creates a place where, as Joseph Campbell puts it, wonder can be revealed.

Sometimes an elaborate collection of objects creates a place where, as Joseph Campbell puts it, wonder can be revealed.

I love Peg Streep’s book, Altars Made Easy: A Complete Guide To Creating Your Own Sacred Space. In it, Streep defines sacred space as “a physical place where the divine or the supernatural can be glimpsed or experienced.” She sees sacred spaces as those places where we get in touch with that which is larger than ourselves. For me, it is the feeling of smallness you get when you stand on a peak and look out at the landscape spread out below, or the sense of wonder invoked by watching a candle flame dance. Sometimes the natural arrangement of objects, or simply a sense of the presence of a higher power, makes a place sacred.

Perhaps this, more than the need to “conquer” nature, inspires adventurers to climb the highest mountains or dive deep into the sea. Mountaintops, ocean reefs and the like are places of wonder and awe where we sense that which is beyond, yet within, ourselves. Even deep in the woods, or in your own backyard, nature offers such places. If you’ve ever stopped to contemplate a knot of tree roots, a circle of wild flowers, or the engineering of a perfect bird’s nest, you have felt it.

My simple elemental kitchen altar offers moments of serenity during busy days.

My simple elemental kitchen altar offers moments of serenity during busy days.

In Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines into Your Everyday Life, the author, Denise Linn, notes that the human psyche yearns for the mysterious and wondrous things that bring meaning to life’s ordinary moments. Being in sacred space fills that need and nourishes the soul.  Indoors, a display of objects, when  imbued with meaning by the individual, becomes holy. Even a grouping of photos, placed with intention, can elicit a sense of connection, gratitude and wonder.

Take a look around your home, your yard, or the places you frequent. Where have you found or created sacred space?

(Perhaps my Pinterest board devoted to sacred spaces will inspire you to create or find your own altars.)