Monday, July 14, 2014

Wisdom Sits in Places

"Celtic knot"
-in my meditation garden-

I was fascinated by a recent article in the New York Times written by one of the paper's travel editors who suggested that summer is a good season for taking a vacation to a "thin place." 

The ancient Celtic people were probably the first to coin the phrase "thin place" - an actual geographic locale where the distance between heaven and earth collapses, a place for catching a glimpse of the transcendent. The Celts were fond of saying "heaven and earth are only three feet apart but in a thin place the distance is even shorter." An old Apache proverb says something very similar:

Wisdom sits in places

In the Times article, the author talked about some of the "thin places"he had discovered in his travels- cathedrals in Europe, a Hindu temple, a national park. He also found some very mundane places like an airport terminal to be holy ground.

As I read the article in the New York Times, I completely identified with what that travel editor was describing. I have indeed visited many "thin places" in my life- places where heaven and earth seemed to be separated by only a thin veil. 

I think about the hundreds, maybe even thousands of churches I have visited, in some cases they have been "thick places" for me, where I didn't  even come close to sensing the Divine; but the first time I entered Canterbury Cathedral in England I knew I was standing on holy ground.  I caught a glimpse of the transcendent in that space and have been back there several times - every time I walk through those doors, I find I am transformed.  

I also remember a visit to a Buddhist Monastery in South Korea. When I walked into the shrine I felt so close to the "Holy" that I literally fell to my knees. 

I have stood on the rocky cliffs of Wales overlooking the Irish Sea- it was such a thin place. A mountaintop in Maine, a beach on the Atlantic Ocean, the Grand Canyon - all have been "thin places" for me, places where I have found wisdom sitting.  

As usual I begin my day in my meditation garden here in our desert home, and I realize that I don't have to travel anywhere to find a "thin place" this summer  -  I live in one. 

Every single morning when I walk out into my garden to greet the sun, the wind rushing through the palms, a gurgling fountain,  hummingbirds everywhere, exotic cacti and desert flowers - such a thin place. 

Walking along the wilderness trails just steps away from my home, sitting in the shade of the palm trees of a nearby oasis, or even siting in my favorite chair at the local coffee shop relishing the presence of all the people surrounding me  -- these are my thin places, sacred spaces, holy places. "Heaven and earth are only three feet apart but in these places the distance is even shorter."

I think the travel editor in the Times had it right - Summer is a great season to travel out to thin places.  You may need a airplane to get you there or maybe all you have to do is walk into your own back yard. 











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