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Sacred spaces, liminal places

Pyramid sacred space

When I first arrived at Pyramid Life Center, I carted my sleep bag and backpack up to my room in the main lodge, and, I have to admit, felt a flutter of disappointment when I realized my little room did not have a view of the lake. The last time I was at Pyramid I had a corner room with a lake view from both windows. I even slept with my head at the foot of the bed so the lake would be the last thing I saw at night and the first thing I saw in the morning. So I had to fight the urge to let disappointment be the first feeling I felt on my weekend retreat, especially since I wasn’t planning on spending that much time in my room and this might actually encourage me to spend more time sitting right next to the lake rather than looking at it from afar.

Even so, my room had to have a sacred space, no matter how little time I planned to spend there. So I set up the few things I brought with me and planned to add one thing during the weekend. Sacred spaces are so important to me. The photo above is actually the group sacred space from our meeting room and chapel. Like any good sacred space, it was filled with various things — from powerful images to containers of herbs — meant to connect us in some way with God and with other holy men and women who have walked before us on this journey.

In my own space, which you can see here, I brought a small crucifix, Pyramid my sacred spacemy battery candle, a dragonfly notecard (post for another day), a copy of an icon I loved from Abbey of the Genesee, where I’ve also done a silent retreat, and a broken seashell. Because broken seashells are essential to any sacred space I have. (You can read why over HERE.) The pine cone I found near the Adirondack chair in my favorite praying spot, so it seemed like a necessary addition.

The common theme through all of that for me was brokenness, which seems to be the refrain in my life lately. Broken figure of Christ at the center of the group’s sacred space, reminding us that we need to be broken for one another as Jesus was broken for us. The broken seashell at the center of my own space, reminding me to try to see the beauty in my own brokenness and in the brokenness of the people around me. Even my room, which might be considered “broken” by those who like comfort and luxury, made me think deeper about why I was in this place and whether the superficial stuff should matter so much.

But despite all the intentionally designed sacred spaces on my retreat weekend, the most sacred space of all needed no adornments or seashells or icons. It was the silence — totally barren and empty and naked — and yet life-giving and beautiful and draped in the wonder of God. Sometimes we spin our wheels trying to create something that will get us where we need to be, when all we really need to do is stop and strip away everything and sit naked before God and wait. Sacred spaces, liminal places…where heaven and earth meet, and it doesn’t matter one bit whether you have a room with a view.

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  1. Mary, my class on contemplative traditions in the west is about to head out to try silence for 3 days and I noticed that last time I assigned them when they came back to read your post about this retreat in 2011. Thanks for such a taut description of silence!

    September 10, 2013

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