The Gift of Sacred Space
By Clark Zimmerman, LAc.
Years ago, my wife and I were in Beijing, China to do some advance study in Chinese medicine and qi gong. We arrived a couple of days before we were to meet the rest of our group. We checked into our hotel, and were overwhelmed with the busyness of such a large and chaotic city. The noise and pollution were disorienting. So being the nature loving Oregonians that we are, we got a map of Beijing and looked for any green space we could find. We discovered a park on the map, and took a very slow taxi ride the few miles to the park. To our dismay, the park was as crowded as the rest of the city, with thousands of people apparently craving the same stillness that Ann and I were looking for. We wondered around a bit disappointed for awhile, until we found a little walled garden where they served tea. When we entered the unassuming space, we were instantly transported to a different world. Away from the crowds and busyness of the park, a certain stillness permeated the place. People already seated in the tea garden were speaking more softly, more slowly. They were making eye contact with each other, and there seemed to be more smiles. Every detail of the garden seemed to invite a greater sense of stillness. The stones, the trees and plants, all seemed to dance together in perfect harmony. Ann and I were struck by the amazing ability of a deliberate, sacred space to change our mood. We were in a little oasis, away from all of the noise and clutter of the city.
This same phenomena is recognized all over the world. In the great cathedrals, in the soft gardens, in the simple altars. In this increasingly busy world we live in, it is more important that ever to visit, or even create our own version of these places in our lives. The greatest ally we all have in our journey to good health is cultivating the ability to relax, and take a break from the chaos of the fast paced world. This starts with finding a place that beckons us to slow down and just sit. It can be a local garden, with plants, stone and water. It can be in a silent alcove in our favorite church. It can be a little nook in the corner of our yard. The main criteria is that it is free of clutter and distraction: No cell phones, televisions or emails. With all of the things that beg for our attention in this fast moving world, we need to create space to relax. The effect of serene and sacred places can be instant; when we leave and rejoin the frenetic world we take a little piece of the stillness with us. This is the gift of a quiet and sacred space.