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Sacred Physical and Metaphorical Spaces

Can you think of one space that is just your own? Most of us have our own homes, apartments, rooms, or closets, but do you have a space that is just for you? A space in which you give no one else an invitation? Having your own physical or metaphorical space can be empowering. It can be a physical and mental portal where no one else can influence your thinking or judgement. Having this space is important for wellbeing. Lifestyle writer, Marie Kondo, has said that “not having your own space is dangerous. Everyone needs a sanctuary.” In fact, research in environmental psychology shows that the space around us affects our mood and behavior. Because we know that our environments can influence the way in which we think and behave, it’s important for us to have at least one sacred space for ourselves.

Your physical space may be your favorite place to reflect and to think

There are some places that I have formed quite strong associations with certain places, people, or feelings. We are biologically programmed to find connections between events. The connections help us to remember what sorts of things are dangerous or harmful, that we should avoid, and what things bring us pleasure and should pursue. For example, my childhood home is plagued with memories of old friendships, high school sweethearts, and inevitable heartbreaks. While there are also good memories from my home, I tend to feel flooded with unpleasant, past memories after being home for a while. This is one reason why I think that it’s important to have a sacred space that is not contaminated with previous connections.

A sacred physical space may be a meditation corner that is just for you. This could be set with candles for soft lighting and scents that are unique to your meditation practice. Another example of a sacred physical space may be a short running path. This may be a detour of a longer running path or a trail that you only run on your own. It could be a park bench that you go to in the morning or late evenings when you know no one else will be around. The important aspect for this space is that it is yours in the sense that it is where you know that you can find peace in whatever way you experience peace. Maybe it’s a quiet space that allows you to hear the sounds of nature and to think freely. Maybe it’s a busy mall where you can sit and hear the buzz of conversations while you maintain your own thoughts in a surrounded state of solitude. The physical area that you choose should be unique to you.

This particular space should be only for you and for whomever you deem worthy of forming a connection with that space. When we find a place where we find peace and clarity, we often want to share it with others. However, I urge caution against sharing your area with friends or family. Contaminating a peaceful space with unpleasant thoughts is deceivingly effortless. One silly argument or fallout with the person whom you invited to the area could lead to negative thoughts while you are there on your own, and a once peaceful place could turn into a pattern of rumination. If at all possible, avoid bringing anyone to your chosen area. Be mindful about keeping your physical space sacred.

Metaphorical spaces can be a state of mind that is sacred

Sacred spaces do not have to be physical ones. They can also be metaphorical, a state of mind that is kept private. The quintessential metaphorical space is the journal. This is a place where you can think and express yourself freely without judgment. These thoughts are private, and the state of mind while journaling is different from that during other times. It does not matter where you are physically, as long as you know that the sentiments expressed in your journal are private. Journaling can be done the old-fashioned way with paper and pencil, physically locked away. Alternatively, it can be done digitally in a password-protected, encrypted journal. Both options have different forms of privacy and facilitate free thinking.

Similar to journaling, meditation allows for nonjudgmental thoughts. Mindfulness and meditation expert, Shauna Shapiro, says that “mindfulness is to see clearly.” It is way of thinking that encourages one to focus on her breath and to allow thoughts to pass without holding onto them or evaluating them. It is simply allowing them to be. This state of consciousness can be your private, metaphorical sacred space. For example, you might carve out a time first thing in the morning where you practice 10 minutes of meditation on your own. This is not say that you never meditate with anyone else, but you are mindful about what meditative space is just for you and what meditative space you choose to share with someone you deem safe to coexist in your sacred space.

There are multitudes of metaphorical spaces that you can claim as your own. Certain religious practices involve prayer and worship. A morning prayer ritual may be a time where you engage in conscious, deliberate thought. Visual creators may prefer sketching or photography to engage with for their private mental space. A daily sketch to end the day may allow for a mental calm. Perhaps a photography session of landscapes at the end of a hike might allow for a sacred mental space. One of my personal favorite metaphorical spaces is engaging in a free writing session without judgement or revisions. Maintaining a casual blog, much like this one, may help to disengage, decompress, and find a sense of mental peace.

In the same way as the physical space, though, your metaphorical space should be kept sacred and away from potential negativity. To make this concrete, this mental state can be shared when you invite someone to join you in your meditation session, journaling routine, blog writing, prayer ritual, or whatever you do for mental peace. Do not allow your mental ritual to become contaminated with unpleasant experiences or influences from others. Whoever you decide to share your mental space with, if anyone, should care about it as much as you do.

The bottom line is to find your space and keep it sacred

Your physical or metaphorical space may look different from someone else’s, and that is to be expected. We all find peace in different ways. What is important is that you find somewhere and something that works for you. Once you find it, or if you already have it, make sure that you keep it sacred. In this busy world that is mostly shared, it’s important to find a place of peace – whether it be physical, metaphorical, or a combination of the two – we all need our own sanctuary.


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