Most people have accepted the societal notion that we must establish separate places for the mundane and the holy. This would mean then that we rely on external structures to feel somehow spiritually elevated, that we ourselves are not by our own nature holy. Instead we must construct an artifice to sanctify a space as if by osmosis our presence within it would in turn sanctify us. Holy, sacred, sanctified, Divine: do we need to invent accessories to make us thus?
Merriam-Webster’s definition of holy includes “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness ” “divine,” and “devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity, as in a holy temple and holy prophets.” It is in some cases synonymous with the word “sacred, defined as “worthy of religious veneration (holy), “dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity.” These are human linguistic constructs. They helped bring order to chaos and teach more primitive versions of ourselves to recognize and harmonize with a higher plane of existence.
Consider the Old Testament account of building the first Temple. In Chronicles we see the smallest details that went into Solomon’s building of the Temple, from the number of cubits lengthwise and width-wise to the positioning of two gold plated cherubim to the string of 100 pomegranates… but only one line addresses the sanctity of place. It is not the decoration and overlay of precious metals that sanctified the temple: it was the place, Moriah, in Jerusalem, “where [the LORD] appeared unto David his father; for which provision had been made in the Place of David.” This is an example of a space being made sacred when we converse with God....which many of us believe we can do anywhere.
However, the place where Jews traditionally gather to pray since the destruction of the Temple is called by the orthodox a “shul,” which is Yiddish for school, emphasizing a place of study rather than a place of sanctity. Conservative Jews use the word synagogue, related to synod, an assembly place, the center of Jewish life . Neither term attributes holiness to the structure. Noted Chabad author Rabbi Zvi Friedman, explaining the concept of God, says it is not the thing that exists but existence itself, “the infinite flow of light and energy. ” It parallels Buddhist and Taoist thinking, being in the present and going with the flow. Divine presence doesn’t begin when we physically cross a threshold and it doesn’t cease when we reverse our steps.
When the Lubavitch Chassidim pray, they tie a black belt around their waist to symbolize the separation of the physical from the divine, inderstanding the divine is associated with the upper body. Compare this with the Hindu and Buddhist chakra system in which that same physical spot, the solar plexus, is the chakra that separates the physical lower three from the spiritual upper three. These religions understand that we are sparks of the greater divine energy despite the different names we assign to it. Through our existence alone we are holy.
Indigenous people know this a revere all creation as holy. Some believe that every act of creation is holy. The trance state of the composing artist, writer, or musician parallels the meditative state. Both share the same physical brain space. Ask a mother what she felt the first time she saw and held her newborn, an extra-ordinary experience. Those who have seen a being take his last breath say the experience that transcends earthly realm, that a palpable veil envelopes covers the room, where the silence and humility momentarily overshadow the pain of grief and sorrow.
Can we make sacred spaces if all space is by nature sacred? We can instead reserve space for meditative silence and prayer to foster communication with the Divine. At times we do want to separate ourselves to more intimately commune with the divine. The Native American Vision Quest ritual is an example. An individual retreats into nature for a number of days seeking the spiritual guidance that will reveal to him his true purpose on earth so he can return to the tribe and activate his mission. Sequester means “to separate oneself from,” with interesting Latin etymology: “to place in safekeeping.” One of the definitions of “quest” is “the act of seeking.” In preparing ourselves to communicate with Spirit, we begin with our seeking and hope to be safely kept in the energy of the Divine. Expanding the confines of Divine beyond modern constructs incorporates the entirety of creation, and our belief in sacred earth and sacred animals compels us to seek that peace in nature.
But contrary to popular understanding. this is not a practice reserved for tribal peoples. This deep form of communion is reflected in Jesus’s experience in the wilderness. In Mark, we read of his baptism, when the Spirit descended upon him and sent him in the wilderness, where he was with “the wild animals”—with, not separate from them, living a Divine life with all creation. Mohammed received his revelation isolated in a mountain cave near Mecca. In many cultures this natural sequestering differentiates the earthly from the spiritual, but it doesn’t make us holy. Perhaps it just expands our vision, allowing us to see that, without the distractions of the world, we already are. Kundalini yoga, the practice of the Sikhs, teaches this basic song to be sung as a mantra during every session: Heatlhy am I, happy am I, holy am I.
Rev. Lisa Shaw is an animal communicator, Reiki Master, intuitive reader, professor, and writer who lives in South Florida with a furry and feathered family. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and an M.A. in Pastoral Minsitries and has trained as a Hospice chaplain.Her e-book Illumination: Life Lessons from Our Animal Companions, is available on Amazon. Her web site is www.reikidogs.com.