Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > A Sacred Space for Solitude

 
 

Sacred Space Just For You - A Practical Guide

May 20, 2021

Saying For Today: Regardless, all in the sacred space needs to point one to the purpose of entering the space: heart-communion with the Sacred.


Apple Tree Blossoming... Coastal Maine

Apple Tree Blossoming... Coastal Maine

Today's Saying: When truly, inwardly called to the Silence, you will find you have no excuse not to go There; your whole life becomes centered in that Silence.

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Today, I offer practical, though much limited, guidance on your own sanctuary space, a place apart for daily spiritual practice in silence and stillness. I conclude with an example from a monk, Paul Quenon. In offering this, I recognize that the subject matter will be shaped for most persons by the wisdom tradition of her or his spiritual practice. I have sought to offer generalities that apply across spiritual paths. Last, what I offer arises from my engagement in such daily practice for 25 years as a vowed contemplative. And while the prayerful life is simple, it is challenging, and what I offer here - and in my other writings - I am hopeful makes it less confusing and more enjoyable for those who know their heart is calling them to a life more-than-on-the-surfaces and lived from the ever-deepening depths of love, joy, and peace.

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Whether we are solitaries or not, we each and all need solitude. To walk the Way, you must find a sanctuary away from other persons - this is not an option. We may have more than one such place, but we need one we most frequent, and daily. And public worship or meditation with others cannot substitute for this solitariness.

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What about finding time? If you say, "I don't have time for this alone place," you are resisting the discipline of living a prayerful life. You may say prayers, but you will not live prayerfully. You may meditate, but you are not ready to live meditatively. When you are ready, no excuses will stop you from knowing you have the time to be alone with the Alone - what you call the Sacred is not of a priority; the Sacred Itself is the priority. When you want aloneness enough, you will find a place to engage your spiritual practice.

If you resist this aloneness, be honest about it, but do not judge yourself harshly. Know there will be excuses why you cannot do this, which is saying, "I'm afraid of it," until the resistance is acknowledged and relaxed. Even for us seasoned over many years in solitude... we, at times, find ourselves uneasy with the intimacy of aloneness. True intimacy makes all other intimacies pale in the light of its power and grace. We are accustomed to emotional intimacy, while spiritual intimacy is more in-depth, confusingly subtle, and awesomely powerful.

When suffering is greater than the fear of aloneness, you may be glad to welcome such a place where you can be alone with the Alone. And when you are alone with the Alone, you see you are more fully present when among others.

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Where do I go? It may be a room in your house or a corner of a room, a local church or another sacred meeting house, your yard, a public garden or park, somewhere in the wood... . Going to bed earlier and having time for quiet and prayer before sleep is a good sanctuary. You may find meditating into sleep places you in a peaceful posture. Before you retire to sleep, also, do what you do to promote the tranquility of body, mind, and spirit when asleep. Of course, remove from your life all possible that does not support a mindful, prayerful life-posture.

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Entering and leaving? Your sanctum space is not a place to go into and leave and do whatever you want, then come back. Also, do not rush in and out of the space. Enter gently, slowly, and leave likewise. Live a mindful life, enter the space and leave it in the same spirit climate. When you are in the Silence - by yourself or with others - enter and leave quietly. Loud talk, laughing, and common conversation are not respectful of the prayerful space or others who share it with you. If you are loud and talkative right after the Silence, you have likely not been in the Silence, even if you have not been talking - if you have, you have just broken the Silence, which you need to carry with you as you leave. And, recall, not-talking is not the same as resting heartfully in the Silence.

To have a space for prayerfulness, you need a prayerful life before you enter it and after you leave it. That is, you need to remain in prayerfulness always, day and night, even when asleep. You cannot turn on and off prayerfulness like a faucet. If you are not prayerful in the rest of your life, you will likely not be prayerful in the time of Silence - what you will experience is a voidness that can be mistaken for the Silence, but it is not the plentiful Quiet.

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Your sanctum will be a retreat first, not for work and talk, but stillness and quietness. Mindful walking can be part of the self-offering you make in your quiet place and chanting, singing, listening to music, saying prayers, yoga, and other aspects integrated into stillness and quietness. However, it is essential to have time to be silent and still in the prayerful place. Walking or working, while done mindfully, are not substitutes for stillness, for example. It would be best if you have not-to-do and not-to-say as your primary mode of worship.

Additionally, you will feel yourself becoming drawn to your sanctum. The place has been transformed with lighter energy supporting your devotion - this is a reason to have one primary sanctuary space, rather than having multiple ones or jumping about place to place. In time, when near the place, you will come to feel your body being drawn to it.

Particular objects may enhance this energy: a flower, a candle to light, icons, a Scripture, a prayer book, a rosary or mala, pictures of spiritual teachers you derive inspiration from, a favorite religious text, a daily prayer or thanksgiving journal, an intercessory prayer list... . - Regarding a phone, turn all sounds off... with one allowance... the alarm if you use it to signal the end of your time. - Some persons may prefer to keep the place free of all objects or have only one or a few, while others may feel drawn to more. Regardless, all in the sacred space needs to point one to the purpose of entering the space: heart-communion with the Sacred.

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Remember, in prayerfulness for others while apart, you are not in a private place - "apart" does not mean "private." You are in your sanctuary with all others in-Spirit. There, you need some form of prayer or meditation that includes the mention of all beings. Including prayer for particular persons or world needs is suitable and advantageous, also. At times, one may experience a felt need of voicing outer or inner prayer even when in the Silence. From your heart, for example, might arise the image of someone who needs intercession - this is not the same as the thought of someone - you will feel a certain quality of energy from Spirit - you will learn this... I do not need to speak of it here -: offer the person or need, but do not engage in wordy prayer - be brief. As for intercession for someone, often simply holding the image or thought of the person, or both, is all needed for you to do. Also, you do not need to know why the person needs prayer: One already knows - trust the person to Spirit and return to the sacred muteness.

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The Cistercian monk, Paul Quenon, in his In Praise of the Useless Life, tells of his place apart from his fellow monks in the monastery -


I myself remain a nighttime hermit who sleeps like a yard dog outside all year long. I occupy one end of the lumber shed, mostly sheltered from the wind, atop a wide porch slab and under a roof. It faces on the darkest part of our enclosure area, where stars are most visible, where silence prevails in winter, and where summer brings numerous frog croaks, peeper frog peeps, coyote howls, owl hoots, cricket chirps, whippoorwill and chuck-will's-widow songs, and occasionally some screechy thing I can't identify. Oh, not to forget ordinary cows, horses, mules, and farm dogs. I love it. I have done this for twenty-five years now, with a warm sleeping bag for winter and cool night breezes for summer, all as healthy and comfortable as needs be. I experience a special solitude there, a keener edge where no one is within yelling distance. In dark, gloomy weather, it takes some bravery to walk out to the spot, but that is part of the challenge. For the rest of the time, it is like paradise or, more modestly put, brings a merging with the ups and downs of the world around me, its dull and drab passages as well as its charms. Last night, for instance, I awoke to a moon above the pinnacle of a cedar with fog below, glowing low in the field.

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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2021

*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.

 

Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > A Sacred Space for Solitude

©Brian Wilcox 2021