Creating a Sacred Space for Spiritual Practice
What is a “sacred space?”
Many people who meditate, do yoga, and embrace the holistic lifestyle have what they call “sacred spaces.” These are “sacred” not necessarily in a religious way, but in the word’s original sense: “set apart for special use.” Whether we’re part of a religous or spiritual tradition or not, we are all in some sense spiritual beings. We all seek the deeper meaning in our lives; we have our own highly personal way of connecting to other beings and our environment. Creating beautiful, calming physical surroundings can help us to connect with our better selves and enter a profoundly relaxed-yet-alert state of mind.
Such spaces can be indoors or out in a garden. They may be entire rooms, parts of rooms set off by soshi screens, or just corners of rooms. They often include an altar of sorts, decorated with flowers, statuary of inspirational people, and other aids to entering into a meditative state. If you’re building a home yoga and/or meditation practice, the physical space you use is important– it will either add to, or detract from, your practice. Here are some suggestions for creating your own, ideal sacred space.
1. Your sacred space should make you feel calm just by walking into it.
One of the reasons we practice yoga and meditate is to calm our bodies and minds so we can breathe mindfully, become clear-headed, and gain a sense of mastery in our lives. If your meditation space is disordered and full of distractions, you’re unlikely to achieve these things. Your sacred space is your own private sanctuary — or, if you live with other practitioners, a communal room devoted to spiritual practice. Decorate it carefully and simply, paying attention to details that will help you relax. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Is there a cushion or something like it where you can sit for up to 20 minutes comfortably?
- Is the temperature fairly regulated? As much as you’re able, try to choose a room that won’t make you shiver or swelter.
- Is the area more or less clutter-free? If the room looks like something out of Hoarders, your mind is apt to remain as cluttered as your environment. Think sparse and well-ordered when decorating this room or area.
- Is there room for a yoga mat?
- Does the room have a focal point where you can set up a small altar and display items that will help chill you out?
2. Speaking of altars, be creative and design a simple, beautiful one.
Your altar is something that expresses what’s sacred to you; it should also reflect the tranquil inner state you’re seeking. Depending on your taste and background, you may want to decorate it with any of the following:
- Fresh-cut flowers
- Statuary of leaders or teachers who inspire you.
- A Tibetan Bell, a singing bowl, or similar “Zen-friendly” items.
- Prayer flags
- Wind Chimes
- Words that inspire you
- Art or photography that helps you enter a reflective state
- Wind chimes
- Crystals, talismans, or rune stones
3. Find music that de-stresses you, and play it at low volume.
We all have highly personal musical tastes; what’s relaxing to one person may be a downer to another. Whatever you choose, it should be quiet and non-intrusive (unless you’re one of those rare individuals who finds loud music soothing!). There’s a whole subgenre of the music industry now devoted to providing background music for yoga, meditation and holistic living. Here are some sources of great meditation music:
Sacred spaces can greatly enhance your yoga routine, meditation and prayer, or other spiritual practices. They can change with the seasons of the year (and the seasons of your life), and will evolve alongside your practice. As Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn writes in his book Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice,
“The key to creating a home meditation practice is to create a space where the busy-ness stops. When we stop and bring our mind back to our body, we can pay full attention to all that is happening in the present moment. We call this ‘mindfulness.’ To be mindful means to be here, fully present, and fully alive.” *
Enjoy creating your sacred space, and let it deeply nourish your peace of mind. Keep it simple, but allow it to evolve over time. Your spiritual practice will flourish, and you’ll be a more peaceful and tranquil person– the kind other people are naturally drawn to.
William K. Ferro
* Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice by Thich Nhat Hanh, Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, 2011, www.parallax.org