Eight Places to Find Your Sacred Space

By Thomas W. Shepherd, D.Min.
Eight Places to Find Your Sacred Space

Below are a series of scenarios. You can create whatever sacred space you want—pagoda temple or Grange Hall, towering basilica or tent in the wilderness. Images of potential meditation spaces begin below. Do not be confined to these examples, but think of the list as a starter kit for lifelong adventures in silent communion with your God.

1. Walled garden. There is something about a garden that bolsters the spirit. Look at the ancient imagery. Garden of Eden, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Zen gardens with rock and waves of sand, Islamic dream of Paradise regained. Flowers everywhere. Red azalea bushes in bloom. White and yellow roses. … Find a bench. Rest. Drink the scents and colors. Center on the glowing, blossoming, tasty plants surrounding you. Life expresses in such splendid variety. You are life, expressing. Life flows through these plants and through you. The natural order is good, trustworthy. Relax here as long as you like, and trust life.

2. Patio by the sea. The sea beckons and soothes. On a stonepaved patio, a table with light refreshments awaits you. Sit awhile. Any tasty treat you want is on the table. When you have sampled the delicious fare, close your eyes and be still. Listen to whispering surf and the caw-caw of gulls as they swoop over rolling waves. Perhaps a sea breeze will cool your face. Feel the ocean moving in the distance; the saline content of the ancient sea flows through your bloodstream. Be still. Open your mind. Listen and know the connectedness of all life …

3. Atop a stone tower. You stand atop an old stone tower and peer out at the sunrise. This is the edge of the world, the farthest outpost of civilization. Beyond this point there are no cities, no legions marching, no villages with their barrel makers, bakers, and barking dogs. The sun rises over pure wilderness. Where trees have never felt the blows of an ax, meadows have never seen a plow. You are here to celebrate a holy day, appointed by your people to greet the sun over the unknown lands. What do you see in the mist, and how does the scent of an untamed world smell to you? Can you feel peace here, or does the unknown frighten you? Take a long while to walk the stone wall and communion with a pristine land that has never known human footsteps.

4. Forest meadow. Walk silently along this path through the forest. Here and there sunlight breaks the canopy and slants into pools of gold among the mosses and ferns. From a distant tree comes the knock-knock-knock of a redheaded woodpecker drilling for insects that hide beneath the bark. … Sit on the log and wait to see what happens. You may ask questions, or wait to hear unsolicited remarks, or simply share the perfect moment. This is, after all, your meadow ...

5. Old library. The brown-robed monk leads you up two flights of winding stairs. Feel the stone steps as you walk. Your guide pushes a huge hardwood door that creaks loudly on its hinges. Suddenly you stand under an inverted u-shaped ceiling, a long, broad chamber.  … Do you want to read the autobiography of Jesus, including the complete text of all his sermons? It's here, in your language. Prefer something personal, perhaps a memoir written by a deceased friend or relative? It's here. Imagine the book, and you will find it here. Past, present, or future; it makes no difference. The monk gestures to the shelves and invites you to browse. What will you find?

6. Art studio. You receive an invitation in gold leaf on thick, expensive paper.

Your presence is requested at the Art Studio. Come at your leisure. All supplies provided free of charge.

You follow the directions and find the sprawling, one-floor building in a warehouse district. Opening the door, you discover the place is empty of humans but stuffed with materials for creating art. … Every kind of art is here. There's even a grand piano and a recording set up. More exciting, you discover you suddenly know how to do all these artistic works with great ease. You can carve a statue, write a symphony, or paint a masterpiece. What will you create in your art studio with these new talents rushing upon you?

7. Desert hilltop at sunset. Lonely and remote, washed in gold from the setting sun, the hilltop overlooks a deep, dry canyon where clumps of scrub trees cling to ledges and meander downward into the shadows. … Peaceful. Desolate. A place in the wilderness. Here your animal spirit guide might come and speak to you. Or an angel might appear in a flaming bush. Or the sun might go down unvexed by the supernatural, giving its permission for the millions of lesser lights to appear. It's your canyon. Populate it with the creatures of your mind, or sit quietly and enjoy the sunset.

8. House of Worship—Buildings, Grounds, and Gardens. … Enter your sanctuary and experience it on a multisensual level. Feel the seat beneath you. Sit or kneel or stand. This is your perfect place to honor the highest ideals you cherish. Let your mind bring you surprises. Be still and know.

Other Possibilities
All eight meditation exercises will not work for everyone. … The world is full of good ideas. Surely, you have earned the right to experiment a little to find the spirituality package that works best. Long ago, Buddha said, "You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."

This article is excerpted from The Many Faces of Prayer by Thomas W. Shepherd. Tom is a professor of theology and church history at Unity Institute® and Seminary, a columnist for Unity Magazine®, and host of the program Let's Talk About It on Unity Online Radio.