The more I contemplate, create and research sacred spaces the more I come back to the same teachings; that the sacred is what the gurus see constantly in all of creation - good and bad, higher and lower - they see everything as God. This is what is meant by 'everything being as One'. I say this because there are moments for many of us when we can see it too, flashes of it, but these moments are fleeting. The Sat Guru (as I am calling for the purpose of this article) is total and therefore nothing is fleeting. For the aspirant the purpose of life and experiencing life is to arrive at this state more and more often until it becomes constant. One realises permanence through the impermanence and the illusion of life.
That’s the wonderful thing about studying subjects to share, you end up realising, not just the quote or the idea but how that idea works in the manifest and un-manifest world. You begin to feel it as a concept in your field and it becomes something that you wish to integrate and absorb into. Your own questions are answered and more and more questions arise - I am always in awe of the endlessness of everything - even enquiry.
What has worked for me mostly over my years with regards to Sacred Space as a seeker or yogini, or whatever the name, is taking that time out for me, separate from the world before I begin my day and again at the end of the day. Why? There is a great power and healing in aloneness especially as you awaken to the dawn…and fade into the dusk.
I am a parent so I know that some parents feel that the only time they have for their own practice is in and around the family due to time constraints and energy levels and I think that’s great and fun; sharing your love and dedication with your kids. Or they have partners that they share meditation and practice with. This is all wonderful and also powerful! However alone is how we begin and how we will end, so we should be comfortable in the sacred - alone.
Time alone with the Supreme is a time to be cultivated, to be cherished and wonderfully, wonderfully powerful. Communing with the sacred is at the end of the day a personal experience first and it is extremely relevant as to why we are here. As when the time comes, you will be leaving alone - cheery prospect but never the less true.
Even if you are surrounded by your friends and loved ones, your last breath will be alone and you will transfer alone into the next stage of your journey at the very least. So, fear of meditating alone and fear of death are really kind of similar in my experience, and in my opinion, kind of the same thing. For example: if we are doing something alone, that is an entirely different experience to sitting and doing nothing alone (or at least this is what our fear tells us). Cultivating that fearlessness or that pioneer attitude is partly what the beginning of learning to meditate is. Before you get into the skills of single pointed concentration you have to get over the fear of loneliness in your thoughts and emotions. Which is why so many of us begin with music, external meditations, group sangha or community and relaxation techniques in order to arrive at the space of bravery.
Having a sacred space full of reminders, pointers and the Devine made manifest effecting your subconscious so that they can ripple into you daily life, is therefore nothing new, it is as old as the hills. Paramahansa Yogananda would say, "Have a photograph of your guru and look deep into their eyes before you meditate so that their love is imprinted into your mind as you begin your meditation." In fact he insists that what and whom you spend time with is essential to you internal landscape.
So sacred space is creating a space of love, trust and safety, and the more you practice the more you feel secure and safe regardless of outside or inside circumstances and the world becomes a reflection of your relationship with the Devine - total faith aligned, restored - through the courage of practice. Not only emotionally but subtly and physically; as once you begin your journey, you will see for yourself the wonders of the universe and that you are indeed at the core, formless endless spirit.
I love this quote :
In this article I was initially going to share a few tips of how to create a sacred space, however a much broader perspective unfolded - I hope you find it useful.
The Yogic History of Sacred Space
From the times of the Indus Valley to the present day for over 4,000 years or more, ancient civilisations of India have created sacred spaces. Even in the dark ages or rather the early times of the Veda, long before the Rig Veda was written, there was ceremony, ritual and even sacrifice. As they advanced or re-advanced as the Yugas and less main stream historians would determine, seers, sages and mystics eventually let the old ways of sacrifice fall away (in the main) as they were deemed both unnecessary and un-beneficial. Yet the act of Sacred Space would remain purposeful.
In temples (mandirs) to household shrines, caves to the Kutirs of the Great Gurus, a space for the esoteric to build and esoteric metaphysics to enhance would remain; even to this day. Spaces that require respect, ceremony and discipline. Spaces that felt and feel different. When you enter these spaces of prayer, mantra, samadhi, mediation, worship, praise, wholeness and intention - the energy shift becomes obvious.
Hindu denominations and sects of the Sadhus are surrounded by rituals, rites, ceremony and temples and we see them everywhere in India. Even those who are on the path of pilgrimage and renunciation, visit Sat Gurus, sacred sites, saints, Holy men and seers.
So I am not talking specifically about temples (as we know them). These did not exist in the Vedic times accept for ‘cave temples’ and huts, rituals and ceremony sites, some of which still exist to this day. Temples came later as a space to see the Devine made magnificently more manifestly experience-able to the senses.
The shrine is the most sacred and central part of a Hindu temple or Mandir. It’s usually the place where the deity or the holy relic is installed for worship after sanctifying the area with special mantras and holy water. Usually, only the priest is allowed to enter the shrine for carrying out daily puja and services. The offerings to the deities are made in the shrine. Therefore, it holds a significant place in Hindu and Indian culture.
Shrine’s also find themselves in homes throughout India. From small wooden encapsulated spaces on walls, to larger austere affairs and prayer rooms. As well as acknowledging the sacred divine deity or guru there are certain rituals carried out in these sacred spaces such as Puja or Vagna.
Yet it is not only who meditated, what happened or is happening in these sites, what they omit and how we respond, it can also be in the geometry, in the architecture and in the symbolism.
Intentionally, nearly all sacred architectural sites have been built from the ground up with deliberate purpose. From the location - lay lines, to the direction - NSEW, the position - astronomy, the geometry - mathematics of creation, images - symbolism and the acoustics - frequency of sound.
So when we acknowledge these elements are purposeful, we can begin to understand how our metaphysics, our dna responds via our subconscious.
What we surround ourselves with has an effect.
Which is why these geometric images such as the Sri Yantra, are used for concentration during mediation or why Vastu Shastra (science of architecture) is a commonly used form of Hindu architecture.
Why or how do we feel the energy of sacredity?
What is feeling compared to touch? What is happening when we feel?
Matter is not solid at all but merely energy in motion. Matter is composed of subatomic particles that have no design and do not follow any standard order. Sometimes they behave like waves and sometimes like particles and sometimes they are both at the same time. Therefore the experience of ‘touch’ is the connecting of two magnetic fields; we are not feeling something solid, we are touching resistance.
As we can feel the energy levels of people and what they are emitting, we can also feel the energy of a room. Energy builds the more it is contributed to, so if you’re in a space where sadness has happened and people visit there to express their sadness - the energy will build.
Likewise then is prayer, worship, mantra, meditation, benevolence, introspection, trust, peacefulness, calm, introspection has happened, so the energy will build.
One way of seeing this in action is through sound, yoga nada - sound vibrations and frequencies are transmitted just like radio waves and they are absorbed. We know this as you can see frequency geometry in water, therefore atoms, cells, etc will also absorb the effect of frequency and their properties.
Uplifting qualities or high vibrations are also felt and absorbed, they can remain in space and they can increase. The level to which we recognise them depends on our abilities to feel energy within ourselves, however subtle our awareness of energy, there is no doubt that it is there.
Let’s say you walk into a space and it feel hopeless or hopeful - how do you know?
This is why sacred spaces and temples have rules and ritual, firstly to remove negative energy and secondly to harness positive or higher vibration frequencies of energy; where everything is as it should be, everything is harmonic - harmonised, whole, and everything is in balance - aligned.
We connect with this balance as it is our natural state.
What is contained in these spaces that we can feel?
When we walk into a room where positive energetic metaphysics takes place and is part of the structure, we can feel it, we maybe can’t see it, and we don’t have the recognition of what we call touch, but we sense it and know that it is there.
The Sanskrit word for energy is Shakti. The great science of the Rishes went to the heart of matter and called it Maya. Maya is not an illusion but that which creates some sort of delusion in us, which makes us think that the shapes and forms and events in which we live are real. It is the concept of confusing the map with the territory. It is the acknowledgement of the truth that existence is all energy, waves, frequencies, vibrations, motion, geometry, science.
Let’s say you go into a temple you can’t feel a thing and sense nothing, with time, practice and allowing oneself to recognise these subtleties - you will. You are energy, in an energetic body. So we’re dealing with fact here not fiction. Becoming aware is a softening that has to occur harshly for some of us, slowly for others and is innate for others - but it is real and it is yours to realise. This is why when are suffering we feel even more drawn to these places and people.
So, when we enter a space that contains these higher vibrational frequencies of celestial love and joy, feelings such as peacefulness, sadness, reflection, introspection wash over and create an emotional response within us.
We have not suddenly acquired some new age delusion to feel the energy - it is science, it is the reality of it all, it is life, it who we really are and we are all made of the same stuff, so we respond.
Vibration the subconscious and the containment and transference of energy
Energy is neither created or destroyed, the sum total of energy in the universe is constant. We recognise something is existent when it is perceived by our senses directly or indirectly. Existence and non existence are based on our ability to sense or perceive them.
So as we have discovered sacred spaces and sacred sites are not necessarily adorned and neither are they always described as sacred but the key element here is how they make us feel and respond, what feelings are generated in us the visitor, depending on the person or persons that created them or who spend time there.
There are many sacred sites in the Himalayas that are neither temples or great ritual sites, they are rivers, mountains, trees, forests, etc these spaces of sacred significance are brought about by who has been there, meditated there and the energy that they omitted. Over time devotee after devotee and those on holy pilgrimage add their energy and surrender to the space and so the space itself is a pure magnet of positive, peaceful, joyful, insightful, healing energy or deep contemplation. These spaces attract thousands upon thousands and will convince even the merely curious, that there is a particular change in feeling there, that one can sense without knowing why or how.
Sattva is a state of harmony, balance, joy and intelligence. Sattva is the guna that yogi/nis achive towards as it reduces rajas and tamas and thus makes liberation possible. To increase sattva reduce both rajas and tamas, eat sattvic foods and enjoy activities and environments that produce joy and positive thoughts. Sattvic foods include whole grains and legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables that grow above the ground. All of the yogic practices were developed to create sattva in the mind and body. Thus, practicing yoga and leading a yogic lifestyle strongly cultivates sattva.
Ashram and the Eyes of the Guru
As I write this I have to share with you the power of the eyes of a Guru. Firstly to be clear, if you meet a teacher who has to tell you about siddhis and psychic abilities, remember ‘a lion does not have to tell you it is a lion’. However at the end of the day, we will choose who we choose if we choose and that is your karma. As there is only your karma.
The eyes of the guru for me are love, empty vessels of love, clarity, connection, pure, without desire. But that's me and you will see what you see and sense what you sense.
The reason I mention it here is I was looking into eyes for a very long time, something my Father taught me, "always look into their eyes and you can read a lot from someones gaze".
I was looking for something and I found it. To look into your Guru’s eyes is to look into a mirror, to look into your Gurus eyes is to weep. What can you do with love like that, grace like that, compassion like that, truth like that?
This to me is what I have experienced as the ultimate in sacred space.
Which brings me to meditation.
Meditation is the cultivation of sacred space; your sacred space. No one will experience your sacred space other than you, or your Sat Guru. So cultivate it, spend time there. Read, explore, sense, find out what it’s for. Make it your mission to understand, experience and cultivate your meditation practice.
How we are already creating sacred spaces of our own
Let’s begin in the first space - home. They are different homemaking habits and budgets sure, so I am speaking generally here, but let’s make a list of what you may find in a home:
Photographs, books, candles, clocks, painting, prints, certificates, honours, medals, newspaper articles, scents, recipes, flowers, plants, deities, jewellery, art, decorative items and icons…
What are they for? To remind us of our lineage, who we once were, who we are, who we love, our beliefs, our connections, those we love, our successes, those who have left, our values, morals, virtues and dreams, goals and visions.
In fact even in state prisons one is allowed some homely comforts, why? Because if we feel totally disconnected we could go mad, loose our way. Unless of course we have hope or a deep practice, but that is for another time.
We create these spaces consciously or unconsciously, if they become full of positive and higher thoughts, feelings, experiences, the mood and energetic feel becomes as such.
So much is the importance of the reflection of our surroundings to us, the more we engage with the positive, higher thinking sources, reminders, habits, and people, the greater our chances of improving and becoming the evolved version of ourselves. Able to think of and serve others more affectively, able to act from our higher consciousness and able to create merely for creations sake rather than for gratification, validation and other seemingly enjoyable yet emotions but ones that keep us on the pleasure pain cycle.
Creating your sacred space with intention
When we create a space with intention we are dictating what the space is for, we are then filling that space with messages for our subconscious mind. Over time as we practice and spend time in the space, with our thoughts, contemplations, music, sound and movement or stillness, becomes a generator, a frequency, a vibration or a higher essence. One that we find comfort in returning to and even gravitate towards whether at our most joyful or even during our lower and darker times.
The same goes for everything contained with the space. As we discovered earlier, nothing is solid, therefore your meditation cushion, your totems, your ritual tools, all begin to contain a vibration and frequency of what has occurred within that space both visually, in the subconscious mind, in the un-manifest and in the manifest world.
So we we place things in the space they are an external picture of our internal landscape or internal intentional landscape.
Put in the simplest terms and in order to take away or leave here on the page:
Photographs of wiser or beings higher than yourself.
Photographs of teachers and loved ones
Written mantra or written words of meaning or an intention
1 cushion or seat that you do not change
Mala beads if used for meditation or as significance of higher self
Access to music, meditation or sounds
Sound bowls or any instrument of a pure clear sound vibration
A timer if you need one
Items that honour what is eternal:
Spiritual Nourishment and how to consciously inhabit a sacred space
As with all things in this world, what we nourish and turn our attention to grows and flourishes.
So here are some tips for ensuring the daily habit and growth of your space for your own deeper nourishment:
Let others know that you do not want to be disturbed or get up earlier. Find time.
Clean your space regularly or daily.
Atone - begin by acknowledge what you could improve on or wouldn’t do again given the opportunity towards others.
Let go - let go of judgement and any negative feeling attached to those actions - they are not who you are.
Pray - pray to a higher source or person.
Breathe - take deep inhales and slow steady exhales.
Surrender - with every exhale surrender towards a softening
Gratitude, service - spend time cultivating what you are thankful for even in the strangest of places and experiences.
Ask for help - if you need help or guidance, ask for it.
Sit in silence - get accustomed to silence, if you fall asleep, do not worry.
Sit in the discomfort for longer and longer periods of time.
Accept peace and watch the mind as it brings in stories and watch them leave.
Concentrate on Om or one Mantra.
Offer love to others.
Ask to be of service to others.
Play music of a higher nature - classical, celestial, mantra, ‘spiritual’.
Study the seasons and their meaning and implement them into your practice.
Negative feelings are held in Sacred Space
It’s really nothing personal, as in what we determine as negative emotions such as: sadness anger, grief, rage. If we detach ourselves from them as an observer through the practices, we can see that they often arise. Latent energies that have not been dissolved or worked out yet the the spirals of enquiry and practice will often times pop up and react to the overwhelming opposing energies of a sacred space or a sacred person.
For example: you walk into a temple and you feel waves of overwhelming sadness.
Providing the space (as we’re not talking about teachers here at this time) can hold and absorb these emotions and therefore frequencies - they can be transmuted into more positive feelings because of the quality of the space that they are in.
For example: you walk into a temple/church - feel overwhelming sadness - cry - feel peaceful, supported, guided, loved.
The quality of the energy of a space will align unbalanced energy (temporarily) without any real effort from the person affected. That’s why we return again and again because unless we cultivate a daily practice of our own autonomy, we believe that the energy is in the space not within us.
So when you create you own sacred space it doesn’t mean only use it when you feel a particular way - like peaceful already; it is a space to release, to trust and a space for authenticity and vulnerability. Spending time in your sacred space for meditation, prayer, stillness, contemplation… can bring up all kinds of emotions regardless of the intention before hand, these are expelled as part of the process over time. They are not to be discredited or avoided. Sadness, rage, agitation, lust, excitement, discomfort, desire are all emotional energies that you will feel.
Your space will only benefit from these releases and the new waves of peace that are entered into as a result will over time begin to stay in the very fabric of the space, in the either, in the atoms. So allow them to flow. That is what it’s all about.
Taking the sacred into the world
Acceptance - when you accept what is, you can respond, you can forgive.
Surrender - when you surrender to something higher than yourself, you can see yourself more clearly and cultivate awareness of where and what you need to work on.
Family - the cultivation of the sacred includes your family and the recognition of whether it was good, bad or worse; that whatever was learnt can and will benefit you and therefore others. See the sacred in our families can be one of the more complex areas but not without its rewards.
Community - when you recognise that we are all sacred, you can respond karmically (right action) through your individual dharma (characteristics) even as a renunciate or academic.
Globally - as we recognise the sacred, we can take steps to further understand other belief systems without judgement and see our role as a small part in the larger world, necessary not matter how small.
The Shrines and materialistic versions of inspiration and the sacred are the formless in form, guides and reminders. They are a tool. They are used to focus the mind on what is real and what matters, alongside what is illusionary and what doesn’t matter.
Until the material reflection is no longer required.
As the Rishis taught us in the Vedas - we are a body, a mind and a soul. All of which are sacred. Your sacred space is within - go within.
The external is merely and reflection of the internal.
Until everything is recognised as sacred.
Everyday on this journey, we’re experience this world and using it to understand ourselves and as with the vedas we must also understand ourselves within.
This playground for us to basque inwardly and feel all of the emotions it produces in us, this wonderous vessel with it subtle and energetic forces, this opportunity for karma uniting with dharma within the world and in the end to reach the goal of union; in this lifetime or another.
To recognise this opportunity as sacred grace.
Whatever the name you have for what resides in all things, that which was not created and will remain; spend time each day gazing in wonder and imagining the sacred in each every aspect of existence - until it is.