I ask myself what do I know about sacred places? Some thoughts arise.
A sacred place is an alter where we meet our god.
But, what does that mean to each one of us? It is intimate and personal in its essence. The self is tied up in how we know god.
So, a sacred place is a place where we meet ourselves too.
Some kinds of sacred places we may all have known:
An altar is a place of sacrifice. We sacrifice what has worldly value for what has spiritual value.
A shrine is a place of memory. We go there to be with something spiritual which has its home there, or to be able to see through its ‘window’ into another world where it resides.
A sacred place is a physical space where something important has happened and is still happening in spirit. We go there to become part of the event.
Landscaping is what we do with our hands to support the sanctity of the place. In a sacred space, physical work is a sacrifice. We are there as guest and steward. We are there as a participant in a ‘happening’. We are there in the here and now, by our own choice. The degree to which we participate in the event is up to us. The degree to which we participate influences how sacred the place is, both in the moment and over time.
We hold a responsibility to the place once we have recognized it as being sacred. For a dozen years, I was responsible for farming Meadowbrook Herb Garden. It had been one of the centers of Bio-Dynamic Agriculture for many years before I came. It taught me worlds about the sacred responsibilities we have to the land. When I left, those who followed were swallowed up by the work and the financial responsibilities, but were never able to take it up as a sacred work. From afar, I saw it decline into oblivion. Now, herb fields that had been rich and productive organic soils, have been sold for topsoil and paved for commercial parking. Leave it, neglect it, abandon it, and it loses something vital. Something else happens there that is objectively different. The place takes on a different purpose which is sad to follow over the course of time. It, emphatically, does not return to the way it was before it was cared for in a sacred way.
By contrast, the farm I started and turned over into the caring hands of conscious stewards in Amherst, Massachusetts, has become Brookfield Farm. It was among the many sacred gardens that have become the foundations of schools and communities, through continued caring. The work in these sacred places goes on and reaches new levels of sacredness, unimagined by their founders.
The Sacred is very real. It is ephemeral only in its physical manifestations.
I have treated life as sacred. I have treated the world as sacred. But I have occasionally abandoned my own sacred nature. It is time I get back to work again.