At some point, we will all experience the ups and downs of being human. Feeling lost, being in love, confusion, wanting more, healing. Creating sacred space is one valuable tool that can support our everyday work of building lives of purpose and meaning.
Sacred space provides an opportunity for us to explore the kind of person we want to be, what we believe, and why. It allows us to take time for things we rarely or never do, like tell stories, take naps, and walk leisurely. It helps us mark milestones like new seasons, births and deaths, and anniversaries. In times of struggle, it sustains us and gives us direction. It allows us to experience each other’s presence fully.
The most magical thing about sacred space is that we have the power to create it ourselves, anywhere we are.
Sacred space is not about work, projects, things, or even necessarily the specific room or place you’re in.
It is for renewing the soul and (re)discovering who we are. It is for the heart, not the head. It is a lens for meaning. In sacred space and time, feeling > analyzing.
In the Jewish tradition, Shabbat, the Day of Rest, is a defined, separate, intentional opportunity to be present for one full day each week.
The Sabbath is not for recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labor. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life.
– Abraham Joshua Heschel
As Heschel, a great Jewish theologian and philosopher, taught, Shabbat is a complement to building civilization, not a withdrawal from it.
It is inner liberty. It is the climax of the week. When we kindle the lights that mark the beginning of Shabbat, we are transformed emotionally and physically. We leave behind the turbulence of the week and experience a sense of peace. It is not about a physical space or material things. The moment itself lends significance to space and transforms it into something holy.
You may feel most spiritual in a temple, nature, a holy land, a mandala, or, simply, your own body. You may use this space and time to communicate with a higher power or to find something divine and pure within yourself.
How do you know the difference between sacred space and all the rest?
Most moments are mundane, regular, typical, visceral. That’s life, and we’re all living it! But, then there’s sacred space. It’s special, inspiring, deep, and powerful. It shakes up our daily hamster wheel and keeps us from burning out.
Here’s a quick quiz to help you reflect.
Sacred or Something Else?
That time each week when you diligently review your progress at work and plan your next professional milestone?
When you have a free moment and you fill that time with an item on your to-do list or zone out to Netflix?
Family dinner or a friend date or business meeting with your phone sporadically buzzing in your pocket.
When something unsettling happens and you double down on doing things as a way to mute your discomfort and hope things will resolve on their own?
That moment on a long run or road trip or hike where you run out of updates and jokes and stories and start pondering the meaning of life and the quality of your relationships?
Now that you can recognize sacred space, let’s create it!
Prepare for the transition
Preparing for sacred space and time is as important as the day or moment itself. When you feel the contrast between the hectic nature of the preparation and the sacred time, you’ll be that much more present.
Before Shabbat, we light candles, then we cover our eyes as we bless the flame; as soon as our eyes open, we remake space and time into something divine. Whether you play music to set the mood or recite a poem to set a particular intention, make a distinction between “something else” and what’s sacred.
Make it different
They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Find things to do or use during your sacred time that are special and exclusive to that time. In other words, if it’s something that you normally do, don’t do it in your sacred space. Set your phone down in another room, sit on a comfortable floor cushion or wrap yourself in a cozy blanket or scarf that you reserve for these moments.
Don’t do, just feel
Sacred time is neither about work nor projects. It’s about rest and celebration. Sit silently and receptively, or offer words of gratitude or sorrow. Dance. Breathe. No to-do lists.
Ease back in
Before snapping back to your typical day, make the transition out of your sacred space just as intentional as your entrance. What’s something that you love you to do that you won’t do in your sacred space?
Tips from teachers and healers
Caravan Wellness is a digital wellness center. Using live video, they connect clients with teachers and healers across 6 unique wellness practices. We asked this wise group to share their tips for creating sacred space, and they provided a comforting variety of ways in.
For my sacred spaces, it’s key for me to set the environment with lighting and scents. I light palo santo, sage, incense, or candles, which help to create a cozier environment, awaken your senses, and also add healing properties. I light candles whether I’m working on my laptop or doing a nightly meditation. Make every moment sacred.
– Lilia, Yoga Teacher & Energy Healer
To create a sacred space is giving yourself a place and permission to let go and recharge your battery. In a world where we are constantly expending energy and effort, I find the happiest people leave time to take energy in; that’s your sacred space and time. Depending on your faith, it’s also a way to receive a charge from ancestors and energy of things both past and passed.
– Karen, Pilates Teacher
Rather than creating an inner sacred space, we might say that we learn to illuminate the sanctity that is already there. In my experience, this can begin when there is a humble curiosity and openness around the mystery and beauty of simply being alive. We might open to the fact that we never live in any moment other than the present. Really, have you ever experienced anything else? What is it like to just rest in our present-moment aliveness?
– Chris, Meditation Teacher
To start, find somewhere quiet. Keep a journal or any meaningful item to inspire you close by. Then, leave your phone out of reach intentionally. Each morning may be slightly different, but allow yourself this time even if it’s 5 minutes. Sit comfortably. Do the following:
– Notice the rhythm of your breath.
– Turn your attention inward and notice how you are feeling – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
– Set an intention for your day ahead: a word or feeling that you want to embody for the next 24 hours.
– Notice, again, the rhythm of your breath and how it’s changed in these few minutes.
Breath in your intention. Exhale let go of judgements, anxiety, and fear.
– Keep this up on a daily basis – allow yourself between 5-20 minutes each day.
– Bonus: Say out loud or write in your journal 3 things you are grateful for this morning.
– Deena, Yoga Teacher
30-Day Challenge: create one sacred moment for yourself every day.
Set aside some time each day to practice creating a distinct, dedicated space for you to explore who you are and how you want to show up in the world.
Feeling lost already?
Think of at least 3 times when you had an a-ha moment about yourself.
What do you know to be true about you? How, when, where, and with whom did you realize it? What can you borrow from that moment and recreate again to make sacred space each day?
You don’t have to do this alone!
Gather people you love and trust and experiment together. Contribute to and learn from our Sacred Spaces kit by sharing the tools and resources that help you create sacred space. Share your sacred experiences with Arq’s community on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #heyarq.
This guide is inspired by the work and words of Abraham Joshua Heschel, David Lerner, Siamak Hariri, Sue Mosteller, The Sanctuaries, and more. We thank Caravan Wellness for their significant contribution, as well.