sacred space

There are two distinct headspaces one can be in— normal everyday reality, and a sort of “sacred space” where things become enchanted.*

Everyone enters into sacred space sometimes. Perhaps the most common example is when watching a movie. If it's a good movie, you enter into a trance that cinematographers call the "suspension of disbelief" where you let yourself believe temporarily that what you're watching is real, no matter how fantastical or absurd. Ordinary reality fades into the periphery. If you don't enter this trance, the movie isn't very enjoyable. If you're thinking the whole time, "this is all fake, these are actors in makeup, there are lights and cameras out of view" instead of getting lost in the story, it kills the experience.

I've learned to approach spirituality** the same way— to allow and encourage myself to enter a trancelike state of reverent belief in the divine. Meditation, prayer, rituals, music, lovemaking— these can all be (even more) profound and transformative when a sense of sacredness, divinity, God— whatever you want to call it— is intentionally cultivated.

The biggest roadblock to entering sacred space is taking myself too seriously, or being afraid of seeming silly or gullible. (It sometimes requires a reverent seriousness; while at other times silliness itself can be a sacred state of authentic self-expression.) A tragically high number of adults*** rarely allow themselves to enter sacred (or silly) space, despite its healing power and constant accessibility as part of human nature.

When I'm ready to leave the sacred space, I return to ordinary reality with my scientific skepticism intact, but my vitality, serenity, self-understanding, and compassion greatly enhanced.


-ap

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*Mircea Eliade wrote a noted book about these two spaces called "The Sacred and the Profane: the Nature of Religion," where profane means something more like "ordinary," not necessarily "obscene."

**some non-religious people bristle at the term "spirituality" as if it's asserting the existence of ghosts. I defer to Sam Harris, widely known critic of religion, writing in his book "Waking Up": "The word 'spirit' comes from the Latin 'spiritus' [translated from] the Greek 'pneuma,' meaning 'breath.' ... there is no other term— apart from the even more problematic 'mystical' or the more restrictive 'contemplative'— with which to discuss the efforts people make, through meditation, psychedelics, [prayer, ritual, music], or other means, to bring their minds fully into the present or to induce non ordinary states of consciousness. And no other word links this spectrum of experience to our ethical lives."

***one of the greatest things about kids is that they are nearly constantly in a sort of sacred trance, where everything is enchanted and meaningful, and they have not yet learned that "silliness" is to be left behind in lieu of a shallow, repressive kind of "maturity."

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