We’ve lost the focus of a spiritual centre in communities and culture today. Don’t get me wrong I am not advocating for religion in its traditional sense, but what I am noting is that life used to have a balance of both the practical or material and spiritual. At the heart of our communities used to sit a church or maybe a temple or synagogue, a mosque or even a shaman’s huts. These were places to contemplate deeper and bigger ideas, bigger aspects than the day-to-day practicals of life.
They also provided sanctuary of contemplation and silence, a place to look inward. Currently Martyn and I travel around almost constantly never staying in places for more than a month or two. In each of our adventures we seek out these places of quiet. It’s in someways strange that I’m drawn to these spaces of worship because my parents never brought me to church (or to a synagogue as the case maybe) as a child. But in later life I have been drawn to the silence and contemplation that I find in these spaces. If you look around they are actually the only places where one can sit quietly, no phone in hand, no distractions, where one can sit in silence without drawing a strange stare.
I am not religious, I am spiritual. I do not subscribe to any one particular set of beliefs. To me they all point to the silent awareness at the core of our being. Some attribute this feeling, this sense of contentment and the sense of peace to a God or Gods, but to me it’s all pointing back to the Self, to Consciousness, to primordial awareness.
I cherish these places. I’m sad that they are losing their place and their bricks and mortar in this world. I think these spaces need to evolve, to cast off the chains of dogma and ritual that have no connection to the lived experience. These traditional religions hold people in conceptual bondage. Laying concepts on top of concepts that pull someone away from their natural inclination towards the ineffable silence of the Self.
But the physical buildings and spaces that allow for silent introspection, and the guides that are sometimes found in those spaces, I believe this when lost is a tragedy for society. If you look around any modern day town how many spaces do we have that focus on the material and practical, outward expressions and parts of our lives. I believe these spaces are just as important. We have to create space in our lives to balance both the silent, introspective realm and the physical outer dynamic experience. Without both life hangs precariously out of balance.
I charge you with next time you find yourself near a space of contemplation, be it a church, a temple or something similar, that you take a moment out of your day to sit quietly. It doesn’t matter what the denomination is, it’s about the broad focus of these spaces. These places have a gravity to them, a gravity towards silence. You can feel the very visceral experience of presence and silence in these spaces. Presence is enlivened, almost as if it is imprinted in the very bricks and mortar of the building.
They are sacred spaces, not because of any particular set of beliefs, spiritual dogma even, but because each and every person throughout the ages that has stepped foot in the spaces is focused on something other than the ‘small self’. And it’s my experience that this in itself leaves a lasting and powerful imprint. One that we would be wise to take advantage of while these spaces still exist.