I originally wrote the article below for the Mountain Mirror. http://www.mountainmirror.com/
About 15 years ago, I lived in England and in my time there I was fortunate enough to make several trips to Ireland and Scotland, and in these countries I learned about Celtic spirituality. The Celts believe in seeing God’s hand in the hills, the sky, the sea, and the forests. The created world can bring us closer to the living God. In Celtic theology they speak of “thin places,” where the distance between heaven and earth seem thin.
For the Celts, the thin places are the spaces where we feel most connected to God and others. In a world that is becoming increasingly plugged into technology, but less connected to creation, loved ones, our inner experience, our bodies and the Divine, it seems very important to consider the Celts call to find thin places in our life. In these thin places we will find peace, healing, life and joy. Where do you experience thin moments?
The ocean is a renewing place for my soul. There is something about the sound of the waves that calms me and in the vastness of the sea I am reminded of a God who is even bigger than the ocean before me. Thin places are not necessarily a place, like the mountains or ocean, but instead they can be any space where we become our most authentic selves. My yoga practice is another calming and meditative place for me, where the distance between heaven and earth seems strangely thin. Where do you find peace for your soul?
Whether we are hiking, lifting our voices in song, praying, laughing with good friends, playing with a pet or holding a child, we all have places we experience a connection that is life-giving to our spirit. But this world is so full of distractions, and instead of taking the time to be with God and one another we choose busyness to numb our pain. And the result is that we have less light, love and creativity to give to the world, because we have not taken time for renewal.
The theologian Paul Tillich famously said, “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone, and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” In order to soften our loneliness we turn to alcohol, relationships, work, caregiving, affairs, shopping, exercise and social media. These are just a few ways we numb our emotional pain. We flee from the silence, instead of realizing how much we need to befriend it.
We live in a NASCAR paced world, but trying to keep the speed of Dale Earnhardt is wearing us out. When someone asks us how we are doing, the common cultural response is to tell others we are busy and tired. We are validated when our calendars are full and we are scheduling ourselves to death. And even when we have space in our schedule, most of us are so attached to our cell phones that we don’t allow little moments to just be and breathe. I catch myself checking my email and text messages more often than I would like to admit. Sometimes I have just checked the phone five minutes previously, and then out of boredom I am glancing at it again. But this faux intimacy with my phone is not life-giving.
Recently, I attended a 5 week meditation class. Each class was 75 minutes and since I have never practiced meditation for this long, I worried the time would start to drag. But stunningly, the class actually flew by and most of the time we surprisingly went over the designated 75 minutes. In one of the classes, our teacher assigned a free writing meditation. She invited us to write for seven minutes and we could not take our pen off the paper. If we were not writing, we were told to draw meditative circles, as a way to stay connected to the practice. As I participated in this exercise and put my pen to paper, I wrote about my exhaustion and recognition that I am not cultivating enough time for silence, space and quiet in my life.
The poet Rumi said, “Listen to the silence, it has much to say.” When I allow for silence and space in my life, I find creativity, answers, gratitude, love for myself and others, authentic feelings and peace. And when I find space to just be, I notice I have so much more to give others and am able to live in the present moment and to see the gifts that surround me.
But sometimes silence can be scary, especially if we have recently experienced trauma or grief. However, it can be very important to face this fear and to slowly step back into allowing ourselves moments of silence. If we never have moments of quiet introspection, we can lose our very self.
I often repeat to myself the moving words from Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God,” but learning the art of stillness is something that is increasingly tough for us. How often do we really take the time to just be in the present moment? The paradox is that when we slow down, we actually find life. We think a big house, fancy car or perfect outfit will bring us happiness. But joy is actually found in Celtic thin spaces, where the distance between heaven and earth becomes almost obsolete, because we are connecting to God, nature, hobbies, our self and beloved friends and family. As we live in the thin places, the world around us will start to come alive again and we will see the sun set, hear the birds tweet and see the beauty in one another. And as we find these thin places, we will once again touch the miracle of life.
Let’s find the moments where the distance between heaven and earth becomes strangely thin,