A Talk Given by David Jones on Sept. 26th, 2010
Today I would like to speak about sacred space. It is the space in us and around us and between us and others that is holy, hallowed, precious, and perhaps transcendent. The word sacred is closely related to sanctity or heavenliness or transcendent, venerable. It is a special place of love and respect.
I want to know if you can honour the sacred space between us and do you hold that space in reverence when we are not together. It all starts within ourselves. How sacred is the space within you, and how sacred is it within me. And, how sacred is it between us?
Trust is developed knowing that the space you present to me is the same one you hold for me when I am not around and vice versa. I want to know that if you display a positive appreciation and affection to me that it is the same or better when I am not around.
Here are a few more questions about how you hold space for your consideration:
How do you hold the space between others?
How do you hold your spiritual community?
How do you hold your workspace?
How sacred do you hold your children?
Do you have people in close proximity to you that is difficult to hold the space between sacred? If your answer is yes to this one, this is a built in clue that is meant to help you determine what is good for you and what isn’t.
Then you can determine what you may want to consider doing to increase the sacred of that space and relationship.
Here at CIL and in many New Thought and Old Thought Congregations we believe in a forgiving and loving higher Power. We can start afresh and anew anytime we choose. You mess up one day you start again. Pick a relationship that is important to you – start today – telling yourself I am going to hold this relationship sacred, I am going to treasure and honour it, I am not going to get lazy with my thinking and speaking and I am only going to honour this space with the very best of my being.
A Personal Story from David
The personal story of David and his mother when she was dying ended like this:
“I crossed the bridge and I landed in her world – and I looked at her and she looked at me and said you are my son – with her hands she gently wiped my tears – she hadn’t recognised me and I hadn’t been there emotionally.” That was a time of great sacred space and respect and love between us which had not been for a
long, long time. Please don’t wait so long in your life to repair sacred space between yourself and others.
This miracle with my Mother represents the three invisible connectors – It is the relational space – the bridge between the worlds – it is the encounter; human essence to human essence – you know them – you just may not have connected/framed them.
Jewish Philosopher Martin Buber who wrote a wonderful book called “I and Thou” and several others describe the sacred space in this manner:
“Our relationship lives in the space between us – it doesn’t live in me or in you or even in the dialogue between the two us – it lives in the space we live together and that space is sacred space.”
That beautiful quote describes how Buber lived his life. He always asked us to treat others as a “Holy Thou” not as an “It”, an object, not totally human. I wonder how often all of us interact and treat the space between as less than sacred and sometimes treat others as an “It” and not a “Thou” meaning sacred and holy.
If we don’t know about this space together we will actually pollute it unconsciously with all of our unconscious feelings and emotions in this space. I created this polluted space between my mother and myself because I unconsciously put all of my feelings and emotions of the past between us.
When we don’t know about this space we will pollute it quite automatically through a word – a reaction – a withdrawal – a look – a criticism – a judgment.
We put it there unconsciously – and the space becomes uncomfortable – and when the space is uncomfortable – we react to the discomfort of this space – the space becomes more uncomfortable and the more uncomfortable slowly but surely – the space becomes the more we react to the danger of this space – we react to the danger in the space – how do we react – some us react by exploding our energy – we shout – we say many words – we get intense – we talk louder.
On and on the list could go, so may I ask you what do you do in these times?
Some of us react to the danger by withdrawing our energy – constricting – hiding and once those two reactions come together as a reaction to the danger in the space – the danger grows and now we are reacting together to the pollution and danger we co-created in the relational space – so what should we do – how do we take responsibility for this space – this space is sacred- we take responsibility by crossing the bridge.
Crossing the Bridge to Reclaim Sacred Space in Our Relationships:
Sit down across from each other- put your feet on the ground come into the moment – be thankful for being alive – important beginning for walking across the bridge – then you begin to consciously and deliberately walk across the bridge – slipping the rubber band that pulls you back to your prejudices – your judgements – your identity – your ego – who you think you are – your emotions – your feelings.
As you go across the bridge there is a little transparent plastic bag containing within it a passport and visa – the reason it has to be transparent – you cannot bring anything of yours to the other side of the bridge – and when you land on the other side what do you do – you listen – you listen with an open heart – you listen with new eyes – You bring your open heart and eyes as – if you are hearing a new language for the first time – a new music – a new rhythm – “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” The French novelist Marcel Proust stated this and it is so true. When we cross the bridge to understanding and empathy with ourselves and the other person, we are able to listen with an open heart and learn to perceive situations differently.
You listen to the other person by repeating the words. You learn about the landscape in this other world. You repeat and ask “Have I heard you?” When this happens there is an “Encounter with the other”.
Let us explore this Encounter more fully.
First on a biological level:
The encounter is the resonance between two brains – relational neurobiologists call this resonance ‘the brain bridge’ – two limbic systems that resonate together – the seat of our emotions beginning to resonate together.
Relational neurobiologists have found that when there is this resonance between two brains, our central nervous system begins to calm down. They have also discovered that our brain is the only organ inside of us that doesn’t regulate from within. It regulates on the outside through another brain. We need each other for self -regulation. We can only regulate through the other – through the eyes of the other and through that resonance what happens then is very interesting. It was discovered about ten years ago.
At that time the relational neurobiologists discovered that the mirror neurons we have in our brain give us our capacity for compassion, for empathy, for deep understanding of the other, and during the encounter these mirror neurons become very alive and what happens then is new neuro-pathways begin to form in the brain. Isn’t that amazing? These new neuro-pathways give us the capacity to be in relationship because the brain has been found to have an enormous plasticity. This means that the brain can change at any time during our life- time. These new neuro-pathways that are formed in our brain – give us a chance to become more relationally intelligent and more relationally mature – so that is the encounter in the biological sense.
Another Explanation of Encounter:
In another domain it is harder to define what the encounter is. Simply said it is the meeting of two full human presences, it is the meeting of two life forces, two souls, two spirits, and the encounter of what is the essence of both parties, both fully human and fully engaged in this dialogue with each other. As Martin Buber would say, it is the “I” in me meeting the “Thou” or holiness of humanity in you, and thus we both can respond and see each other as human beings not as objects. Thus we are able to have more empathy, more love and compassion for the other person and our encounter with each other.
In closing I would like to share with you a story that may help our understanding.
A man went to the tailor, Mr. Goldberg and wanted a suit. When he tried it on it didn’t fit well but then a couple came by and said, “Oh that suit fits that man so perfectly—what an amazing tailor, a man in his condition and the suit fits him perfectly.
Well this is us. We are in this suit and we walk around in this suit because we have adapted to our life and we don’t even know this is a survival suit.
We know that this is us – for instance if we have adapted to being cold, distant, withdrawn, – I think this is me – inside the suit is our human essence – intact – inside of our survival adaption – we are our essence – and coming over the bridge allows our spirit to be nourished and this transformation to happen from the survival suit to our true human essence – it is being with each other that our true essence is revealed.
I started with a story about my mom. Now I would like to finish with a happy story concerning Libby, our daughter, not quite two years old.
I was working on my computer the other day and looked and there was Libby with bowls on her head. She was wearing a new type of hat it seems. She saw the world differently. Oh, to have the wonder of a child to help us see things differently what a gift that would be.
Rumi, the Persian poet, musician and mystic said “Beyond right thinking and beyond wrong thinking there is a field – I will meet you in this field.”
Our children live in the field between a couple and the space between the couple is the play -ground of our children and they can blossom is this sacred space. The space between us all is sacred space – to cross this bridge and to encounter each other’s essence to human essence is a sacred experience.
May we all have more of these types of encounters in our life!
Footnote (Editor’s note)
More on this topic may be found on the Internet with Hedy Schleifer – The Power of Connection Clinical psychologist and a couple and relationship therapy expert.