10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) is a program to help us develop habits to grow a joyful spirit. Many of us sabotage our happiness by habits that we might not even be aware of. Identifying and changing these habits can build a reservoir of well-being to enhance our happy times and sustain us during challenging times.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Bidden or not bidden, God is present. ~Carl Jung
I’ve been reading about the Celtic concept of “thin places,” places where heaven and earth come close together. At first, I thought the concept described an inner place where we feel the presence of the divine. But upon further reading, I now understand that these thin places are physical places, places where we sense the nearness of the other side. Some are famous, like Boudanath, the Tibetan stupa in Nepal, where I had the good fortune to visit during a new year celebration. Others are hardly noticeable, discovered only when we stumble across them.
I think there is a thin place beside the creek at my cabin. When I was looking for a mountain getaway, I had narrowed my focus to two cabins several miles apart. Both were on creeks. One was in move-in condition. It had a spacious loft, and inside bathroom, and a view of snow capped Mt. Hood in the distance. The other one, for roughly the same price, was smaller, run down, dark and musty, nestled deep in the trees with no vista view, and sort of an inside bathroom with an electric toilet which didn’t work very well.
I looked at both cabins several times. I took friends to ask their advice. My friends and my rational mind all told me to go for the nicer one with the view. But my heart kept pulling me back to the other one. There was one particular spot by the creek that I kept returning to. There was nothing visually distinctive about it, but somehow it seemed different than anywhere else. When I sat or stood on this spot, I could hear the creek speaking to me. The trees seemed to embrace me, welcoming me into the secrets of the forest.
Against all advice, I bought that cabin. I fixed it up, but it will never be as pretty as the other one. Nevertheless, it is comfortable and homey. I love to read by the fire in the big stone fireplace. At night, I crawl into the tiny loft and open the skylight so that I can hear the creek. And yes, I have a real toilet, for which I’m grateful.
But my favorite place is that spot by the creek, just a small flat moss covered rock less than two feet square. Sometimes it is simply a nice place to sit with a cup of tea and watch the shadows move or the sun dancing on the rushing water. Sometimes, though, a doorway opens and I am in that liminal space between two worlds. If I can still my inner chatter, the trees share their wisdom with me. Mother ducks show me their ducklings. Salmon swimming upstream pause to greet me. The creek blesses me and guides me, offering me a word or an image in the inner chamber of my soul.
I didn’t know the term “thin place” when I bought the cabin all those years ago. But as I learned about this concept, I understood that my little rock is such a place.
What about you? Have you ever encountered a thin place?
related posts: Eternity in a Dew Drop; The Curiosity of Not Knowing
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Great post Galen. I believe that thin places are all around us but my thin place is not necessarily yours. Strangely enough, my shower is one of my thin places. There are days when I just close my eyes and feel the bliss - those days my face takes on a very different glow. I'm glad you went with your gut.ReplyDelete
Suzy, I agree that we don't all experience the same thin places. I haven't heard any guests at my cabin share my experience of my little spot. I love that you have a thin place in your shower. How convenient! Thanks for commenting.Delete
That's a fascinating idea. I am sure such places exist, but I can't say I ever knew I visited one. I do experience "thin moments" where everything shifts and changes around me for just a moment or so. What a beautiful post!ReplyDelete
Julie, I can't say that I've found many of these places, but the most dramatic one was in Palenque, the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. That's a story for another post, if I ever get the nerve to tell it! Also, like you, I experience those thin moments. Thanks for your comment.Delete
such a gift Galen your little divine spot is - you've painted such a beautiful picture that I can almost see it! What made you get it - divine intervention, intuition? Whatever it was, looks like it you made the right choice - a soulful choice.ReplyDelete
I actually experience many such moments like this during the week when seeing the rain, seeing a sunset, seeing the sun, mountains, people and activists, there is so much divinity all around us I feel like. Maybe my thin places isn't so thin:) ?
I'm only somewhat joking but if one of the cabins had a bathroom and the other didn't, you made a very very wise and practical choice:)
Vishnu, I was not wise at all--I bought the one without the bathroom, well, without a real toilet. But I had one put in and life at the cabin got much better! I love the breadth and depth of your thin places. I think you take your thin place with you wherever you go. Thanks for commenting.Delete
I enjoyed reading about your thin place Galen, we all need places on this earth that are just like you described, special to us for whatever reason.ReplyDelete
As for a physical space, I'd say my thin place I've found on many different occasions; The Garden of the Gods (Colorado), the mountains (Alberta and BC), the vast ocean while I was in Australia, my flower beds, garden and I too find my thin place in the shower as Suzy does, or in the hot tub at the farm. I have several of these places and I feel that when one is at peace in their space absolutely any place in this world can become a thin space.
Have a wonderful weekend!
darlin, Thin places are everywhere if we are sensitive to them. You live in such a beautiful part of the world you are bound to have many of them close by. Thanks for your comment.Delete
I enjoyed reading about "thin places" and your thin place by the creek. I like the term "thin moments" too.ReplyDelete
I can't think of an actual place that I consider a thin place. I do have thin moments when things fit together and I actually feel the oneness that is there. Being outside, away from traffic and "people noise" helps me, I think, have those moments, but they're never brought on by my wishing for them. They just seem to happen.
Tina, I agree that you can't force them whether we are talking about thin places or thin moments. Even when I'm by the creek, sometimes I feel the door open and sometimes I just enjoy sitting by the creek. Thanks for commenting.Delete
I was just so lost in this post....almost as if I had visited and been with you at your thin place, you described it all so well. :)
You brought back nice memories of a long time ago, which now of course seem so distant, though when my mind is free from all the thoughts that tend to trouble us, or when you are one-to-one with nature - this is how I might feel too. It was ages ago when I was travelling with my parents, that we had the opportunity to stay in a cabin quite like you described here. I remember taking my time away from everyone and just sitting by the small stream of water flowing by - and it just felt like this was where I always want to be. Sometimes those feelings make you just feel so beautiful and happy within. Miss them :)
Thanks for sharing this with us. :) Have a nice day :)
Harleena, Like you, I have memories of a family trip when I was a child. We were at a cabin in the mountains and I played in the creek the whole time we were then. That was a happy time. Thanks for sharing your memory and reminding me of mine. And thanks for commenting.Delete
I have never heard that description before but I love it. Since I've seen your cabin I can visualize your "thin spot."ReplyDelete
While our girls were growing up we had a cabin in the woods a few hours north of Phoenix. It was small and rustic but there was a very real sense of calm whenever we were there. The stars at night were so bright you felt you could almost touch them. That would have been my "thin place."
Bob, Not all thin places are in nature, like the stupa in Nepal I mentioned, but many of them are. Or maybe it is just easier to sense them when we are in nature. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Thank you so much for sharing! I definitely believe that there are places that are much more conducive to allowing us the ability to access a higher consciousness. Personally, I always find it much easier to practice bhakti yoga by the water, in the forest etc... all those areas that have the quality of goodness associated with them. It's not surprising that you identified yours by the creek!ReplyDelete
Vrndavana, It's interesting that you mention water. I live in a wonderful city that has a river right through downtown, and is also located on the south bank of the Columbia River. Portland is close to the mountains full of lakes and creeks. In the opposite direction, the Pacific ocean is a short drive away. For me, I am drawn more to the creeks and rivers than I am to the ocean. Different people resonate with different places. Thanks for your comment.Delete
I must confess, I have many. I was just sharing that thought with my oldest son yesterday, as he struggles with a few life and work things. These thin places are to me, and most likely not for all, but they are like your spot by the creek, places that speak to me, with comfort and love and I return sometimes before I even realize to drink from them again.ReplyDelete
Karen, How lucky her are to have so many thin places! They feed our spirits, don't they? I do hope that things get better for your son as he goes through a challenging time. Thanks for your comment.Delete
What a gorgeous place you have a cabin! I'll be up in that area next week, holding a writing workshop at a friend's cabin. I have never known about the thin place, though now that I think about, I experience it on a certain beach on the Oregon coast and also in the New Mexico mountains.ReplyDelete
Charlotte, I'll be up at my cabin next weekend. How nice that we will be sharing the same "space." Which is your favorite beach? I'm drawn to Manzanita, although I haven't been there in several years. I'm giving a presentation in Astoria next month, so I'll have a little ocean time then. Maybe our paths will cross sometime! Thanks for commenting.Delete
Thin places!!! Believe it or not, Galen, I write about one of these in Book 3 of The Glade Series!!! And, I believe these places exist innumerably; when our hearts and minds are tuned into God's creation, we are open to discovering them.ReplyDelete
Beautiful post, my friend!
Martha, I'm really going to have to read your books! I know I would love them. Where should I start? Thanks for commenting.Delete
Start with "A Trip, a Tryst, and a Terror". If you go to Amazon and enter my name as Martha Orlando, the books should pop right up!Delete
Martha, Better yet, I'm going to order it right now from my neighbor's independent bookstore! Thanks!Delete
Never thought about it that way. I have been to places that are peaceful and I could get lost in them. That is probably why I want to move back to the country, well I want acres to live on so I can have that peace again.
As a kid I used to go down to the beach and just walk in solitude, it was an escape from all the negative things going on. Glad you found the perfect place.
Mary, Nature seems to be full of thin places, but not all thin places are in nature. I mentioned the Boudhanath in Nepal. A New York Times article identified Powell's Bookstore here in Portland as a thin place! Some places of worship can be thin places, too.Delete
Having said that, though, I share your love of natural settings. I love my city neighborhood, but one of the reasons I love living in Portland is that I can be in the heart of the city one minute and out in the country in less than 30 minutes. The mountains are an hour one direction and the ocean is an hour and a half in the other.
Hope you find your country refuge, but in the meantime, I hope you find peace right where you are.
Thanks for commenting.
I had not heard this term before, and yet I have experienced these connections. I usually feel them near water, but I have also felt them during yoga, Qigong, or meditation also. Hindsight is so 20/20 for me.ReplyDelete
I think it is what I will miss most about this house I live in, when and if we downsize. I can relax here and truly find a oneness. I also feel a connection with the energy of the trees (especially 100 + apple tree) and the flowers.
I have to be relaxed, and as an intense person this is very hard to do. I feel I must keep a kind of barrier up when in public places since I pick up other people's emotions so easily.
I enjoyed this read and want to thank you for sharing your cabin with me. I felt I was there with your beautiful writing.
Patricia, Like you, I have experienced thin places while meditating or during certain activities. Your place sounds wonderful with all those trees! Thanks for your comment.Delete
Sounds great Galen. I guess i have never experienced a thinner space. maybe i need to open up my senses a little more. Thanks for telling your story, so that i can be on the lookout for this.ReplyDelete
I do understand why you like the creek and sitting on the rock. I love the sound of a creek.
Debbie, Let me know if you find one! Thanks for commenting.Delete
What a lovely post and I am happy you have found this thin place. I can relate to this one. I always find the mountains, lakes places of beauty and peace. Places to feel closer to my Heavenly Father and Savior. However my most favorite thin place is one of our temples. There is a room in the temple called the Celestial room. It is a peaceful place to mediate and feel that spirit within.ReplyDelete
I could just picture you sitting by your creek and I loved the thoughts today.
Blessings and hugs!
LeAnn, A room called the Celestial Room definitely sounds like a thin place! It sounds beautiful. There is a small Catholic church in a park not far from my house. Even though it is not my church, I love to sit in the sanctuary there when I visit the park. I think it is a thin place, too. Thanks for your comment.Delete
I remember being exquisitely happy when I was in Boudanath. Maybe this is why! I'm glad you have your very own thin place.ReplyDelete
It is a mystical place, isn't it?! When I was living in Bangkok, I went to Nepal to visit a friend living there. We went to the stupa one day and found ourselves right in the middle of a Tibetan new year celebration. The monks were in full regalia and blowing those long horns. The entire area was full of prayer flags. Clouds of incense drifted. People were chanting and praying. We were transported to the other side. My friend and I still talk about that day.Delete
lovely post, galen! your cabin sounds like a mystical place. i think my little house, which i refer to as my 'lake cabin', is probably more like your cabin than like other people's houses ;-) i think my place might be set in one of those 'thin places' too. i've lived in many fancier places but i've never loved living anywhere so much! it's a magical little neverland for me !ReplyDelete
Linda, It has its mystical qualities. Your place sounds wonderful, too. A lake has very different energy than a rushing creek. I think we would like each other's places very much. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Loved this post! I can relate to Suzi's comment in that one of my thin places, a place where I feel really centered and inspired, is in my shower! I think it has a lot to do with the aspect of water. The state forest by us and its many trails that traverse through the woods and along the river's edge, I believe offers many "Thin spaces" up to the receptive soul.ReplyDelete
Jessica, You and Suzi are on to something here--I need to be paying more attention in the shower! Water definitely seems to be a theme in this discussion. Thanks for your comment.Delete
You must be reading my mind Galen... I was recently in a very thin place and have just written about it on my blog. Hope you'll have time to pop over and read about it there. Seems the more time I spend on the earth... the more I seem in tune with the naturalness of things here. Thin places is a great description for the close connection felt in certain places. I loved hearing about your cabin in the woods. You wrote about it so beautifully :)ReplyDelete
Jean, It does seem that I am more sensitive to these things the older I get. I'll be right over to read your post. Thanks for commenting.Delete
Hmm. I think maybe most of my life is a thin place. Sometimes I wish it were a little thicker. But it isn't a bad thing. :)ReplyDelete
Jennifer, I had to laugh when I read this comment. From what I know of you, I suspect you are exactly right. Are you ever tempted to just go over to the "other side" and just stay there? I'm only half joking. I was in a thin place doorway once that was so thin I could "see" the other side. I was tempted to step through but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get back, so I didn't. I wonder what would have happened. Thanks for commenting.Delete
Oh heavens yes (so to speak). Honestly, lately I suspect maybe I already AM there, and this whole "life" thing is just kind of a dream. Dreams always seem real while you're having them, don't they?Delete
Wake me up when it's time for breakfast. I hope we're having bacon. :)
You will always find bacon on the menu at my place! Stop by!Delete
What a beautiful term!! Yes l know what you mean, definately. Pam xxReplyDelete
The face of a child.ReplyDelete
Lovely concept, Galen. I often think that anywhere near the ocean is a thin place.ReplyDelete
Adriene, Water seems to be a theme for many folks here. Thanks for your comment.Delete
This is the first time that I've heard of 'thin places', Galen, but I can understand how that works. I'm trying to think of where my own 'thin' place might be.ReplyDelete
Corinne, If you find one, let me know! Thanks for commenting.Delete
interesting concept! I have never heard this term, but have felt His presence in a tiny chapel.ReplyDelete
Annmarie, I also find a thin place in a very small Catholic church in a park not far from where I live. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Wow, a new word for me. I will need to do some studying and learn a little more. I am not sure if I have found a "thin place" I will be looking though.ReplyDelete
Bonnie, Let me know if you find one! Thanks for commenting.Delete
I loved this post. What I really enjoyed about it, is the way you described your connection with your surroundings and how you learnt from what was around you, like the trees sharing their wisdom with you!
Hiten, Thank you for the kind words! I'm so glad you liked the post.Delete
I loved reading this, Galen.ReplyDelete
I've found a few thin places--in my faith's temples, for instance. But I think most of my spiritual moments have been less dependent on the place and more on my state of mind, more in line with what you first thought "thin places" meant.
When my heart is right, my mind is settled and my lie is in tune with the holy, where I am matters little, so far as it's not incongruous with the idea of spirit and decency.
Ken, I think that is mostly true for me, too. That is, I seem to "discover" a thin place when I'm in the right mindset. However, I've had experiences of thin places in two locations that took me quite by surprise and seemed unrelated to my state of mind at that moment. The first one was the Mayan ruins of Palenque. The second was, as I described, at the cabin. Now that I recognize the cabin spot as a thin place, I can repeat the experience by settling and opening my mind and spirit, but the first time caught me off guard.Delete
But I agree that most any place can be sacred ground when we are in tune with the holy.
Thanks for commenting.
I love the idea of thin places!! I have feelings like that about houses we've lived in. Some are such happy places, others not quite as much. Thanks for introducing this idea!!
Betsy, That's interesting that you have experienced houses you've lived in as thin places! I think I would like such a house. Did you? Thanks for commenting.Delete
I'm with Adriene, anywhere near a body of water has the potential. I had never heard this expression before, and still considering it as apt for a place which can provide tranquility and a safe harbor for the mind. It seems to me such a place is anything but thin. More thought required.ReplyDelete
brenda, Yep, water seems to be a theme here. Interesting, isn't it? Something deep in our spirits is drawn to water. More thought indeed. Thanks for commenting.Delete
Galen, I can see the place you are talking about because you write so well! <3 I feel those places all the time, sometimes I feel that one resides within me. Others feel it around me and when I am quiet, it's spectacular. I wonder if we all have it inside us? What do you think?ReplyDelete
Jodi, I do think we all have the ability to recognize and access thin places, internal and external. Thanks for your comment.Delete
What a beautiful expression: Thin Place.ReplyDelete
It makes me think of the times when life challenges us with such harsh pain that our skin gets thinner than paper... and how it is in these darkest of times, in the presence of death, that we sometimes experience the deepest presence, connection and joy.
As for a physical thin place: Where I live there is this beautiful little lake... I walk around it every other day or so. Along the way, there is always a moment of extra lightness and joy... and it's always when I reach a very specific spot. It is not more beautiful than the rest, it is not all that special when you look at it "objectively" - but it feels very special. At least to me:
I'm not sure whether it's because it is a thin place as such or just a place that I resonate with personally... but then again, it doesn't matter. What matters is that it makes me smile. :-)
Halina, You are right, the labels don't matter. It seems, though, for many people, that water is often present at thin places. Your description of thin skin at times of grief is very poignant. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Thin places- what an interesting term. I've never heard of such, but I know exactly what it means, and have experienced it many times, especially in woodsy areas, my heart seems to open up and I'm suddenly more aware and alive like another dimension. There is a special place in our own woods where violets grow profusely that I can always count on to take me there(even on a snowy day) I think the sound of water could enhance it, but wonder if it could be any better.ReplyDelete
Feathers, Nature often offers us a thin place. The place you described sounds beautiful! Thanks for commenting.Delete