Minnesota Oncology

Healing Environments

Creating a Sacred Space for Health, Healing and Hope

Through the ages, sacred space has adopted many forms. Stonehenge with its ancient rituals, the miracles of Lourdes, the Holy Land and Mecca, the Great Pyramids, Native American burial grounds, and the exotic temples of Tibet all represent transformational healing grounds. Each provides a place of introspection where participants can renew and refresh themselves. Today, you might think of your church or synagogue as your only accessible sacred space. But – you’d be wrong. One of your most defining sacred spaces is most likely where you are reading this article right now.your home or your office.

Begin to think of where you spend your time as your personal sanctuary, and you will be well on your way to incorporating the concept into your daily life. Combine the “real” world of what you see, feel, touch and smell with the emotional world of what you trust, love, fear, and what makes your spirits soar. Let your imagination mull over these two realms to determine how you should go about creating an environment that nurtures, comforts and heals you.

Truly sacred space will massage the senses with a celebration of life and love as it provides refuge and an opportunity for regeneration. The components that come into play are as varied as the people incorporating them. Among the most universal elements are color, art, beloved objects, music, aromatics, and lighting.

It may prove difficult to transform your entire house or office into sacred space, but it is quite possible to create select areas. Every room can incorporate this philosophy, even your kitchen and bath. All of the ideas suggested here would likely be far too much to incorporate in one home, but view this article as an idea laboratory, then pick and chose areas appropriate to adapt for your own home or office. Other helpful resources on your quest for sacred space would be Denise Linn’s books Sacred Space and Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines into Your Everyday Life.

Color
Changing color can dramatically impact an area’s personality, and endless variations await your selection. Nature can provide the inspiration. From studies on the psychology of colors, grayish-beige walls represent intelligence, technology, security and tranquility. Green symbolizes healing, growth, renewal, freshness and hope. Green also reigns as a color of good luck: just think of the color of a 4-leaf clover – or for that matter, money! Blue from the sky joins the interplay of color and add spirituality, relaxation, peace and dependability to the setting. Your color needs quite possibly may differ. You may require the joy and optimism of yellow, the energy and warmth of red, or the purity and innocence of white. Feel free to color your walls outside of these guidelines. None of these are hard-fast rules. Select your colors based on what brings the best emotional response for you rather than from some self-anointed guru. Depending upon which reference guide you choose, you can find many contradictory interpretations on color psychology and symbolism. However, when it comes to a basic understanding of how to incorporate the colors you have selected, Donald Kaufman and Taffy Dahl’s book Color: Natural Palettes for Painted Rooms offers powerful ideas.

Art
The addition of art helps define your main vision. Just like color, art should be selected and positioned to fit the needs of its viewer. Another point to keep in mind is that art need not be expensive in order to enhance your sacred space. A drawing by your child may be more precious to you and more appropriate for your space than a museum-quality canvas.

Music/Sound
A small babbling fountain can enable your imagination to magically transport you to the top of a mountain, or close to a healing spring. For a sense of peace and contentment, consider the classical compositions of Bach or Chopin. Any number of New Age recordings can enhance your space with a generic, yet calming, presence. Perhaps, a recording of the ocean’s roar or the patter of raindrops would better define your area of tranquility. In addition to the sounds of nature and music, you may want to add the resonance of chimes and bells for a more ethereal and almost mystical ambience.

Beloved Objects
Any item that you cherish, regardless of its worldly value, should find its honored place in your sacred space. A small “Circle of Friends” statue, a special shell from the beach, flowers or plants for life, candles for inner illumination, and photographs all can make important additions. Your relationship to the object determines whether or not it makes it into your special space. Whenever possible, consider using treasured objects in non-traditional ways. Use a teapot as a pencil holder; put bubble bath in a crystal decanter or fill a silver vessel with jellybeans. A touch of the unexpected can enliven the spirits! Quite possibly, you may develop and enjoy more than one type of sacred space. After all, objects selected to enhance your private bath space would in all likelihood not be appropriate for your living room haven or for that special section in your office.

Yes. An office is a most appropriate site for sacred space. Chances are you will be there as much if not more than you are at home. For example, in my office, I’ve incorporated sacred space in my bookshelf that works in harmony with the reference materials I rely upon. Depending upon which shelf I choose to gaze, sandcastles, whimsical fish and treasured shells will transport me momentarily to the beach, or if I become discouraged, seeing awards and examples of successfully completed projects will remind me of past accomplishments while gifts from friends represent hope and love. In the midst of this eclectic menagerie, I incorporated a touch of Feng Shui. According to Lillian Too’s Easy-to-use Feng Shui, ensuring luck simply requires placing a crimson bird facing the South. Granted in my case, it was a pink flamingo – but that reflects my tastes. And your own personal tastes and sense of style (or lack there of upon occasion) are what really matter when it comes time to create your own sanctuary.

Décor
Think of your sacred space as your own personal nest. Choose furnishings that refresh the spirit and calm the mind. Ideally, this special area should reflect your ideal of a perfect area for contemplation. Sensuous, luxurious fabrics with comfy cushions. Soft pillows. Comforting throws to cuddle. Diffused lighting. Now is not the time to break out the Danish modern. Zen austerity and simplicity has its place – but for most folks, it probably won’t be here.

Rituals
Once the physical set-up of your sacred space has been accomplished, you may want to incorporate a few rituals that will help signify a break with the everyday routine. Light a scented candle. Practice aromatherapy by placing an essential oil in a diffuser. For an atmosphere of relaxation, rely on lavender or sandalwood. If you need energizing, orange or lemongrass will help invigorate you. Sip a cup of steaming green tea. Perhaps, do this simple relaxation exercise that involves taking deep, slow breaths: inhale peace, blow out worry.

Now that you’ve become aware of sacred space in everyday environments, remember there are no rules. Your sacred space is just that, yours. Only you can decide what does and does not belong.

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