Thursday, January 10, 2008


SACRED PLACES & RECOVERY / January 10, 2008
The recovery journey which I call learning to Dream Again is a path full of twists and turns. It has peaks and valleys. Times of joy and moments of depth defying depression. There is nothing easy about the recovery journey for a person with a serious mental illness or a person who has suffered a severe trauma such as childhood sexual abuse or rape. The exciting fact is that there is hope. One does not have to stay lost on the path. The journey can be made. You can learn to Dream Again.
A recent special issue of U.S. News & World Report was about sacred places. In that issue they say about sacred places, “They are as varied as the human sense of the sacred and as various as the world’s many spiritual traditions. Sacred places range from entire cities to that special room in your home, and can be man-made or part of nature.”
Yesterday, two of my friends and I drove up Wilson’s Creek. The Wilson’s Creek area is part of the Grandfather District of the Pisgah National Forest. Looking at a map, the area is just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain and east of NC 181, north of Morganton. Wilson’s Creek was added to the National Wild and Scenic River System on August 18, 2000. The headwaters are below Calloway Peak and the creek stretches over 23 miles before emptying into John's River. To me Wilson’s Creek is a sacred place.
I have been to others. I grew up on a mission station in Zimbabwe, Africa one hundred miles from the Great Zimbabwe ruins. Since Europeans first encountered the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, it has been the focus of ideological concern and conflict. Unwilling to believe that sub-Saharan Africans could have built such a structure, adventurers and ideologues long claimed the ruins a mystery, theorizing that ancient Phoenicians, Arabs, Romans, or Hebrews created the structures. No one knows who built the place, but it was a sacred place for me.
Winifred Gallagher, author of The Power of Place: How Our Surroundings Shape Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions(Harper Perennial, 1994), wrote in the same issue about sacred places, “ Frank Lloyd Wright, who insisted that even ordinary homes should offer hearths and openness to the outdoors, said, "Nature is my manifestation of God." Over years of thinking and writing about how our external worlds affect our inner ones, I've visited Europe's cathedrals, India's temples, and Morocco's mosques. Nevertheless, when I hear "sacred place," I think first of my modest home, a one-room schoolhouse in the woods, where I'm writing these words.
Like many American homes, the schoolhouse combines natural and architectural ingredients in its recipe for ordinary sacredness. On this chilly morning, sunlight floods the white, high-ceilinged room. The only sounds come from the brook, the wind rustling in the sere autumn leaves, and the fire crackling in the wood stove. When I woke up, the first thing I saw was a small herd of deer grazing on the lawn. The schoolhouse has precious little plumbing and no central heating, cell service, or high-speed Internet. Given a hard enough rainstorm, it has no electricity.
Despite the inconveniences—or perhaps because of them—this is where I come to be cut off from the status quo, glimpse the big picture, and remember the deep truths that are so easy to forget elsewhere.”
What is the truth we need to learn? That finding a sacred place to simply be so we can find the peace to get the rest and recharging needed to fight on is one of the major keys to the recovery journey. You might just find a surprise there. You might discover the Creator is already waiting inside of you just hoping someday you will become still enough to hear the small calming voice.
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