When I hear the words sacred space, I think of a place I have visited almost every day for fifteen years. Some days, I stay only for a few minutes and others for an hour or more. While there, I sit in the warmth of God’s comforting presence while something mysterious happens. Healing energy, like a stream of living water, flows through me, flushing painful feelings from deep within and washing them away as tears. When I leave, I feel calm, refreshed and centered.
The place I go is one of those thin places where this world and the next seem to blend together; where God’s Presence is powerful, like warmth and Light from the sun; where meaning is visible and the landscape so beautiful that it brings tears of joy.
The doorway to this place is the 23rd Psalm.
About 15 years ago, I was led to say the 23rd Psalm as a prayer, and I was surprised to see imagery while praying that illustrated the words of the Psalm. In the years since, the prayer has remained alive — always changing, yet interactive. Images appear and disappear without my conscious intent, but I’m not a passive viewer. I decide when to say the next line of the Psalm, and when I do, the imagery changes. And I can consciously “import” images from life and dreams.
As I recite the Psalm, my shepherd leads me through beautiful landscapes on a path that is sometimes rocky and difficult. We usually walk, but sometimes he carries me when the way is too difficult, and sometimes we ride horses or travels in boats. There are mountains and rivers, gorgeous skies, rocky cliffs and seashores, and lush green pastures. There are pillars of fire and valleys of death. There is daily communion at God’s Table with people known and unknown. . . people loved and once lost. Throughout the prayer, healing tears usually flow.
In this place, words are few and far between. Images are the primary language and knowing is beyond words. It is one of those places where words come from . . . With few exceptions, the only words I hear there are my own, as I recite the Psalm.
While I was living in California, I worked for five years with a spiritual director who was also a psychologist. She told me this prayer was a gift that was “exquisitely tailored” to my needs. After Jesse died, I worked for five years with a psychiatrist in Portland who saw my prayer as a place to escape trauma. He said it’s common for traumatized people to go “somewhere else” in their minds to escape. At the same time, he saw a fascinating healing process in the tears and imagery.
I think both of my therapists were seeing part of the truth. This place is a sacred gift and is a place of respite and healing from trauma. . . but I don’t think it was created just for me, and I don’t think it is located in my mind alone. It is also Somewhere Else, and I think there are doorways near to everyone who needs to go there for healing.
— Sally Gillette