Today I watched a man turn a truck stop parking lot into a sacred space. He took out his prayer mat, he carefully washed his hands and feet, he positioned his mat towards the east and proceeded to pray. He bowed towards his god, humbling himself in service as he must do several times a day. When he was done he rolled up his mat, popped his cell phone ear bud back in his ear and drove off. The space underneath his mat became a parking lot again.
A sacred space doesn’t need a giant altar, an impressive entry or even an entry at all. A sacred space is about ritual. Sometimes a cup of coffee at my kitchen table in a house that is still sleeping can feel sacred. In the morning when I sit for meditation on my living room floor that is a ritual. It is not public, it is in fact very private. When I am finished I slide the worn purple cushion back under the couch, and get ready for the rest of my day.
We fill our lives with rituals. Some are familiar acts of worship that have gone on for centuries, generations of people repeating the same vows or prayers to define their lives and their milestones. We have personal rituals, the little moments that define the culture of our families and lives. They change as our families change. At this stage of my life, my day begins before the sun and ends with the dishwasher triumphantly signaling the end of another day, long after the sun has closed up shop.
There are moments that feel sacred to me within our days, the sound of my kids sleepily making their way downstairs in the morning, or the sigh of the bus stop doors. From the outside of our life they are completely unremarkable; from the inside they are the moments that make up the sacred landscape of this stage of our lives. Every family has it’s own little culture and set of rituals. Our days are held together by ordinary moments that may not resonate with anyone else. Small things, a dish filled with brightly colored sunglasses will always remind me of my grandmother, or a Sunday brunch menu at my mothers house that has never changed. These details or habits of our lives can be done automatically or with an awareness that a day, a week, a month is all just a series of moments. If we choose to see the richness that exists within the ordinary we won’t look for it other places, but instead will see it in everything we do.
The man on his knees in the Maryland truck stop was connecting with his past, his present and praying to the future. He was totally focused. His surroundings were irrelevant. All over the world people engage in rituals defined by religion every day. For many people though, their lives have different kinds of rituals and routines. A ritual does not have to be shared with a cast of thousands to be meaningful. It can be as small as weeding your garden in spring or walking your dog. It is the attention that we bring to it that can make it feel sacred.