Sunday, 29 May 2011

thin spaces

I've been reading about the Celtic notion of "thin spaces" - places or moments where the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is very thin. Where we experience a deep sense of God's presence in our everyday life, if only for a moment. Some people write about actual places as thin spaces/places. Others write about actual moments, regardless of the place where they occur - thin times.

It's made me think about my own "thin spaces/times" over the course of my life. Here are a few I can think of:
  • helping today with a baptism of a dear youth I have grown to love. Seeing someone make a public commitment to walking a particular path is awfully inspiring to me. Gets me all choked up.
  • working at Fraser Lake Camp as a teenager/young adult. This was very hard work with some very needy kids, but there were a number of times - even just walking along a wooded path by myself - where I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was with me. 
  • spending time with my grandmas as they were dying in the hospital - singing, talking, and crying.
  • watching a butterfly emerge from its cocoon.
releasing Dotty the butterfly
  • the births of my 2 daughters. 
  • when a piece of music or artwork or theatre or writing or speaking just takes my breath away - even for a second.
Some of these thin spaces have been experienced in solitude, and some in the company of friends and family. Some are tied to certain physical places - like being alone beside a beautiful lake, or experiencing an incredible sunrise from a mountaintop. Others are tied to certain people or experiences. It strikes me that a number of my thin experiences have been linked to beginnings or endings - both sacred times.

I like the idea of being open to them - even searching for them - in our daily lives. I think that life can be filled with thin spaces - if we're looking.

What are some of your "thin space" experiences?


  1. Why does it not surprise me that you like simplicity, celtic books, etc etc :)!!! I would LOVE to read the books on your reading list (unfortunately it is taking me a long time just to get through ONE book these days, and already have several in waiting!!!). Would you consider coming out to MB for a cup of really really really good coffee ;)?

  2. With your new bistro set? Of course I would! You might have to sub in Derek instead of me, though - he's going out tomorrow, then again in two weeks. He's got conferences/meetings to attend. I know what you mean about books. I'm very scattered-brained in my reading. I much prefer non-fiction at this point in my life because I can easily pick it up and put it down, and read something totally different the next evening. With fiction, I just dive in and don't come up for air until I'm done the book - dangerous when there are other things to be doing!

  3. The thin spaces that pop into my mind are looking out over the open water at the cottage and looking down at my nursing baby, especially when she looks up at me and smiles. Also watching my little girl sleep beside me in the morning (usually after a good night's rest).

  4. I love it, Bethany. So much that I have tears in my eyes.

  5. Thin spaces - I love that term.
    I have felt this many times as well. Shivers up my arms and overwhelming warmth in my heart.
    - Certain times during congregational singing when I stop and realize that there are a hundred people singing together about their faith
    - birth of my children as well -
    - talking about spirituality with four year olds
    - out on the lake in a canoe in the early morning
    Now that you put the phrase in my mind, Rebecca - I know I will be cognizant of it again.

  6. Yes, I love the singing too. Brings tears to my eyes sometimes. And you are wonderful at encouraging the spirituality of 4 year olds (and older!), Rachel - you've inspired many interesting conversations at our house! Somehow those little beings seem a little closer to the living spirit than I feel sometimes - it's good to tap into that.

  7. I love this idea of looking for thin spaces in our lives. I've been on the hunt for Light in the midst of my life - especially this past winter/spring. Light in ordinary moments, even ugly moments. But back to thin spaces... here's my list:
    - During several of Carol's sermons I have sensed the voice of God speaking to me in a crystallized moment that seared me in a way I can't really put words to.
    - While singing a hymn beside an elderly person
    - At my grandfather's funeral
    - While on walks alone in nature
    I'm going to keep my eyes open for more!
    - Melissa Bollinger Seiling

  8. Love this list, Melissa. Very precious times - all of them. And walks alone in nature - seems like that's something to try to do more of if it's a thin space time for you.

    Love the idea of Light in ugliness.

  9. - supporting a woman as she experiences labour pain and gives birth
    - sometimes while writing, when the words are coming from somewhere beyond me
    - hearing a poem read aloud
    - dancing

    Thanks for giving me something to think about today.

  10. I love these, Carrie. Birth and death have both been thin spaces for me - walking with others during these sacred times.