There is a compelling exhibition entitled “Sacred” at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. While the word sacred is most commonly associated with religious belief, it also refers to that which is worthy of or regarded with reverence, awe or respect. Much of what is on display in this exhibit will be immediately recognized as sacred by most of us: the magnificent Guanyin statue or the complex Yamantaka Mandala. However, there are surprises!
During the last 17 years of my studying and practicing the art and science of Feng Shui, the term sacred has evolved for me personally. I now identify many more objects, acts and circumstances as sacred than I did prior to my understanding of Feng Shui. While Feng Shui is not a religion, it does invoke a sense of reverence for the world around us; a reverence I associate with sacred. A prime example is the shift in how I view our homes; I’ve always loved houses, but now I consider them to be sacred spaces. Our home is the one place on our planet we’ve chosen to provide us with shelter and safety; it is our sanctuary. And while we obviously don’t feel the same sense of sacredness in our homes as we do when we visit a temple or a church, most of us consider, or desire, our homes to be a safe haven, a place of safety, support and sustenance. A sanctuary. Our homes are privy to our dreams, hopes, ambitions, fears, sorrows and joys. We often say, “If those walls could talk.” And actually they do. Feng Shui practitioners question new and potential homeowners regarding predecessor energy. Because space holds energy, its affects have a positive or negative influence on the people who live there. As such, space clearing is often an integral part of a Feng Shui consultation, as are house blessings. We bless our homes and, in so doing, imbue them with reverence.
Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again. – Joseph Campbell
Items can also be infused with reverence or a sense of the sacred. Some of my Feng Shui clients have created shrines in their homes. While those shrines may hold religious objects, such as a rosary or a cross, they may also consist of pictures of relatives who were a positive influence, or simple things such as a shell, a rock or a crystal that hold significance for its owner. These items are what I refer to as personal sacred! Imagine my surprise and delight to see ordinary items on display in this provocative exhibit: objects that challenge what is universally accepted as sacred! Unremarkable things, many of us would consider throw away: a set of Christmas tree lights, a tea pot, child’s book, a VHS tape, a golf trophy! There they were, familiar, everyday items, prompting and challenging the viewer to see the world with different eyes; to remain open and have respect for the ordinary around us that may mean nothing – or may mean everything!
In the presence of these common objects, this exhibit becomes experiential; we are encouraged to consider our own beliefs about what we deem sacred. We are invited to consider how nostalgia and personal association can change our perceptions. Perhaps sacred meaning comes from within and is indeed, like beauty, in the eye – and the heart – of the beholder.
Everything for me is sacred, beginning with the earth, but also going to things made by man. Paul Coelho