Letting the sacred grow


I came across an article recently in the Irish Times on the Shekina Sculpture Garden, in Co Wicklow. Described as a modern sacred space, it is a peaceful garden with  a pond, shrubs and trees and more than 15 modern sculptures that Catherine McCann has collected over 20 years.

On specific days throughout the year, she leads groups of people through the garden, offering them a chance to rest, relax, celebrate, reflect on life and pray.  “People need a space to themselves, a place apart where they can experience themselves in a new way.”

This reminded me of a quote I read once from the writer Joseph Campbell:

“Our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older, the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you. Where is your bliss station? You have to try to find it.

The value of finding this space in a group such as in the Shekina Garden, according to McCann, is that people aren’t alone even when they are silent together. “We need the support of each other in life. You can be autonomous up to a point but it’s when you learn interdependence that you become your better self,” she says.

According to McCann, finding this space apart is particularly valuable for people who are grieving or those who are coping with family difficulties. A former Roman Catholic nun, McCann worked as a physiotherapist for more than 35 years and then became a counsellor with a particular focus on spiritual matters. She is also a writer and her most recent book, New Paths Towards the Sacred – awakening the awe experience in everyday living (Paulist Press), explores how people can get in touch with the sacredness of everyday experience.

When in the garden, McCann encourages visitors to first seek stillness in themselves, then to listen to their inner thoughts (without analysis) and then reach out in awareness and compassion to the person or situation that comes to mind. “People think that religious or aesthetic experience is way out there somewhere but there is a sense of the sacred deeply embedded in moments of most people’s everyday experiences,” she says.

McCann says that we don’t nurture our need for beauty enough in our ordinary everyday lives and we don’t dwell sufficiently on the joyful experiences in our lives. “In the garden, I invite people to allow themselves to be invaded and caressed by beauty and its healing, stretching, soothing delightfulness,” she says.

According to McCann, the recession will force people to look at their core values. “It is generally accepted that we are in a time of crisis and at these times, people look at the choices they’ve made and where they direct their energies. “Many people are searching for meaning in their lives and a crisis can be both a time of diminishment and a time of opportunity.”

Log on to http://www.shekinasculpturegarden.com for more information at the Shekina Sculpture Garden in Glenmalure, Co Wicklow.

This article adapted from the Irish Times. Click here  to read the article in full.