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Archive for December 19th, 2010

A Sense of Place

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

from The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats

How does place evoke such strong feelings? I’m sure you have experienced a significant, special feeling when entering a certain place. The experience of place is a wonder to me. I remember my first trip to Ireland. Early on in my visit, I stood in the western countryside and felt a deep connection to the earth. I experienced the earth entering through the bottoms of my feet and spreading up into my body. The land had come to greet me and had entered into me. I felt completely a part of the land. In that moment, my sense of time ended. I was lifted out of chronological time, and found myself suspended in a sacred time and place. My state of being was one with the land of Ireland. In that moment, I experienced the land as animate. The soul’s land and mine were one. Place creates these kinds of experiences and is unique to each of us. My place may not be your place, but sometimes certain places are so powerful, they provide a special experience to all who stand there.

These places stay within us forever. As Yeats says, these places remain in “the deep heart’s core.” When we are in these places we are rooted in Earth. Psyche sinks deep into itself and connects to Earth. Jung (CW 10, par. 53) says that archetypes are “the roots which the psyche has sunk not only in the earth in the narrow sense but the world in general.” Thus, experience of place is archetypal and holds a numinosity that is true to a specific location. I do not believe that these special places exist only in the wild. We can have profound experiences of place in any setting. Some of my deepest experiences have been sitting quietly over a cup of coffee in a cafe. I have little interest in analyzing why such experiences occur in certain times and places. These are sacred moments that are best left alone. I am just thankful that they occur. They are momentary openings to a greater world.

Over the coming holidays, the outer world (and perhaps our inner world) seem compelled to have us rush from one place to another. In this very moment of living in the fast lane, I encourage all of us (myself included!) to stop and sit quietly in a place. You may be able to step into a park, or walk on a path, or sit with friends over a meal. In whatever place you find yourself,  settle into that place, drop your concerns for the next moment, the next hour, the next day. Just try and BE in the place. Allow yourself to hear and experience this very place down to your “heart’s deep core.”

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