This post first appeared in 2014. However, since I’m leading a pilgrimage to Iona next March (only 3 SPOTS LEFT!) and we’ve been dipping our toes into Celtic Spirituality, I thought it would be the perfect time to explore thin places again. After all, thin places don’t always have to be special places—we can experience moments when the veil between heaven and earth seems thin each and every day.
Have you ever heard someone talk about a thin place?
Perhaps they were recounting inspirational sites visited on a recent pilgrimage or sharing about how journeying out into creation always draws them closer to the Divine. They might not have even been talking about a place at all, but instead a Sacred moment spurred on by a spiritual practice or a deep conversation that pierces the soul.
Whatever the circumstance, which can be as unique as one person is to another, one thing is common: a thin place is a term used for millennia to describe a place in time where the space between heaven and earth grows thin and the Sacred and the secular seem to meet.
The term comes from the mystical world of Celtic spirituality and the Celtic Christians, who were deeply connected to the natural world and considered every aspect of life to be infused with the presence of the Divine, even (or perhaps, especially) the ordinary elements of everyday life.
While historically the ancient Celts viewed thin places to be locations or days of the year where the veil between the world and the spiritual realm diminished and they could encounter those who had gone before them, today thin places are more commonly considered places in which there is an undeniable connection to the Sacred.
Some thin places have been well-known to seekers for centuries and have become popular places of pilgrimage, such as the isle of Iona in Scotland or Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Other thin places are particular to our own experience of God and serve as touchstones as we seek to encounter the Divine.
A few summers ago, I was a part of a community group with the theme of thin places. Each week, we took turns inviting the other members of the group into a place or experience that was Sacred for us—a location or practice in which the space between heaven and earth seemed thin and our souls were continuously pierced by the presence of God. We hiked trails, read poetry, walked neighborhoods, and shared meals. We shared our spiritual journeys and our daily struggles. Week after week, we entered into the thin places of others, and as we walked together on holy ground, their thin places became part of our own.
When my turn to invite the community into my own thin place arrived, it didn’t take long for me to decide what to do. After sharing a picnic together in my garden—the place in which I routinely felt the most centered and connected to God during that season in my life—we headed to the park nearby for a walk with my dog (everyday routines can quickly become times of Sacred Encounter when they invite us to journey beyond ourselves, especially when they involve nature or furry friends).
Halfway through our walk, we stopped at a spring near the path. I first noticed the spring (pictured above) right after I returned from my first pilgrimage to Ireland in 2014. We journeyed to Sacred sites each day while in Ireland, many of them containing holy wells, and our visits to these Sacred springs invited me into a new thin place (water will always have a way with me). With some quick research, I discovered that this neighboring spring in Seattle was considered to be holy, too, by the local Duwamish tribe.
In honor of my journey to Ireland that year and my encounters with water there, we paused at the spring, and I ceremoniously invited those in my group to reflect on the metaphors offered by the holy well, just as our guide, Christine Valters Paintner, invited us to do in Ireland as we circled a few of the holy wells spread throughout the Irish landscape—a thin place for seekers throughout time and now for me, too.
We’ll be traveling to the Isle of Iona next March—a well-known thin place off the west coast of Scotland where the Irish Saint Columba founded an influential monastic community—and I’d love for you to join and experience a thin place of your own. Register by September 30, 2016, and SAVE $200, plus receive a Journey Consultation for free! Register soon—only 3 SPOTS remaining! Learn more »
What are some of your thin places? Have you ever invited others into your experience?