In July of 2019, I moved from Charleston, South Carolina to the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. These mountains have always been sacred to me. During all my years in Charleston, whenever life became too much, too complicated, too confusing, I would pack my bags and head to Asheville. As soon as I was mountain-bound, my head would clear, my heart would soften, my soul would feel free. And by the time my feet were following the path of a mountain trail, I was damn near ecstatic.
Now that I live in these mountains full-time, I still work to keep up my sense of reverence. Every morning, I make sure to greet Mt. Pisgah from my front porch before I pick up my phone or check my email. Two or three times a week, I venture down one of the many trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway, to watch the rush of waterfalls or gaze out on the hazy blue mountains beyond.
I believe all of us feel a deep call towards sacred spaces, to landscapes that evoke awe and wonder, to places that remind us of what is true, what is beautiful, what is holy.
Nearly every spiritual tradition on the planet holds certain places to be sacred.
Buddhists revere the Bodhi Tree in the Bodh Gaya region of Northern India, the tree under which Siddartha Gautama sat in meditation and became enlightened. Muslims make pilgrimages to the sacred city of Mecca and circle the Kabaa seven times. Hindus wash themselves in the Holy Ganges, revering the river as the goddess Ganga. There are countless sacred mountains, from Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments, to the Black Hills in South Dakota revered by the Lakota tribe, to Uluru (or Ayers Rock) in Australia held as sacred by the Aboriginal people of the area.
Whether they be mountains, trees, rivers, or temples, these sacred spaces are not only centers of worship, but are also frequently the mythological center of the world. The great religion scholar Mircea Eliade referred to this center point as the “Axis Mundi” - the world axis, the center of the cosmos, the place where Heaven & Earth meet. Many examples of the axis mundi can be found here on earth, while others exist only in the realm of myth - like Yggdrasil, the great cosmic tree of Norse mythology that holds up the nine worlds.
The ultimate purpose of religion and myth, however, is not to point outwards towards external truths, but to point us inwards to the truths we always carry within. We do not have to book a flight to India or Jerusalem to find sacred space, nor do we have to travel into mythical realms to find our own axis mundi. As Joseph Campbell once wrote, “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.”
Your sacred space can be the beautiful park near your apartment, a stretch of sand by the ocean, a tree-lined trail through the forest, the quiet of your bedroom, a cup of coffee and a book on your front porch, an altar in the corner of your home, the arms of your beloved, or one single mindful breath.
The axis mundi is located where ever you choose to be fully alive, awake & aware, present to the sacred all around you.
Where do you find your center, your sacred space, the place where you can find yourself again and again?
In my work as a spiritual life coach, I’m committed to helping clients discover a spiritual path they can call their own, a true center from which to live joyful & meaningful lives. If you are seeking guidance on how to cultivate sacred space or how to to find your true center, I invite you to reach out to me today.