Saturday, June 25, 2011

A thin place...

"What is a thin place?  To discern the difference between an ordinary place and a thin place, one must use a spiritual perspective.  In simple terms a ‘thin place’ is a place where the veil between this world and the Other world is thin, the Other world is more near.  This meaning assumes the perceiver senses the existence of a world beyond  what we know through our five senses.  Since the times of ancient civilization the fascination with the "Other world" has occupied human minds.  To some it is heaven, the kingdom, paradise.  To others it may be hell, an abyss, the unknown.  Whatever you perceive the Other world to be, a thin place is a place where connection to that world seems effortless, and ephemeral signs of its existence are almost palpable. 

Mahatma Ghandi in his Spiritual Message to the World in 1931, speaks of this.

“There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything.  I feel it, though I do not see it.  It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses.  It transcends the senses”

Truth abides in thin places; naked, raw, hard to face truth.  Yet the comfort, safety and strength to face that truth also abides there.  Thin places captivate our imagination, yet diminish our existence.  We become very small, yet we gain connection and become part of something larger than we can perceive.   The human spirit is awakened and will grow if the body and mind allow it.  Simply put, a thin place is a place where one feels that mysterious power Ghandi refers to.  Ghandi believed (and stated later in the same speech), that the mysterious power was God.

Thin places should not be confused with thin moments, those being times when that mysterious power is felt during a particular experience or synchronistic course of events such as the birth of a child, the return of a loved one, reconciliation with an enemy or spiritual awakening.  A thin place is simply that – a PLACE where the veil is thin.  The place itself calls you, draws you into itself, transports you into the presence of the world beyond this world.  The thinness of place moves you into the presence of the mysterious power.  There, all things you perceive through your senses are charged, electrified, illuminated with the presence of that power.

Describing the meaning of thin place is like describing love, fear, the feeling of holding your newborn child, the existence of God.  All attempts are feeble and all talk is cheap.  Understanding marries  experience and full understanding is almost never achieved.  

In truth, however, once you’ve been in a thin place and allowed your spirit to absorb  that which transcends the senses, all need for definition ceases.  Our spirits learn differently than our minds.  All through our lives we walk through these places.  Some people notice the thinness.  Some do not.  Yet the idea of "thin places" is not new.  Memorials - made by humans  - have been marking thin places for thousands of years.  Ancient people, especially in Ireland and Britain were forever marking spaces as sacred and worth remembering, as if to say, "something special happened here." 
Mindie Burgoyne
Copyright, 2001, 2007 by Trinity Publications 

I think that my brother is in a thin place at this time. He is in the hospital, surrounded by family, love and prayers. He sleeps a lot, eats little. He still knows us, still spreads the message of a loving and good God, despite the cancer ravaging his body. He is more Spirit than flesh as the days go by. 

I was blessed to spend Father's day weekend with him. To see all the children and grandchildren come in, give him cards, hugs and kisses, laugh with him and cry with him. Love abounds. 

He is tired, my brother. He has worked hard all his life, suffered much, loved much and shown all of our family a fine example of what a good man is. I love him so much. He has long been one of my heroes; human, fallible, but always getting up more times than he has fallen down. He taught me to persevere when times are tough, to keep trying and believing. He showed me what faith looks like. He has shown me love and forgiveness. Now he is showing me how to die with dignity. 

I don't want him to go. I want him to live to be an old, old man. But that is not God's will. I don't understand and realize asking "why?" will never be answered. 

Wondering why he has had a hard life, why he must suffer now yields no answers, only more questions...

Why do people suffer? I had a thought that it was not for themselves, but for us, the ones around them so that we might learn compassion, empathy and realize how much we love, how much we can love, if we only allow ourselves. Suffering connects us in a way joy never could. We feel others pain but share their joy. Pain is more personal, more real, more tangible. When a loved one hurts, we hurt with them on a deep visceral level. 

Pain connects us to the Christ, who also suffered. We can relate to the agony, the brokenness, the humanity of a God who suffers more than we can relate to an innocent babe. Life is not easy. Life is messy, complicated, full of fear, pain, broken hearts and tears. But it is also full of love so deep that it transforms a sterile hospital room into a room of Heaven, where we all are more spirit than flesh, where we hold one another in our hearts, where we surround a dying man with so much love the room ceases to be a room and instead becomes a thin place, holy and sacred...