Book Excerpts

Creating Sacred Space

For many of us – and for reasons that seem to be beyond us – creating a good environment within our own homes to reflect and meditate is one of the most difficult things to do. In his booklet ‘Making Space’, Thich Nhat Hanh tackles the issue by giving some very direct and practical suggestions as to how to carve out an area in your home, mind and life for regular practice. This excerpt is taken from the book’s introduction, written by Brother Phap Dung.

Our minds, our bodies and the spaces we live in are all related. Our inner space and our peace of mind are affected by our outer space. The Buddha said, “The mind, through its action, is the chief architect of its own happiness and suffering.” It’s hard for the mind to be peaceful when the body is not in a physical space that’s peaceful.

When we have a peaceful space, then we can come back to ourselves. That is the intention of sacred space. But we don’t need to wait until we can find a church, temple, mosque, synagogue, or other space designed for sacred contemplation. A small path, the edge of a sidewalk, a patch of grass, or a corner of our workspace will do. If we make space for contemplation and meditation right in our own homes, then peace and joy are always available to us.

I was trained as an architect, to look at every space as having a particular intention. You can look at your home that way as well. You’re not setting it up for people to photograph, or for a magazine, but for yourself and your friends and family. It’s a space for human beings.

When you look around your home, notice how each room – and each piece of furniture in each room – creates a certain feeling. Our built environment affects how we live and how we interact and are connected to others. So where we put things, what colors we paint, and the way we design our space should have intention. Wherever people put intention and purposefulness into the way things are designed, there’s care and love in that space. We can feel and communicate with that care and love. We also communicate back with the space we are in. The intention of sacred space is to make room so we can return to ourselves and touch something deep within ourselves. It’s a wonderful way of communicating. So we need to be part of that communication. If we are not present, if we are on our cell phones or our minds are somewhere else, even the most beautiful place in the world is not sacred.

Brother Phap Dung
From Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice’