by Emanuel Kuntzelman
Finding your personal sacred place or space is a critical part of the spiritual practice. Having a location that allows you to find inner peace, and therefore, present moment awareness, gives you an opportunity to take in the spirit of the cosmos while having the time to express gratitude and compassion in return. These sacred places can be found in Nature, or can be created in a corner of an apartment, but no matter where they are located, nurture theses spaces with positive energy and love while you work on your daily practice of transformation.
Throughout my own personal search, I have come to find quite a few sacred places that I hold close to my heart. Below are a top 10 list of my favorites places, in no particular order, that have been sources of inspiration throughout my own journey.
1.) Sedona, AZ: Hopi Power Spot
In order to welcome in the new millennium in 2000, the Hopi elders made a visit to Sedona to pay their respects to this very special place, which is the equivalent of the Garden of Eden in some Native American creation stories. When asked to point out one of the most powerful power spots, or vortices, one of the elders chose a place that is not on any of the tourist maps as a possible vortex. He signaled out a spot just east of Dry Creek Road that is perfectly aligned with the masculine energy of Thunder Mountain and the feminine force at the mouth of Boynton Canyon. Situated at the epicenter of ley lines, this knoll has become one of my favorite places to meditate and it never fails to energize me beyond my own belief. Those of you who have joined us on a Sedona retreat will remember it well. For those who haven’t, you can conjure up its power in your mind’s eye.
2.) Chicago, IL: Spiral Galaxy Sculpture by the Adler Planetarium
Who says you can’t find perfect peace in the heart of a city? Chicago’s lakefront offers plenty of opportunities to find it, but my preferred place is on the grassy knoll between the Adler Planetarium and the 12th St. Beach. There is a stone sculpture laid out there, representing the spiral shape of the galaxies and symbolizing the unity of the Americas. The openings of the spiral align with the solstices. Sitting on a stone in the midst of that spiral, staring at either Lake Michigan or the Chicago skyline, one gets immersed in the vast energy of the cosmos and feels the flow of it swirling all around. In case you don’t have time to visit it sooner, we are planning a consultation with the I Ching right on this spot on July 24, 2012.
3.) Chicago, IL: Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond
Beyond the cityscapes, skyscrapers and lake views, Chicago also offers its own version of a Waldon Pond. On Fullerton Ave., just west of the turn in to Lincoln Park Zoo, there is a gateway to the Alfred Caldwell Pond. Follow the trail around to the rise behind the southeast part of the pond and you will find a stone circle under the trees. Here, too, is a place of peace, a point to meditate and look within, where the city vanishes in the depths of the clear pond of our own inner consciousness giving rise to the blooming of the Lotus, or lily pads.
4.) Caracol, Belize: Mayan site
This being 2012, I decided it was a good time to visit some of the sacred sites of the Mayan civilization to see if I could get a reading on what this great transition of the ages might foretell. Of all the sites visited, the most complicated to get to and the most rewarding to experience was the temple pyramid at Caracol, deep in the jungle of Belize near the Guatemalan border. After hours of driving through the muddy roads of the rainforest, one gratefully arrives at this remote site, which was only discovered in 1938 and covers scores of square miles. Due to its inaccessible location, there were only a handful of tourists there on the day we visited, and by the time we scaled the pyramid we had the place all to ourselves: myself, my wife Laura and our Mayan guide. There, in the serenity above the forest canopy, we searched the horizon for miles and then settled in to get a reading on what this year might have to offer. I sensed a great wellspring of hope for humanity to overcome the challenges we face by listening to our hearts.
5.) Ibiza, Spain: Snorkeling at Benirras
Since I first set foot on the island in the spring of 1973, Ibiza has captured a good portion of my heart and soul. Like some kind of modern day siren’s song, it lures me to its shores over and over again. So much so that the island has become an integral part of my life, and the point of departure for the Greenheart movement. And as for my favorite activity on the island, that would be snorkeling in the crystalline waters of the sea. And there is no better spot to do so than in the bay of Benirras, with its huge spire of a rock in the middle of the bay, pointing to the heavens. And below the surface, meditating with the slow, rhythmic breathe of the relaxed snorkeler, I love to play with the octopi, glide with the flow of soft coral and explore the dark blue recesses of a cave that undulates with feminine energy of the island. It’s one of the places we plan to discover on our retreat: Transit to Transformation.
6.) Madrid, Spain: Parque del Oeste
Madrid has been my primary residence since 1978, and spending so much time in a major city has encouraged me to seek out its offerings of reprieve in nature. After 34 years, I have found nothing more powerful and meaningful that an area in the West Park (Parque del Oeste) that I discovered on my first trip to the city: hiking down the hill from the Moncloa arch, there is a natural spring that has been resuscitated and rebuilt into a series of small waterfalls. There, along the tree-covered path are plenty of places to find one’s inner self. I have a particular spot along the way where I have had powerful and vivid recollections of a previous incarnation, which liberated me from some karmic baggage and has allowed me to float along with the ever-flowing change of life, like the water cascading down the little stream.
7.) Le Puy, France
Back in the days when I was a backpacking seeker on the road, I stopped for a night in the town of Le Puy, nestled in the hills of the Massif Central. Curious spires of ancient volcanic activity create an upward surge of energy that captivates anyone with the slightest sense of geomancy. What’s more, Le Puy is a pilgrimage point for Christians dating back to Medieval times. The site of one of the discoveries of the mysterious black virgins, you can look into her eyes in an alcove of a chapel on the tip of one of the spires, and then walk out to the terraced area, feeling both the inward pull of the feminine soul and the outward push of the masculine power. Off the beaten track as it is, I go out of my way every octave of years or so to visit Le Puy, whose energy seems to keep on throbbing.
8.) Switzerland, on a mountain top
I was once a resident of the Swiss village of Villars-sur-Ollon and worked there as a member of the ski team. One afternoon, instead of skiing down to end the day, I took off my skis and hiked up to top of the mountain, Le Chamossaire, as it is known, to watch the sunset over the magnificent view of the Alps. But it wasn’t the sight of Mt. Blanc or les Dents du Midi that captured my attention, but rather something down below, where several steep spires of rock formed part of the nearly sheer face of the mountain. There, on these tiny rock needles, were perched various big-horned mountain goats, known as “bouquetin” in French. I was amazed to see these animals perched in such precarious places for no better reason than to enjoy the view, and have fun, perhaps? Indeed, that is what they were doing. And down below sat huddled the younger goats, who awaited their turns to make the treacherous ascent up the spire for the mere sake of, well, learning how to climb the most challenging routes and, I guess, to enjoy the moment. Although it was many years ago, the vision of those silly goats on those rocks still reminds me that our animal friends, as totems for own life development, remind us to seize the day and live in the moment.
9.) Egypt: Inner chamber of the Great Pyramid
On a visit to Egypt I had become quite ill with traveler’s stomach, suffering from vomiting and high fever. Yet it was the day we were scheduled to visit the pyramids of Giza, so I dragged myself out of bed even though I could barely stand on my feet. Once at the site, we were offered the opportunity to crawl through the narrow passage way to the inner chamber of the pyramid of Cheops. Faint with nausea, my first thought was to lie down in the shade, but then an inner voice told me to be bold, make the trek, for I might never have the opportunity again. So I gave it my all and somehow managed to reach the chamber, hoping I might find some energy from the pyramid. I had, over the years, learned that even tiny crystal pyramid shapes could do things like ripen avocados or sharpen razor blades, so maybe this mother of all pyramids could help me feel better. It did more than that. I sat there for a long while, while the endless stream of tourists came and left, first overcoming exhaustion, then slipping into meditation and then feeling better by the minute. About a fifteen minutes later, I felt perfectly fine. Whatever intestinal bug that was eating me alive, the pyramid dispensed with it in quick fashion and I was healed.
10.) Anywhere I have built a campfire
Throughout my search, my life and my travels, I have always sought the company of a good campfire. In the early days, it was still legal and possible to build a fire just about anywhere in the countryside, and as I backpacked and camped I would always build a fire if I could. These days, anyone who has sat around the fireplace, or even a wood-burning stove with me, will know that I don’t like to leave before the fire has at least turned to embers. It’s not that I need to talk through the night. Usually, as the fire burns down, I prefer to be silent and simply watch the flames. The way a fire consumes itself reveals the great mysteries of the universe. If it were not for quantum physics, a fire would immediately burn out in what has been called the “ultraviolent catastrophe,” with the flames bursting into the highest energy possible. But, it doesn’t work that way. The fire “thinks” its way through life, slowly but surely consuming its fuel source, lapping at the corners of unburned wood, now flaming, now smoking, now flaming again. And in our contemplation of the fire we find the best metaphor for the soul. For our own transcendence is like the flame. It can be passed on, like a burning twig selected to light another pile of wood, but when the original flame has expired, what lives on, the same essence of the original soul fire, or something new? Maybe it is the universal flame of the spirit, which can accompany us anywhere. Even these days where it is almost impossible to build a fire on public land, you can always light a candle to your own soul, creating your own sacred space. And you can set it there, in an alcove of your room, and meditate upon the spirit of nature, with no further need to travel than a favorite corner of your own home and the secret thoughts in your heart.
Safe travels on the journey, and may you find plenty of sacred spaces along the way…