A Sacred Space

When I was eight years old, my family spent part of a summer vacation visiting friends in New England. One of the grownups we spent time with was a painter. He had a big sunny studio out behind his house, just past trellises groaning under the weight of roses and through a little wattle-type gate.

I remember the artist’s wife telling me and my brother, “Don’t ever go in there without Peter’s permission.”

The studio is a sacred space.

Of course Peter gave his permission all the time. He was happy to have kids around. Sometimes we would even take naps in the studio.

One thing we were always careful of, though, was not to make noise.

And not to distract Peter when he was working.

His studio was a sacred space.

Later, when I studied martial arts, the sensei insisted that his students stop and bow as they crossed the threshold of the dojo—to him as our teacher and to the space itself.

It too was sacred.

My own office is just a converted bedroom in my house. It’s got nothing particularly esoteric in it, except maybe my lucky toy cannon that fires inspiration into me, or perhaps my lucky horseshoe from Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky.

But it’s a sacred space too.

I’ve made it sacred by the work I’ve done there and by the attitude of respect and devotion that I bring with me when I enter. Kids can come in. Animals can hang out. But they have to be respectful too, as I and my brother were when we crossed the doorstep of Peter the painter’s studio.

My friend and mentor David Leddick tells of when he was a young ballet dancer in New York and how his teacher instructed her students, before entering the studio where they were about to work,

“Leave your problems outside.”

She meant, “Leave your ego, leave your greed, leave your competitiveness with your rivals, leave your fear and your self-doubt and your lack of belief in yourself.”

Leave everything profane outside.

My cannon

In here, in this space where we work, there is no room for such stuff.

Here, the goddess dwells.

(Or at least we hope she’ll stop briefly by.)

We must enter this space without dirt on our feet or mundane aspirations in our hearts.

My friend Ed Hinman feels that way about the gym. Ed is a gonzo weight guy (he’s writing a book called Drawn to Iron) who sees resistance training the way yogis see yoga or renunciants see a week-long sesshin.

The word Ed uses is “portal.”

I like that a lot.

Through this space, Ed believes, we pass by dint of effort and dedication and commitment onto and into a nobler plane of reality.

This is my world too—and my attitude—when I enter the converted bedroom that is my office and turn my little toy cannon so its muzzle faces me, ready to fire.