The early Celtic people believed that certain places had the ability to draw you into the innermost aspects of existence. These Celts, who inhabited the British Isles in pre-Christian times, (500 – 1000 AD) believed that we can mine the depths of our being at these so called “thin places.” Some might think of these occasions as an encounter with God, while others might prefer to speak of a meeting with the deepest aspects of what makes life meaningful. In the Celtic experience, these thin places were geographical locations scattered throughout Ireland and Scotland. In these holy places a person can experience less than a paper thin divide between the past, present and future. There were holy trees, holy mountains and holy wells among other thin places. What these places had in common was that they were “where the veil between this world and the next is so sheer you can almost step through.”
Later, Celtic Christians preserved this ancient reverence for thin places, allowing for an encounter with the holy in everyday lives. You may also experience such a thin place be it in wading beside the ocean’s surf or standing high on a mountain top. You may well have childhood memories of a time and place when you felt especially close to a greater world. Examples of this might be a lakeside family cabin or an old cemetery. Your thin place might be entailed in a particular piece of music, poetry or in the impact of a life-altering event. People may encounter a thin place when present at the birth of a child. I’m of the opinion that many people have moments in their lives when they experience the feeling that there is more to life than what we generally experience.
For those working in the field of death and dying, being present at the transitioning of another human being into what lies just over the threshold of earthly existence is such a thin place. For us, this is nothing less than a holy time. An eloquent reflection upon thin places comes in the form of this Celtic prayer:
Where is my home?
Is it the house where I live,
the garden where I sit in summer,
the country where I roam,
or the place where I worship?
The place I call home
is where my heart is at rest.
May you explore your thin places.
Guest Blog by Board President Bob Ingalls