Saturday, January 4, 2014

Thin Places

  I recently ran across a term I had never heard before: "thin places".  I instantly connected with it because although I didn't know what to call it, I have certainly experienced these places when I travel. 
  From what I understand, it was first used by the Celts and later Christians to describe certain places where the eternal world comes closer to the Earthly world.  Native Americans had a similar idea, as in this Apache proverb: "Wisdom sits in places."
   The actual definition seems hard to put in words, and one person's thin place is not necessarily experienced as that by someone else.  I think a thin place is unexpected and mysterious, and when you enter it, it changes you and how you think.  You experience a connection with God or Spirit or whatever word you use, as well as (for me) with others who used the same space before.
Glendalough, St. Kevin's Kitchen (photo from the Wikipedia)
   I've been thinking about the thin places that I have entered and returned from with new understanding.  The first place that came to mind was Glendalough in Ireland.  It was a cold November day and I was young and alone there all day, but I never felt alone.  I felt immersed in peace, good will, wisdom, the past, and I was absorbing it all effortlessly.

Ceiling of Canterbury Cathedral
   A recent thin place for me was Canterbury Cathedral in England last March.  I have visited a lot of beautiful cathedrals in several countries, and while Canterbury is beautiful, it's not the most beautiful.  But for me it glowed with that feeling of connection with the past, with the humans who worked there, who worshiped there, who died there.  I physically felt surrounded by the presence of Ancients, of peace, of wisdom and knowledge, and felt able to absorb and understand important things. I knew when I left that I would never be the same.
   With the New Year all spread out ahead of me, I've been thinking a lot of where I am going to travel this year.  I love planning a trip almost as much as taking the trip!  We received a phone call this week about the sudden death of a close relative, and as her husband talked about his grief, he said his only regret was that they had not traveled more while they were more fit and able.  It's a good reminder and helped me focus my planning a little differently.  Instead of a tour of China, I'm going to be planning some more strenuous travel while I can still do that.  I really hope I encounter some new thin places this year!
     Thanks for reading my blog.  I would love to hear about Thin Places you have experienced.


  1. I enjoyed your blog post. I'll be interested in where you next plan to travel as I think China would be a place of strenuous activity for me. These days almost anywhere is since travel always requires so much walking. There is the Great Wall in China and I would like to see it some day. I hope you enjoy your planning to wherever it is.

    As for my thin place(s). I would have to see being and looking at almost any mountain top does it for me. Sometimes the beaches when I hear the gentle and rhythmic lapping of water or the crashing of waves. Even better if I can also feel the spray on my face.

  2. I agree so much with your thoughts. None of us know what is round that next corner so embrace the day and never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. I look forward to hearing about your forthcoming travel plans for 2014.

  3. I've not heard of 'thin places' before reading your most informative post. I learned something new today.

    Happy journeys, Cynthia.

  4. Well I have a resident Ghost at work does that count? He is stuck..he and I get along just fine although sometimes he likes to try and test me. Turning lights on and off and there is one sign he doesn't like so it ends up on the floor. I never used to believe in I imagine that thin places are possible too. I will have to give that some thought.
    Travel while you can.:)

  5. A lovely post Cynthia and GO FOR IT!! For me, a trip to China would be wildly adventurous and I can only imagine what adventure will be for you. And I look forward to reading about it. Had never heard the term "thin places" but I understand it perfectly. And I agree about travel planning being half the fun.

  6. Many years ago I visited Chartres Cathedral - that was a thin place for me. Shots of Canterbury and Glendalough so evocative.