Thin places

As anyone who’s tried to be a poet knows, when you’ve had a spiritual experience, the words don’t render it. All they can do is give a clue. The experience goes beyond anything that can be said. —Joseph Campbell

Almost everyone I know has at least one thin place story. Or should I say, almost everyone I know has a thin place story that they’re willing to share with me. The others, I suspect, have had experiences they cannot explain, but they are afraid of them. They don’t want people to think they are crazy, stupid, or naïve. They dismiss them as coincidences or tricks of the brain.

And it is pretty easy to dismiss thin places as tricks of the brain. Been there, done that. They make no rational or scientific sense, they are not measurable, and they dissipate into nothingness when the moment is past.

Yet,  those who have experienced thin place moments—when time seems to stand still, the air crackles with a quality not present at other times, or the hair on your arms stand up—say they felt an extreme clarity that seemed more real than reality.

Thin places don’t have to be geographical places

Although they can be. You don’t have to be in deep meditation or in an Ashram to experience a thin place. They have nothing to do with religion or dogma or beliefs. They happen in grocery check-out lines, restaurants, or at the kitchen sink. Music is a common thin place.

Sometimes these moments come as reminders of our connectedness with all things. Other times they come with a message that sets a person on a purposeful path, or redirects them from a futile path. Often they are times of comfort.

You can’t summon a thin place. If you try to reach a thin place, it remains elusively out of reach, like trying to grab unto a cloud. Thin places come unbidden. They require the tricky combination of a mind that is open to them, but not reaching for them.

Thin place stories

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some stories of thin places. Some have been told to me by friends, others I read in books. I hope that when you read them they will trigger memories of experiences in your own life, so that you can look back on those moments and rethink them, for it seems that thin places come to us with exactly what we need at the time that we need it.

If you experience a thin place—when you stop in your tracks, feel that frisson of energy, and the hair on your arms stands up—receive it and honour it, or at the very least give it some thought. Allow yourself, even for a moment, to believe that you are not crazy, stupid, or naïve.

Because, when the universe sends you exactly what you need, why would you say no?

2 thoughts on “Thin places

  1. glen

    Marcus Borg in The Heart of Christianity writes a beautiful reflection on “thin places” that complements your thoughts. Since reading it years ago, it altered the way I look at the world and my life in it … and the biggest lesson is “the more intentionally you look for thin places, the more thin places you see.” They’re everywhere, when we have sacramental eyes. Speaking of which, Borg also does a nice job in this same book with what he calls “the sacrement of the sacred.” You should check it out.


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