Can the environment help you to grow spiritually?
I think so. Let’s explore a couple of dimensions to this topic.
Firstly, many people naturally create a small special place in which to pray. The special place or the particular changes they make to their regular environment are as simple as lighting a candle, turning on some calming music, sitting in a favourite chair or moving out into the garden.
Secondly, there are various natural surroundings that evoke calmness, awe and wonder. Mountain tops, the sea, waterfalls and great forests are just some of the places where people report that they have had a sense of the presence of God. These encounters with the sacred presence affect people and appear to help them to grow spiritually.
Thirdly, various environments can be a metaphor for various styles of spirituality or for the stage that is being experiencing on the spiritual journey. For example, a mountain top might symbolise what is happening inside me. I might be experiencing being alone but expansive and deeply at peace, with a consoling sense of God around me. On the other hand, I might feel like I am in a desert, as if life is a struggle and that I am barely able to find what I need for nourishment. At these times, I am aware of my need for God but am aware of remoteness and struggle.
Fourthly, across the spiritual traditions, people have created places to gather for prayer. According to culture and tradition they have designed extraordinary mosques, churches, temples and synagogues that have been centres for worship for vast numbers of people over centuries. These sacred sites have become key destinations for pilgrimages. Pilgrims desiring to develop spiritually, journey to these places in the hope that the physical journey will promote development in their spiritual journey. They hope too that just as many believers have prayed and encountered God in these locations, that they too will experience the Spirit when they enter these buildings.
What has been your experience?