Saturday 3 November 2018

The Veil is Thin

Nathaneal's Rest - One of my thin places.
The veil is very thin. I first heard this phrase about fifteen years ago and my first recollection of relating it to my own life was a very meaningful and formational experience. It refers to the divide between the physical, earthly life and the spiritual realm. Mostly we go about our daily business in a very earthed way, unaware of what lies beyond. There are moments, however, when the mysterious otherness comes very close and we are often left in awe and wonder.

Some feel the veil is very thin at particular times of the year. The Gaelic festival of Samhain (one of the roots of Halloween) and All Souls’ Day are considered to be such times. In the Northern Hemisphere, the end of October and beginning of November mark the start of Winter and it is believed that the spirits of those who have passed away are particularly present.

Some feel there are particular places where the veil is very thin, sacred spaces where we are able to be more open and aware to what lies beyond. Thin places, they are called, places that have been known throughout the centuries to be particularly sacred or spiritual. Stone Henge, Santiago de Campostela, Uluru and Chalice Well immediately come to mind.

I believe both of these to be true, but I don’t want to limit the experience of the veil being thin to specific times and places. I had a day this week when the veil was very thin for me. Yes, it was the beginning of November, and yes, I was in a space that has been a thin place for me before. However, I’m not sure these contexts were essential to my experience.

This is not the place to share the details of what happened, in fact I am still trying to work that out myself. I will, however, try to explain the effect it had. Although I was in a group situation for most of the day and engaged fully with what was going on, somehow I found myself beyond time and place. There was a feeling, or a knowing, that stretched across distances and allowed me to feel like I was present with other people, even though I clearly couldn’t be in a physical way. There were unexplained ‘nudges’ throughout the day that seemed to let me know how things were and how to respond. I had strange emotions well up in me at times that made no sense in my physical context. Now, I am quite a logical person, but the only way I can explain this is that the veil was very thin.

Some may brush this off as coincidence or being over sensitive. There was more to this experience though. I think in today’s Western world we can be very quick to dismiss these experiences. We have been taught to consider them crazy or sinister. My hope is that others will be brave enough to share their spiritual experiences, the times when God has been very close, or when the veil is very thin. It is a vulnerable space as we risk being labelled, but in doing so we give others permission to share in the same way. My other hope is that if we are privileged to hear someone’s story about the thin times and places, that we will listen with awe and wonder rather than try to explain them away. There is much mystery in life. Let’s become more comfortable sitting with it.

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