Creating Temenos — Sacred Space in a GardenBy Andrea on March 14, 2010 — 1 Comment
I offered my first garden consultation of the season and remembered why I love this work so much. Tuning in on the spirit of my client’s garden, I felt like Cupid, helping her fall in love with her landscape in a new, exciting way. I asked my client if she would allow me to share some of our consultation…
S. lives five hours away and couldn’t upload photos to show me her garden before our session. Despite this, we were able to tune-in together on her current lifestyle and her relationship with the garden.
Locating and Activating Temenos
Before we got into the details of plant selection and garden design, I helped her sense two Temenos areas in her backyard. These sites are almost like acupuncture points, energetic ‘hot-spots’ with heightened energy that can be activated through clear intention. Once Temenos spots are identified and marked in some personally significant way, the entire garden comes alive, taking on greater dimensionality.
Temenos is any sacred space where we can be ourselves without fear. The Greeks coined the term, referring to a piece of land marked off from common uses and originally dedicated to various forms of worship. For instance, Mount Olympus was Zeus’ Temenos. Carl Jung considered the mandala a form of temenos, the four quadrants of the circle protecting the sacred centre. Temenos can take many forms — an altar space, a temple, a grove of trees, or a stone circle. While Temenos spaces provide protection, they also invite a deeper connection with Life.
Identifying the Temenos points in our own backyards is key to the Garden Consultation process. A loss of Temenos cuts us off from our primal connection with the sacred earth. I see the loss of sanctuary all around me in row upon row of suburban gardens, each one pleasantly similar to the next yet utterly devoid of personality. When our gardens become too generic, we cannot find our way Home. And when we cannot find our way Home, we are adrift and at risk.
Finding Temenos in our own backyard anchors us in ‘place.’ Gardening with the spirit of our land offers us a way of returning, over and over again, to the sacred centre of our own lives. Honoring Earth as Home, we discover our entry points back to the centre of our world.
The Consultation Process
My client’s first Temenos point was at the back of the garden, an away-space where she could set aside her every-day concerns, re-connect with her body-soul, and receive healing energies from the earth. She knew exactly what she wanted in this place — a tented room where she could retreat, read, rest, and dream.
The other site we identified was diagonally across the garden in a very sunny area. Here she sensed the value of a statue, perhaps a stone angel, that would resonate with her more spiritual aspirations.
With the temenos spots identified, the energetic foundation was in place. The spiritual nature of the each temenos area tends to dictate the quality of the surrounding garden. For instance, the tented earth-connection area needed to be very quiet, almost zen-like. It was also cool and shadier than other parts of the garden. We discussed a simple yet elegant design with lots of hostas, a flowering crabapple, ribbons of impatiens, and some carefully placed boulders. Across the lawn, the angel statue would reign over a colourful herbaceous border. This cheerful garden bed mirrored my client’s spontaneity and creativity and supported her desire to bring her gifts out in the world.
After this, the consultation became very playful as we discussed suitable plants, her range of colour, placement of stones and birdhouses, types of ground cover and trees and soil amendments. Though implementing this vision will involve a lot of hard work, S. felt the plan was exciting, manageable and completely in harmony with her soul and the spirit of the land.