COVID-19 and the Thin Place

In Celtic theology there is the concept of a thin place.  The Celts believed that there is a thin place, a permeable membrane that separates the conscious world from that of the Spirit.

They believed (and believe) that there is another source of reality that is distinct from the world of the mind: Plans, projects, pride, worries.  This world of the mind is defined by the Greek word chronos.   Chonos is the root for chronological, defined by that which we are aware of and guided by.

The Celts believed that beyond the life of the mind, beyond chronological time is a separate realm.  It is the world of that great mystery of many names:  Spirit/Sacred/Wisdom/God/Higher Power/Creator /Presence/Source.

This other realm has a different measurement of time, Kairos time.  Kairos transcends calendars and to do lists.  It is a time beyond time which breaks into our carefully constructed lives and reminds us that there is more to life than we can imagine.

The Celts speaks of such places of awareness as thin places. A place of awe, wonder and blessing. Ever been in a thin place?

I’d like to suggest that this bizarre moment of pandemic that we find ourselves in, is just such a moment.  Allow me to explain.

This pandemic has created a moment of profound unsettledness and fear for all of us.  Such a moment (stretching into weeks and months) pulls us out of our structure of ‘normal life’ into an unstructured time.  It is here in the midst of this profound unsettledness that we may become more spiritually open.

What am I talking about?

Let me suggest that many of us have more experience than we may be at first aware.  Here are some examples of thin place moments:

Holding an infant for the first time.

Seeing a rainbow after long wet and grey days.

Standing at the beach during a storm as the waves pound.

Watching a whale off the coast.

Hiking above the clouds.

Sitting on the ground with a 3 year old and seeing the world through their eyes.

Moments before and after surgery.

Falling in love.

Holding the hand of a loved one as they take their last breath.

Such moments are profound.  They pull us up and out of our self.  Time is stopped. Feelings are heightened.  We may experience fear or joy.  Hope or despair.  All with greater intensity.

When was the last time you cried out ‘Wow!’ or, whispered into the silence ‘help me’.

During such moments of awareness, we may experience what I call a ‘felt presence’.  An awareness that there is more going on than meets the eye.  An awareness that can’t be measured or quantified but only felt.

In the work I do, there are times when I’m with a person and their family when they take their final breath or soon there after.  We gather in a circle and offer a prayer.  In such moments, often but not always, we look up and at one another and ask: ‘Did you feel that too?’  A moment of oneness, communion with the one who has died, with those we love and with that Source to whom we all one day will return.

A thin place.

This pandemic has that effect for many of us.  It strips away the illusion that we are in control. Even those who haven’t thought of themselves as spiritual may sense something deeper going on.  An awareness that we need comfort and peace and that maybe, just maybe, it may be found in a place we never imagined before, a thin place.

May peace be yours during this unsettled season.

May it be so.

19 thoughts on “COVID-19 and the Thin Place

  1. Emily Kerrigan

    That was very timely. I just got finished reading chapter 18 from Rod Romney’s book, “Wilderness Experience” We are reading this in Sister Circle.

    Thank you Kent!
    Emily Kerrigan

    1. Hi Emily, yes, Rod was one who was open, spiritually curious and was led to so many beautiful places and ways of seeing. And, how blessed we are that he encouraged us too to be spiritually curious and open. Be well.

  2. Christine Edes Kling

    I am intrigued by the concept of a thin place. Just going through your examples I saw/felt/remembered so many of mine.
    -Seeing the road from our front window lit up golden from the sunrise – causing the poles holding the power line to intersect with our horizontal signed entrance..a golden cross!

    Sitting next to my 2 year old grandson eyes as big as saucers – speechless with face filled with joy at his ride to the lake in our Polaris beside grandpa & I.

    Blessed & honored to be at the birth of our 5 grandchildren.

    The clouds on the horizon delicately sewed with silver from the Sunshine after rain.

    Bringing my heart & soul together in the glorious wonder of these timeless moments . The thin place that I am blessed to see/feel/hear & experience.

    Thank you for this. Your gift of sharing is so needed during this time… take care if you. Blessings for your work.

      1. This is true. Thursday after the rain, my little granddaughter and I walked outside to the most vibrant shades of green and a choir of birds singing. We stood in awe and knew we were in a thin place.

  3. Debra Schneider

    Beautiful Reflection…I especially appreciated the circle prayer story.. and the line, “Did you feel that too.”… the unspoken acknowledgement that God is present here… even here… even among us.

    1. Kathryn, about 15 years ago I read about the Thin Place in Peter Gomes ‘The Good Book’. It was just a few paragraphs but when I read his description of the Celtic concept I thought: ‘I’ve been there!’ An affirmation of transcendent moment in my life. Certainly not unique to me. Be well.

  4. Lynn Wood

    A few years against I wrote this, it seems to express how I am feeling now:

    I want to stay at God’s house
    You know when you hear a song true enough to lump up your throat and race your heart
    Otherworldly that a human like me wrote words like that, seeing this world from another plane of reality, the spiritual realm spilling into everyday life
    That’s where God lives
    Have you ever floated into a painting, carrying you to a place where it all makes sense
    That’s where God lives
    A crowd of people singing with one voice, the music filling them and coming out through wide open smiling teeth, bodies simultaneously swaying
    That’s where God lives
    It’s inhuman, the poet’s crafted words of such candor they cut through layers of man’s trash and castoffs of one human dogma after another revealing a glimpse… of a place where this fragile life isn’t just all flesh and bones and dust..
    God is love
    God is truth
    That’s all I know, oh and
    I want to stay at God’s house.

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