For many of us, stone engenders a deep love within. There is a kinship, a sense of family, and a connection to the earth below that arises when we meet stone. I always feel a deep sense of home when I work with stone. It commands my full attention and presence and when I don’t show up, I come away with bruised appendages and ego. I feel that stone welcomes our thoughts and ideas when we want to create with it. Stone can make us harder and more aggressive but equally can respond by softening and flowing when you let it in.
For many people who have worked with stone, you know what I am talking about. Stone is an unforgiving teacher. Stone will become enlivened with your passion, your love, your truth, your existence, and will harden with your anger, your frustration, your hate, your aggression. It is a mirror in the present moment. We have a saying when we are working, “When the spirit leaves you, it’s time to go home”. It is an acknowledgment that when you cannot bring your whole self to your work, the work will suffer, and you will suffer along with it. It is not a hard and fast rule, but one that we generally uphold as good practice.
Some days I come to work and everything flows. I swing the hammer with effortless grace, connecting with the chisel or stone, the energy of the swing transferring into the exact cut I was intending. These are days when every stone I place my hands on fits into the wall with the barest effort. As I look through the pile to select a stone, the right stone will call out to me, and it will fit in the perfect place. These days don’t come every day (so far), but when they do, I have learned to treasure them, and to ride that wave for as long as I can. It is in this experience of flow where I find connection to my work and myself. This is where the apparent lines we draw dissolve and the worlds bleed through. It is where the beauty that we create and the beauty that we are, meet. This is where stone is my greatest teacher.
It is in the stillness of our being, where we can access the grandest version of ourselves. If we desire to create something pure, we must not be distracted nor have our minds wander. We must find the harmonious balance of meditation and creation. For us as stonemasons, this state of being is the ideal. Whether we are shaping stone or lifting it, our awareness is of the present moment. Danger looms if we stray from this place.
For a combined 40 years Zach and I have been working with stone, bringing together our practices of meditation and hard work. We have found a wonderful teacher in stone. It has taught us patience, caution, humility, and how to work together as a single unit. Through our relationship with stone, we’ve learned much about ourselves, and how to better relate to others. Despite what many of us think, moving slowly can bring wonderful rewards.
What makes a temple? Is it the walls that contain a sacred space? Is it the energy that is infused into the structure? Or is it just as the individual defines it? The definition of temple that I am working with is a place where one (or many) goes to connect to their experience of divinity. There is no right or wrong way to connect. For some it may be prayer; others, silent contemplation. For some people it may be ecstatic dance or creating art. We all have our preferred way of reconnecting into a place of comfort, joy, deep inner peace, and safety. For many people this is associated with an activity or particular place but ultimately I believe that this place lives inside us. For myself, I reach that place with the intention of going deeper and then letting go into that great mystery, as if slipping into the warm waters of a dark ocean at night. When I begin to feel the current of this great mystery hold me in warmth, I allow it to take me deeper into this awareness.
Although it is not necessary to have a dedicated space for your inner journey, I find that it is helpful to have some place that is familiar and comfortable. A place that feels protected from the chaos of the world and everyday life. Many of us can remember a particular place where we spent time as a child. A refuge from the difficulties of learning about the world and its inhabitants. One particular reason for having a special place to spend time is that you build upon the energy created there. As with any practice that is revisited daily, you create a stronger vessel in which your inner travels take shape. It allows you to slip more easily and more deeply into your sacred connection. This is your temple.
Constructing a dedicated space for this aspect of your life can have a profound impact on every area of your existence. Not only do you have a place to go where you can easily drop in, but having a physical space also allows the energy to build over time and radiate into the space around it. Think of it like a fire in a woodstove that you continually stoke. The warmth from the stove will begin to spread into all areas of your house. This is how energy works, although it is not confined to the same physical laws as heat from a stove. As you build your practice in a dedicated space, it becomes an anchor for your life.
There are many forms that this place can take. It can be a room with a comfortable chair or cushion in which to meditate. It can be a quiet spot in the garden or one with a fountain. It can be a favorite stone with a particularly nice view. The beauty of a spot with stone is that stone has the ability to more easily hold and ground earth energy than human made materials. It allows a direct connection with nature and the earth to be more easily accessible for your connection time. Stone will also anchor and support whatever you are trying to allow or achieve in your life.
Many think of temples as ancient stone structures that are part of another time, partly lost and forgotten. I like to think of temples as personal and welcoming. Places where we go to find answers and comfort. Places where we go to transform and connect more deeply to ourselves and others. They can be quiet or filled with beautiful music. Places for stillness or movement. What brings you closer to a more meaningful life? Where is your temple? What can we build together?