Thin Places

“The Celtic church had a word for these moments of transformation. They called them thin places. “A thin place is anywhere our hearts are opened. They are places where the boundary between the two levels becomes very soft, porous, permeable. Thin places are places where the veil momentarily lifts and we behold (the ‘ahaah of The Divine’) all around us and in us.” Marcus Borg

There exists a place, a place so thin we are barely aware of it’s existence but it exists within our minds. A place of consciousness, a place of knowing, a place of reality, a place of truth. Yet many of us choose to block out this place as we move through our daily lives.

Many of us are aware that we are unhappy, but we continue to walk the same line everyday quite often choosing to drown our sorrows rather than face our consciousness. We let the awareness slide or choose to blur our vision as if we are walking through a forest on a foggy day adjusting our eyes to see the faint lines of the trees and the branches that grow in so many directions, much like our hearts during difficult times.

At times we may feel trapped in this unhappiness but the reality is like the trees in the forest as we can move through the branches. Our feet are our roots, are bodies are our trunks and our souls are our branches; always reaching outwardly and embracing our soul’s divine purpose. To reach that thin place we must reach to each branch and explore the depths and heights that each branch has to offer. We have to move through the branches that cause us to fall and the branches that assure us sturdiness. The branch that causes us to fall has as much to teach us as the branch that assures us sturdiness. There is no way to reach that thin place, where the boundaries between the two places become one, without exploring the branches that let us fall. And when we fall, the only thing we can do is dust off the leaves and dirt that we picked up from the ground and start the climb all over again.

My parents divorced when I was very young. My mother was devastated and this devastation turned into bitterness, anger and hatred. Our home was filled with her unhappiness and at times it seemed wrong to be happy. She was blinded by hatred, jealousy, envious, longing and loneliness. Her unhappiness was understandable as it was a difficult time, but she continued to move through her life as if in a fog for a long time after the divorce. She absorbed much resentment and hate for my father and she wanted me to believe that not only did he abandon her but he abandoned our family. She encouraged hate and outrage toward him and it was difficult to live with these emotions on a daily basis as the dark cloud was heavy and hanging above us in everything we did.

When the courts finally awarded my father visiting rights, he was only allowed a weekly visitation which fell on a Saturday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. There was no staying a little later, there was no visits during the week, there was no “hey I’m in the neighbourhood do you want to go for a quick bite.” All normalcy was gone, both my younger brother and I were strictly scheduled with no exceptions to the rules. It was during this short time we were expected to heal, bond and find a relationship with our father. At the end of every Saturday, my father would ensure we were all ready to go and drive my brother and I home by 8:00 pm sharp. I dreaded the drive home because I knew that once we reached our destination, I would be grilled with 20/20 questions about the day. One wrong answer could lead to more devastation for my mother so I avoided the situation at all cost. I used the excuse that I was tired and go to my room, close the door and put a record on the record player and listen to my favourite music.

One Saturday, it had been a rough week and I was upset while at my father’s house. My father wasn’t one to pry but he found me in tears and wanted to know what was wrong. At the age of nine years old, it’s hard to express exactly what you feel in your heart. I had secretly absorbed so many negative emotions that I wasn’t completely aware of and when I answered my father’s question I blurted out; “did I do something wrong and that’s why you left?” I had taken all the difficult emotions between my parents and absorbed the hatred and resentment into blaming myself and believing that I must have done something to cause him to leave.

The statement was a blow to my father and I could see the tension in his face. He took a step back, suddenly his jaw softened and his eyes welled up with tears as he bent down to my level and ran the back of his hand, with much tenderness, across my cheek. In a very calm voice he then said, “No honey, this has nothing to do with you or your brothers or sister. It is between your mother and I, but that doesn’t mean I will ever stop being your father nor will I ever stop loving you. You are my daughter and I am proud of you and always will be. Do you believe me when I say that I love you?”

At that moment looking into his eyes, I could feel the love that he had for me as his daughter and the veil momentarily lifted letting me feel his love to the depth of my soul. I said “yes, I believe you dad” and he said “good, let’s get some lunch .” We never discussed the divorce again after that, we chose to spend our time together catching up with each other or engaging in conversations about subjects we both found interesting. Throughout our relationship, he never once bad mouthed my mother to me and if I did utter a complaint about my mother, he told me to be good to my mother and reminded me that she had been through a lot.

Yesterday, I read an article about children of divorce and how some couples choose to train their children to hate and despise their spouse rather than teach healthy boundaries and emotions. The article explained that parents who choose to unleash their hatred and anger toward their spouse onto their children, are giving their children a life of unhappiness, poor self-esteem, low academic standings and trouble with addiction. The energy of anger, hatred and unhappiness can cling to a child for a lifetime and parents who pass this energy to their children only create a legacy of self-doubt and unhappiness for many years to come. Many don’t find the thin place or the sturdy branch as they continue to move through the branches that causes them to fall. Once they fall, they are unable to dust off the leaves and the dirt from the ground, nor are they able to continue the climb to the branch that assures them sturdiness.

When the veil is lifted and you find yourself in a place where only love and faith in one another exists, it is the start of the climb to that sturdy branch, to a place of love, a place of truth, a place of contentment, a place of acceptance, a place of forgiveness and a place of knowing, truly knowing your heart; it is a transformation into that place the Celtic church calls a thin place…

Johanne Fraser


“Our true nature is stillness, the source from which we come, the deep listening of pure contemplation is the path to stillness. All words disappear into it, and all creation awakens to the delight of just being”.

Fr. Thomas Keating

Stillness, it seems like such a simple word. Stillness, to sit still and just be, how hard can that be? As a Reiki Master and mindfulness and meditation teacher, I can assure you it is no simple feat. You can ask a person to talk about themselves and most will divulge their passions, their family history and their stories. Ask them to be silent and still with you for five minutes and watch the fidgeting, the facial expressions and the body language that tells you they would rather be anywhere but sitting still for five minutes. Why is that, I often wonder, why are we so uncomfortable to just be? Is it because we have to face our fears, our worries or our shadow self? The side of our personality that contains all the aspects of ourselves that we don’t want to admit to having.

Meditation is the one place that you can sit with your being and sort through so many of your issues. You don’t need anyone to tell you how to be with yourself or how to use your mind for your own purpose. You can use meditation to climb deep into your mind and face your shadow self and do so on your own terms. To understand your shadow is to give you a more purposeful mind and peaceful soul. Combined with counselling or therapy, meditation is a powerful source to reach a peace of mind and well being which can transform your daily life and help you lead a life with more purpose. To list just a few of the proven benefits of meditation: lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, decrease pain, ease symptoms of depression and improved sleep.

When I first started meditating, I often felt worse after my meditation session because I would beat myself up about the fact that I couldn’t meditate without a cloud of thoughts and worry coming in and out of my mediation session. I came away frustrated and feeling like a failure at sitting doing nothing. Monkey mind gets to all of us. It is said that the average person has six thousand thoughts every day. Honestly, I think I have double that amount of thoughts in one day and those thoughts often take over my peace of mind while I am trying to sleep. Fear, worry and insecurities love to invade our conscious as we try to rest and recover from the day’s events.

My mother was a worrier and I use to say to her, “mom, all the worrying will not change the outcome.” I often think of that advice I gave her as I lie awake worrying about things that I can’t do anything about at that moment or even worse, about things that haven’t even happened. Frustrating as it’s a total waste of time and it seems when we are at the peak of those worries, meditation can be very difficult. However, through meditation you can change the language you use with yourself even during those sleepless nights where it seems like every fearful and insecure thought has robbed you of your sanity. By simply going to your breath and focusing on your breath you can feel your breathing getting softer and the tension leaving every fibre of your body until before you know it, somewhere in that darkness you are given a bit of light and you find your peace to go to sleep.

There are many types of medications you can take to numb the mind and the body to help you sleep, but using your own mind through meditation gives you a greater sense of freedom and strengthens your resolve to master your mind for a more purposeful sense of being. Meditation is like sleeping as we often take sleep for granted, yet the more we sleep the better we feel and meditation is the same. I often feel I don’t have time to meditate but I’ve learned that I can stop and meditate anywhere just by slowing down my breath and focusing on my being. I try to meditate for at least twenty minutes each morning and night. The first time I tried to meditate for twenty minutes, I felt like it took forever, now I find before I know it the twenty minutes are up and often go back to meditating for at least another ten minutes.

I practice spiritual, focus, progressive relaxation, mantra and visualization meditation. My favourite time is to meditate is in the morning, especially if my mind is well rested. First thing in the morning everything is anew and you don’t have an entire day of thoughts sitting on your brain. It’s during this time that my senses and mind are clear, more focused and images, visions and thoughts just seem to come to me out of the blue.

The other morning as I was using my mind to scan and relax every part of my body by imagining a source of white light shining through every part of my body and being when suddenly I envisioned the back of an indigenous man on a horse. He was riding bareback and the man’s long dark hair was flowing in the wind in tune with the horse’s mane as they rode as one. I wasn’t riding on the back of the horse with him but I was part of the scene as if I had jumped through the screen of a tv and was experiencing the moment, but I wasn’t really there. It was a surreal experience as I was aware of every muscle in the man’s back as he and his horse were riding furiously through a meadow of wildflowers and I was in awe of the colours and as I looked ahead, the sky seemed to be a sea of never ending blue and white as the wisp of clouds went sailing by.

At the moment I was not asleep, nor was I dreaming, I was given a vision and within that vision I was aware of just being. The man on the horse was completely one with the horse, the meadow, the sky, the clouds and the valley and it was then that I realized the importance of that vision. We are one with the universe and with each other, yet we look to distractions to take us away from our purpose; gossip, judgment, politics, unhappiness, sadness, dissatisfaction. Yet, that moment spent with the indigenous man riding bareback on the horse through the brilliant meadow into the unending sky where man, beast and earth was one, was the most astonishing moment I’ve ever known.

You may be saying to yourself “but the moment wasn’t real” and this is true but until you experience meditation in it’s full form, you will understand when I tell you that the moment was as real as if I was riding on the back of that horse. That day I made it a point to notice my breath, to notice my movement as I walked, to notice the trees and the sky as I drove to work. Usually, the trees are all but a blur as I drive by to get to my destination. That day not only did I notice the trees but I noticed the birds that inhabited those trees. So many birds filled those trees and I noticed one tree was full of crows and the next tree was full of smaller birds and few blocks down I noticed a barn where there was a crowd of seagulls sitting on the barn’s roof gazing toward the sky as the day was opening allowing the light to flow; our source of energy, our source of being, showing us how to just be and let the day unfold.

If it hadn’t been for my few seconds with the man riding the horse through the beautiful meadow into the unending sky, the trees would have all blended into the background. I would have rushed to work to spend the day in a mist as I pushed through the work like a robot on a methodical rhythm as if numb to my inner thoughts and sense of space. Riding as one through this life can give us purpose in our everyday lives and meditation can take us there, we just have to give it time and space. “Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness”. Mark Zuckerberg

Johanne Fraser