Notes On Alchemical Psychology* is a series of texts dedicated to personal creative therapeutic work, merging the old ways & the new. In the fourth note, I talk about personal temenos, the temple, sacred grove, protection spaces can offer us when we infuse them with our own meaning, and accept their gifts.
It always seemed necessary, even when I was very small, to create a space of comfort around me, a constellation of known objects, colours and feelings, wherever I went. It could be a corner of a car, or a dresser in a hotel, even a piece of a dining table, claimed by a treasured object that I saw as an extension of my own being. Maybe this was because my family travelled a great deal, changing countries, customs, and continents, and I needed to anchor myself in unfamiliar spaces. The unknown would become friendly that way, as I stood in my own sacred space within it, feeling safe by establishing this auric presence on a piece of outer reality.
It’s entirely curious how the young instinctively understand the concept of sovereignty, the safe space, ancient hieron, a sacred sanctuary, the magic circle of lore, Jung’s psychological squared circle, perhaps because their lives are so dependent on adults, or maybe because this is an inherent sheltering tendency, something we slowly give up as a we become socialised, and are longing to fit in. The way I see it, this need to conform has primarily a protective value, too, albeit an inverted one, a want for appreciation, ceasing of territorial disputes and hostilities, not being obtained by the uniqueness of who we are, rather, by the subduing of it, deemed necessary for group cohesion and unity. The wildness in us is tamed, and we trade our natural feelings of sacred turf for artificial, cultural ones assigned by our tribe. When there is a traditional, often more sophisticated way of accepting us into the fold, we encounter the rites of initiation.
However, I believe there is no stone circle, border, gate or wall, or a specific set of actions, that can replicate the inner certainty of our own protective intention.
Of course, we need these societal markers of sovereignty, they are who we are in our collective evolution, chronological moment in time, and particularity of our culture and locality, but the rigidity and severity of the systemic mechanisms of division and control grow exponentially with our own sense of lack of protective space, the sacred inner circle, a personal temenos. A holy grove where we are cocooned within a space that allows us to be fully who we are, rather than give up who we are, for safety and belonging.
In other words, I feel the idea of safe space starts with us, we create it by infusing our immediate environment with our own meaning, inviting others in, through intimacy, or not allowing them entry, for protection. How we do this is as varied as we are, and as similar, as we are. It can be done by fragrances, or sounds, images or objects, a shade of colour we find solace in, a piece of material familiar to the touch, a special garment. It can also be the most ordinary/extrodinary daily routine. When I used to travel to work for long distances, underground, I would listen to podcasts that were soothing to me, on topics I would find comforting and peculiar to my sensibilities, an idiosyncratic playlist. I even chose preferred routes to my destination, where I could. Somehow, this soft sound bubble, that allowed presence in the environment, a connection with others, yet kept me rooted in my own specific space, helped me preserve strength in what could have been a constant source of environmental exhaustion.
As the personal temenos often aligns with the holy spaces of the collective, it’s good to have our psychogeographical routes, urban spaces where we feel that our vibe syncs with the locality, or places that offer a certain harmonising feeling, by us tuning into them. There are the temples, and churches, and of course, nature, as the original temenos, the sacred forest grove, but there are also particular spots in a city or village or even alongside a road, where we find what we are looking for, again, and again.
As I believe in an alive universe, it is a way the constellation of an environment welcomes us in by an exchange of meaning. It loves us back.
Certain places love us back. Sometimes they love us first, and then we love them back. Then, there are spaces where the density of distress, difference, and hostility is so high, that the best we can do is create our own second skin, a layer of temenos, if you will. Places one should leave quickly, whenever one can.
Finally, by paying attention to maintain essential spaces in our homes, no matter our living arrangements, we create safe havens for our inward journeys, peaceful shrines that clear way for nourishing contact with the creative substance of the universe, allowing movement of spirit, clarity of soul, grounding our bodies in the green nectar of Mother Earth, all in one.
Sometimes, one travels best by being still, and free to be.
© Milana Vujkov
*NB These notes follow a personal journey, and are offered as philosophical & creative inspiration. Although I am a psychologist by education, the material within them is not therapy or substitute for therapy. However, they are dedicated as temenos for accessing the therapeutic numinous, in hope of being of good service to your soul in exploring the potentials of each moment in time.