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Between Heaven and Earth: How to Find a Thin Place

Guideposts staffer Andrew Kessel shares insights on how to find “thin places”—rare sacred spaces where the veil between this world and the next is thin.

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Guideposts Video: Inspiring True Stories

Hi, I’m Andrew Kessel. I am a writer from Mysterious Ways magazine, and I recently wrote “Between Heaven and Earth” about thin places.

The first time I encountered a thin place was a few years ago now, when I visited the redwood forests in California. I was just absolutely in awe of how massive and majestic nature could be, and I had this moment where I wandered off from my family and got lost in my own world. I felt very much at one with the world around me. And it wasn’t until years later that I realized that what I encountered was probably a thin place.

So what is a thin place? Well, the ancient Celts would tell you that there are certain places that are imbued with this divine energy that awakens your spirit and shifts your consciousness and makes you really feel how close heaven and earth really are. But whether you are traveling near or far, how can you find a thin place? I have a few tips that just might help.

Tip no. 1, thin places aren’t explicitly religious places. They certainly don’t have to be. The Rock of Cashel is religious, but the Red Rocks by no means are. But it really is about your personal experience. You don’t have to go to an old church, you know, to find a thin place. You can absolutely travel off the beaten path and find a thin place out in nature, even in your own city.

I like to say that your thin places might not have Yelp reviews written about them. So they really can be very close to home. You just have to know where to look.

Tip no. 2: Try not to go in with expectations. If you’re expecting to find a thin place or if you’re traveling to a tourist destination that you’ve been told is going to have this transformative effect on you, those expectations can weigh you down, and you might miss out on a thin place experience just because you’re looking over your shoulder, wondering when it’s going to happen. And so I know it’s hard not to think about that that’s what you’re looking for, but it helps to not go in expecting it or hoping for it.

Tip no. 3: Try traveling alone. It might sound intimidating, you know, going to a new place all by yourself, but it can really help, in terms of finding thin places, if you’re not distracted or trying to take care of travel companions. If you’re too busy, you know, watching your kids or having engaging conversations with your friends, those things can certainly be a great part of the travel experience, but when you’re looking for a thin place, they can kind of tether you to this world and make it less likely that you’ll feel closer to the divine one. And so it helps if you’re alone and you can really better take in everything around you, and have the full depth of the thin place experience. So if you’re going to travel and you’re able to do it alone, I would consider that.

Tip no. 4: Try to find the thinness even in the journey. Someone I talked to when I wrote the thin places story told me about a journey they took across country by train and watching out the window as the landscape and the sunsets and the wildlife all passed him by. And I thought about this. Being on a train or in the back seat of a car on a road trip is a really tranquil place to be because it feels almost as if you’re not moving, but it’s the world around you that’s passing you by. And you can really feel at ease and maybe even a thin place experience just watching the world go by.

And relatedly, as crazy as it might seem, an airport can be a thin place. Next time you have a long layover, you know, sit down on a bench and have a cup of coffee and watch everyone go by. No one really comes to an airport just because it’s an airport. Everyone’s coming and going and hustling and bustling.

And so take a minute to watch. It can be really almost poetic to see everyone moving as if almost in one consciousness, but everyone has their own story and their own destination. And even something as seemingly mundane and tiresome as an airport can really be magical if you take a moment and look for it.

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