should not be confused with thin moments, those being times when that
mysterious power is felt during a particular experience or synchronistic
course of events such as the birth of a child, the return of a loved one,
reconciliation with an enemy or spiritual awakening. A thin place is simply that – a PLACE where the veil is
thin. The place itself calls you,
draws you into itself, transports you into the presence of the world beyond
this world. The thinness of place
moves you into the presence of the mysterious power.
There, all things you perceive through your senses are charged,
electrified, illuminated with the presence of that power.
meaning of thin place is like describing love, fear, the feeling of holding
your newborn child, the existence of God.
All attempts are feeble and all talk is cheap.
Understanding marries experience and full understanding is almost
Once you’ve been in a thin place and allowed your spirit to absorb
that which transcends the senses, all need for definition ceases.
Our spirits learn differently than our minds.
All through our lives we walk through these places. Some
people notice the thinness. Some
do not. Yet the idea of "thin
places" is not new. Memorials - made by humans - have
been marking thin places for thousands of years. Ancient people,
especially in Ireland and Britain were forever marking spaces as sacred and
worth remembering, as if to say, "something special happened here."
This brings us
characteristic of thin places. They are often marked by human spirits that
have gone before, felt the thinness and been changed by it.
Thin places not only transcend the senses, but transcend the boundaries
of time and space. While you’re there, time seems to stand still, and there is
a communion with the human spirits that have walked there before and are yet
to walk. Thin places are all about connection -
with God, with the Other world and with all who have lived, are living
and will live in generations to come.
Pre-Christian and Celtic people of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England had a
keen sense for thin places. The landscape is littered with monuments, markings and ruins that once
boldly stated, “This is a thin place. This is holy ground.”
The very ground itself seems to call out, “Come here and be
transformed.” In a quiet
moment, a visitor today can feel the connection with the people whose spirits first marked these
spots, and all the pilgrims who have visited since. They are vivid
reminders that we are all joined inside and outside of time.
you experience thin places, the sharper your senses become.
Certainly they exist everywhere, in every country, but the power is
seemingly strong in Ireland and Britain.
Even the most non-spiritual person feels something as they move past or
enter into ancient sacred sites. My
first experience of a thin place was in Ireland, my first trip there many
years ago. I was with some
friends driving south into Tipperary. We
were doing the typical things tourists do in Ireland, frequenting pubs,
historical sites, finding places to listen to Irish music, and frequenting
more pubs. Not a spiritually
focused group, us.
way, the friend who was driving pulled over to look closer at the map.
We stopped directly beside the ruins of an old monastery.
Curious, I got out of the car. I
wandered around the ruins and began to feel strange, almost creepy.
I recall there being an old tower with a window.
When I looked up at it, I could almost sense the presence of someone
there looking out, not looking at me, just looking.
Then I began to wonder as I walked, “who lived here before?
Who touched these same stones and walked across this field?
Who prayed here? What kind
of yearnings did they have? Who
died here? Why did these monks
choose this site, in this place to build this monastery?”
For some reason, the window in the tower continued to draw my
attention, and propel my mind into a state of wonder.
My friends eventually called out to me asking me how long I was going
to keep them waiting. When I
returned to the car, they told me I’d been walking amidst the ruins for
almost half an hour.
I did not sense the passing of time.
That little walk in those monastery ruins differed from viewing the
Cliffs of Mohr or seeing Yates’ grave.
It was more personal, a deeper experience. I have been back to Ireland
many times since. I’ve never
been able to find that monastery again, though I have search for it on every
with thinness at the monastery was a mere preparation for what was to come the
next morning. At 10:00 a.m. we
came down the Tipperary Road into Cashel.
Seeing the Rock of Cashel emerge from the landscape stirred childhood memories of Emerald City rising up at the end of the yellow brick road.
I will never forget that first time I saw Cashel.
It was a moment when time stood still, burned in my memory like a
trauma or birth. We later climbed the Rock of Cashel and wandered through the
Cathedral ruins and cemetery. I
knew nothing about the history, who lived there, who ruled from there, what
events took place there, but I knew it was a thin place.
God was near. My spirit
was awake. It was exhilarating
and frightening. I cannot say the
experience was pleasant. Yet
after leaving Cashel, I longed to return.
I did return to
the Rock of Cashel. In fact, I rarely make a trip to Ireland that doesn’t include a visit there. With every visit, Cashel is different, yet the same. Every departure from Cashel is painful and every return natural, as if
there is a small presence that welcomes only me. Cashel is a very thin place,
yet it is only one of hundreds that lay in the cradle of Western Europe. Over the last dozen years or so I've found others like Cashel, places where I belong more storngly than others - Whitepark Bay in Antrim, Doolough in Connemara, Cashelkeelty Stone Circle in Cork, Kilshannig in Dingle, Boa Island in Fermanagh. All these place have a connection for me.
You can look for
thin places, but frequently they will find you. Most of the sites on
this web site, though they are only a handful of the thin places I have
visited and photographed, were recommended to me by others in casual
conversation or a short note in a letter. Once you set your spirit on
finding them - they will actually find you. There is an intrinsic,
mystical spirit woven into the fabric of nature, landscape and sky that calls
out to every human heart - if only the heart is willing to listen.
Thin Places are
ports in the storm of life, where the pilgrims can move closer to the God they
seek, where one leaves that which
is familiar and journeys into the Divine Presence. They are stopping places where men and women are given pause to
wonder about what lies beyond the mundane rituals, the grief, trials and
boredom of our day-to-day life. They
probe to the core of the human heart and open the pathway that leads to
satisfying the familiar hungers and yearnings common to all people on earth, the
hunger to be connected, to be a part of something greater, to be loved, to
May your spirit
soar as you begin your journey into Thin Places.
Copyright, 2001 by Padua House, Inc. - Revise 2014.