Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Architecture of Healing

We've forgotten the power of architecture. The thought thunders through my brain as I descend into the Great Kiva at Aztec New Mexico. Three-foot thick adobe walls wrap the circular room. Overhead, massive tree-trunk beams weave a latticework roof. Stillness charges the space. My lungs sigh. Mind hums. At the midpoint of the ceiling, a shaft of sunlight blasts through a square opening. Wheeling Sun churns stable Earth. Opposing forces unite and swirl. This structure is not designed by a clever ego. It did not arise from the same worldview that built the sterile new hospital a mile down the road. This is not a place of fear and wounding side effects. Instead, the kiva frames the mystery of being and becoming. It is an architecture of healing.

In the kiva that day, I saw that most attempts to create healing places are based on the belief that we can separate ourselves from the processes of living. It's a world that says we can divide life into parts and keep the "good" while tossing out the "bad." In the process we fail to see that attempting break life up is what causes breakdowns, mentally, physically and spiritually.

On the other hand, the kiva embodies what I have encountered in sacred, healing places around the world. It concretizes the truly holistic worldview that provides a space where all the forces of life are invited to play out their roles in the cosmic earth dance. Birth, growth, decay, death and renewal are embraced as sustainers of the bodies of individuals and the world. To me, these sacred places say, "Fighting with life and trying to control it is wounding. Embracing its uncertainty and its change is healing."

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