I can’t remember when I first encountered a cloister or an inner courtyard. Part of me thinks it was in Marrakech where I stayed in a restored ryad. I loved how you could walk around the sheltered edges of the square, how there were places to sit, and how there were two other, what I think are essential, features – trees and water (either a fountain, or a well).
So, here are a number of photos from my trip to Spain last week. There are three kinds of courtyard/cloister here – very Christian, very secular, and very Islamic. Isn’t it interesting how these three different traditions have the same core features whilst they are distinctly different?
I think one of the reasons I adore these spaces so much is that induce a desire to slow down, pause for a while, and turn within.
Of course we don’t need these types of spaces to do that. I often recommended Julia Cameron’s “artist’s date” practice to patients – scheduling some time to spend by yourself doing something you don’t have to do.
When I came back home I listened to the latest episode of Onbeing, an interview with Mirabai Bush, about the importance of contemplative practice. During that interview there was a mention of the “tree of contemplative practices” which brilliantly illustrates the diversity of contemplative practices through the varied traditions in the world. I hadn’t realised there were so many.
We all need to find some way to be still and become aware. Maybe you have your own favourite ways, favourite places, or practices. Or maybe you’d like to explore some by clicking through on the links in this post……or maybe you’d just like to sit and gaze at one of these photos for a while and see where that takes you?