Tenet 3:  On Creating a Temenos

by Pam England

3.   The aesthetic of a dedicated space for birth story listening creates the temenos (a sacred enclosure) for inner work by turning the attention of storytellers and story-listeners inward.

Newgrange Temenos

In a field of lush green grass behind Newgrange, the magnificent, ancient Neolithic passage tomb in Bru na Boinne, Ireland, is a small, round stone building. An arching doorway opened into a short hall that led me to two stone benches built out of the inner wall.  A narrow, gently curving passage that felt like walking through a conch shell led to a quiet, enfolding, circular inner chamber; an intimate space for just two or three to meet. Soft rays of light poured through two small round windows; I could picture altars or candles on shelves along the wall. My mind became still, separated from the outside world, beneath a circular roof built from intricately layered stones. I wondered what its purpose was. I imagined people coming to meditate, hear a storyteller, or meet with a story-listening shaman. As I turned to leave, following the curved passage, seeing the grassy hill from the round window, I passed by the benches, and imagined, in a time long ago, the next storyteller waiting for their turn.

I was living in the east mountains when I returned to New Mexico. For a long time, I made sketches and daydreamed about building an adobe temenos inspired by the folly at Newgrange as a place to meditate and hold birth story sessions. It’s been over two decades since I visited Newgrange, and although I never built my adobe story-sanctuary, in whatever space I create for birth story sessions, I strive to bring the essence of turning the attention inward, of being contained in the temenos I first felt in my imagined storyteller’s refuge at Newgrange.

he aesthetic of a dedicated space creates a temenos for inner work; it’s as important as professional expertise in leading the Process. Creating tranquil and encompassing space invites the essential introspective mood.

In alchemical birth story work, the storyteller and story-listener move together between outer landscapes in the birth story (birthplace) and inner-scapes of the imagination to develop a new perspective and breadth of understanding. 

Privacy and confidentiality are critical prerequisites for storytellers to be unselfconscious and authentic in their quest to complete their story and initiation. Therefore, Birth Story Medicine listeners should never lead the Process in a public space or social context, like a coffee shop, a moms’ group with babies, or a baby shower. The storyteller prepares to enter their temenos and turn their attention inward by arranging childcare, leaving behind life’s daily business, turning off the phone, and pausing to create a sanctuary within themself.

copyright©2023 Pam England. All rights reserved.

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