building a meditation temple meditation magazine
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Building A Meditation Temple: A Journey

What do meditation and stonework have in common?

To me, the answer is EVERYTHING. I am a stonemason in the Boulder, Colorado area and our company, Rising Star, builds sacred spaces and meditation temples, places of personal power and transformation. We recently built an underground, stone meditation chamber and I want to tell you more about how the worlds of meditation, stone, and building intersect.

Every morning, our crew begins with a ten-minute meditation. In that time, I open to the spirit of the stone, ask permission to work with it, and dedicate myself to listening deeply. With the intention set, I then allow the stillness of connection to permeate my being. We are always outside when we meditate and I use this opportunity to open to the presence of the earth. This short, simple, time set aside in the morning helps me be more present, grounded and clear when I begin to work.

The power of aligning with the material we work with is an unending exploration of the interaction between spirit and matter.

During the days I feel most connected, shaping the hard stone with a hammer and chisel becomes like a dance. The material feels lighter and more responsive to my touch and every stone I pick up seems to find its way into the work with grace and fluidity. This harmony of body, stone, and spirit is realized through the deeper connection of meditation and stillness.

Photo by Jesse R. Borrell, NOCOAST

I began working with stone over twenty years ago. It became apparent from the early days of building walls that stone has a voice. As I grew more familiar with the techniques and skills of stone masonry, I could hear the voice of the stone more clearly. It was at this time, in my early 20’s, that I began to meditate regularly. The line between the two seemingly different activities began to blur and it became clear that my work with stone and the beauty of human potential realized through meditation became my life’s path.

All of this deep journeying into the heart of stone took on a new light when I met my now business partner, friend and soul brother John Engelland, in 2010. We began to work together and found common interest in the spirit of stone. After a few years we partnered up and discussed the potential of bringing soul into our sacred structures. In early 2019, we founded Rising Star, Inc, and brought our vision of building stone temples and sacred spaces into reality.

Fast forward to the summer of 2020.

We have a client who loves exploring sacred temples around the world and wants to work with us to build one. His property features a wonderful sunken fire pit with stone benches and huge six foot tall granite boulders that are set apart from each other, framing an opening. We see that this is the perfect space for a small, meditation chamber and he loves the idea.

With any project we take on, we always meditate with the land before beginning. We ask permission to build and we acknowledge all forms of life that already live on the property. This, like meditation, helps to create a space of openness and harmony when we build. It allows us to bring our full, open-hearted presence to the entire process of creating a structure that brings healing and offers a quiet respite from the busy world.

The purpose of this meditation chamber is to connect the inhabitant to the heart of the earth.

It is designed to provide a quiet and peaceful place to go into deep stillness, and to allow the practitioner to do any type of meditation they might desire. In addition, the lit fire provides a focal point for the person inside the chamber.

After much design, thought and planning, we decided to build the chamber in the shape of an ostrich egg, with a flat floor and a small tunnel to access it. Our client lit up when we spoke about the significance that the egg holds regarding transformation and rebirth. In that spirit, we named the space the Cosmic Egg, honoring the many creation stories found around the world that embody this theme.

Photo by Jesse R. Borrell, NOCOAST

During the construction of the Cosmic Egg, it became more and more apparent that we were building something special. As the walls went up, we could begin to feel the magic of being in a space in the earth. The egg shape held us in a way that felt both protective and expansive, and the 2 foot thick walls of the chamber created a quiet and peaceful place to sit.

It was only when we finished building that I felt the full power of the Cosmic Egg chamber.

 Imagine yourself standing on a green lawn, a welcome flat spot on the side of a tree covered mountain. To your right, the ground slopes away and to your left, a section of the mountain shows its stony flank, a red sandstone cliff that calls you to touch it. In front of you are a set of stairs, leading down into a space carved out of the hillside. As you descend the ten stone steps, you’re surrounded by five-foot-tall stone walls built in a circle, holding back the mountain, creating a safe enclave from the wind.

In the center of this space, there is a fire burning brightly.

You feel the heat as you walk around it. Two granite stones, taller than you are, stand like sentinels along one edge of this stone wall-ringed circle. They frame an opening in the earth which beckons to you like the ancient dolmens of Europe. You approach the opening and kneel down, feeling the stone floor, cool and hard, under your hands. As you start to enter on your hands and knees, you notice candles burning, set into small alcoves carved from the cream-colored limestone walls of the entrance tunnel.

As the heat of the fire fades behind you, the coolness of the meditation chamber welcomes you, the smooth limestone floor beneath your hands and feet. You crawl forward four more feet and find that the small tunnel opens up into a space that is shaped like an egg. You sit upright and notice that the space is big enough for two, or maybe three if you want to get cozy. For now, you relish the quiet and straighten your back, taking in the stillness. The floor of the inner chamber is red granite, polished and smooth, and it feels lovely to touch. The walls of the Cosmic Egg are made from the same cream-colored limestone as the tunnel entrance, the result of millions of years of sea creatures, coral and minerals coming together under extreme pressure to create these walls.

Photo by Jesse R. Borrell, NOCOAST

As you settle in, the crackle of the fire amplifies inside the space. You look at it for a moment, feeling IN the fire before closing your eyes and letting a slow outbreath take you inward. You feel the warm embrace of the earth, the coolness of the chamber and the silent thrumming of the subterranean vibration calling you deeper and deeper into your meditation. After what feels like hours but is maybe only minutes, you blink your eyes back open. You lean back against the curved walls of the Egg and sigh, feeling refreshed and ready to head back into the world.

So, why build a structure that’s just for meditation when you can meditate anywhere?

One of the passions of my life is to create beautiful spaces that inspire wonder, awe and create a deep reverence for life on earth. Most of the world’s built spaces are functional in nature, serving the basic needs of our existence. We have houses to shelter us, cars so we can get around, and places to store, buy or sell items that we need or desire. Less commonly, we build to emphasize the simple pleasures of living, for the beauty of art, or for recreation and fun. In the west, it is even more rare that we build for the delight of the divine.

In my own life, I find inspiration in nature.

The whimsical movement of trees as the breeze moves them, the melodic sound of water in a stream, the chirp of birdsong in the forest – all of these things bring me into a greater experience of peace and wonder. When I began working with stone, I wanted to bring the joy that I felt in nature into the structures of our life. I wanted to build places that we revere and use for the purposes of finding the stillness within.

So yes, you CAN meditate anywhere, that’s the beauty of it, but I feel that having a space for the sole purpose of the healing act of meditation can greatly enhance your experience. With a dedicated practice, you can make anywhere into a sacred space. All it takes is showing up with the full presence of your being, and your willingness to let the moment be transformed by who you are.

Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson is co-owner of Rising Star, Inc, based in the beautiful foothills of the Boulder, Colorado area. He loves the deep connection that working with stone and building sacred spaces both brings and requires of him. In addition to being a lifelong meditator and a stonemason for over 20 years, he has served as chairman of The Stone Foundation, an international organization of stonemasons, designers, artists and stone aficionados.

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