Find your sacred space: an interview with Tijn Touber
by Michel Fijn
Once upon a time there was a man; a virtuoso of the guitar and member of one of Hollands most beloved and famous bands in the eighties, Lois Lane. He seemed to have it all – the most desired woman in Holland and a band who caught even the curious eye of superstar Prince, who would later take the whole ensemble on a world tour – all of them except for this man.
For right there, at this very pinnacle of his career he could no longer deny the inner calling he felt to search for that which lay beyond the buzz of superficial success. For the next 14 years he lived and breathed as a dedicated yogi, right in the middle of bustling Amsterdam.
Now, twenty-seven years later, I meet Tijn Touber at his home, to sit together and converse about the spaces he holds sacred in his heart. It is a gloomy Monday morning, which will typically inspire but little happiness inside the mind of the average Amsterdam local. Yet as the door swings wide a radiant smile greets mine. His house feels simple and warm, his love for both music and meditation evident in every corner.
Tijn has travelled the world, spending time with a wide variety of masters and yogis of whom he learned much and more about the deep undercurrent of life that connects us all. He is an accomplished and widely respected teacher in meditation and author of no less than six books on the matter. I decide to start our conversation with my final question.
Michel: In your experience, how would you capture the essence of what meditation is in one sentence?
Tijn: My answer to that would be what one accomplished yogi once told me in India. When I asked him that very same question, he answered: “Get out of the way.” That small sentence really hit home for me.
Michel: Was this enough to satisfy you in your search as a yogi?
Tijn: Well, it is a truly powerful pointing to the essence of meditation, yet I quickly realised it was not the whole picture. In India, many of the teachers and swamis are quick to point out that the body is nothing but a bag of bones, and the mind is nothing more than a nuisance, quickly to be discarded as unimportant. But I could see that Western society would never simply adopt these utterances; they needed to be shown the totality of reality.
Not until we learn and experience all the different layers of reality and see them for what they are, can we come fully into our wholeness. Then, and only then, will we be complete human beings. My discovery was that it is not the meaning of life we all seek, but the experience of a whole and complete existence. That means a life where everything that appears in it has a place; one doesn’t have to be for or against anything, really. It is the discovery that we are life, not merely living one.
Michel: In your own spiritual journey towards discovering all of this, did you have an urge or a specific need to have a sacred space where you could practice your meditation?
Tijn: Yes, I remember that when I started meditating I felt a great need to secure a space of my own to sit quietly and practice. At first it was the attic of my house, which quickly turned into a real sacred space for me.
I remember that whenever people would visit me up there that didn’t really feel right, energetically, I would be quite upset afterwards. Whether we realise it or not, I truly believe that the vibrations caused by certain intentions, emotions and even thoughts that people are dealing with, have an effect on us, lingering long after they themselves have gone.
In later years, my entire house became sort of a sacred space, where people came to meditate with me, or where we would make music together. I have found that music, when played from the heart, comes straight from that very place inside ourselves we seek in meditation – straight from the source.
Michel: Are there certain objects in your sacred space that are connected to a certain lineage of teachers or a spiritual tradition that you feel devoted to?
Tijn: No, funnily enough I don’t have a lot of symbols like that. It is not that I’m not grateful for the teachings that I have received in my life, but it seems to me that a deep sense of gratitude and connectedness are ever present in my life, wherever I go. To make a ritual out of that in my sacred space has always felt a bit too forced for me. It is not necessary, for these feelings are always here.
Also, as many will come to find, meditation is not something you ‘do’ on a fixed time, in a fixed place. It simply becomes part of your every day life, and with that the need for pictures of the Masters, special incense or specific symbols often falls away.
Michel: Does this also apply to the sacred space itself? Does the need for a space like that fall away as well?
Tijn: To a large extend, yes it can. But the paradox is that we often need such a space in the beginning, only to come to the realisation of our true sacred space, which is our very own heart.
Michel: When you sit down somewhere in your house to meditate, do you always assume a certain posture, like the lotus position? Do you feel this is necessary and somehow connected to your sacred space?
Tijn: I’ve spend a lot of time in my life sitting quietly like that. Maybe over ten or twenty thousand hours in fact. And of course, the stillness of the sacred space and the posture itself have their place and purpose.
Yet in more recent years, I have felt a growing urge to combine my meditations with physical activity. I have taken to kayaking the many canals and waterways that spiderweb the nearby forest grounds here in Amsterdam. Right now, I can truly say that next to my own heart, my kayak is my most sacred space – the best place for meditation and contemplation. Whenever I find myself on the water, the busyness of mind surrenders easily to the quiet stroke of my paddle. And it keeps the body fit, which at my age is becoming increasingly important.
Michel: Could you say what your sacred spaces have brought you in your life, both the heart space and the physical spaces such as the kayak? What promise could it hold for others who read this?
Tijn: There are no true promises in this life, but what it has brought me and continues to bring me above all is a sense of coming home. For the first twenty-eight years of my life I often felt estranged from people. I didn’t understand many of their ways, and became a seeker of a deeper truth. That search led to meditation, and meditation brought me home. Home to myself, inside my own heart.
In that, I feel, the spaces that I hold sacred played a very important role, and continue to do so. I recommend it to anyone who experiences this longing for spiritual discovery. Our minds seem so conditioned by our current society, that you have to put something in the balance. A sacred space is just the thing.
Michel: One last question. Does it have to be a place of solitude, or can one also share a sacred space?
Tijn: It can definitely be shared with others, of course. I feel that meditating together is a very powerful sharing even. But you could also look at this sharing in another way. If you can find the sacred space inside your own heart, you stop identifying with what you are not, and step into the oneness of what you truly are. Then you find yourself at the source, as the source.
In those moments you cannot help sharing your sacred space with others, for through you, they will be drawn to that same source. Your own vibration will be very calm and peaceful when you are connected to the source and this automatically draws people in. And they can never drain your energy either, for in fact it is not your energy they are attracted to, but the endless energy of the one source.
This is the true meaning of finding your sacred space; of coming home.
Photography by: Michel Fijn
What is the true art of living? Sidestepping western complexity for a while, this question propelled Michel forward as he embarked on a journey that saw him drifting the world as aimlessly as a leaf in the wind. Fueled by teachings received in Japan, Tibet and India, his stories and photography are the reflections of a man in pursuit of that which is Universal about us, rather than personal.