As some of you know, Thom and I just spent ten days in Taos, New Mexico. We went there to attend a music festival and ended up staying for a week. After seven days in one place, we discovered several things that made Taos really special. And that got me thinking—what is it that makes anyplace special? And is there anything we can do to make wherever we are the same?
Before attempting to define what makes a place special it would be good to also recognize that some locations are considered special because of their “energy.” These special energy locations are often called vortexes. According to Wikipedia, a vortex is “any circular or rotary flow” including air, liquid or energy. When people refer to an energy vortex location, they are usually addressing places where that “flow” is more palatable to certain people. Popular locations where energy vortexes are said to exist are Sedona, AZ, Stonehenge in England, or Ayers Rock in Australia. Some claim that the energy in these locations enhances prayer, meditation and healing. Regardless of whether a person accepts the concept of energy vortex locations, the awareness of our planet as a living system makes the idea understandable. Just like a human body, our environment contains both visible flows of energy (like rivers and air currents) as well as invisible currents (magnetic fields, sound vibrations, etc.). Learning to use and work with those flows can be beneficial both on a personal and global level.
But although Energy Vortex locations may influence how we perceive a place, they are not the only criteria we use to acknowledge that a place is special and unique to us when we are there. What are some of those elements?
#1 Our unique personal connection to land or a place. Probably the most common definition of a special place is one that is special to us alone. Ifthe place where you grew up was especially nurturing and secure, then chances are that every time you return there you will still feel that resonance. This type of relationship to place isn’t always apparent to others—but it is palatable to those who have positive memories and a physical link to a specific location. Remember, we are meaning seeking individuals and if we find meaning somewhere, it will become special to us.
#2 The people or connections in any given place. Just about any place in the world can be special if the people you love and care about are gathered there together. Like they say, “home is where the heart is.” Likewise, if you have a special calling or occupation tied to a location, that can make it even more special. If you can combine both your loved ones to a place that contains some of the other features of a special place—then you likely recognize that spot as being close to heaven.
#3 The natural beauty, peace and serenity of a place. There is a huge reason that most people identify beautiful and outdoor locations around the world as being special. Places of unique splendor stand out in our minds and hearts. Add the qualities of peace and serenity that are found in many natural locations and just about everyone who visits recognizes a harmonious connection.
Taos and the Big Sur area of Esalen that we visited recently are both ancient sites for native peoples and examples of that natural beauty. Because native peoples tend to be very in tune with nature and the natural world, they were, and in many cases still are, able to recognize and live in indigenous locations that are particularly special. In most cases, these locations are stunningly picturesque, filled with natural resources, and are nurturing and healing as well.
#4 The uniqueness of a place. In addition to locations of natural beauty, there is something within most people that also responds to unusual or unique locations or monuments as well. Many times a group or community of people will be attracted to a special location for one reason or another, and in that place they will build something unique as a way to relate to it. For example, two years ago Thom and I visited Mont St. Michel in France. That awe-inspiring monastery on a rock is uniquely special to an amazing landscape. The Taos Pueblo outside the small town of Taos is another example. Over 1,000 years ago this structure was the very first example of “pueblo” style architecture in the country and is now a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
#5 The history of a place. Sometimes just the history of a place is enough to make it special. Years ago Thom and I visited Concord, Massachusetts. We went primarily to see Walden Pond, but then noticed that the home where Louisa May Alcott had lived and written her classic book, “Little Women” was also a part of the town. Visiting her home, learning about her personal life, and getting a feeling from her “place” all helped to make it a special place in our minds.
#6 The amenities of a place. Certain locations offer a variety of activities that make it unique and special. If you are into skiing and love gliding down the slopes on the first snow of the season you may feel that Mammoth, CA is sensational. Those of us who are drawn to warmer weather and beautiful beaches know that the drift snorkeling in Tahiti cannot be beat. Depending upon what you like to do—any place that meets your needs for activity fits this category.
In all likelihood, most special and unique places on the planet contain a variety of these six elements. Certainly the area in and around Taos contained most of them. But while it is nice to visit special places—is there anything we can do to make our homes and daily lives special? I think yes. Here are a few things that each of us can do to make where we live every day just as special.
1) Fill it with friends and those you love.
2) Make it as beautiful, peaceful and serene as possible.
3) Create wonderful and happy memories there.
4) Make it uniquely “you” so that objects that reflect your deeply held beliefs and dreams surround you.
5) Learn the history of your place and know the people and circumstances that preceded you.
6) Discover the gifts and amenities that your location holds for you. Are their bike paths or walking trails nearby? What about parks or other amenities? Explore it like a visitor and discover something wonderful.
Ultimately, while it is wonderful to visit and enjoy unique and special places around the planet—it is even better to like to come home to where you live. And if you can’t find anything special or fulfilling about where you live, maybe it’s time to do your best to create and/or move to a place where you can. SMART Living is a combination of creating a life of well-being and happiness—and deeply appreciating the simple joys and gifts that surround you every single day.
“When the uniqueness of a place sings to us like a melody, then we will know, at last, what it means to be at home.” – Paul Gruchow
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru