“For my tribe, the people I found years ago, we’ve found sanctuary in the irreverent, in the off-center, in the quirky... And that’s how we stay entertained, and that’s how we stay engaged in what would otherwise seem to be a really cruel world. A really harsh world.”
- RuPaul Charles
This quote from RuPaul encapsulates an important aspect of the word sanctuary. Often, people think of a sanctuary as a quiet, safe place - a refuge - and in the most literal definition a sanctuary is a place, but in a spiritual sense, a sanctuary can be both visceral and physical. Like RuPaul, for many of us, a sanctuary can be the way we feel when we are with a favorite person or a community (our tribe) that welcomes and accepts us unconditionally, it can be music that lifts our soul, or the escape of a book to take our minds off and away to our inner sanctuary.
Since the pandemic began, we all have had to retreat to more private lives as most social events were canceled. As the world slowly begins to re-open, for many of us, it is still ingrained in our psyche since the early days of the pandemic that staying in our homes was the best way to prevent the spread of the virus. Of course, there are a myriad of reasons for that; but it is clear that the social fabric of our lives has been altered. One thing that I hear often is that life outside the house has become more stressful due to all the new rules and limitations. We spend more time waiting in lines and dealing with the nuisance of still wearing masks everywhere we go. Our homes have become the de facto place for all things: work, school, dinners, movies, and of course socializing with our family and friends.
“Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, and laughter never ends.”
We can reawaken this sense of spirit in our home by creating a sanctuary that can heal the body, calm the mind and soothe the soul. One of the best creative processes I have discovered is using our senses to guide us into a place of love, peace, familiarity, and belonging.
Home: Creating A Sensory-Focused Environment
Humans have five basic senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste, but there are deep associations that we have with each of these five senses that connect us to imagination, memory and intuition. Here is how you can create a sanctuary for you to retreat into alone, or to share with others.
One of the best things we can do to create a place of harmony is to declutter our home, or if that seems too large a task, decluttering a room or outdoor space and converting it into what I like to call an empty canvas for our soul to create and thrive.
On a physical level, clutter attracts dust that brings allergies, but on a psychological level, clutter can irritate us subconsciously because it reminds us of all the things we need to do, to fix, to finish, to start. There is no correct way to declutter, but if you need some advice try checking out feng-shui expert Marie Kondo’s Web site on how to remove things from your place or tidy them up in a way that makes sense. Next for your canvas- pick some colors, shapes, symbols, and other things that appeal to your specific aesthetics and evoke good happy memories and feelings. You don’t need to break the bank or whip out your black card; it can be a colorful bowl displaying your favorite fruits or a collection of leaves or shells.
Our sense of smell is the most powerful sense we possess and can trigger a rush of memories and feelings. Buy incense, oils, candles, sage, or other things that evoke ‘home,’ in some cases it might be a specific scent that we were used to growing up. A good way to reawaken our memory is to remember the smells of our childhood - and most of these smell memories can be associated with taste, the smell of cookies baking, or our favorite food being prepared. Buy an essential oil diffuser and see if you can recreate the scents that bring you bliss.
Obviously, this will be different for everyone, but pay attention to the taste of your food and what you are eating. Change up your diet to see if your mood changes, too. Drinking fresh juice boosts vitality and it feels like a treat. I noticed that I often eat the same foods over and over out of habit, even though I’m not thrilled. I started to buy only food that I love to eat, having decided that this is no time to deprive myself. If the things you love are not that healthy (ice cream, cake, and cookies are my weaknesses), then only buy a small portion each week, but don’t deny yourself. Eat these treats in your sanctuary and take a lot of pleasure in them, eating slowly! Food is a huge part of a sanctuary - there is a reason why it’s called comfort food. Tea can be a sacred and peaceful ritual for your sanctuary time. If you can safely, try to invite a neighbor or friend to share a meal or to tea with you at least once a week in your sanctuary. Breaking bread with one another is an integral part of humanity.
Obviously, we want our sanctuary to be a place we can spend time comfortably. Remove your shoes and walk around your sanctuary barefoot. I relish sitting on the floor on a soft carpet with a lot of furry pillows and blankets around – something about it makes me feel comfortable and safe. Maybe there is a specific fabric you like to feel good in? Buy a special sanctuary robe or a very soft and comfortable outfit that is separate from your daily ordinary clothes so when you put it on you are preparing to step into your special place so that you can relax.
There are so many things that I listen to that remind me of sanctuary, and one of them is the sound of birds singing. Try to invite quiet and contemplative sounds instead of hectic and loud ones in this space. Even better, if it interests you, learn to play an instrument. You can make or buy a portable fountain if you enjoy the sound of water or listen to countless YouTube videos on sound healing.
Creating a sanctuary is actually a spiritual process in getting to know what pleases you, calms you and brings you joy. Take time to discover what would make your sanctuary your favorite place of sojourn.