The last few years have been unlike any others in our lifetimes, and truth be told, they have changed most of our lives in big ways.
Life events caused by the pandemic have altered our professional and personal situations dramatically, and the most challenging part about it is that we have little or no control over the situation.
As we go through this epoch of uncertainty, one thing is for sure: as we exercise caution, we are increasingly forced to isolate and spend more time inside our homes, meanwhile our social circles have also been cut drastically. It’s too early just yet to go back to the way things were, if that is even a possibility.
What we need are ways to create sanctuaries that give a much-needed healthy escape from the real world and allow us to re-center. In this two-part series, I discuss the ways we can use sanctuaries to create a home for troubled souls to rest and recharge.
The only requirement for sanctuary space is that we select a place where we have felt our highest level of joy and feeling of being content with only what is right in front of us. When we are in gratitude of something that has an eternal quality, it keeps us grounded in the present, and thus we can handle whatever life brings us when we know we always have this sanctuary.
The main ingredient is the great inner warmth, security, and peace that we feel in this place. The more often we revisit our soul sanctuary, whether it is a physical space or a metaphysical one, the more peaceful we will be.
A Place for our Soul
“Finding a sanctuary, a place apart from time, is not so different from finding a faith.”
- Pico Iyer, British Author
Home has taken on a new appearance in 2021 since we are spending more time than ever sheltering indoors. It is our ad-hoc workplace; for others, our children’s part-time or full-time classroom. It might have once been a place where we found reprieve and peace from the chaos of the world, but today it might actually be the epicenter of stress and pressure. Even if we don’t work from home, having to be inside for longer periods of time can be hard on our souls. As we begin to comprehend the realities of a more confined life, the one thing we must not take for granted is creating a place for our soul, and not just our physical body, to live.
A Sanctuary should also be a safe haven that we go to when we feel overwhelmed by pressures of our worldly existence, it can be a delight-filled hobby that brings us pleasure and a sense of calm, it can also be a special person or community that we can call upon when we need to just be ourselves - people we can laugh and cry with, too. Here are some examples to help you create your private and special place to sojourn during trying times.
A Physical Sanctuary: A Place for Healing and Laughter
In spirituality, there are two types of sanctuary: the inner and the outer. The journey to our inner sanctuary is usually a process that is faith- or meditation-based and is a path inward to a place of quiet contemplation. Yoga, meditation, prayer and chanting are some very common methods to access our soul’s inner sanctuary. The outer sanctuary, however, is something else, something more tangible - a real place to go and enjoy the simple thrill and pleasure of just being alive.
Finding space for a physical sanctuary takes some out-of-the-box thinking and inventiveness, but that is part of the magic. The adventure involved to find and create the right place is a huge part of the satisfying experience. Your backyard may be the key to developing your sanctuary. Is there room to build a treehouse or a greenhouse? Can you plant a vegetable garden? This type of a sanctuary can be very purposeful if you have a family, and the whole process of building it can be a family bonding experience. Do you remember – long before computers, video games and the Internet, building a treehouse was actually a real past-time for kids. In my childhood, we didn’t have much in the way of materials - just our imagination, curiosity and resourcefulness.
If you don’t have your backyard, is it possible to create space somewhere in a public place near you? I once lived near a hiking trail that had an outdoor stone shrine and bench where people lit tea candles, or left flowers and small sentimental talismans. Whenever I went hiking there, I made it a point to visit and to tidy the area. I took fresh flowers and a candle, and in this way it became my own special sanctuary.
Creating a soul sanctuary, aside from having great healing properties of its own, can become a jumping-off place for many other rituals. Almost all rituals are initiated in personal sanctuary space. My favorite ritual is preparing a small picnic – everything about it is special: the little lunch box that holds my goodies, the napkins inside, and teacup and thermos holding my special tea. I light a little candle, say thanks and enjoy the little special treats I’ve also brought along to eat - indulgent imported biscuits I buy especially for the occasion.
Creating a sanctuary for the soul is a simple task, filled with delight. Sanctuaries can be actual places or places that are real only in the imagination, but perhaps we need to have both kinds. The important aspect is that we each select our own special place, whether it be the seaside, a forest, a mountaintop, a view of running water or a waterfall, a special garden or a sacred power spot.