June 21, 2012

Where's Your Sanctuary?

Growing up, my definition of sanctuary came from the movies. Sanctuary was something you sought when you needed protection and refuge. If the movie was a Western, the seeker was usually an outlaw, and the local church the place he found it. Usually, the outlaw was redeemed by his experience, though shot dead anyway by the sheriff as he made a run for it at the end of the film.

Eventually I learned that sanctuary isn't available only to villains, and that it can be found in places other than a church.
Sanctuary is an interval -- sometimes a place, sometimes a state of mind or spirit -- that offers relief when the world presses in too tightly. 
Sanctuary is freedom from "monkey mind," those thoughts and feelings that loop endlessly in the recesses of our consciousness: anxiety about something we haven't done or should be doing, discomfort at not measuring up to some impossible standard of performance, or fear that we've missed something crucial that we're not even aware of(!).
We find sanctuary by discovering -- some say recovering -- that place where we feel most natural, most ourselves.  
Sanctuary is a highly personal concept.  My friends' places of refuge run the gamut: Heather finds sanctuary in her garden; Norm in the kitchen where he creates delicious meals for friends; Donna in her yoga practice.  

I didn't know the full meaning of the expression when I was a child, but I understand now that books were my sanctuary. They still are. Often, reading good writing feels like a kind of meditation: the past and future dissolve, and I'm immersed fully and gratefully in the present. It's a sanctuary of mind and spirit.

My physical sanctuary is my bedroom.  Introvert that I am, it's a haven of calm for times when things are moving a little too quickly and I need to catch my breath. I head straight for my favorite reading-and-relaxing chair, the worn, plump one that traveled with me from Washington, D.C. and from Florida before that.  When I lift my eyes, I see through the window the lavender we planted in the yard when we moved here. Heaven.

Where is your sanctuary? If you don't have one, where might you look?

Image: Woman Reading by Childe Hassam, 1885

No comments:

Post a Comment