I recently participated in an interesting workshop on diversity. As part of it, the facilitator asked the participants to access a series of memories. One of the requests was to remember a place of sanctuary where we felt completely safe and secure. I’d been doing really well up to this point, easily finding memories to match the requested emotions or situations. A sacred inner space popped into my head, a place that does not exist anywhere other than in my own imaginings. I mentally scrambled to think of an actual memory of a real place of sanctuary, a place that I’d felt safe. Nothing came to mind.
After the workshop, I revisited the idea of sanctuary at a time when I could calmly examine it. Funnily enough, I still failed to come up with a memory of any tangible place that fit the definition of sanctuary – no scared place, no place in nature, nowhere that I could conceive that felt safe. I’ve been a thousand places that were as a safe as one can be in this life. Even if I add the original concept of sanctuary as a sacred place, I have been in too many of these to easily count. If a sacred and physically safe place does not embody the very idea of sanctuary, is there any hope of finding it at all?
I think so. I believe it is possible to find sanctuary within ourselves, a place that is both sacred and safe regardless of where we might be in the physical world. For me, this place is the one that immediately sprang to mind during the workshop. No matter where I am or what I am doing, the thought of this space engenders a sense of calm, still peace where fear cannot dwell. Interestingly, this space is also where I feel entirely connected to the universe around me. Sanctuary, for me, is not a place in which to withdraw, but one in which to let myself be wholly absorbed into the universe, to become again a bit of star stuff floating through the cosmos. Sanctuary, for me, is not about finding physical refuge but rather coming to a place of shelter within, safe from the storms of doubt and fear that rage in my own head.
What defines sanctuary for you? Are your safe and sacred places within yourself or found out in the world? What conditions must be met for a place to become a sanctuary?