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Be it Spiritual or Secular, Finding Your Sanctuary

Monday, October 29, 2018

Clouds and Rocks at Hermit Island, Maine

A sanctuary is defined as a place of protection or refuge. While often referred to in a spiritual or religious connotation, a sanctuary need not be linked to religion. Sadly, after a weekend in which 11 people were fatally shot while worshipping at their synagogue in Pittsburgh, it feels increasingly hard to find a true sanctuary.

As a kid, despite growing up Catholic and attending weekly Mass, my sanctuary was actually the public library in town. When I skipped school, that was where my parents could find me (true story).

Today, my sanctuary is nature – more specifically, being in a place where the only sounds I can hear are those of the unknown critters scurrying about on the ground, the squirrels climbing the trees, the birds offering their song, and the gentle but steady presence of the wind in the foliage. When I seek this sanctuary and allow myself to feel connected to something larger than the thoughts and worries in my head or the tasks on my ‘to-do’ list, it feels like hitting the reset button on a router or unplugging a computer to solve some inexplicable technical glitch. 

Safe to simply be

It also feels like a brief time-out when I cannot be doing anything. The birds might be singing about lack of food or predator threats nearby but I cannot decipher their communications and thus feel no urge to be involved. I am neither being helpful nor unhelpful in my presence, a metric too often used as a way to gauge the quality of one’s day (or existence). I am simply being. 

Sometimes I can ‘be’ for hours at a time but usually, I can measure this only in minutes. However long the duration, the intentional disconnect from my typical outside world is worth it every time. Not because of the unassuming beauty I often see around me, but because my sanctuary is the place where I can deeply connect to myself. It is the place, time and time again throughout my life, where I have retreated in order to make a big decision. After taking in the opinions of others, making my pros and cons list, and consulting my Excel spreadsheet, my own wisdom patiently waits for me to seek solitude in nature before making itself fully known.   

Where is your sanctuary?

You likely already know where your sanctuary can be found – it is the place your spirit longs for, the place you feel most peaceful and at home, the place you think to go when something bad happens or you feel overwhelmed … it is the space that calls to you when you feel disconnected from your true nature. It may also be found in a book, a poem, music, a friendship, or a lover. Wherever you find your sanctuary, may you visit it often, intentionally, and with deep reverence for the eternal well of hope and rejuvenation it offers. 

A link to listen to

A lovely song and video entitled Sanctuary by singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer: