What does the word sanctuary mean to you? Is it a place to go when the frenzied world threatens your sense of peace? Is it a perceived escape to safety or a momentary release of expectations and obligations? Or perhaps a walling-off of others?
We tend to think of sanctuary as a retreat from real life. It suggests a leaving, a hiding or being somewhere else and alone. But I’ve noticed lately that the more I get in there and engage with the life that is unfolding in real time around me, the calmer I feel. It’s been quite unexpected.
It hasn’t been automatic, however. I have to take a beat to get present. I have to check in to make sure I’m not wearing a costume before coming face to face with another human. I have noticed that when I can meet someone as myself, and they’re able to do the same, there is a force field of Genuine Love that lays over us like a blanket. A sanctuary is created – right there at Ace Hardware or on the phone with a bank teller or with a friend who’s upset. It is a highly magical moment though nothing really new has occurred.
I have a feeling that as we become more present, there will be a stringing together of these moments so that life becomes the sanctuary in which we can explore all the latent gifts of divine humanness. All the time. Based on how blissful those little moments have been, this is fantastically exciting. And quietly sublime. It feels like Truth.
Since presence seems to be a prerequisite, I’ve made a list of a few things we can do to help cultivate more of it:
Before sleep or upon waking, do a body scan, focusing your attention on every part of your body from your toes to the top of your head. How’s everything feeling today?
Invite someone new out for coffee or lunch or to take a walk.
Spend two minutes gazing at your reflection in the mirror. Notice the features of your face. Pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that arise.
When you get into your car, imagine that every other driver on the road is your mother, sibling, child or dear friend. Slow down for them. Give them plenty of space. Let them go ahead of you. Wave. Smile. Forgive them if they act in their own interest rather than yours.
Spend a few extra minutes in the produce section of your grocery store. Take in the textures and colors. See if you can feel a difference in your body when you hold one fruit or vegetable compared to another. Put what feels good and right in your cart and let these items be featured in a meal.
Turn a casual, polite chat into a real conversation by asking questions and really listening. Learn something about them. Share something with them.
Choose a chore or activity to do extra slowly. Let washing the dishes become a meditation of appreciation on the beauty of shape, color and texture. Let folding the laundry become a prayer of thanks for warmth and comfort.
Switch things up: Trade places at the table with a family member. Get lost intentionally and use a map to find your way back. Before work, go out and play. Make a video of your family singing a song and send to friends, asking them to send one back.
Life is changing. We might naturally resist that. But that tension keeps us in a tense place, and it might prevent us from tapping into the sanctuary that is becoming more available to us right inside our lives.
Also, here’s a poem I wrote in early 2020:
The only time I can touch heaven
Is when I’m lying under this tree
With these tiny shimmering leaves
Part willow and evergreen, cactus and locust
Splayed out on this striped lounger
Too fast for my business
Over the hedge to my right
I notice cars with closed windows
Chem trails overhead and
The absence of neighbors
On my left, I assume
The birds won’t be heard
Over the leaf blower’s drone
Or the traffic that passes
But here in my sanctuary
I sit still creating
Pajamas and coffee
Toast in my robe
14 shades of impossible yellow and
A warm blue pool of the highly probable