As we become more mindful we are more aware of all experiences in general – the pleasurable and the challenging. Our present moment may be filled with negative emotions, aggression or terrible sadness. As we become more “tuned in” our negative experiences don’t necessarily become less but there are techniques we can use to minimise the impact of these, get back on track quicker and not be at the mercy of our thought patterns and emotions from moment to moment.
One such technique is that described by Rick Hanson as “Refuge” or as I have termed it:
I have always needed time alone and this is definitely where I find sanctuary, recalibrate and fill the tank back up but the concept of Soul Sanctuary is much broader and does not necessitate a change in location or companionship or a large amount of time as we can find it inside… immediately. It is beneficial to centre in your sanctuary as a daily practice.
Soul Sanctuary helps us to stay present with whatever comes our way be it positive or negative and as our profession is largely made up of interacting with others moment to moment lots of things “come up”. This technique keeps us grounded and centred in order to respond calmly and authentically.
A good place to start might be to make a list of people (groups or individuals), places, activities, practices or routines, experiences, memories or ideas that support you, inspire you or which you feel protected by. As Nischala Joy Devi says:
‘A positive image can elevate us and support us to heal…it is in your power to formulate pleasant and unpleasant experiences’ and it is in this practice that this plays out – as it can be done through visualisation without having to go anywhere.
It is then really as simple as taking a moment each day to consciously find sanctuary in those things by doing the following (as described by Rick Hanson PhD):
- Saying the words “I take sanctuary in….”
- Going to your sanctuary (literally or in your mind) e.g. the beach, a forest, a hammock, for a run
- Coming from your sanctuary – i.e. using it as a baseline from which to enter your day. So for me this would be rising early to meditate, pray, do some yoga or breath awareness practices. This fills me with a sense of calm protection from which I enter my day centred. This concept is illustrated in a prayer I use most days:
When I step out, the world assembles itself around me
Like my awareness of being who I am,
Like my belief in the Divine. (Modern Prayer from Stockholm Sweden)
When we come from a place of sanctuary the world might just ‘assemble itself’ more gently around us.
- Abiding as your sanctuary – this is really where you sense a refuge at work in your life and you live from that. So for me this would be abiding as self-compassion, love, peace, connected to spirit.
These practices are particularly beneficial when I am starting to feel anxious, over-tired or worried about something. You might start with the first two methods as they are perhaps more tangible and as these become comfortable, look towards ‘coming from’ and ‘abiding as’ refuge each day – they bring you to a place where you are living from this sense of comfort. Choose whatever practice resonates with you and which you feel you can actually do.
It’s important as you feel what it’s like to be in this space of safety and serenity that you let those positive feelings sink in because what your brain focuses on changes its makeup.
Who / What / Where are your Soul Sanctuaries?