Every moment things are changing. That’s been true all along, but now in this virus-alert time we sense how rapidly change is happening all over the world. Then where is a place of steadiness and peace? Where is sanctuary? This will be answered in a million ways, but connection to Spirit and connection to others has been a perennial answer.

Phrases posted on Facebook, March 2020

It’s cold here in New England. It’s burr emotionally cold now in the whole world with all that is frightening our common well being. A question much on my mind lately is what is sanctuary?
A first thought . . . have you noticed having meditated or prayed in the same place that, over time and by association, it becomes a sanctuary for you–a place of grace?
Yesterday a friend sent me this wonderful quote by Henri Nouwen from his book, Out of Solitude: “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.” Isn’t such a friend a refuge and sanctuary for us?
That our breath can be a sanctuary for us is something wonderful to cultivate. After a big exhalation, haven’t we all experienced a feeling of release? Then, if we extend the pause a little, we can experience being comfortable and at home with nothing. It is a holy, delicious moment without requirements or expectations. Best of all we can have it as often as we allow the experience.
A conscious lived routine can be a sanctuary for us. What will it be? A time to pray or meditate? A time to walk in nature or to stretch the body? Making at least one healthful meal a day? A time of simplicity and rest in the midst of everything? What will it be? What will it be?
Both hands covering the heart. A gentle pressure inward given and maintained. A slow clock-wise circling of those hands over the heart reassuring the cardiac sac that takes such a beating every day. Gently . . .being with yourself . . . there’ll be a sanctuary made of hands and heart.
Answers, we know, seem to stop the flow of continued discovery. They are like periods after a sentence. But to have an on going, juicy question can be a sanctuary of sorts. It needs, of course, to be a question with some depth. Here are some examples: How can I live this day fruitfully? Or what is truly mine to offer to others? Or What’s the most important thing for me to be focusing on now? When we find a good question to enliven our hearts, we are steadier in the heaving waters of chaos.
Some people truly dread waking up at night and not being able to go back to sleep, It happens frequently to those of us in the older population and those who have physical pain. I have a dear, elderly friend who tells me that when she wakes up in the night she sends love prayers indiscriminately to whomever might need them. She transforms being fearfully awake into love and sanctuary. She can inspire us to be love-whisperers to people we don’t know, and isn’t that offering sanctuary to strangers?
What is home for your soul? When we can answer that question we will surely touch the heart of sanctuary.
For those who have a home to be sequestered in now, the place will surely be felt as a sanctuary. Gratitude for it will grow every day as the virus bell climbs, and we will be reminded to mind and treasure the safe havens we have whether they are in our spirits and/or within the walls of our dwellings.
The memory of love and close physical presence can be a sanctuary when we focus on what we once had instead of what we don’t have in this difficult time. Now, when social distancing is so necessary we can bring to mind those memories and be nourished by them for they will still be places of refuge and love.
In this time of fear, isn’t the sanctuary we all need shared love and compassion? What will happen will happen. We can’t skip that. In whatever way we can let’s send compassion to the aching world. It is in the heart of hearts where we will meet each other . . . no social distancing there.
By now people are feeling stir crazy in lockdown or by voluntarily staying put. It’s pretty much what sitting for hours on a cushion in a zendo feels like. Behind and under all that inner buzz is a stillness that is real and a true sanctuary