Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Creating a Place of Sanctuary

Now that our side garden, our Cotswold garden, (see my post Evolution of a Garden ) is a reality, although one that will continue to evolve and develop, I have been thinking about how that garden will be used, the function of that space. The dimensions of the space are not large, eliminating it as a party or gathering space. A third chair could be added, maybe a fourth, when needed, but this garden feels more private, a place for one or two, a place where Spirit awaits one's presence. A place where one moves from the outside world to the inner world. A place where nature encourages a return to stillness.  

This garden feel like a sanctuary. 

               In the garden more grows than the garden.
                                        Spanish Proverb

This morning before going on my walk, which in its own way, is a form of sanctuary, I watered the pots of flowers.  I opened the back gate and walked towards the front of the Cotswold garden, stopping to water the large pots there as I made my way towards the entrance to the garden. With those few steps, I felt myself open to the day. I paused and took three deep cleansing breaths and gave thanks for the new day. 

Later, when I returned from my walk on this fresh and glorious day, I re-entered the Cotswold garden to sit quietly and check in with myself. How can I be more present and live as the person I was created to be? What is needed from me today so my life and all other life is served well? How can I enhance my own healing and the healing of others today? What do I need to lift up? Answers to these ongoing questions in my life did not come soaring in through the garden entrance, just because I was sitting in stillness, hands opened to receive, but instead I knew what was important right then was asking them, being there. 

I also knew as I sat there I added to the Spirit of that place. When you sit with me there, you will add to the Spirit of that place.  Sitting there, being in that place can become a spiritual practice, for this is a place of sanctuary. 

The Meaning of Sanctuary
Finding sanctuary is not about isolating oneself or escaping from what most needs to be confronted or most needs response or acceptance. Finding sanctuary is not about denying one's life or hiding out, but instead in sanctuary one clears space within in order to reconnect,  whether it is with nature, with others, with oneself, with Spirit. Creating sanctuary and spending time there is about embracing your own sacred being, along with all that is sacred in the universe. Sanctuary times restore the soul rather than erase all that causes unrest. If you are too full, sanctuary time can let some of the air out from the balloon about to burst. If you are running on empty, sanctuary time can enrich and refresh you. Sanctuary time welcomes you, whatever the need. 

Lorraine Anderson in the book of women's prose and poetry she edited, Sisters of the Earth, encourages the art of being, "making a conscious choice to slow down to seed time or rock time, to still the clamoring ego, to set aside plans and busyness, and simply to be present in my body, to offer myself up." That is sanctuary time.

Places of Sanctuary
One obvious place to go for sanctuary is a garden. 
       When you create a garden with deep intent, you are
       creating a sacred place in which, like the Divine, 
       you can pour out your love, creativity and compassion.
       You are, in a sense, creating a small sanctuary in which
       your soul and the soul of the world may dwell. This 
       sanctuary garden become your own creation story to 
       nurture within the body of the Earth--your form of 
       Eden. And, as this paradise grows outside, so it grows
       as well within your heart. 
                              The Sanctuary Garden, Creating a Place
                              of Refuge in Your Yard or Garden
                              Christopher Forrest McDowell and Tricia
                              Clark-McDowell, p. 20

I didn't know my husband was creating a sanctuary garden when I suggested we use the side yard as a kind of porch or additional living space, but that is what has happened, and I am so grateful. I also know that gardening is a sacred activity for him, a way he restores and finds sanctuary, and I am grateful for that, as well. 

Sanctuary, however, can be any place. According to Thomas Moore in his classic, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, sanctuary is found in a space "where eternity is more evident than time and where the ritual arrangement of life is more important than the business of surviving and making progress." p. 97. That space may be the chair in your living room where you meditate or pray every morning before the rush of the day begins. That space may be standing outside a child's door after the final kiss and hug goodnight or at your front door as you turn out the light. Perhaps it is the daily walk with your partner, holding hands and sharing reflections on the day or perhaps it is a view you are drawn to in your environment.

If a garden does symbolize sanctuary to you, however, know that size does not matter. Even a few potted plants or fresh flowers on your breakfast table or on your desk can be your sanctuary garden. 

You know where you sense sanctuary and where you return when sanctuary calls you. May today be a day when you find sanctuary.

An Invitation
What is the role of sanctuary in your life? Where is your place of sanctuary and what happens when you are there? How do you know when you need sanctuary and how do you respond? I would love to know. 

A Few Resources
Along with the book mentioned above, The Sanctuary Garden, I suggest the following:
* Home for the Soul, A Guide for Dwelling with Spirit and Imagination by Anthony Lawlor
* Gardening by Heart, The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Garden by Joyce McGreevy
* A Mystic Garden, Working with Soil, Attending to Soul by Gunilla Norris
* Tending the Earth, Mending the Spirit, The Healing Gifts of Gardening by Connie Goldman and Richard Mahler
* Soul Gardening, Cultivating the Good Life by Terry Hershey

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