Where is your sanctuary?

Do you have a place of sanctuary to which you can periodically retreat? What for you is a place of sanctuary?

For many I guess it’s a religious place and many may think of a monastery, say. In the Middle Ages, sanctuary was also where one went for safe keeping against the vengeance of some one, say in a Cathedral or other religious institution. Or it might be a special place in your house or garden, or a place you go to to get away from it all. For me, it’s a quiet place suitable for reflection and contemplation, for going within, to read, to meditate or, like now, to write. But it’s a time for inner stillness and, because of the place I’m in, to connect with nature which right now is lush with the ripeness of mid-summer.

I am currently having a short break at our French home in the department of Lot et Garonne. We are situated in a small bastide village on a hill top overlooking the lower Lot in South-West France. From our house and terrace we look out across the valley to the hills opposite.

It is a spectacular location, obviously well chosen for fortification by one of the competing interests in the Hundred Years’ War, with a vantage point looking down the valley towards the valley of the Garonne and up the valley too. A lot of English have purchased property in villages like this and I sometimes speculate that we have atonement to do for past lives of rape and pillage inflicted on the French population by marauding English armies under the likes of the Duke of Bedford.

Today it is a very peaceful environment, full of fruit orchards on a large scale and famous for its pruneaux d’Agen. If you want to get an idea of the landscape, you can click on this link www.france-sud-tourisme.fr (you might need video software like QuickTimePlayer – then click on the map at the point for Lot & Garonne, then click on the list of places – Castlemoron sur Lot – then pick left image in the box at the right hand corner. The sounds are authentic).

In another sense, the place of sanctuary is also within me. I find this is a great place to notice my still point within me, where I feel at one, peaceful and contented. Feeling joy at experiencing this environment is another gateway to access my inner joy. There are many gateways. It might be the delight in a small child’s face, as I experienced last night when my wife and I were out dining to celebrate her birthday and the child tottered past our table with a beam all over her face. It might be music, it might be poetry, it might be laughter, it might be memory, it might be inspiring words, it might be an intimate moment with a lover, it might be prayer or meditation. There are many moments when we can pause, take time out, breathe deeply and allow ourselves to connect with ourselves, with our inner vibration, with the vibration around us, with our own bliss-full inner essence, with the vibration of others – and remember who we are.

What is so important is to do it, to connect. It can need an effort, and maybe to take ourselves out of our ego state we may feel reluctant to come away from our absorption with the temporal, but by so doing we open ourselves up to be able to harvest the fruits of what is so easy and effortlessly available – another of life’s paradoxes.