Today I will savor in my heart … my inner sanctuary is a place of refuge, healing, visioning, belonging.
I believe that creating an inner sanctuary, a safe haven, a restorative place, is valuable. I have several “inner sanctuary” places I’ve designed where I use my imagination and senses to create a space that provides me the ability to breathe deep, rest, pray, be still, ponder, vision, dream, weep, and know that I am being embraced with a loving God. Often my imagination brings Christ to this inner meeting place to converse and listen.
I’m Christian, with an inter-spiritual heart of connection. Many, many years ago a friend asked me why I liked being a Catholic. Without thinking much, I answered, “I’m part of the mystical body of Christ.” To explain what that means to me would take too many letters, words and minutes right now–I’ll save that for later. The gist: I’m connected to love, with love, in love, embodied in a world that is goodness.
As I ponder the beginning of Holy Week, I believe that Christ also had his places of inner sanctuary–the place that he tapped into when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane, walking the Via Dolorosa (way of the cross), suffered, and was murdered via a crucifixion. I believe that in the weeks, months, years leading to his death he intuited the consequences of his challenge to authorities, and the radical nature of his teachings within a cultural setting. He was not immune to his culture, and to being on the margins while challenging power structures. Thus, I believe he, like any revolutionary leader, developed inner resources, and a place of sanctuary, where he could retreat no matter the outer circumstances of his life or physical location.
Think about it: where is your inner sanctuary, a place of refuge, safety, exploration, transformation? Nature can provide clues, so too can favorite places we’ve visited.
Reflect and savor
If you were to design your own sanctuary, what would you include? Pause for five or more minutes, and allow your imagination to be the architect of a place of refuge, belonging, and expansion unique to you. No limits. Go for it. Then, visit there often, everyday. When needed, remodel, or built another get-away to suit your current life demands and desires.
“I will make with them a covenant of peace;
it shall be an everlasting covenant with them,
and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever.
My dwelling shall be with them;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
– Ezekiel 37:26-27 (Reading 3/23/13)
In 2007, I wrote this piece for Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction, January 2008, Issue 2. Perhaps it will spark something additional in you. Reprinted with permission of Spiritual Directors International, http://www.sdiworld.org.
Field Guide: Adoration, Contemplation, and Sanctuary
As a young twenty-something Roman Catholic, I spent a considerable amount of prayer time engaged in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a centuries old practice of prayer. Adoration offered me a time to listen, to discover, to discern, and rest in my growing spiritual identity. Twenty years later the practice of stillness and adoration still rouses my spiritual sensibilities.
In simple terms, adoration is a time of being present and offering praise to Jesus Christ in the form of consecrated bread, which Roman Catholics believe to be the Body of Christ. The Body and Blood of Christ (consecrated bread and wine) either at Mass or reserved in a special place in the church, is called the Blessed Sacrament. I had no language or comprehension for it at the time, but Adoration was a time of deep contemplation and meditation. It still is.
I would often visit the neighborhood church just to sit in silence—listening to the sound of my breath and body, stilling my questions and restless mind. I might smell beeswax or incense, or hear footsteps or conversations beyond the thin walls. While on retreat at my favorite monastery, I visited the chapel during the wee hours of the night in order to be stilled, and present to the Presence beyond myself. Responding to the invitation to breathe, write poetry, sing praise, and explore heart and soul, it was there that I also noticed the illumination of sin and wounds, and discovered a desire to serve others. A natural contemplative, saying yes to this form of praying grew my soul and capacity for silence, wonder, and relationship.
Through later years of active ministry and family life I no longer had time to visit the chapel every day. I still made time for retreat, and every day created a space for surrendered breath, resting in Other, and embodied awareness. These practices, together with the early years of Adoration, enable me to think, feel, and act with greater love and integrity.
In the geographical location where I now live, the nearest church is quite a distance away. And I pay attention to the cost of gasoline or petrol. There is no public transportation to aid travel. I have a beautiful spiritual practice of visiting my own inner sanctuary that travels with me, available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, day and night. Now it is within my own soul that I meet the Beloved, the Wholly Other, the one who draws me within and beyond myself into union with all creation.
I am grateful for the years I prayed with the actual Blessed Sacrament. I am grateful for the understanding my spiritual director helped me to comprehend: that I can pray anywhere, at any time. Those many minutes and hours of early practice became foundational to my later years of busy days and active nights. I am grateful and awed that adoration, contemplation, and my inner sanctuary propel me into the world’s pain where my soul is grabbed and wants to respond. Whether I am in a church, or on a playground, I have the ability to adore, contemplate, and evoke a place of sanctuary. This benefits me, those I serve, companion, and teach.
- Pay attention to the possibility of creating or visiting your own unique inner sanctuary. Where do you move beyond yourself and paradoxically into yourself, resting in the Presence of mystery, the cosmic Christ, the Holy One some name God, Yahweh, Buddha, Sophia, or that which is beyond all naming?
- What prayer practices have been foundational to you, and perhaps have changed over time?
- Are there prayer practices that you are interested in learning about and exploring? What will aid your process, and guide you to action?
- Could a spiritual director or guide be of aid to you in your process?
Photo: a favorite meadow at Talking Rock Ranch, Colorado and Wyoming border.