I love my home. It is a little brick bungalow nestled among larger renovated homes, quite hidden amongst these big, grown up houses.
What I love about my home is its littleness. Its ability to wrap snugly around me. Yes, it has too much furniture, and the kitchen is dated and minuscule, and the layout probably doesn’t have the best flow, but it feels like my sanctuary.
I’m not always perfectly tidy, but this sanctuary of mine allows me space to breathe, slow down, reflect, and sometimes, when I give myself permission, play.
I have a small chair – which my cats have mercilessly scratched and really should be re-upholstered – just underneath my front window. This is my morning chair, where I take my cup of tea and my journal, and I anchor the beginning of my day, whilst the world is still quiet, or waking up. When I am in the habit of doing this daily (because I do get off track), I find my days feel a little more grounded. This time allows me to check in with myself, and gently open up to the day ahead.
I’ve always needed this anchoring and this stillness, particularly in the morning, but I’ve not always given it to myself. For two reasons.
One, I didn’t realize I needed it.
And two, I didn’t give myself permission to consider it. Life felt too busy with roles that focused on the needs of others…or, with hindsight, my perception of the needs of others. I hadn’t yet learned to focus on my own needs effectively. Time for myself felt selfish and not-productive. I felt guilty if I wasn’t showing I was productive. I was looking for appreciation and acknowledgement and acceptance from others, and I believed that meant I had to constantly show I was doing… prove my busyness.
So back to sanctuary, which is after all the subject title of this blog. Somewhere along the way I learnt to give voice to – and permission for – my need for sanctuary… and what that means to me.
I don’t know what it means for you, but I do believe it is worth exploration.
If you could sit quietly for a little while, stepping out of the guilt of not-doing, or the worry about what others would think, where would you sit? Can you imagine that space…?
When you have found your spot – a chair under the window, a deckchair on the porch, your bed, a local cafe, a bench by the water, under a favourite tree, your bathroom – what would you intentionally like to turn your thoughts towards? What brings you joy, pleasure, excitement, interest, desire in your own life? And don’t worry if you don’t know…I don’t expect that you know if you haven’t yet given yourself permission for reflection. It really is about creating the opportunity to ponder (I love that word).
Sanctuary might not be a place for you. It might be a time. Maybe sitting and breathing, slowing down, checking in with yourself can be done on the bus, the train, your desk at work. Brilliant. For me, it helps to have a space… it supports my need to intentionally plan, protect and prioritize time for me. It helps me build a healthy habit. It is a place to go, and to be.
There may be a part of you that is fearful of creating sanctuary, of slowing down and reflecting. That fear may be telling you that you will focus on the things you are not happy with; that you will end up in a pity-party, lamenting your life. Or that you will not be able to step away from your racing mind about all the things you need to do (or be!). This is not the kind of sanctuary that I am suggesting here.
The sanctuary I am suggesting is about opportunity to focus on you in a way that is nurturing, gentle and encouraging.
And it takes practice.
Sanctuary does require boundaries… the practice of saying no, the follow through on intentionally prioritizing and protecting space and/or time. Of stepping out of our other roles. This may feed into your guilt, your story of being selfish. But I encourage you to practice it anyway!
Sanctuary allows us to come back into our daily roles revived, rejuvenated and more present, or at least more aware of our own self and our own needs. I believe it’s worth a try …