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Day 173 - Refuge & Sanctuary

Seems like we are all being given a crash course in sanctuary...our homes have become our refuge, our places of worship, safety. We are all tethered to these places that we might not even know that well. I was talking to a friend the other day and she said that she was going to get a chance to finally unpack the boxes in her garage from when she moved in to her new house...two years ago.

Now, I could have never lived like that. I am the kind of person that moves in and all the boxes are gone within a week. I am slipping because it used to be three days. I just can’t live with clutter...or dirt. I am a neat freak and have ridiculous standards that anyone who lives with me hates. I have chilled a great deal over the years. I think I would still qualify as being a pain in the ass but not the kind you want to kill. And mostly, I take on the burden of making it look the way I want, you need to just not screw it up. Not kidding. Ask my kids.

However, this new world order has reoriented me in a different direction and feeling about my home. It has become my sanctuary. This place where I live is my place for health, safety and peace. I am not sure that I have always felt that way about where I live. I think that I tended to view it and treat it more like a showcase for affluence or interest before this crisis. It wasn’t comfortable for the inhabitants, it was a place to show off to others. I really don’t like admitting it but it is pretty true.

My home has taken on new meaning for me now. It is the place where I live, eat, work, exercise, write, love, laugh, attend meetings, cook, entertain myself, read, pray, meditate, yoga. It has become the foundation of my life which seems odd to say since it hasn’t really changed at all, yet my feelings about this place I call home have completely changed.

I think my feelings changed because the world changed. Everything is different now than it was three weeks ago. My whole world has shrunk to the 1200 square feet that I live in. This has reoriented me and changed the way that I view many things. I am really missing having a desk for one thing. My house is small and I have a tiny desk in my kitchen. But it doesn’t really work for working at home. I have been working from the kitchen table and couch as those are way more comfortable than the desk I have.

My feelings have changed also because I am here all the time. This is the 4th day that I have been at home and have not left my house...not even for a walk. I partly blame the weather and work, but I have felt this need to just stay inside. I haven’t felt sick but I haven’t felt well either. So I remained in my sanctuary for respite and relief.

In Buddhism they talk about taking refuge in the Buddha. To some its may seem like we are running away into the Dharma to escape life and its perils. However, that is not what is meant by taking refuge. In Buddhism, we aren’t hiding out in order to avoid life, but coming to know the three jewels so well that they help us live better more authentic lives. The three jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. We take refuge in these three: in the Buddha as an example, his teachings as a path and the community committed to the path as our support while on the path. Taking refuge allows us all a common place to return to over and over again to help deepen our experience of the present moment.

This time in quarantine has helped me come to know why my decision to take refuge has been so important and how much having a home that provides sanctuary is such a fundamental concept. I know there are many peoples homes that are not a sanctuary but instead a place where all hell breaks loose, where abuse occurs, where pain resides. I am so grateful for freedom from that. That I live in a place that supports the manner in which I live my life. The manner in which I live my practice one moment at a time.

Today I am grateful for refuge and sanctuary. I am grateful for the physical space and the support it provides for my mental space. That I live in a place where there is beauty and peace. I am grateful that my home and my feelings about it have changed into something greater in this time of difficulty. It has become welcome respite in a world where there is so much pain, fear and sadness right now. I am grateful to have a place where I safe, warm and supported. It matters little what others think about it. It matters more that I have a place to call my own that I can retreat when needed and find the solace and sanctuary from all life’s challenges. Even global pandemics.

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