An Oasis for the Senses

Creating Sanctuary 

by Jan Lundy –

Light a scented candle, arrange fresh flowers from the market in a vase, put a mellow CD on the changer. I take a moment and breathe in the ambience. A shift has occurred and my racing thoughts slow to a crawl. I feel like I can breathe again. Within seconds, through a few simple gestures, the sanctuary I have come to cherish has been created.

This intention to create sanctuary is a powerful act. To know after a busy day filled to the brim with business and personal chores, errands with kids, or appointments, we can come home to a soothing environment of our own creation is nothing short of wonderful. We all have the power of choice and the freedom to determine the timbre of our surroundings. It is something, however, that most of us do not engage in for one reason or another.

Perhaps we share our space with others and arrive home from work to the television blaring or rock music vibrating the walls. Not to mention a horde of needy others descending on us to pay attention to, cook for, or help with homework before we even get a chance to take a relaxing breath. Perhaps we don’t think we have the right to speak up and proclaim that a particular scenario on the homefront is just not working for us. Or, it could be that we live alone and have never broken free of the habits we’ve acquired over the years. Whatever your personal situation might be, it is up to you to become aware of what soothes your jangled nerves, then incorporate it into your surroundings as best you can.

Why is creating sanctuary for ourselves so important? Because the pace of our lives continues to accelerate at breakneck speed and our stress level is increasing right along with it. Doctors report that well over 80% of the patients they see on a daily basis suffer from stress related problems. And, as Dr. David Kundtz notes in his life-changing book, Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going, “Negative stress energy does not go away by itself; it accumulates and, if not balanced by a time of relaxation, continues to do you harm.” As busy women today, it is crucial that we become our own time keepers and not allow the rhythm of the world to hold our health hostage. Creating sanctuary is a matter of body, mind, spirit well-being.

An Oasis for the Senses

Because we are body/mind creatures, we cannot just tell our mind to relax. We understand relaxation by what our senses tell us. Our five senses are the gateway through which our body unwinds and experiences feelings of peace. Take my personal “creating sanctuary” ritual, for example. I have learned from experience what works for me – music, flowers, scented candles. Engaging with those things as soon as I walk in the door sets the stage for my descent into peace of mind. Surrounding ourselves with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches that soul satisfy is the first step in creating sanctuary. Take a moment and think about what yours might be. What soothes your psyche and spirit? And does your home reflect that? If not, what can you do to create a more peaceful environment for yourself?

You can begin by fantasizing. Imagine that your home is an oasis, a warm, welcoming refuge. What colors greet your eyes? What do you smell? What is the noise level and what sounds are present? What objects are on tables; pictures on walls? Notice how you feel as you stand in your sacred space. Once visualized, you can now proceed to create it.

If you share your space with others who, like my family, seem to have a lot of “stuff” scattered here and there, I would suggest beginning with some guidelines for the rooms you use communally. For starters, everybody’s personal possessions go back to their own bedrooms. That includes toys, shoes, magazines, etc. Because you’re the mom, wife or partner, the fact is you can be in charge of common space. It took a while for my family to cooperate until they understood that I was trying to create a lovely, peace-filled space for everyone to enjoy. Next, object by object, put back into the room things which bring only a sense of pleasure or provide good memories. It is important to eliminate clutter and remove items with negative associations. Admit it. That lamp with the dangling crystals you despise – the one Aunt Harriet gave you for your wedding – will not bring you peace of mind when you read by it.

It is also important for you to decide how common spaces are to be used. Is it necessary for the television to be there? Can it be relocated so the area is dedicated to conversation, music or reading If television is vital to some family members and not others, negotiate the hours of watching and, if need be, the type of programs watched.

Pockets of Peace

If you share your space with others and cannot arrive at a peace providing solution, you might have to withdraw and spend time in a private sanctuary – one designed just for you. This can be a bedroom, den, spare room or screened in porch. Any place you can carve out a pocket of peace. For many years, my only pocket was the master bathroom. It was the one place I could relish the quiet, smell nice smells (ah, nothing like a bubble bath by candlelight), sip a glass of wine, or read a good book without interruption. Being the mother of three needy kids, I literally had to put someone else in charge and lock myself in to reclaim my sanity. I kept remembering what writer Virginia Woolf said: Every woman needs two things – her own money and her own room. I had the money thing figured out. It just so happened my “own room” had a toilet in it.

Over the years, as my need for peace and a relaxing environment became more than a prescription for what ailed me (more like a daily vitamin essential to health), I found myself creating pockets of peace all over the place. Soon there was a cozy reading corner in the bedroom, then one in the living room. In time, my “spiritual redecorating” was noticed by my entire family. They remarked how good my space felt and they each wanted one for themselves. Even my teenaged son. Miracle of miracles!

Joseph Campbell may have described best why we need sanctuary. He said, “You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so where you do not know what was in the morning paper…a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are, and what you might be.” By creating sanctuary and immersing ourselves in it, this is exactly what we do. We remember who we are. Women of significance. Women of inner peace.

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