The words ‘sanctuary’ and ‘refuge’ bring to mind images of heavy doors and high walls. But it does not have to be so. Simpler and smaller notions can have the same effect. For the first time, I am living without parents, partners, or roommates. The privacy makes an ordinary apartment a sanctuary. No rural, mountain top hide-away necessary. It’s nothing special to look at, but to me it is a haven of comfort. Last winter I went on a silent retreat. Despite being surrounded by many others, the silence provided seclusion and the chance for introspection. But it could be simpler yet: finding sanctuary in a warm bath, or taking refuge in a hot cup of tea. The key is to seek refuge in these places. In order for these ordinary acts to become opportunities for escape, personal discovery or growth, they must be approached mindfully.
Without applied meaning, a sanctuary is just four walls. Having an apartment to oneself could be lonely rather than comforting. Silence could be empty, peaceful, eerie, or devastating. But it can only be a refuge if that is what one is seeking. Finding sanctuary or taking refuge takes intention, as does any spiritual act. And thus by choice, the line between mundane and divine is blurred. Or perhaps the line between these notions is already blurred in their natural state, and the intention works to resist secularism from creating ridged boundaries between the mundane and divine. The next time you pick up a cup of tea (or coffee, whatever your poison), make it slow and deliberate. Pick up the cup, feel the warmth in your hand, breathe in the steam, let the scent linger on your tongue before the first sip. See how a little ritual can bring the mundane and divine together in your life.