Sanctuary as self-practice


noun \ˈsaŋ(k)-chə-ˌwer-ē\
: a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter
: the protection that is provided by a safe place
: the room inside a church, synagogue, etc., where religious services are held
From the Mirriam-Webster online dictionary

Life can be rough. There are a lot of demands on us from day-to-day. That’s why it is so important to have a place to go where we feel safe, unharried and comfortable. This is our sanctuary.

My sanctuary

For many years I found sanctuary on my perch on the sea wall near Municipal Pier in San Francisco. (It is said that Otis Redding wrote “The Dock of the Bay” while sitting on this pier. If you spend time there you will understand how inspirational a place this can be.) I started going there regularly when my mother died. I had a conflicted relationship with her but a parent’s death is always a milestone no matter how good or bad the relationship was. I felt I needed to sort things out.

I was stuck in a dead end job that I could do with my eyes closed. I was bored and frustrated and grieving. When I had a day off I would walk the couple of miles down and back to the bay and sit in the same place looking out at the Golden Gate bridge and the Marin Headlands. The walk and the sitting became a kind of ritual for me, a pilgrimage of sorts. It chipped away at my sadness and boredom. I began to see a way out of the trap I felt I was in. Gradually I came to a decision to make a major change in my life. And I did.

Sanctuary in 3 steps

Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone except your self.
Gautama Buddha

If you are not indulging yourself in sanctuary on a regular basis then you may be using up all your reserves. A sure sign of this is a lack of enthusiasm at best and feeling burned out at worst. Life doesn’t sparkle and shine. You go through the motions without being connected to a sense of purpose. This is not a good state of affairs yet many of us are stuck in this way of being.

Yes, you have to make a living and take care of business at home. But how can you regain and maintain your enthusiasm for all the little things that you choose to do each day? It’s a three step process:

1.) Acknowledge that your life is your own and you have made all the small decisions which have brought you to where you are at this point. If you are dissatisfied with things as they are you can choose to do things differently.

2.) Set aside time at least once a week to be alone in a place that you feel comfortable. This will be your sanctuary, a place which is sacred to you. It could be your bedroom, garage, car, deck, patio, place of worship or outdoor setting.

3.) Decide upon an activity which you can pursue in this space that will help you to feel more contemplative and reflective. It could be a physical activity such as hiking or a creative pursuit like writing. The important thing is to give yourself unstructured time to mull things over without your everyday routine interfering.


We can miss the sacredness of life if we don’t slow down to see where we’re going. Pretty soon we end up somewhere we don’t want to be. Finding sanctuary can be a way to rediscover what we really want and the path we need to take to get there.

10 thoughts on “Sanctuary as self-practice

  1. Hello Kathleen,

    Everyone needs alone time. Which is a time for prayer for me. This reminds me of Susanna Wesley. She couldn’t get away to a sanctuary so she would cover her head with her apron to pray. Great post Kathleen!


    1. Yes, Lillian, whatever it takes to create that space…….even if it can only be found under an apron!

  2. Ironically we’re on opposite coasts and we apply the same words in different ways to try to get to the same place. I live in South Carolina, in the middle of the “Bible Belt.” I’m a Fundamentalist Christian so I try to use the teachings of the bible to help understand and define life, relationships, and purpose.

    So I believe that according to the bible,Jesus Christ died for my sins and I’ve trusted Him to be my Lord and Savior. I also believe that His Spirit lives in me and helps me overcome me and the world everyday if I choose to follow His leading.

    Because His spirit lives in me, I agree that I can find sanctuary anywhere. That said, the bible commands Christians to meet regularly (In a church sanctuary?) to encourage, correct, provoke one another to love and good works, and to help one another (relationships). Some other personal sanctuaries are a morning bible reading and time of prayer and meditation, and small group bible studies.

    I’m glad that you found your sanctuary and shared it with us. Very encouraging post.

    1. Thanks, Eddie. It’s great that you can find sanctuary in so many places and contexts. I find it to be very grounding and it helps me to get through the rough times.

  3. Great post and thanks for the reminder! It can be so easy to get caught up in the “race” and our goals we forget to stop and smell the roses and enjoy some peace and quite in a place of sanctuary!

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. It is a “race” isn’t it, Rohan. I, for one, just want to get to the end with more fulfillment and less regret.

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