What first comes to mind when you think of the word “sanctuary?” It could be a place, or a person or an activity. I used to think of my home as my sanctuary–a place where I could retreat after long and stressful days of work and where I could just kick off my shoes and relax, away from the world.

Then things changed. After leaving that stressful job to pursue life on my terms, my home no longer became my sanctuary; rather, it became my office. And with my empty nest no longer empty, the sanctuary of my home became unrecognizable.

So I looked elsewhere, and started retreating to a nearby State Park, bursting with coastal California redwoods and plenty of solitude and serenity where I could just ‘be.’

Sunrise in Cambria. Photo by k.a. johnson

Then things changed again. The increasingly common late summer wildfires that engulf Northern California set their sites on my forest sanctuary. (I am happy to report that while devastating, the fires did not totally destroy the forest, but did enough damage to cause the park’s closure for nearly two years now).

So, I set my sights back on my home and, more specifically, my room. And you guessed it–things changed yet again! And this new sanctuary no longer felt like the space where I could retreat and recharge as it was subject to the nearly constant barrage of pets and such that could not tolerate a closed door.

And don’t get me wrong. I love my not-so-empty nest, but my thinking about what constitutes a sanctuary had to undergo a major transformation otherwise I might go stark raving mad. It was clear that the Universe had been trying to get me to re-think my idea of sanctuary for several years now, and rather than really think about it, I just hopped toward the next place that I thought would be the answer.

This new year, however, has brought with it a remarkable opening of my spiritual eyes and ears. Rather than trying to “figure out” where the next place of respite could be, I allowed Spirit to guide me. And in asking and truly listening, I have learned that true sanctuary is not a place, or even a person; rather, true sanctuary is found within your very own soul. That eternal place of love that resides within you at all times and in all circumstances.

So how to you get to this place in your soul, where everything is quiet and still and overflowing with authentic, unconditional love? Meditate. Meditate. Meditate. There’s no getting around it, folks! Meditation is the single most effective means to accessing your true sanctuary.

It is said that praying is talking to God, while meditation is listening. In order to have true peace, you need to listen. Your Higher Power is all love, who only wants to guide you towards love–the most heavenly of sanctuaries that you have every right and privilege to call your own. Once you find it, It is a place and a station that can never be taken or destroyed.

But I get it. Meditation can be difficult. After a lifetime of allowing thoughts to run rampant in our minds, it can take a Herculean effort to quiet the mind and and find that still point where thought is absent and only potentiality exists. But I am here to tell you, once meditation becomes a part of your life, you will experience the kind of peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7) and that will elevate your life in ways you could have never imagined.

If you’re brand new to meditation, here are some tips that helped me to stick with it and, ultimately, deepen my practice:

  • Start slowly. Just start with five minutes first thing in the morning before checking your phone, letting the dog out, or making that first cup of coffee. Get in the habit of focusing on your breath and only your breath
  • Try guided meditations. Guided meditations help to focus your thoughts towards a state of stillness, and once you get in the habit and practice of focusing your thoughts in this way, you will gradually be able to do it on your own without guidance. (For some really great guided meditations, try an app called Insight Timer)
  • Try meditating to Solfeggio frequencies. Solfeggio frequencies are soothing sounds that can be used to aid in sleep, meditation and/or focus. They are sounds played at specific frequencies that are said to not only contribute to overall well-being, but to help unblock the body’s energy centers or chakras. (Stay tuned! I will have more on Solfeggio frequencies in an upcoming post!)
  • Don’t give up! It can be very tempting to just give up when your mind is telling you that you cannot quiet your mind. Know that even the most seasoned meditator will experience mind chatter. Remember that you are human, and this practice takes, well, practice. Keep going, you won’t regret it!

So go within and find your sanctuary. It’s well worth the journey!

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