In the past, people like myself thought of a sanctuary as a religious location to which a pilgrimage was taken. One of those places is Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey where I visited 7 years ago. However, upon entering the location, I found little significance and importance in being there other than the fact it was a giant church. Years later when I visited a Buddhist community which practiced mindfulness, I had different emotions. I discovered sacredness in the space where everyone cared for one another like families rather than just being another community member. It was through such experience that I discovered, although there are many locations one can consider a sanctuary, they all have a common element: it is a location of refuge for a person or a group when they want a day off “from work”.
Throughout many cultures, there are different sites considered sanctuaries. Sometimes it is only a pilgrimage to the holy site. Sometimes it is a visitation to a place an individual or family knows. However, there is a common theme among these locations. They are a source of comfort, relaxation, and celebration of good moments for the people visiting. So how does you find a location where you can appreciate and celebrate the emotions that matter? In order to find one’s sanctuary, you must 1) Define what is their source of refuge and appreciation, 2) understand how you recharge yourself when feeling weary, and 3) define how you take the time to contemplate your daily life.
A sanctuary is a place where people can learn to appreciate who they are and to appreciate others. One such location might be a religious community where people can meet with one another and gather to do a common activity, such as worship or ritual ceremonies. Another example of a sanctuary might be a place where one’s family gets together for a reunion or for commemoration of a family member. However, upon looking through the elements of a sanctuary, you can find the elements of appreciation in both the religious community and in a family reunion. It is a location where you can practice appreciation for yourself, your community, and the members’ commonality. Through celebrating that commonality along with appreciation, a sanctuary becomes a refreshing place to recharge oneself.
While it is true the sanctuary is a place where people can recharge and explore themselves without distraction, a sanctuary requires self-knowledge. When one looks for a source of sanctuary, you must ask the question: how do I recharge myself after a day of stimulation? To understand how to recharge, you must learn about your personality and your way of thinking in order to use the surroundings to your advantage.
You can learn about your way of recharging by asking yourself questions. Are you are introverted or extroverted and how do you normally think? Exploring your habitual patterns can help refresh you. This allows you to acquire the necessary energy to return to the busy lifestyle once you leave the sanctuary. It is the combined atmosphere of relaxation and personal drive for self-knowledge that makes a sanctuary a great location for contemplation.
The last and most important element in order for a location to qualify as a sanctuary is the question of how it helps you reflect on what you have done throughout your days “at work”? Within the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is a saying that one must keep holy the Sabbath day. When I take a look at the scientific perspective of this saying, I find that one must have at least a day or a location where you can reset your own “mindset” after a day of work. Such reset involves looking inwards at your own habitual patterns throughout your workday and to develop and practice new constructive habits. Thus, a sanctuary is a place where one can learn new habits after work and to help reconstruct habits that are not harmful to yourself or others.
Upon looking at the definition of a sanctuary, you can see how it is more than just a location to take refuge. Indeed, it is a location for inner transformation. It is through such inner transformation one can become more productive and insightful.
Andy Lai is a UIF writer, student at Evergreen State, and likes to write articles and learn the sacred knowledge of existence through yoga, tai chi, and other wisdom-inducing activities in order to further the awakenment of the human race towards its own immortal nature.