By Fran Dancing Feather
Sanctuaries of the physical world are places of refuge or protection or “consecrated places” like temples or buildings designed specifically for worship. A sanctuary may contain an altar or icon of anything that represents a deity or Creator. We may think of our home as sanctuary from the outside world. We feel safe and relaxed in the place we live. We trust our surroundings to bring relief and healing. We are protected and private within our homes. Some people have altars to various belief systems inside their homes. They are special places where they pray or meditate. When I was fairly new to recovery I attended a woman’s retreat. One of the speakers suggested that in our homes we should surround ourselves with things that nurture us and bring a sense of well-being. We do not need expensive art or sculpture in order to feel nurtured but rather simple things and colors that we find soothing. Since I enjoy the blue of the sky and green of the trees some of the rooms are painted sky blue or forest green with clean white trim around windows and doors. In our older home these colors feel rich, relaxing and serene to me. The color brings a wealth of spirit and a feeling of sanctuary.
Sanctuaries of the natural world contain many of the same characteristics as manmade sanctuaries. They feel safe and are beautiful renderings of natural beauty and spirituality. The ancient Redwood forests of Northern California, the Grand Canyon of Arizona, the ancient Anasazi ruins of New Mexico or the pristine woodlands of Indian country around the Great Lakes and the Northeastern woodlands have all been called sanctuaries of our mother earth. These are places where sunlight and shadows provide shafts of light, peaceful colors and gentle sounds of the harmonious workings of the wilderness. The Great Mystery whispers to the deepest canyons of our consciousness and we find tranquility and spiritual understanding in sanctuaries of the natural world.
Sanctuaries of the soul are the peaceful safe areas within us where we find rest and healing. We can find these experiences of sanctuary during quiet times when we are at peace with Creation and ourselves. The sanctuaries of the soul are worth discovering within us and developing into regular areas of thought and contemplation. Step eleven is the one where we find sanctuary.
The twelve steps are numbered for a good reason. The first three are acceptance steps where we come into contact with the notion of a Power greater then ourselves that can help us find peace so we may remain permanently clean and sober. Steps four through nine are the action steps we take with a sponsor who helps us realize our shortcomings and overcome those obstacles that stand between our wounded past and a bright future filled with the promise of hope and renewal. Steps ten through twelve are the maintenance steps we take each day to provide us with a fit spiritual condition and continuous lasting recovery.
The soul was described in the title of a book called, “The Interior Castle” by Saint Teresa of Avila. A Catholic nun originally wrote the book in Spanish, hundreds of years ago. She saw the human soul as a huge castle filled with many rooms. She wrote about moving through the various rooms and corridors to examine the mystical nature within all of us. She is one of the famous mystics of all time. St. Teresa lived during the Spanish Inquisition or the dark ages of Roman Catholic history and was tormented and scrutinized by the hierarchy of the Church for her claims of being a visionary. She had found sanctuary within herself from the horrific life she lived. During the torturous experiences she even enjoyed times of “ecstasy” where she claimed to be in direct contact with God and had feelings of extraordinary love. Her story brings to mind the idea in our own text about developing the ability to meet calamity with serenity as we work through the fourth and fifth steps.
Recovery gives us the opportunity to have a spiritual experience that will surpass the feeling we desired when we abused drugs and alcohol. The spiritual life is one of infinite possibilities and we can go as far as we like in our search for a meditative or mystical spiritual experience. Workings of the supernatural are not limited only to the highly educated, intellectual or saintly types. Anyone anywhere from any culture or religion can find sanctuary, each within our own sacred soul, within the quiet moments.