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Copyright 2007, Cortesia Sanctuary
Basic Concepts of Sanctuary

If you are sincere about understanding the concept of Sanctuary in your life, then this is the best place to start. Here you will find printer friendly essays on foundational topics related to sanctuary: theory, philosophy, history and general practical applications. You will then be able to apply such knowledge to the numerous other aspects of sanctuary covered in the topics listed in the menu to the left.

Listed below are the topics in this section, with a brief description of each. All essays are excerpts from Dr. C. Forrest McDowell and Tricia Clark-McDowell's book-in-progress: Islands of Grace: Finding Sanctuary in Daily Life.

Click on the topic link to call up a printer friendly version in a separate desktop window.

  • The Need for Daily Sanctuary
    A good introduction to Sanctuary, including its 3 characterizations, secular and sacred qualities, and the 3 worldly forces that affect our personal need for sanctuary. [Click]

  • The Four Needs for Daily Sanctuary
    Need #1: Relief from the Weight of the World

    Many people experience a type of "world weariness": an incessant involvement with the worldly activities and obligations associated with daily life: parenting, family, work, school, consuming and the like. Sanctuary can be therapy to the soul, even if only taken briefly. [Click]
  • The Four Needs for Daily Sanctuary
    Need #2: Relief from Life's Discomforts

    People are also in need of responding to a felt sense of "woundedness" such as inner turmoil, stress, grief, illness, trauma, loss and the like. Such common discomforts affect us mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Sanctuary is an important need to "salve the soul." [Click]
  • The Four Needs for Daily Sanctuary
    Need #3: Solitude and Self-renewal

    Historically speaking, sanctuary has always met the human need for solitude, spiritual renewal or inspiration. This essay briefly examines the historical, psychological and physical quest for solitude.[Click]

  • The Four Needs for Daily Sanctuary
    Need #4: Celebration of and Communion with Life

    There is a deep human need to joyfully embrace life, especially through relationships, art, beauty and nature. Dr. McDowell offers an intimate look at this need in this brief essay. [Click]

  • The Spirit of Sanctuary
    In their very personable and intimate style, the McDowells share their ideas about the inner quality of sanctuary best described by its "spirit." This lengthy essay discusses how Sanctuary allows us to access Wonder, Healing and Celebration. It asks for loyalty and intimacy to place. Sanctuary also requires daily devotion, called Practicing the Presence of Sanctuary. [Click]

  • Creating Sanctuary in Your Life
    Here are nine (9) guiding questions to help you contemplate the need for Sanctuary in your life. This is a good exercise for journalling or discussion with another person or group.[Click to go to exercise below]

  • 9 Values of Sanctuary
    Here are nine (9) benefits of sanctuary in daily life with brief descriptions of each. A handy summary of what sanctuary can offer you.[Click to go to 9 Values below]

Sanctuary for a Minute

Take a break right now. Breathe deep a couple of times. Contemplate on the value of sanctuary in your life by looking at any of the following images.
Blessings in your life!

Click on the title

Redwoods Sunrise

"O let us live in joy, although having nothing!
In joy let us live like spirits in light!"
Gautama Buddha

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Creating Sanctuary in Your Life

Reflect upon, journal, or discuss with someone each of the following questions. Do so regularly.

  1. What do you feel is the most important thing in your life, and how do you prioritize it?
  2. What does the word or concept of sanctuary mean to you?
  3. How might you benefit from having a sense of sanctuary (private moments/time) in your daily life?
  4. Do you feel that you are as peaceful as you want to be? What can you do to improve your peace?
  5. How much time do you spend each day soulfully nurturing yourself? How much time would you like to spend regenerating yourself? Describe what you tend to do, or what you would like to do.
  6. In terms of your material possessions, how do they serve you, harm you, or get in the way?
  7. Do you believe that living more simply could give you more peace? Are you willing to strive for more simplicity in your life? In what ways do you think you can simplify your life or daily patterns?
  8. Who, if anyone, is a model of calmness and equanimity for you? What do you think their secret is? How might you allow yourself to manifest these same qualities?
  9. Do you believe that you truly deserve to be joyful, prosperous and content with your life? Discuss.

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Sanctuary is where we take care of our soul.
It is both a place and a state of the mind and heart -
a refuge to hold dear and to reverently give.
Christopher Forrest McDowell

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9 Values of Sanctuary

What is it about claiming sanctuary that affects our soul? What can we expect from sanctuary? Taking periodic retreat within our daily activities has great value. Consider the following benefits.

We perceive greater control in our life.
When we give ourselves permission to step back from the world, we feel more control over our time and space. We value those islands of time as if they were sacred. We value those little physical waysides of space as if they were sacred, too. Feeling this sense of control is empowering. Instead of being at the reactive whim of time and space, we can say: "I am a sanctuary unto myself; I can find sanctuary where I choose and when I am in most need of it."

We are loving and kind to ourselves anew.
Our engagement with the world is based on a model of "tension-release." Tension reflects the coalescence of energy needed to immerse our body, mind, and spirit in daily activity. Tension is effort, intent, direction and putting out. Release mirrors our relaxation from life, our receptivity and receiving. Being kind to our self is being in tune with our immediate circumstances and needs. This attunement is with our body, mind, emotions and spirit: in what state each is at a given place in time. It is in releasing ourselves from the world that we reconnect with our sacred self. When we take sanctuary, even if for brief moments in the day, we love our self at its deepest, for we are re-created, recharged, healed, soothed, comforted and at peace.

We are re-enchanted with beauty.
Beauty and artistry move the soul. A well-conceived place of sanctuary is a sacred enclosure for enchanting the soul with human and natural beauty. We know full well the powerful effect of a religious sanctuary. We also know the effect of a thoughtfully designed garden or garden area. Similarly, a wooded setting, park, or a mountain lake may touch us. Lastly, we can be enfolded in the spiritual ambience of a room, chair, or small corner if it feels beautiful, cared-for, relaxing or comfortable

We re-envision the world.
Removing ourselves from worldly activities, even if briefly, puts things in perspective. In reflection, perhaps we can be re-inspired to give more hope, beauty, peace and joy back to the world: our family, neighborhood, community, planet, nature, animals, and to those in need.

We create a sacred connection with nature..
Spending sanctuary time in nature helps us to renew our bond; it reinforces reverent stewardship.

We deepen the value of relationships.
Sanctuary is about communion: with our soul, nature, plants, animals, friends, loved one, even God. The peace and reverence we feel in sanctuary can tangibly be taken back to our daily life.

We deepen our spiritual side.
Sanctuary fosters inner reflection; having left our "worldly cloak" of cares and woes at the sanctuary door, so to speak, we turn the searchlight of our life inward. When we engage in silence and solitude, even meditation and prayer, we are naturally feeding our spiritual side.

We see our sense of service to others more clearly.
While in a state of sanctuary, we are often removed from judgments, criticisms or ill will. We are "softer" and more receptive in our natural sense of reflection. In short, we are more a witness or observer of our thoughts and/or things around us. Oftentimes, such reflection helps clarify our role or desire in unconditionally giving something positive back to the world.

We experience peace of mind and renewed hope.

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