867th Week: Practices for Finding Refuge

I gave a talk at Unity of New York this morning and as I prepared for my presentation my mind went to the Buddhist idea of “finding refuge”. For me, this means having access to those experiences, places, and states of being that give us some relief and rest from the challenges of troubling times such as these.

For this week’s practice in conscious living, I’d like to share some ideas around “finding refuge” within our own creative, imaginal lives, as well as in our own embodied, grounded sense of being. Some of these practices I’ve shared before, so they may be familiar. That said, I figure that it’s always helpful to be reminded of resources that may become overlooked in the hurry and scurry of our everyday lives.

Leaning into Stillness
Over the years, I’ve had a practice that can, when it works well, bring immediate relief from mounting stress. It has to do with remembering that within and behind every thought, feeling, impulse/urge, physical sensation, or action there is an ever-present stillness. For me, the stillness arises within an infinite field of stillness that is behind any perception you can imagine. 

One place where I connect with stillness is in the space between breaths and I often follow an out-breath down into myself and then, in the gap between the out-breath and the next in-breath, I enter into the stillness that is always there.

I also find refuge in leaning into the field of stillness that’s right behind me and often do this when I’m teaching. For me, this kind of stillness isn’t the same as emptiness. Instead, it’s more like a holding space where I can find rest and restoration.

Orienting to Your Core Presence and the Steadiness That is Always There
I’ve written a lot about this. Following the out-breath down to the place inside where you naturally settle, into your internal home base, your internal center of gravity, you can touch into your core. This is a place where you can experience being deeply settled, finding refuge in the presence of your own body-mind being. It’s the place in you where you can sense the unique quality and tone of your radiating presence, a presence that arises naturally from your core. 

It’s also the place where you can tap into a fundamental steadiness that’s always there, a place in you that is neverdisturbed, no matter what may be happening in your life or in your world. 

There is great benefit from orienting to your core presence and with some practice you can discover that you can access the grounded steadiness inherent in this place in you with just one breath and the intention that you will settle into yourself. It is a beautiful place of refuge if you are someone who can access and find comfort in your body, in your embodied experience.

For those of you whose bodies were a source of trauma and are still not a comfortable place to orient your awareness, here are a few alternate possibilities that you might explore…

Creating A Special Place in Your Home
Many people create altars in their home, special places where they can find refuge in spiritual practices, statues that convey meaning, crystals, and other objects that offer soothing by their very presence. In hypnosis, we know that when we do something in the same place every time, pretty soon we are able to quickly shift into the state represented by that place. Notice what happens if you create a special place in your home that is just for you to have time with yourself to find refuge, inspiration, soothing, rest.

Creating An Internal “Temple” or Sacred Space
In some traditions, the imaginal realm is as tangible and real as is our physical realm and I have had for many years—throughout my entire adult life, actually—an internal place that is my refuge. I sometimes think of it as a “temple”, in the sense of being sacred space. It’s a place I can go and just sit in my inner world and be open to whatever inspiration or nourishment arises.

I also have a “chamber” in my heart space that is a sacred space where I find refuge. 

This kind of inner creation can become an imaginal place where you can go for even just a moment to rest, or for a good bit of time to restore and renew yourself.

Turning to Nature
If you have trees anywhere near you, taking time amongst them can offer a powerful sense of refuge. I feel the same about bodies of water—rivers, streams, lakes, the ocean, waterfalls, in addition to Nature’s colors and the patterns of light and shadow that can be found outdoors. Also, the sounds of nature can be deeply soothing. I remember when I lived in the country how powerful it was to hear the wind moving through tall evergreens, and also the sound of the wind playing in the leaves and branches of deciduous trees. Whenever I hear peepers in the Spring, I’m right back in the country feeling enfolded within the embrace of warmer evenings. Taking yourself into nature and allowing it to offer you inspiration and nourishment can generate a deep sense of refuge.

There are countless other rituals and possibilities for creating experiences of refuge in your life. These are but only a few options. For this week’s practice, notice what happens if you orient yourself to finding refuge and see what emerges as a good practice for you. At times like these in our collective experience, it’s even more important than ever to be able to find some relief from our collective distress, suffering, and activation. Your body will appreciate the support, as will your psyche.

As with all these practices, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything about them. Part of the invitation in this week’s practice is to more deeply explore the powerful resource that is your creative imagination and to allow yourself to benefit from generating positive options for rest and restoration.

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