Self-Help Advice on Finding Your Sanctuary

Written by Diane Baker

Balance the hectic with the serene. Finding a personal sanctuary outdoors gives us focus, balance and a sense of the sacred.

Sometimes we find an outdoor place that feels so different and potent it seeps deep inside of us. Here we feel special, empowered by a warm strength and clarity that allows us to see the past, present and sometimes even into the future.

It's a safe space to sort out our lives, make resolutions and find the determination to make important changes. Many think of these secure havens as their personal sanctuaries, outside places to go to get inside of themselves.

Advice on Finding Your Safe Haven
Visit the special places of your childhood. You may find you experience some uniquely important feelings there.
Go "still hunting." Find a comfortable, secluded place. Sit still and quietly notice what surrounds you.
Invite someone you love to your special place, but don't be surprised if they don't have the same response as you.
Be like an antenna and notice the places that make you feel special. Often we're too distracted to notice that we're especially happy and attracted to a certain place.
Finding such a place is almost always a surprise. Carol Marcus, from Toledo, Ohio, found her special retreat near her annual vacation home.

"In the pine woods there's a clearing roughly in the shape of a circle with old stones that look like they were used for campfires or rituals when the Petoski Indians lived here long ago. I always stopped in this clearing to listen to the quiet and watch the patterns the sun makes as it filters through the trees. It's peaceful, solitary, pressure-free; I've always felt as though I'm just another of the homely and gorgeous wildflowers there."

When Marcus' mother died two years ago, her small solidarity circle took on greater inner dimensions. "I had a need to say some prayers, to communicate in some sacred way. I suddenly realized I've always felt that circle to be holy. I just never put that word to it before. I now think of that place in the woods as a temple, my temple."

Dr. David Kundtz, a Kensington, Calif., therapist and author of Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going and Everyday Serenity, isn't surprised when people uncover insight outdoors that they don't find anywhere else. He agrees that certain places call to people in significant ways, but won't guess why.

"Nature is the best therapist," he says. "Who knows? This is a mystery, and it should be that way. But you do not have to go looking for a special sanctuary in your life or wait to experience serenity. I think of Black Elk, the Native American chief who said, `Anywhere is the center of the world.' "

"Remember," says Kundtz, "that when we bring something of ourselves to a place, to us it becomes sacred."

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