Finding Refuge – Creating Sanctuary

We are in mid-October, and fall, once again, is bathing New England in golden and red hues. The march towards the cold time of the year has begun.

As always, this season is rich in metaphors for endings and new beginnings, letting go, and preparing for the changes coming our way. Many of us talk and write about it, but this year, it is the animals’ behavior that caught my attention.

They are obviously preparing for the cold months ahead. They are working tirelessly to fortify their nests and gather their provisions. They are being proactive because they know what’s coming.

That’s when I began to reflect on the idea and meaning of finding refuge and creating sanctuary.

noun: refuge a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble.
1. : shelter or protection from danger or distress.
2. : a place that provides shelter or protection.

I am not surprised that finding refuge is what has occupied my thoughts lately. How I feel has a lot to do with what is happening in the world right now. War, suffering, earthquakes, fire, and floods; you get the picture.

To say that we live in turbulent, uncertain times would be an understatement. No matter where we stand on the pendulum of beliefs or ideas, we can’t escape the feelings of anxiety and vulnerability. It is a shared experience despite how we interpret all that is happening.

At times like these, when everything is coming at us from all directions, we can become overwhelmed and discouraged. Our hearts ache, and we find it hard to wrap our minds around it all.

When we feel vulnerable, we search for refuge and safe sanctuary for ourselves and our loved ones. The animals are doing exactly that right now, at the turn of the seasons.

How can we find refuge within ourselves and our daily lives?

We can begin by staying present with ourselves and accepting the reality of how we feel.

Is it sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, or a sense of defeat that you are feeling? Then, so be it! Name it, sit with it, and notice where it is located in your body. For example, is it your heart, your neck, your stomach, or your lower back?

Close your eyes, place your hands over the part of your body that feels the weight of your emotions, and breathe through it gently. As you breathe in and out, focus on releasing the tension and heaviness. Repeat this exercise throughout the day.

Reach out to your support system. Tell them how you feel, ask them how they are doing, and be there for one another.

Never underestimate the power of small acts of kindness! When called, do what you can to help with what you have. You may feel helpless in the face of a natural disaster or war but your presence, support, and helpful ways mean the world to those around you. Think back to when someone did something small for you that made your day. It doesn’t take much, does it?

Look for goodness and hope everywhere you can. Look for it in nature, other people, random acts of kindness, and yourself.

Do not underestimate the power and beauty of the ordinary. Lean on your daily rituals and their familiar rhythm. There is comfort in what sustains our lives. Cook your favorite meal and share it with those you love spending time with. I don’t know about you, but cooking, knitting, and gardening are creative and therapeutic outlets for me. They ground me.

Take a walk outside and watch the leaves turn. Don’t forget to look up. The skies are magnificent these days. Pay attention to the birds and notice how busy they are, preparing for winter. Gather some flowers and bring them inside.

Watch your favorite movie again, listen to your favorite music, dance, read, create, light a candle, and sit down with your thoughts and your journal.

Unplug! With everything that’s going on around the world and in our “backyard”, it’s easy to lose our perspective. Yes, we need to bear witness to the suffering and pain of others, but we also need to be mindful of our limitations. Take regular breaks from the news and social media. Being informed does not mean being plugged 24-7. Your mental health is important.

Nourish yourself. Plan for a good night’s sleep. Avoid intense conversations before bedtime, and turn the TV off long before you go to bed. Have an early dinner, read something inspiring and soothing, have some lavender next to your bedside, and slip into your comfy pajamas as soon as you can. Hug your loved ones and hold them close.

First and foremost, find what works for you and do it.

What does refuge mean to you? Is it a place, a person, a mindset, a practice, or all of the above?

I would love to hear your thoughts so go ahead and leave a comment below.

Thank you for being here!

Photo by Jack Prichett on Unsplash


  • Kathleen

    Your blog is definitely an act of kindness right now! It’s so easy either to either get trapped in the pain of what’s happening or try to escape it. It was comforting to just read through the ways we can create sanctuary and nourish and strengthen our hearts and minds. Shared a lovely walk with a friend this afternoon. Taking time for those moments is a gift.

    • Yota Schneider

      Thank you for your kind words and feedback, Kathleen! 💖

      These days, it’s even more important to make, taking care of ourselves and each other, a priority. I am so glad that you shared this beautiful day with a friend. Today was a gift and so it this beautiful season. It’s a privilege that we cannot take for granted.

      Here’s to more walks and heartfelt conversations with dear friends!

  • Claudia Larsson

    Gorgeous foto! October is always one of my favourite months; the crisp air, the leaves, the natural slowing down that we’re supposed to tune into… I don’t see it refelected in most people. We’re human doings instead of human beings. And when we don’t take our cue from Nature to slow down and tune in, well, then it just doesn’t work. This has been a rough week; I’m typically balanced as my work requires it but this has been a super charged challenge. Your beautiful post brought me round to center and reminded me that I cannot skip my go to’s – qi gong in the morning and some type of outdoor, large motor skill activity. So thank you. Hugs to you, Yota : )

    • Yota Schneider

      Hi Claudia,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and personal experience. Please, take good care of yourself and continue to do what grounds you and supports your well being. These times requite us to be strong and focused.

      Big hugs right back at you 💖

      PS. As for the gorgeous photo, although it was taken in Western Mass, it was not taken by me. Credit goes to Jack Prichett on Unsplash.

  • Linda Samuels

    What a gorgeous photo! The colors and feeling are amazing. It makes me want to be there. And isn’t that what refuge is all about? It’s that place of calm, security. A quality of specialness that makes us feel at home.

    It’s quite the time of year and also time of life. Things are uncertain. The world is going nuts. There is so much uncertainty and hate. But even with this craziness, there is hope. I can’t ever stop hoping for a better world, more understanding, and even peace. Perhaps it’s an unattainable dream or naïveté on my part. But without hope, my world gets too dark.

    Instead, I choose to be grateful for the beauty, the colors of this season, the warmth of being inside with candles flickering and cozy blankets wrapping around me. I recognize the juxtaposition of my experience and all who are displaced without homes, or enough food, water, or supplies. Life isn’t fair.

    Breathing helps. Meditation helps. Being aware, but not too bombarded by the news helps. Embracing this season within the context of the larger season.

    • Yota Schneider

      My dear friend,

      Without hope everyone’s world becomes dark. How can we possibly go on without hope? Finding the goodness that exists around us, as you do, in the seasons, our relationships, our daily rituals, and taking it all in, helps us keep hope alive. Gratitude and hope, then, become the guiding light we so desperately need these days.

      As the buddhist prayer goes … May we all be happy, May we all be peaceful, May we all be free from suffering, May we all be healed!

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your light with us!

      Big hugs and all my love 💖

  • Tara

    Thank you again Yota! For the Lovely, reaffirming postives to contemplate for this season of “refuge” and many therapeutic ways to cope with Our turbulent World happenings.

    You are Always on point! I’m definitely trying to utilize many of these self care routines ( I wish I was a “knitter!” ☺️ ) you mentioned and taking in my favorite of all seasons: 🍂 Autumn 🍁. I agree, the Skies are just gloriously beautiful! Keep looking up!

    Stay cozy 💜💜💜

    • Yota Schneider

      Good morning, Tara! 💖

      I am happy that this post resonated with you and that you are trying to incorporate self-care in your daily routine. I know Autumn is your favorite season. That alone is an added bonus. Just watching the season unfold makes me feel warm and cozy inside. Actually, as I write this, I can see that the season itself becomes refuge for those of us who feel this way.

      Have a beautiful day! 🍁 💖
      Don’t you love the sunlight this morning?

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