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!