Sanctuary. It’s such a beautiful word. For centuries, church doors have been painted red to show that they were a place of sanctuary (and for other symbolic reasons). Anyone who passed through those red doors was safe from harm or persecution. If you were hungry, or frightened, or broken in spirit or body, the church was a haven.
The caretaker of the sanctuary would have to be strong, compassionate, relaxed and alert to whoever might appear at the red doors. It might be someone desperate or terrified or hopeless. There’s no telling who might cross over the threshold.
As human beings, we have the ability to make ourselves a sanctuary. By creating an internal environment of strength, balance, and relaxation, whatever presents itself – be it internal or external — we can allow it in and take care of it. On a physical level, we can do this by allowing the nervous system to relax. One way of doing this is to activate movement in and awareness of the hands and feet, which have proprioceptors which sense the body’s position in space. On a mental and emotional level, we can bring awareness to our thoughts and emotions, allow them in, and allow them to move through. You can be a sanctuary for yourself.
Below is the playlist (mostly from the 1997 album Songs of Sanctuary) from the class I taught on Friday, October 11, 2013, at the Buck Mountain Episcopal Church Community Center. And here is the poem about allowing ourselves to embody sanctuary: The Guest House by the 13th Century Persian poet, Rumi.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Thanks to all who joined us for the movement, music and magic!
Dance on. Shine on.
Sanctuary at Buck Mountain Episcopal Church Community Center
Adiemus – 4:02 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Tintinnabulum – 11:03 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Cantus Inaequalis – 3:18 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Cantus Insolitus – 5:40 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
In Caelum Fero – 7:49 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Amaté Adea – 5:23 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley
Kayama – 7:58 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley
Out Of The Silence – 6:22 – Aeoliah
Hymn – 2:42 – Adiemus/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Miriam Stockley