In this day and age we’re exposed to news, entertainment and a constant stream of communication, like never before.
Added with the busyness of juggling work, relationships and family, it’s no wonder that we sometimes feel overwhelmed. All too often, our personal sense of wellbeing starts to take a backseat.
This makes it all the more important that we consciously make time to process, ground and care for our inner selves.
As Sally Kempton notes, yogic traditions teach us that ‘our fears, doubts and suffering arise from ignorance of our real nature, and are burned away through knowledge of the Self.’
She explains how she’s felt this directly; ‘experiencing how an hour’s immersion in my own wider mind, or a few moments of recognising the play of my own deeper energy in the movement of thoughts, could shift my behaviour.’
Taking action fused with the deep intention of momentarily removing yourself from stressful circumstances, will allow your stream of thoughts to quieten down. In other words, by taking steps to shift your perspective, you can create a sacred space, haven and refuge of deep peace for yourself – wherever you are.
The good news is this is a lot simpler than it sounds. Here are some tips!
Remove yourself from the noise
If possible, find a quiet space alone. There’s no doubt that we could all benefit from the ability to calm our minds at will, or as Liz Gilbert says, ‘the art of replacing mundane din, with a mind of quiet wonder.’
So, the first step is to physically remove yourself from the mundane din!
Remove distractions such as your phone, laptop or anything else that might interrupt you. This will make it possible to focus on yourself, stay mindful and within the present.
As you re-emerge, the world will look like a different place (promise!).
Set an intention
‘When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.’
It’s important that you treat the creation of a sacred space as exactly that: sacred, and unable to be touched by the stress of everyday reality.
Honour yourself by honouring the time you spend here, in this space, focused on your wellbeing.
Ask yourself the simple questions of ‘what’s wrong?,’ ‘how’re you feeling?,’ or ‘what do you need to feel grounded?.’ Setting an Intention Word for this time alone might help; such as ‘rest,’ or ‘release.’ This will encourage your ensuing actions and thoughts to all unfold from here.
‘Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.’
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
This might sound a little obvious, but let’s unpack it.
Try and avoid setting demands or expectations for this space. Ideas like ‘I better be relaxed by the end of all this,’ will inevitably be soon accompanied by impatient thoughts such as ‘it’s not working!’
Try and relax your mind by accepting yourself as you are, in the moment. A deep intention will help with awareness of your goal and focus you in its direction. On the other hand, an expectation will block your experience. It will superimpose an idea of what’s ‘meant’ to happen, rather than allowing the spontaneous actuality of a naturally unfolding moment. Avoid this, by gently and slowly easing yourself into a state of relaxed attentiveness.
Within your own home, try and create a beautiful space just for you. This could simply a spot on the floor. Reserve this place, solely for the purpose of your sacred space. You can use colours, fabrics, photos of loved ones, or anything that will lift your spirit. Happy Buddha’s Zen Den is a great example of this.
It’s also helpful to create simple rituals to associate with this space. Eventually, they’ll act as triggers for the mind to turn inside. In fact, ritual practice is a time-honoured method for clearing the mind.
Whenever I travel anywhere, I always take incense. Over time, natural smell associations (olfactory memory), became a path to calm my thoughts, evoke a sense of sacredness, and the loving feeling that I’ve created a home away from home.
The same can be achieved with essential oils, sage or Palo Santo wood. Aromas have a great power to stimulate, calm or heal. Each one has uniquely beneficial properties. For relaxation, you could try rose, lotus or lavender!
Spend time in nature
‘Whatever circumstances arise, do not plunge into either elation or misery, but stay free and comfortable in unshakeable serenity…and just as the sun shines freely through space, your compassion cannot fail to shine on all beings.’
– Kheyntse Rinpoche
Nature can give you perspective, and reminds you that you are a small part of this stunning universe.
Just last week I was lucky enough to attend a beautiful retreat at Happy Buddha. At one point I walked to the famous ‘Happy Buddha’ waterfall. As I arrived I was reminded of nature’s ability to heal and calm the mind. There was pure silence except for the wind. Far away from everything (including phone reception!), I was completely surrounded by nature. Eventually mind chatter subsided, and I saw there was nothing to do in that moment, except breathe and be witness to the leaves catching light as they fell.
Nature is the original, physical sacred space; a stunning reminder that beyond our daily stresses, life does goes on.
Follow your breath
Breath (prana) is the most fundamental expression of life force. It’s also the most obvious and natural bridge between the visible and invisible worlds. Remember that in any circumstances, the ability to create a still and sacred space is available to you – simply by focusing your awareness on your breath.
Take a few slow and focused inhalations; breathing into stillness, and breathing out into spaciousness.
Observe how the breath starts to naturally lengthen and grow steady. Notice the growing pause at the end of each inhalation. Follow your exhalation breath to its final moment and observe it float away into emptiness. Notice the growing pause at the end of your exhalation and find solace in its peace.
Carry your sacred space with you
The busy state of the world means that easing gently and slowly out of a place of peace, often takes a conscious effort. Before moving on with your day, take a few moments to reexamine your intention. Take some last deep inhalations, then finally: make the conscious decision to allow the calming effects of your sacred space to suffuse your being, for the rest of your day.
‘Remember the entrance to the sanctuary is inside you.’