Home as Sanctuary
Sanctuary Entrance
Van Gogh

It is not untrite to remind ourselves that "our home is our castle." But how many people take this truism to a deeper level: that a home or room also has every reason to be an inviolable sanctuary?

A sanctuary is a sacred and protected place, originating from the latin sanctum, which
meant an inviolably private place. It is a place
of refuge and retreat from our "everyday"
duties and obligations in the world.

As such, a home or room (or even a small
corner in a room) created as a sanctuary has the potential to give us peace and solace. It also can regenerate our spirit from the bumps and grinds of daily activity. Furthermore, a home sanctuary can create a familial bond based on respect for members' needs for private space and time.

Listed below are the topics in this section, with a brief description of each. Several essays are excerpts from Dr. C. Forrest McDowell and Tricia Clark-McDowell's book-in-progress: Islands of Grace: Finding Sanctuary in Daily Life.

  • Home as Sanctuary
    Written in a personal tone, learn about the underlining spirit of a home sanctuary, including the 4 key qualities of mood, aesthetics, invitation and enfoldment. This article also explores 7 areas in which to focus your strategies: creating an inviting entrance, furnishing for comfort, integrating nature, nourishing the senses, among others. [Click]

  • Sanctuary of the Home
    This brief article by Tricia Clark-McDowell shares her personal views on making your home a place of refuge. [Click]

  • How to Make a Room a Sanctuary
    In this brief article learn about 6 key concepts in creating refuge in a room: location, entrance, furnishings, nature, altar and senses. [Click]

  • Soulfully Entering Your Sanctuary Space
    Here are 10 helpful tips on how to bring more consciousness into stepping into your sacred space.[Click]

  • Honoring a Code of Conduct in Your Home Sanctuary
    A critical component for any sanctuary setting is that of a Code of Conduct. Sanctuarys serve to give us peace and to regenerate our spirit. They soften our heart and mind. A place ceases to serve as a welcoming refuge when we feel discomfort and tension. Here are a few important concepts to help insure your refuge maintains a noble quality.[Click]

  • 12 Simple Guidelines for De-cluttering
    Each person has their view of what sanctuary means to them. Most people, however, believe that the most comfortable feelings they have in a sanctuary setting is due to a sense of order. Here are a few pointers.[Click]

  • 24 Steps for De-cluttering Your Home and Mind
    Clutter is a nemisis of a sanctuary setting. Here's some more thoughts and strategies.[Click]

  • Create an Indoor Sanctuary
    Inspired by several books on the subject of creating sacred space, author Van Waffle talks about how he created his indoor sanctuary.[Click]

  • Reading Resources for Home as Sanctuary
    Here's a list of dozens of books on the subject of creating special places of refuge. This list is always being added to.[Click]

  • Sanctuary Attunement: Home for the Spirit
    Tricia Clark-McDowell offers a beautiful attunement for evoking the spirit of one's home.[Click]

Sanctuary for a Minute

Take a break right now. Breathe deep a couple of times. Contemplate on the value of sanctuary in your life by looking at any of the following images.
Blessings in your life!

Click on the title

Purple Sunset

Dandelion's Heart

Sunbeams (Cortesia Sanctuary)

Mountain Sunrise

Woods Afire (Cortesia Sanctuary)

Enjoy Some Music While You Gaze at the Images
Narana's Dream

from Sanctuary CD by Confluence
information and to order at
Sanctuary Music


Soulfully Entering Your Sanctuary Space

  1. Pause for a moment and collect your thoughts.
  2. Consider your needs for sanctuary and how this special place reflects those needs.
  3. Admire the purity of intention of this sanctuary as reflected by its Keeper and furnishings.
  4. Consider that this is an Island of Grace amidst the world, no longer the world.
  5. Comfort yourself.
  6. Comfort and respect any others who share this time and space with you.
  7. Surrender to your full intent, to regenerate your soul with peacful thoughts and activity.
  8. Follow reverent ethics (code of conduct) that keep this sanctuary sacred and peaceful.
  9. Thank God for being alive.
  10. Humbly take the small benefits of sanctuary back into the world as a duty of gratitude.

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do...
but how much love we put in that action.
Mother Teresa

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Honoring a Code of Conduct in Your Home Sanctuary

by C. Forrest McDowell, PhD

The symbolic nature of a sanctuary implies that a certain range of behaviors are appropriate while others are not. In a home setting such principles can be formulated, discussed, agreed upon, even written down by those who live there. A tremendous learning opportunity awaits those who engage in such discussion or reflection, for how often do people openly talk about ways they can increase the quality of their life through considerate behaviors? Don't worry, such a code of conduct should not be cast in stone or have such a high standard of morality that it makes coming into the sanctuary a paranoid experience! Like the vibrant energy of your sanctuary space, your code may need periodic adjusting. Here are some  issues worth clarifying:

  1. Abusive language and behavior. This might include limiting vulgarity, arguing, or yelling out of anger or rage.
  2. Respecting others. Strive to create a harmonious, open-minded, and non-critical atmosphere. Limit the boundaries of sexist remarks or engaging in gender or cultural put-downs.
  3. Clear-hearted listening and sharing. Give full attention to others when engaged in discussion. Couples especially find more respectful discussion, even on sensitive subjects, when held in a sanctuary setting.
  4. Intense emotions. Find comfort and solace to explore and support strong inner feelings, but they should not take form of outward violence with the intent to harm or destroy.
  5. Technology. Determine what are the limits of using devices such as a television or a loud stereo within sanctuary.
  6. Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes. Determine their appropriateness in a designated place for the soul.
  7. Pettiness. Irrelevant conversation may actually take away from the potential for a deep and gratifying experience in sanctuary. It may not be necessary to bring money matters, bills, schedules, pet peeves, criticism, judgements, and the like into such a sacred space.
  8. Animals. The energy of a setting may not be conducive to a pet, at least not all the time. Animals are wonderful and necessary comforting sanctuaries unto themselves. Determine the role they play in your need for alone time.
  9. Cleanliness. Orderliness and maintainence are natural sanctuary duties of its Keeper. Create a pleasant and efficient process for keeping your sanctuary's energy vibrant.
  10. Receptivity and Acceptance. Identify cues and strategies that allow one's need for sanctuary to be honored. For example, the acceptance by other family members of one's need for a little "down time" upon first arriving home from work. Similarly, an agreement that when one is in sanctuary they will not be disturbed, asked to answer a phone, or requested to leave their space to conduct a favor. You get the picture: what conditions help honor one's sanctuary space?

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Out of the dreariness, Into its cheeriness,
Come we in weariness, Home.
Stephen Chalmers

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12 Simple Guidelines for De-Cluttering

  1. Start small. One drawer, one pile, one corner at a time so you don't feel too overwhelmed.
  2. Reward yourself during the de-cluttering process. When you have completed a key area or a room treat yourself nice (food, a movie, a stroll, a sauna you'll know just what to do).
  3. Clean and cull with sincerity and love in your heart. Consider this to be honorable work that will ultimately uplift you and purify your environment.
  4. Avoid clutter in the first place. Put things away after you use them. Duh!
  5. Develop clear strategies for getting rid of unneeded items. Establish a good recycling system using bins, give to second-hand stores, have regular garage sales and give-aways.
  6. Reduce incoming junk mail. Get off mailing lists and adopt a same-day sorting/dumping strategy for whatever mail and papers do come in.
  7. Create a "good riddance" policy. Especially helpful for packrats, simply get rid of one or more items for every item that comes in.
  8. Don't go shopping when you're in a bad mood (angry, depressed, demoralized, etc.). You will buy things that later you may not even like. (What! This has never happened to you?)
  9. Create a family support system. This is for serious clutterers who might find they can enlist the aid of others (bribes, pleading, bartering may be appropriate). Remember: don't be overly critical or try to blame the clutterer.
  10. Make de-cluttering fun. Play nice music while you clean and organize. Eat an especially nice meal. "Whistle while you work." Allow yourself happy thoughts so you can continue de-cluttering.
  11. Examine your own state of emotional well-being. Look deeply and discover what makes you tick, what sets you off. Psychologists point out that accumulating material objects may be a sign of fear of the future, insecurity in a relationship, or even just wanting to be accepted and liked.Accept it, you're not perfect! If this is too much to ask, that's okay, do nothing and continue to procrastinate. Afterall, you're only human!

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"Good homes are still the best source of good humans."
Neal A. Maxwell

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Inspired by Karen Kingston in Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui

  1. Clearing external clutter always has a cleansing effect internally, so clean thoroughly and do it with love and focus, as if it is a meditation.
  2. Don't keep things "just in case" they might be useful someday. Get rid of what you're not using, and trust that the universe will provide for your future needs.
  3. As soon as you are finished using something, put it back where it belongs.
  4. Get rid of unwanted gifts, and surround yourself with things you love, which inspire and uplift you.
  5. Since there is no place you can put clutter where it will not affect you, work at keeping key areas clean: your front entrance, behind doors, hallways and corridors, floors, under beds, on top of closets, inside of closets.
  6. Never go shopping when you feel emotionally out of sorts: you'll end up with clothes you'll never wear.
  7. If you haven't worn an item in the last year or two, then toss, sell, exchange, or give it away.
  8. Keep the shoes you wear polished and in good repair and get rid of the rest.
  9. Work with a clear desk to increase your productivity, creativity, and job satisfaction.
  10. Centralize your information in a computer or handy notebook.
  11. If you want to remember to do something, put it in your diary or on a calendar. Make a daily "to do" list, and do the most important things first.
  12. If you have a tendency to collect certain things, find out why you are doing it and then move on.
  13. If there is anything that needs fixing in your home, fix it so that it doesn't drain you subconsciously.
  14. If you have unresolved issues with anyone, avoid energy drains by clearing your communications with them.
  15. End unwanted friendships, and choose to associate with kindred spirits who uplift and inspire you.
  16. Free up energy by keeping current with letter writing and correspondence.
  17. Get in the habit of tying up loose ends as you go, and don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
  18. Walking through or visualizing every room in your home, making a mental note of any clutter you need to cleaar and what you want to do with it.
  19. Clean out one drawer at a time, and if you want to, go on and do another. Clear your whole house incrementally.
  20. Instead of asking, "Will this come in handy someday?" ask, "What does this do for me? Does it lift my energy or deplete it when I think about it or look at it?"
  21. To prevent hoarding, when something new comes in, something old should go out.
  22. Don't be afraid to go through belongings of questionable value several times before getting rid of them.
  23. Affirm to yourself: "It's safe to let go."
  24. Realize that everything you own has a hold on your attention. Clearing out your clutter frees you to really make a difference in the world.

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Our families are the safety net that catches us when we fall.
They are our sanctuary in a storm.
They are the beacon showing us the way home when we're lost."
Linda Offenheiser

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Create an Indoor Sanctuary
by van waffle

Cooped up in my apartment on blistering winter afternoons, I used to get
lonely for moist earth and bright flowers. Canadians, like Scandinavians, are
more often afflicted by Seasonal Affective Disorder than their American and
Southern European friends. At northern latitudes we have fewer daylight hours
to stimulate our brains in winter so we get depressed, as studies have shown.
I also believe we let inclement weather and our own walls and curtains cut us
off from Nature.

We can't afford that disconnection. That's why I have brought living things
inside my home. There's more to indoor gardening than silk flowers on the
coffee table, or propping a lonely cactus on the window sill. Living plants
and animals have always surrounded us, and they can improve any home. An
indoor sanctuary will keep your air cleaner, refresh your mind and body, and
connect you more deeply with the rhythms of life. This is true not only for
landless apartment dwellers like myself, but also those winter refugees of the
backyard who spend their Saturday afternoons pining over seed catalogues.

I used to garden on two acres of old meadow. I acutely felt my loss of
connection to the soil when my marriage ended. Financial factors have forced
me to live in apartments ever since.

Over the next couple of years several books fed my longing, all of which I
highly recommend: The Sanctuary Garden by Christopher Forrest McDowell and
Tricia Clark-McDowell, Cultivating Sacred Space: Gardening for the Soul by
Elizabeth Murray, and The Re-enchantment of Daily Life by Thomas Moore. They
raised my awareness that I needed the environment not just for physical
survival, but for the thriving of my soul.

I became intrigued with the McDowells' concept of the hearth, a part of the
home where members of both family and community come to share stories, songs
and ideas, pass skills to younger generations, and refresh their souls.

Their book goes on to say: "Your sanctuary garden, whether you realize it or
not, is like a home, an extended family of multitudinous varieties of life
forms. It is a welcome hearth."

My apartment at the time had only a north-facing balcony. Sunlight never
entered my living space, and my state of mind was gloomy and anxious. The few
plants that would grow there did not engage me, and they languished from
neglect. I started a garden at the cottage property I share with my parents,
but that was something I could only enjoy for a few weeks of the year.

Finally, in June 1998 I moved to my current home, an old flat above a store.
It has windows facing every direction but north, with some rooms cooler or
dryer than others to provide different microclimates. It was here that I began
to create a place within my home for Nature. It has come attended by peace,
beauty and meditation. What follows are some principles I would suggest for
those who would establish a sanctuary garden indoors.

1. Choose a sitting area to set apart from the rest of your living space: a
small room, a bay window, or a brightly-lit corner where family members
can have solitude when they desire it, but where everyone will feel
welcome. I sleep on a futon couch where I also like to sit and write or
draw in the morning. My two small daughters know that my bedroom is off
limits for noise and rowdiness, but anyone is welcome to sit, read,
visit, play board games or take an afternoon nap. A vining pothos
surrounds my bedroom door to mark the entrance of my sanctuary. If you
can only spare a corner, try setting up an oriental rice paper partition
to lend some privacy.

2. Include sunlight, which is essential for emotional well-being and will
give you a much wider choice of plants for your indoor garden. My bedroom
faces southeast, which is ideal because my mind still needs waking, long
after I get out of bed. Sitting there for a few minutes every morning is
my substitute for a cup of coffee. West windows are likely to be too hot
for you and your plants, especially if you live in an apartment and will
use the space all summer. [Image]

3. Include plants, preferably flowering ones so you can watch their progress
and learn how to nurture them. This is not too difficult, even for those
of us with a tendency to kill houseplants on contact. I placed a
crown-of-thorns in my hall's west window the week I moved in here. I
water it two or three times a month and it has never ceased to produce
little red flowers. Most plants need a resting season, so pick several
that bloom at different times. Azaleas, cyclamen and Phalaenopsis orchids
can provide white flowers which I find particularly soothing. For plants
suited to your situation, check one of the many plant directories online.
ICanGarden.com has an excellent series of articles on indoor gardening.

4. Include animals. No, bison will probably create more anxiety in this
case, besides violating a few local by-laws. But some singing finches or
a canary can brighten the atmosphere. A terrarium with newts, tree frogs,
hermit crabs or a lizard would be quieter but just as intriguing, as
would an aquarium with fish, or a single goldfish or Siamese fighting
fish in a bowl. Saltwater aquaria are becoming more readily available.
Reef fish are colourful and active, and I consider them more intelligent
than other tropical fish. Before you buy them, make sure your animals
were not collected from the wild. Of course you need not exclude your
beloved cat or dog from this place. I love my kitty dearly, but he is
expert at disrupting a contemplative moment.

5. Include something for your eyes, perhaps some framed art, a small
sculpture, stained glass, a dream catcher, some colourful stones, or a
crystal hanging in the window. Right now I have a vermilion and scarlet
Cattleya orchid blooming beside my white azalea. The flowers are
elaborate enough to meditate upon for hours.

6. Include some quiet sound. Reflective music will do, but natural sounds
are even better. Your canaries or finches could provide this, or perhaps
a wind chime. Best of all is an  indoor fountain. I find few things as
soothing as trickling water, and I love going to sleep to its sound.

7. Include some pleasant scent. My Cattleya orchid has the light fragrance
of tropical fruit. When its blooms are past I will use an essential oil
diffuser. You might prefer incense. Or keep a pot of your favourite
fragrant herb on the windowsill.

8. Don't neglect your sense of touch. Set some smooth stones near at hand,
or drape a throw made of coarse natural fibres over the back of the chair
or seat. My favourite blanket came from Venezuela; it is made of soft
alpaca wool in shades of blue, yellow ochre and oatmeal.

9. Include something for taste. This is not the place for junk food. Keep a
few herbs and make a ritual of selecting a few leaves to brew an aromatic
tea. Some of my favourite tea herbs, all of which can be grown in pots,
include lemon verbena, pineapple sage, fruit sage, garden sage,
peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, bergamot, rosemary and lavender. I'm
also considering keeping a bowl of fresh fruit within reach. Some mixed
nuts and a nutcracker might also suit the atmosphere, but don't let them
distract you too much.

This is only a starting point. You may find that some of these ideas work for
you and others do not. A few wide spectrum flourescent tubes might have to
substitute for your sun. Your animal might be a bear carved from wood. As long
as you have fun and draw closer to nature, the sanctuary will bring more life
into your home, and more joy to your hearth.

© Suite101.com

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A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.

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Reading Resources for Home as Sanctuary

Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines into Your Everyday Life, by Denise Linn (New York: Ballantine Books, 1999).

Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston (New York: Broadway Books, 1999).

Creating a Beautiful Home, by Alexandra Stoddard (New York: Avon, 1993).

Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui: Learn the Art of Space Clearing and Bring New Energy into Your Life, by Karen Kingston (New York: Broadway Books, 1997).

Everyday Sacred: A Woman's Journey Home, by Sue Bender (San Francisco: Harper, 1996).

Feng Shui for the Soul, by Denise Linn (Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2000).

The Feng Shui House Book: Change Your Home, Transform Your Life, by Gina Lazenby (New York: Watson-Guptil, 1998).

Holy Personal: Looking Small Private Places of Worship, by Laura Chester (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2000).

A Home for the Soul: A Guide for Dwelling with Spirit and Imagination, by Anthony Lawlor (New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 1997).

Home Sanctuary: Practical Ways to Create a Spiritually Fulfilling Environment, by Nicole Marcelis (Chicago, IL: Contemporary Books, 2000).

Home Sweeter Home: Creating a Haven of Simplicity and Spirit, by Jann Mitchell (Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing, 1996).

In a Spiritual Style: The Home as Sanctuary, by Laura Cerwinske (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1998).

The Natural Home Catalog: Everything You Need to Create an Environmentally Friendlyd Home, by David Pearson (New York: Fireside Books, 1996).

New Natural House Book: Creating a Healthy, Harmonious and Ecologically Sound Home, by David Pearson (New York: Fireside Books, 1998).

Open Your Eyes: 1,000 Simple Ways to Bring Beauty into Your Home and Life Each Day, by Alexandra Stoddard (New York: William Morrow, 1998).

A Place of Your Own, by Edward Searl (Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Publishing Group, 1998).

The Sacred Bedroom: Creating Your Personal Sanctuary, by Jon Robertson (New York: New World Library, 2001).

Sacred Space: Clearing and Enhancing the Energy of Your Home, by Denise Linn (New York: Ballantine Books, 1995).

Shelter for the Spirit: Create Your Own Haven in a Hectic World, by Victoria Moran (New York: HarperPerennial, 1998).

Simple Loving: A Pat to Deeper More Sustainable Relationships, by Janet Luhrs (New York: Penguin Arcana, 2000).

Simple Style: The Elegtant, Uncluttered Home, by Lisa Skolnik and Rima A. Suqi (New York: Friedman Fairfax Books, 1998).

Simply Organized: The Practical Way to Simplify Your Complicated Life, by Connie Cox and Cris Evatt (New York: Berkeley, 1991).

Spiritual Housecleaning: Healing the Space Within by Beautifying the Space Around You, by Kathryn L. Robyn (Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publishers, 2001).

Zen Style: Balance and Simplicity for Your Home, by Jane Tidbury (New York: Rizzoli, 1999).

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Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other. It is the place of confidence. It is the place where we tear off that mask of guarded and suspicious coldness which the world forces us to wear in self-defense, and where we pour out the unreserved communications of full and confiding hearts. It is the spot where expressions of tenderness gush out without any sensation of awkwardness and without any dread of ridicule.
Frederick W. Robertson

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Sanctuary Attunement: Home for the Spirit

The mystery of the human psyche can never be fully known because it holds the stories, the feelings, the thoughts of many lifetimes. Sometimes pain or sadness rises up unbidden, from places you know little about, or the rigors of living in this imperfect world weigh heavily on your shoulders and heart. Then more than ever you must seek a place of solace and peace that asks of you nothing for the moment, only offering you a haven, a safe harbor.

When you make your home (or any part of it) a sanctuary, it becomes an embodiment of your highest ideals and your most noble dreams. It becomes the physical envirinment that holds the pattern of remembering - to be calm, to be generous, to love yourself and others without expectations, to consider the needs of your soul which yearns for beauty and quiet. Once you have mindfully woven these aspirations into the space around you, with all the sincerity of your best intentions, then this space will continue to support you, even when you're weary and may have forgotten your clear intentions or temporarily lost your peace of mind.

Without some kind of physical sanctuary to sustain you, you would be required to constantly remember on your own. While this is certainly a goal, it is human to forget yourself now and then and to lose sight of that for which you are striving. The home which truly is a sanctuary serves to bring you back to center, to that loving home within, to your refuge in Spirit. Your home embraces you, soothes you with arms that are not human, keeps you company even when you are alone.

It takes vision to create a sanctuary in your home. Initially you may have to work at it and really think about what serves this concept and what does not. Take your time. Start with one room or a corner of a room. Simplify, deep-clean it, reflect upon the feeling that you want to inspire there. If you have to empty the space entirely and begin fresh, do so, adding one item at a time only when you are sure that it belongs. If later you determine that it does not belong, remove it.

Sanctuary is not created overnight but one thoughtful step at a time. And realize that always the things, the objects, the furnishings that comprise a pleasing space, are secondary and subservient to the hearts desire to be at peace there. So even once you have created your home to be more of a sanctuary, don’t ask it to provide what you may be unwilling to give to yourself - periods of absolute stillness. Don't expect mere objects to hold the peace that you cannot feel. Don't look to a cozy chair, a warm fire, a room with a view to soothe you when you are not living in a way that nurtures your spirit. Do the inner work and the outer work simultaneously, and then you will truly discover how the two aspects support and further each other. Sanctuary within and sanctuary without.

Ultimately, when you sit in your sacred or power spot and close your eyes, even that precious space will melt away. So much the better. Let the entire physical world fall away while you remain present and awake. When you slow your breath and quiet your tempestuous thoughts, therein will you find your greatest sense of sanctuary and your deepest sense of being at home with yourself. Once you are truly at home with yourself, you will be at home anywhere, anytime, with anyone.

© 2007 by Tricia Clark-McDowell

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