On the Power of Sanctuary

On the Power of Place by Em Capito, LCSW“It seems as if the right words can come only out of the perfect space of a place you love.” – Ellen Meloy, The Anthropology of Turquoise

This last weekend, my heart ached for the wild. I drove six hours to Bluff and pitched my tent on the banks of the San Juan river.

Intuition picked my most treasured book off the shelf, and I heeded the call to be in the same sacred space as where those words were written. 

Bluff is a tiny hamlet nestled in the southeastern corner of Utah, the gateway to Bears Ears National Monument, just beyond the terra-cotta towers of the Valley of the Gods. A bit further south, a stone’s throw beyond the Arizona border, you reach the towering red mesas and buttes of Monument Valley, on Navajo land.

It’s immense, and much like the rest of southeastern Utah, where I feel an inexplicable, profound sense of home. 

“How does vision, this tyrant of the senses, draw someone to a piece of earth? What do the eyes rest upon – mind disengaged, heart not – that combines senses and affection into a homeland?” 

Where is your home? Where do you find that deep sense of recognition, of belonging to the space and your raw self? 

In my own journey, and within my work, I find that we have lost an appreciation of the importance of place, that many of us live in a state of sanctuary deprivation.

I often work with women who have been displaced. Upheaval in their relationships has required temporary shelter, not a home. One of the first steps to healing is to nest, to set a small anchor of sanctuary, even and especially in the midst of chaos.

It may be as simple a start as a candle and a book of poetry that calls one home on the nightstand.

It could be a purge of all that no longer serves, as we embrace the new self emerging from the ashes.

It might be the vulnerable creation and display of art, a statement of the transformation we find ourselves in, where we have come from.

From the clothes we put on each morning, to the piece of earth we sink roots into, every aspect of our surroundings can connect us back into ourselves.

When we can find ourselves, authentically, when we feel safe and held within a place, our nervous systems unwind and settle down into that warmth. Unguarded, we inherently know how to heal, to love, to create.

Where is that space for you, within your home, within the greater world? What belongings spark recognition? 

Over the course of childhood, we often survive by suppressing this wild voice inside that invites us into the discomfort of loving ourselves exactly as we are, of accepting our unique call to purpose, of stepping onto that edge of invention.

We often begin this life by performing and conforming, aching for external acceptance and a love that is less than real, conditioned on this ingenuine presentation of a self that gets along, earns respect.

Perhaps the broad purpose for each of us in this life is to break down under that pressure, to discover who we really are, and to follow that path bravely into the unknown.

As we are ready, as we chisel away that shell that has protected us from the risk of becoming who we are, we must counter with genuine sanctuary.

Intuition is always speaking, calling our attention to seemingly small experiences, totems and places of synchronicity, literal signs to guide us forward.

It may take small steps, open inquiries and experiments into where you suddenly feel seamlessly connected.

Trust the yes inside your body.  

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