Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Area of Refuge

I came across this sign recently while visiting a medical office building. On the pragmatic side, I wanted know what the meaning of this sign was. Where was the area of refuge? The arrow simply pointed to a non-descript hallway. Was there some hidden meaning? Was this hallway earthquake-proof? Fire-resistant? Spiritually protected? It seemed so mysterious.

On the metaphoric side, I took the photo with my trusty little Treo smart phone solely in order to show other people that I actually saw this sign and felt that its metaphoric value far outweighed its practical and intended nature. We all need areas of refuge in our lives. Is it our living room? Our porch? Our workshop? Or perhaps a beach, or the mountains, the forest, a favorite city park. Some individuals find refuge in their own enlightened minds through meditation. Others find refuge in their bodies through exercise, yoga, dance, or painting. Still others find refuge in substances, both natural and synthetic, which disconnect them from their bodies for a while, or perhaps even make the body a playground of sensation and experience.

In her beautiful book Refuge, the author Terry Tempest Williams uses the Great Salt Lake---its risings and fallings, and the lives of the wild birds around it---as a metaphor for refuge, as well as a geographic touchstone for the actual peace she experiences on its shores as she struggles with a seeming epidemic of breast cancer in multiple generations of women in her family.

What is your refuge, dear Reader? Where does it lie? Is it within? Without? Have you not yet found it?Do you need a new one? Have you not tended your refuge for a while? Take a moment, if you like, and find that refuge---perhaps for the first time, or maybe for the thousandth---then give yourself the gift of visiting that sacred space soon.

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