Creating and Strengthening Your Place of Refuge

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It doesn’t matter whether your refuge is a place never or frequently visited, imagined, a religious edifice, house, or nature. What matters is you can get there through imagery or actually visiting it often. The world throws us enough craziness and chaos; thus, your place of refuge is something sacred and personal.

As for me, I have many places including my religions temple and church. My home is a refuge. In addition, I have a place that is always a calm and sacred place to me. The location is   39.9822° N, 105.3017° W. This is a place where I run to in the mountains. It is a saddle located on Green Mountain outside of Boulder. My spot is a place where I’ve prayed, meditated, listened to some good ole John Legend. It is a place where I have searched my soul. I don’t allow just anyone to go to my spot with me. I keep every memory of it safe and protected. A place where only someone so close to me can share. This is because every time in life when I feel a lot on my shoulders and heart I can seek it by foot or through imagery!

So, where is your place? Think of where you feel 100% tranquility! Now, how can you visit your refuge often? You can get there anytime by the following these steps… What I refer to as the 4 S’s.

Smell! What does your refuge smell like. I sure hope your refuge is not the bathroom 😜 ! My place smells like the forest. It smells like fresh air. For a certain reason a soap smell (Ponche)

reminds me of it. Also, I have a couple essential oils that take me there. Find the smell that takes you there. Smell is the most powerful sense to guide you in retrieving a memory. Smell does not go through any switchboards in the brain to access vivid memory. Thus, smell is first and foremost.

Sound! What do you hear in your place? I hear the wind blowing through the trees. I hear random steps in the woods from friendly creatures! I hear the stillness that cannot be recreated. I have listened to certain songs up there that will take me right back when heard again. I hear the trail and my foot connecting. The voice of special people who have been there with me is always a reminder.

Sight! Your vision of your place needs to be vivid. Pay attention to colors and every little detail. I see an abundance of green, yellow, brown, blue and clear skies. I see the stillness of beautiful peaks and valleys.

Sensations! What do you feel externally and internally? That question can sound a bit weird, I know. So, first what do you feel externally… what do you feel on your skin? Notice the air, the breeze, or stillness. Next, what do you feel internally… pay attention to where you feel the most tranquility and peace in your body. Do you feel your stomach relax? Or, is it that your head feels lighter? It might be helpful to do a full body scan both externally and internally when visiting your refuge, which will help you become more aware.

Now, that you know your place and you have become aware of the 4 S’s associated with that place I want to help you strengthen and access that place frequently. First, you must know that you can access this place while sitting at your desk, in the bath, or anywhere that you can find quiet. However, I suggest you also find a form of movement through which you can access your place of refuge. This could be through walking, running, yoga, or any other type of exercise. Why do I suggest that you also find a place during which you are moving to access your special place? Because I am addicted to exercise?…absolutely not! Instead, we obviously know that exercise is healthy. Moreover, we know that when we are using what is called BiLateral Stimulation (BLS) we are more effective at processing both cognitively and somatically (meaning in the brain and body). BLS is when we are simultaneously activating both hemispheres of the brain. In other words, we are allowing our brain to function at it’s best. Consequently, two important things happen. First, our prefrontal cortex is more fully activated, which leads to the the second part. We are then able to more vividly get to our safe refuge because our brain is functioning at its optimal level. BLS can happen in many ways but in this post I am only discussing it as when we are physically moving and using both sides of our body in this movement. Geez, that can get deep quickly. I hope I did not lose you 🙂 If so, email me!

You might ask, how exactly am I accessing my place without going there? First, allow you self to go through the steps of the 4 S’s in your mind. This is called imagery. By going through these 4 S’s you are activating and integrating multiple sensory pathways in your brain and body. The more senses involved the more vividly you can  visit your place of refuge from miles away. For example, I like to get to my safe refuge while running around my small town even though my refuge is still 20 miles away I can get there mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. While I am out on a run I start to go through the 4 S’s. Starting with smell, then the following: sound; sight; sensations. I allow myself to drift in to this. Sure, my thoughts get scattered but the more I practice the easier I can feel the tranquility  and peace of visiting my refuge. I also like to get to my refuge while visiting my religious temple and while in my own home. I can discuss in a later post of how to use BLS while remaining sedentary to help enhance the vividness and overall experience. And no I am not referencing smoking, eating, or snorting anything whacky. 🙂

Do this as an exercise when calm so it can work when feeling stressed. What I mean by that is it might be a good idea to practice this daily. Allow yourself 10-15 minutes each day to sit down and get to your place. Again, do it while you are calm. If you start out of the gate and try this while you are overly stressed and in a escalated moment you will inevitably struggle and fail. It could likely backfire. Pick a time each day and make it a time to create and strengthen your safe refuge.

This is not a way to teach you how to avoid. Rather, this is a tool to use to help you engage more fully in your life and endure through the crud that comes your way. It is a way to help you take control of what you can and let go of what you cannot. Don’t fight the chaos, create the peace you want in your life!

-Dr Drew Brazier

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