Spiritual Exercises – Sanctuary
by Fiona Heath
Option A) Share Your Umbrella
There’s a beautiful UU children’s story called “The Umbrella Sanctuary.” You might have heard this month in a service. In it, the umbrella represents the many ways others offer us sanctuary from the storms of life as well as the many ways we can pass on that shelter to others. The story also gently reminds us that we overlook opportunities to offer shelter and sanctuary every day. If our attention is woke, we notice that all around us people are “wet with rain.”
This month, you are invited to use the story to wake up your attention and seek out opportunities to offer people “your umbrella.”
Go one step further and use a literal umbrella as your daily reminder.
It may feel silly at first, but after reading the story, you’ll feel differently. Find an umbrella and hang it by the door of you home so you are reminded every day as you head to work. Or take an umbrella with you and let it hang out near your desk as your daily reminder. You might even just let it lay in the back seat of your car for the month. Whatever you choose, use it as a reminder and meditative token of all times someone has notice you in need and how your gratitude for that calls you to keep an eye out for those often subtle (and not-so-subtle) signs that someone else needs the gift of human shelter.
Here’s the link to the story: https://www.uua.org/worship/words/story/umbrella-sanctuary
Come to your group ready to share where you placed your umbrella, and how it helped you notice those opportunities to be shelter and sanctuary for someone else.
Option B) Your Many Sanctuaries
Sanctuary comes to us in many forms during our lives. This exercise invites you to meditate on the gift of those many sanctuaries.
Over the month, take stock of all the various places, spaces, relationships and experiences that function or have functioned as sanctuary for you. What makes you feel safe, secure, or cared for?
As you remember and/or notice your sanctuary, identify a symbol or token that represents them.
For instance, collect a picture of the person who has been sanctuary for you. If it’s a physical space like your church sanctuary, grab a hymnal. If it’s the arboretum near your work where you often take your lunch, then grab one of their brochures. Those of us who find sanctuary in music might pull out a CD cover. Those of us who find refuge in the woods might pick up and press a fall leaf. Or you might want to use your phone as your collection device and spend the month taking pictures of all of your sanctuaries.
However you do it, gather these symbols of sanctuary in one place and then see what that “pile of sacred support” says to you. Notice the size and diversity of the pile. It’s easy to go through life feeling vulnerable and alone. Pulling all our sanctuaries into one space, helps anchor us in the truth that life itself is more of a sanctuary than we sometimes understand. And if your pile is small, if you haven’t found many sanctuaries in your past, spend some time seeking out a new sanctuary. What might might a good sanctuary for you in the coming days?
Bring your symbolic tokens and pictures to your group to share.
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