3 – Dwelling In Perfection
Before we go into the specific uses of the sanctuary - and there are many! – let us just briefly back up and talk about a few basics.
Firstly, remember that it is created by you, within you, for you.
It is for all of the many yous, as you will find out sooner or later.
It's a safe meeting place where you will begin to make direct contact with your unconscious mind, past selves, inner children, forgotten, neglected and "repressed" parts of your self, and your higher aspects too.
A very profound space, if you will.
But this doesn't mean that you have to make a song and a dance to get there.
You might have wondered how I got people to tell me about their sanctuaries, and you might be forgiven to think that perhaps they were under deep hypnosis, that I had them meditating for hours, or undergoing heavy duty inner odysseys complete with joss sticks, 60-beat a minute music and blue lights.
Nope. All of the above strategies are designed to get the conscious mind out of the way, and that's not what I want. I want the conscious mind to be right there, remember everything, and become actively involved in the process of communicating.
Now of course there's the theory that anything that pre-supposes trance, causes trance - and having someone riding an imaginary dragon up the flank of an extinct volcano in their mind is certainly pre-supposing trance. However, I tend to lean towards the idea that we're in some kind of trance all the time anyway, only we're mostly not aware of it.
What you need to understand is that you do not have to do any major league meditating in order to work with your own sanctuary - you just need to give it your attention, just need to think about it.
Just close your eyes for a moment, and you're there - and even when you're not there, you are aware of it, and may "think" about it every so often. It really is that easy. I've gotten hundreds of people to tell me about their favourite places, their favourite things, what kind of house they would build if there was no restriction on time or resources of any kind, just over a cup of coffee, or even complete strangers on a train.
Everyone can do that, and most people daydream anyway about what kind of car they would like some way, fantasize about perfect relationships or plan their retirement activities.
It does help somewhat to talk about it out loud. If you've ever told someone about a dream, you might be familiar with the fact that it becomes clearer in your own mind as a result, and you remember more details as you speak. So if there's a friend or a family member who would like to share in the excitement that is building and regenerating your own personal sanctuary, by all means go ahead and talk with them about it.
But you could also make notes, write a diary, do an architectural plan, or paint pictures about the main features and events (I do that all the time - talk about inspiration!), write poetry about it, or collect pictures from magazines and travel brochures, if you want.
All - or any - of this can help make it more real; but it's just as good if you want to keep it to yourself and strictly only in your own head.
When Bob went to the garden centre to look at plants for his sanctuary, he breached the unspoken invisible divide between so called "real life" and the unconscious realms - something that was previously thought to be the domain of creative folk and those with special talents only.
In magic, this is called "acting in accord".
It means that on top of the psychic - inner - work, a physical act of some kind - outer work - is performed which will make it easier for the outcome to manifest itself - to make it become real. This is not as esoteric as it may sound - many therapies have aspects of symbolical practical actions embedded within, even in the guise of homework exercises; and Milton Erickson used to send clients on "tasks" such as climbing a mountain.
This kind of behaviour is a signal to the unconscious that we are willing to do something - even if we're not quite sure what it means. And in return, the unconscious responds by being more communicative, more freely forthcoming with suggestions, ideas and intuitions.
The invisible divide is beginning to become more transparent.
Every time you think of your sanctuary, it becomes more real and easier to access. It's easy and a natural process, and anyone can do it. And believe me, I have worked with people who haven't even dreamed as far as they were concerned in 50 years or more - just like Bob.
Every time you use your sanctuary for some of the things we're going to be looking at in a few minutes it becomes easier, more profound, more meaningful. There is no need for 3D hallucinations, so if you have trouble visualising things, don't worry about it. Just think about what you would like, and where you would like it.
Also, keep an eye open for what you see around you. If there's some kind of countryside that really "makes your neurology sing" as Richard Bandler terms it, take it home and build it in. A colour, a song, a particularly fascinating species of animal, a dream house, a special scent, fabrics that make you dissolve with pleasure when you touch them, even a beautiful car or a beautiful person - make them a part of your sanctuary, until such time as when you think about it, you can feel yourself smiling within at the beauty of what you have allowed yourself to create for you to enjoy.
And, by the way, if you thoroughly enjoy lighting candles, taking salt baths and putting on the New Age music for your "meditations", go ahead. There's nothing wrong with it. It's just not necessary to restrict one's sanctuary activities to weekly meditations in order to have access to the profound help and amazing experiences which await within.
Now that we've covered the basics, let's have a look at what could be there if you wanted it to be.
3/1 - Sanctuary Features
What does a fully equipped, hi-spec sanctuary have on offer?
Well, as you perhaps know by now, anything you want. Here, for once, is a space that is exclusively your own, without being bound by any kinds of limitations other than exist within yourself.
As you might well discover in due course, this will certainly throw up your own beliefs of what can and cannot be had, and will come to represent a map of your own expectations.
One lady had a forest growing near the central area which she didn't like to visit because she was quite sure that "there were probably wolves and things in the darker parts". Her guide, who was accompanying her on a little stroll, pointed out that, "If there's wolves, it's only because you've put them there!"
Sanctuaries, their surrounding landscape and their various features and functions are of course completely individual. However, here are some features that seem to be generally popular. Some of these were invented by the users, others have come out of various personal development approaches.
In the next sections we will be looking at a number of features you might like to consider for inclusion in your own personal sanctuary.
3/2 – A Shelter For You
One of the first things which most people consider to be essential is the protection of a dwelling, a shelter of some kind which has been a first priority for humans for at least 10,000 years.
I didn't actually have a house or any kind of man made structure in my own sanctuary for a very long time, preferring to lie about amidst the various wonderful natural features - in my sanctuary, you can lie in long grass and need never worry about bugs, ants or any suchlike inconveniences! However, one day it suddenly occurred to me to build one, and that was the start of a very interesting exercise. It never occurred to me to create some kind of magic palace; the eventual structure was a modern affair, half built into the backing hill, which looked as though a spacecraft had crashed and bonded with the rock to form a fluid unit.
As any dream book will have you know, various parts of a house are "meant to represent various parts of the self".
I would urge you now to leave all such considerations behind and simply create something that feels wonderfully right for you.
I've known a couple of people who wanted a house but didn't feel they could cope with the many decisions involved in building one from scratch, so they manifested an inner architect and inner interior designer instead and let them get on with it.
One of these eventually had a massive row with their inner interior designer because they didn't actually like what had happened and made them change it all again!
Whichever way you go about building a house, what it looks like and what it contains, it'll be alright. You can always send in a couple of inner workmen with some ‘One Coat’ Dulux and try something else, or simply erase the old structure and start from scratch somewhere else. There are no limits.
3/2/1 - Fun Rooms
Since the sanctuary is all about feeling good, I've heard a few interesting "fun rooms" that I personally would never have considered installing, and so I submit these for your consideration.
One lady told me that she'd build a massage parlour, fully staffed with lightly oiled near nude gentlemen of Mediterranean origins. Now that's not my scene, I must say, but the thing is that this particular lady feels great when she's had a massage and had been "pampered" - she said it made her feel relaxed and happy.
And that's what the sanctuary is supposed to do; remember, you're only to please yourself.
Sarah had been suffering from bulimia on and off for years. She felt that after any kind of large meal, she would either have to throw up "to relieve the tension" or she would exercise herself into a state of near exhaustion. She told me that recently, she had been on a long car journey with her husband. They'd stopped at a roadside inn, where the most amazing portion of food was served - it was delicious. and she ate it all up. But back in the car, the familiar feeling of tension began to build up in her stomach, and she began to panic, thinking that she couldn't possibly make her husband stop the car and go through either a regurgitation- or an exercise ritual. So she closed her eyes, pretended to go to sleep, went to her sanctuary, and installed a gym in one of the rooms in her house. She got onto an exercise bicycle and then a rowing machine in her mind, and, as she worked out, "I could feel the tension receding, the pressure in my stomach beginning to lessen, and lessen, and then it was completely gone. I was so very grateful, but astonished too. This is the first time since I was about 13 that I could keep an entire huge meal down without having to go through a long physical trauma in order to relieve it. I felt absolutely fine for the rest of the day. I kept thinking, I don't believe it, this really, really works."
Games rooms, collection rooms, even a beauty parlour - whatever takes your fancy, whatever you enjoy - have fun!
3/2/2 – Topical Dwellings
Although at first it can be expected that you will have only one central dwelling in your Project Sanctuary central space, such as a dream house, fairy castle and so forth, as your internal landscapes expand and develop, you are likely to find different dwellings for different purposes.
Holiday homes such as beach huts, mountain- or forest cabins for example are specific places for resting and restoration, contemplation or to be used for special projects (think of an author who hires a lodge somewhere quiet in a pleasing country side to complete a novel, for example, or an artist who goes to a special location and hires a studio for a series of special paintings or sculptures).
In this context, you can widen the idea of dwellings for special purposes to include camping trips, or sleeping out in the open in particular locations, in a magical cave or a magical forest grove.
Going to work, sleep or rest in a particular dwelling, shelter or location can be a tremendous help with inspiration and creativity in problem solving, but also simply provide a balance or energy that is in short supply in our ordinary waking lives.
Sandra, 42, reports going through a period in her life where every night as she went to bed, she would close her eyes and in her Project Sanctuary setting, begin to walk across a costal landscape of dunes, making her way to a beach hut. It was old, originally had been painted blue but was bleached out from the sand, sun and salt in the air and it did not contain anything other than a comfortable bed, upon which she would lie, draw a blanket over herself and fall asleep, listening to the sound of the wind and the waves on the shore.
“I really don’t know what that was or why I needed it, but I really did need it. It was so restful, so right it is really hard to describe. I was really there. It went on for nearly 3 months that I would go there and just lie in the beach hut, going to rest, being able to rest in total safety there. Even now, and this must have been nearly three years ago now, I remember the place so well, it was as real as anywhere I’ve ever been and a great deal more useful at that.”
3/3 - The Realms Beneath
Most people have some form of subterranean structures and one or more access points to this. This may take the form of caves, cellars, dungeons, lower levels of their house, or even a multi dimensional portal. One person had a pretty innocent looking door and entrance hall, but when you went through another door, you would find yourself at the top of a high escalator, looking down on what appeared like a giant magical shopping mall - levels and levels of stores, departments, shops, cafeterias etc.
Richard, on the other hand, experienced the unconscious realm as a cluttered and cob web choked dungeon like cellar, with dim lurky things in shadows, a slimy, slippery floor, and the junk and garbage of the ages piled high in every room, corner and even in the passage ways. He took one look and slammed the door on it, dually overwhelmed by the amount of work he thought it would take to restore some semblance of order.
This is a pretty common problem. Mostly when faced with that kind of clutter, the sanctuary owner seems to revert to "real world" thinking and envisage themselves for a dreary eternity, sifting through the rubbish, carting stuff here and there, as though it was a real house clearing job that required a lot of brawn rather than brain.
If you wanted to, you could just literally snap your fingers and all would be repaired, sorted, filed and arranged.
But oh no. Not a single person felt that this was appropriate, that there was some kind of hard work and suffering required and that it would take literally forever.
Fine. I suppose with all the kind of rubbish we've been fed all our lives along the lines of, "If the medicine isn't bitter, it won't work" - "Life is a vale of tears" - "No pain, no gain" and so on and so on and so on, it's hardly surprising that such a simple solution would be "like cheating", as one person put it.
So, if this happens to you, go as far as you can towards:
- at least starting on the job in some form, shape or size, thus declaring your intent to do something about it; and,
- get all the help that you can allow yourself to have at this point; it could be in the form of a tribe of hard working dwarfs, robots, relatives, giant ants, I don't care what you would like, just choose someone or other who can get on with the job even if you're not there.
I personally like the idea of putting someone intelligent in charge of such a cleaning crew, because you don't want to misplace items that might turn out to be important, and the filing and storage systems must make some kind of sense in the context of the overall structure and operation. It can be quite amusing to set something like this in action and then just visit every so often to check on the progress that's being made.
3/4 – Subterranean Treasures & Surprises
Ed found, whilst wandering through his subterranean structures, a large room with a sandy floor. In the middle of the floor was a very large pool, and in the pool lay a most beautiful sleeping golden dragon.
Many others have reported intriguing finds of this nature. Treasure chambers overflowing with sparkling gems and shining gold are certainly something that are very exciting to discover, someone else found what appeared to be a whole warehouse full of exciting children's toys; another a fully stocked medicine room with every possible substance and healing medicine ever invented; yet another discovered an art gallery with the most amazing paintings and beautiful sculptures.
See, the good ol' unconscious domains don't just contain darkness and weirdness. There's a great deal of wondrousness and beauty there too. And, remember what the guide said to the lady, "If there's wolves, it's because you've put them there."
3/5 - Dealing With Dark Rooms
Modern 24th century personal force field shield technology is a great bonus when exploring slightly - or intensely - scary parts of the subterranean regions. Taking body guards, spirit animals and protective magic along can all be very useful indeed to give your the confidence you need to allow yourself to look into "the Dark Rooms". A tip - a seriously huge torch that will shine pure white light at great intensity works extremely effectively to dis-spell just about anything that might lurk. If you take a few coloured filters along, you might even be able to overcome problems with a spot of direct colour therapy!
If the whole thing sounds still beyond you, do what a client of mine did once - instead of entering the room himself, he sent Richard Bandler (Co-developer of NLP) in first - and, as expected, the demons ran, screaming, all the way home! One lady who could not even begin to face a particularly unpleasant set of characters locked up under a giant stone slab found an arbitrator in the form of a friend’s guide to establish first tentative lines of communications.
Should the room indeed turn out to be inhabited by some creature of the night or other, don't worry too much about it. They feed only on negativity - fear, anger, hate. If you can be cheerful, or even loving, they can be set free. After an initial knee-jerk fear response, feel sorry for them - what a miserable existence they must have led, incarcerated like that, with only their own miserable company for God knows how long.
You can trust me on this.
I've accompanied many on their travels into dark rooms, and it was never as bad as had been expected. Your job is not to fight these guys, or to destroy them, but to find a way to heal and transmute them so they may be set free. You will find much more information about the specifics of re-habilitating internal dark offenders in the following chapters.
Finally on the subject of Dark Rooms I would say that such places never reveal themselves to someone who isn't yet ready to deal with them. If you find one, take it as a message that your unconscious mind considers you ready now, and that you now have all the resources you need to resolve and heal this particular situation.
3/6 - The Library
As every student knows, a well-stocked library is a tremendous resource; and, as every student knows, a badly catalogued library, no matter how well stocked, is just a lot of very frustrating and basically useless paper and binding.
I’ve often used a library metaphor for people complaining of having a "bad memory" - standard joke first, "Well, you remembered the time and you found your way here - yet again! How bad can it be?"
So, here it goes. I see memory retrieval as getting a question, and then going to a little guy behind the desk and saying to him, "Hey, I need the answer to ..." As he turns away to go look for it, I shout, "Well, go on then, what's the bloody answer?" , thus stopping him from actually being able to go away and retrieve it.
The more I shout at him, the less he's able to do his job until he folds his arms and refuses to budge at all.
I use that idea all the time to good effect. Even in the middle of a lecture, if I can't remember a name or something, I think of the poor little man and let it go - and within seconds, it's there, upon which I stop and give grateful thanks and acknowledgement. Before, I used to "rack my brain" and would wake up in the middle of the night, finally getting the answer to something I'd asked hours earlier and then moaning and groaning about the inefficiency of it all! My little man has been getting faster and faster recently, and I have hardly ever any problem now with any kind of memory retrieval - thanks to much better internal staff relationship scheme!
But back to the internal library. It might need re-organising, updating, cross-referencing or similar work done on it; one lady was horrified to notice that some of the books were in danger of falling apart or crumbling into dust and felt the strong need to start a restoration programme at once and before more damage was done; or it may be glorious just the way it is.
By the way, you needn't confine yourself to books. A musician client had a section with CD's, vinyl and audio tapes; another client had a library plus video library. Quite a few people use computer terminals and hi-tech search options to find what they're looking for.
How, or if you're going to use the library, is really up to you, but before we leave the library I would just draw your attention to some particularly interesting books:
3/6/1 - The Book Of Beliefs
This is a great big leather bound book in which your beliefs are written when they are decided upon, with blank pages for new beliefs to be added.
You could have a book of decisions instead; either way, you can erase old beliefs from the books and write in new ones which are more supportive.
If you use affirmations as a real world activity, putting these into an appropriate book in your internal library can certainly be very helpful for the affirmations to succeed. Someone I know actually gave up writing affirmations for real and hired a little monk who would sit in the library 8 hours a day, writing the statements in beautiful calligraphy over and over again.
3/6/2 - The Book Of Shadows
This is the title of journals kept by magicians all through their training and mastery years and these books would, upon their owner's death, contain their life’s work and many useful and original magic spells.
We all have small and large revelations of some kind or another; virtually every day, there's a little insight, a new piece of understanding, or simply something that struck our curiosity. Putting these into your personal Book Of Shadows is an interesting and beneficial experience; looking up past revelations and understandings can be of tremendous use in many situations.
3/6/3 - The Book Of Dreams
Most people experience what I call "a profound dream" every so often - a dream that is so vivid and stays in your mind so strongly that you can recall it even years after you had it, just as though it was something that had "really happened".
Placing such a dream in the form of a symbol, a description or even a picture into a dream book, or in more modern terms, to make a video or CD-Rom library of such important dreams, at the very least signals the unconscious that you are willing to take note. You can then look up past dreams and find your understanding of what's going on increasing as time goes by.
One young man, Steven, used radical technology instead - he installed a computer filing system for dreams with an automatic search function to determine recurrent symbolism, subjects, archetypes and situations. Now that's not my cup of tea, but it did work for him and helped him figure out what he was supposed to do about a recurring nightmare all by himself and with no assistance from me or anyone else.
My personal dream book has both pictures and brief descriptive comments; I was looking through it the other day and there was a progression of interspersed dreams I had never noticed before - a particular kind of animal had gone through a complete transformation over the period of five years and a series of nine seemingly unrelated dreams.
This is one of the nice things about sanctuary work - once urgent problems have been resolved, you have time for idle exploration and fascinating little voyages of discovery that will always end up teaching you something important about yourself.