When there’s a storm blowing, people and animals take refuge from it and, in a sense, that’s what many of us are doing now. There are plenty who are still working, of course, and others very busy looking after young children or with other responsibilities. But for the majority, it is a form of retreat, or can be. Time to reflect, perhaps, and time to enjoy being oneself. It has certainly caused me to reflect on many things, including a couplet from one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s breathing meditations: “Breathing in, I go back to myself. Breathing out, I take refuge in my own island”.
Taking refuge is finding safety inside as well as out
For many years, I felt slightly uncomfortable with that. It seemed quite at odds with John Donne’s famous phrase, “no man is an island”, with which I was sternly admonished as a teenager, and which thereafter always echoed in my brain. Suddenly, though, in this enforced retreat it makes sense. Staying at home takes care of the physical refuge. It also provides the opportunity to go further than that and bring the mind home, too, closer to its natural state.
Bringing the mind home
A good start is to resist the urge to check news and social media many times a day. We just don’t need so much information. It simply irritates the mind, uses up enormous amounts of energy, and drains our qi. Why shorten life unnecessarily? Taking refuge reverses that process of looking outwards all the time. It allows the mind to come to a more peaceful place, where true creativity lies. Surprisingly quickly, we can be satisfied with less and soon find fullness, here and now. Isn’t that, deep down, what we want? What we really, really want?