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How to Restore Calm During the Storm by Taking Refuge in Your Soul

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Sensing Presence in the natural world can give you a feeling of refuge and restore your soul.

When my students tell me they feel frazzled or overwhelmed, I often ask, “Is there a place you go to in order to take refuge? A safe space to sort yourself out?” Some people look at me blankly. Occasionally, one bursts into tears. Others admit that their antidote to stress is turning on the TV, having a few glasses of wine, or tearing into a bag of chips. Sometimes, even trying to find a more creative way to relax can feel like one more demand.

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I was considering this as I listened to Dennis, a 40-year-old who is trying to run a consulting business and feels uncertain about his future. What grounds him, he says, is spending time in the woods on a Saturday afternoon. He’ll sit on a fallen log or beside a creek and let his mind quiet down, noticing a beetle crawling up a tree or the texture of the moss on the rocks beside him. After an hour in the forest, his senses open to the natural energy around him. It’s that energy, he says, that keeps him going.

Everyone needs to know how to take refuge. No matter how much you love your life, no matter how strong or motivated you may be, you will be overwhelmed at times. Maybe you’ll have to pick yourself up after a breakup, or maybe you’ll lose your job. You may simply have a hard week. At such moments, if you don’t have a habit of taking refuge, life will begin to feel like an endless treadmill. You’ll rely on the same old coping mechanisms, follow the same grooves, wondering why you don’t feel inspired or even, sometimes, able to cope. Consciously choosing to take refuge—and having a reliable way to do it—can help you find new reserves of strength, stamina, and inspiration.

See also How to Find Deeper Access to Joy: Start with a Peaceful Mind

Find Your Calm by “Taking Shelter”

The word refuge means place of shelter. But I’m not talking here about the basic physical shelter that every human being needs and deserves. I’m talking about the kind of shelter that lets you get in touch with your deepest Self, especially at times when you feel lost or overwhelmed.

What defines a refuge? First, it should help your mind calm down. Second, it should help you feel safe, even protected. On a normal day, it helps you stay connected to your center, to peace, or to the feeling that other human beings share your concerns. On a bad day, your place of refuge can restore your soul. A true space of refuge can also function as a kind of cocoon, where you retreat to do the sort of self-examination that leads to inner change. Just as lying in Savasana (Corpse Pose) can help you assimilate an hour of asana practice, retreating to your place of refuge can help you digest your life experiences. It can give you both rest and the wherewithal to act from strength.

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