We all need a little sanctuary in our lives. A place where we can let down our walls, let the barriers fall and simply be ourselves, wrapped in the security and safety of knowing that we are held. My patron goddess, Nemetona, provides me with many opportunities to savour this precious moment, and to help create it for others. She is the Lady of Holding, of Sacred Space, of Sanctuary.
Often when we meet others, especially human beings, our walls shoot up if they haven’t already been erected, and we are on the defensive. We regard others warily, perhaps even as enemies; guilty until proven innocent. A certain wariness around strangers makes sense – it’s an innate human instinct that we also see reflected elsewhere in the animal kingdom. It is a form of self-preservation. However, what I would posit is that we become so used to keeping those walls up, that we barricade ourselves inside our selves, unable to see the bigger picture, unable to truly experience compassion.
I am not saying that we should allow others to do as they will to us – wilfully harming another person in any way is completely wrong. So often when I speak of compassion, people think it is an open invitation to be trod upon, to be used and abused by those who would seek to take advantage of us. Instead, I try to explain the ideas of compassion, and also of engaged Buddhism – simply put, compassion is about trying to understand, to see around our own sense of self into the bigger picture. Engaged Buddhism is being active in a world to stop suffering, to speak up against violence and injustice and work to spread love and compassion.
My Lady Nemetona helps me with this. By coming into her sacred embrace, I find that I remember what it is like to be open, to be held, to be free in utter sanctuary. Thus inspired, I try to find ways to bring that inspiration out into the wider world, making it a better place. When we are held, when we are free to be our true selves, we also provide the opportunity for awen, for inspiration, to fill our souls with joy and wonder at the simplicity of simply being. We can then become a conduit for this energy, bringing about positive change in the world, even in the midst of suffering.
Working with Nemetona, we become aware of our boundaries, when we erect them and when we let them dissolve. We also see how we involuntarily create barriers, whether it is in our energetic fields, our communication, or our perception. Through meditation and work with this particular goddess, I have found a way of both strengthening my inner sanctuary, thereby being able to let down those walls and openly experience situations with complete awareness. In this, intention is key.
By being open, I am also being receptive to input that might otherwise pass me by through my own ego-centric mindlessness. By working with sanctuary, I can see where I have lapsed and allowed others to abuse my trust, and where I will never allow that to happen again. By being aware of how, why and who we engage with, and with what intention, we can change how we react to situation, acting with intention instead of a more reactionary type of living. By becoming engaged with my boundaries, I am aware of when I need to strengthen or release them as appropriate.
It’s been a tough ride, sometimes, working with this goddess and with compassion. It has shown me where I have failed so many times in the past. Understanding and awareness of those failures, however, is not there to deter me; they are there to remind me, lessons learned and opportunities for further growth. The key to working with boundaries and compassion, and indeed Nemetona Herself, lies in awareness – of the self, of others and of the world at large. It’s not an easy path, but one well worth walking. It can lead us down the shadowy paths in the long dark night of the soul, but we can emerge into the light of the sacred forest grove, whether it be dappled sunlight, pale moonlight or starshine. In that emergence lies our true nature, inspired by nature and surrounded by our natural sanctuary.
In that emergence lies our freedom.