Finding Your Safe Haven

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(Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House, Carmel)

Imagine you’re having a hard day. Your alarm clock woke you up suddenly while you were in the middle of a dream, leaving you dazed and groggy. Your mom called you, moaning about some little thing you did yesterday. A driver cuts you off. Someone taunts you on the street. Your friend is mad because you told him you would go surfing but now you can’t. Your neighbors are leaving messages at your door because your dog keeps running into their yard… and there is construction going on across the street. 

Life can throw us an unprecedented amount of curve balls. It seems as soon as we find some sort of peace and control, we are spun around wildly. 

What does it mean, then, to be stable? What does it mean to have peace? 

 

For some, peace is sitting on a beach far away from work. For others, it is a walk in the park. And, still, for some, peace is not a place–it is a state, a choice that one can tap into any time, anywhere. 

Of course, it won’t seem this way if we’ve been having a bad day: peace is a choice?! YEAH RIGHT! I’m not CHOOSING to feel miserable right now! 

You could say this — but you would be confusing two very different things: what happened and how you feel about it. You’re right: you did not CHOOSE to have an un-ideal experience. But, you DO choose how you appropriate it (at least to some degree). 

While that is the subject for a different (though related) post, for now, I want to give you a tool you can use immediately to bring yourself into a state of peace. It’s called: finding your safe haven.

Really, this should be called CREATING your safe haven because we’re not really finding anything at all. We’re creating a place in our mind, imbued with all the most delightful and peaceful qualities we can think of, which we can visit and retreat to if we feel disturbed or out-of-state. 

 

Here’s what you do:

 

Imagine a safe place — the safest place you can think of. It can be real – like a childhood room or a vacation spot or the home of a friend —  or you could make it up completely. 

Build a wall around this place and say: this wall is impenetrable. Nothing can enter without my permission. Nothing can stay without my permission. This is my safe place. Amen! (to seal the deal)

Once you have the location — you can see it clearly in your minds eye — I want you to walk around inside of it. Begin just by seeing the bare walls. Simplicity is better to begin with. You’re going to add more later. 

Really focus on the feelings that you want to bring into this place. This place is YOURS — give yourself what you want. What is one of your happiest moments? Recall it with vivid detail: where were you? Who or what does it involve? What did it smell like? How were you standing? How did you feel? Create a key image from this memory and put it somewhere in this room (in a corner or on a table). Make it large and obvious to yourself. 

Now think to yourself what 3 things you need to remember. For example, it may be: trust myself more, feel more certainty, stay focused, love my life, be grateful for what I have, cherish every moment… anything. 

See if you can remember a time when this was true for you (e.g. you DID trust yourself COMPLETELY, you DID feel focused like a laser beam, you DID feel undifferentiated love). If you can’t remember anything, that’s okay. Make it up! (its just the same) What would it feel like if it were true? How would you stand? What would the wind feel like running through your hair? How would you breathe? What would your hands be doing? Who would be there with you? What would they be doing? The more detail the better.

Once you’ve remembered the memory or created it in full detail, again I want you to take a key image from it — this could be anything. The only rule is: that image you use has to remind you distinctly of this memory. For example, if the memory was about feeling extremely certain of yourself at a neighborhood fair when you were a child, throwing baseballs at milk jugs and knocking them all over, then maybe your key image could be milk jugs filled with baseballs or a ferris wheel — anything to remind you clearly of this memory. 

Create these images for at least 3 other feelings or states you want to remember — either because they delight you or because they help you live more effectively. 

Once you’re done with this, you have to visit this place — constantly! The way mental architecture works is the same way most biological things work: use it or lose it. I recommend going to this place at least every morning when you wake up and every evening when you go to bed (just be sure not to bring in any negative energy with you — and if you do, to sweep it back out like dirt). 

At first, this place will only be an escape. If you’re having a rough time and need some equanimity, you can find it there (convenient, right?). However, if you keep practicing, soon you’ll find that everything you have filled your safe place with has permeated through to your daily life. 

And this is only the beginning. There are some more advanced techniques once you master this. For now, have fun with it! Experiment! You can get creative with what you add — the possibilities are infinite, limited only by your imagination!

Comment and share what you think. 

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