Where are you taking refuge?
As well as being a yoga teacher, I also have another job, helping families in difficult situations. So, I have a chance to meet daily with people who are in a struggle with their health or who are overwhelmed with a new family situation.
It gives me a small insight into how different people deal with new and unwelcome situations.
The main difference that I see is between people who have a place where they can go for refuge and people who don’t.
Here I borrow the concept of Refuge from the Buddhist teachings, like I often do
For me, it means a place you go to when problems come up, a direction you navigate to when feeling lost.
In the Buddhist tradition, we take refuge in the Buddha himself, his teachings and the community of follow practitioners (to put it simply).
But I find that it doesn’t really matter if your place of refuge is Buddhist, Christian or even totally unreligious. It can be any worldview or even just a meaningful enough hobby. But of course, the deeper you go, the more stable your refuge will be (more about this in a sec).
The main thing is to have a place like this — a spiritual sanctuary. And the sooner, the better.
Unfortunately, the day when the shit hits the fan comes to everybody. We have no way of knowing in what form the shit will appear or when it will hit. And it comes even if we don’t want it to and even when doing everything we can in order to avoid it.
So, I think it’s a good idea to be prepared. Not so much as a matter of safety, but as a matter of acknowledgment of the reality of our human paradigm
The good things do not last forever, the bad things are sure to come. We all suffer, get sick and die at some point, but this is not a reason to not live.
When I just started with Buddhism and was interested in this concept of taking refuge, I came across this very true statement from the dear teacher Lama Yeshe:
“We have been taking refuge all our lives, though mainly in external things, hoping to find security and happiness.
Some of us take refuge in money, some in drugs. Others take refuge in food, mountain climbing or sunny beaches. Most of us seek security in a relationship with a man or a woman.
Throughout our lives we have drifted from one situation to the next, always in the expectation of final satisfaction.
Our successive involvements may sometimes offer temporary relief but, in sober truth, seeking refuge in physical possessions and transient pleasures merely deepens our confusion rather than ending it.”
The act of taking refuge is nothing new, it’s something we do constantly. Albeit, often unaware and driven by the wrong reasons. We see it all the time, people who take refuge in the wrong things and end up creating more chaos, rather than helping the situation.
Taking refuge in things that just bring us distraction and that help us forget and avoid, might be a useful solution at times, but it never uproots the real problem. Instead, the problem is likely to come back, and might even get bigger.
If your place of refuge is external, you are always at risk of it changing and becoming untrustworthy. Inner refuge, coming from spiritual and emotional strength, is always available and much more relatable.
The work of cultivating this place of refuge and strengthening your inner peace is not something to delay. It is something you need to work on regularly, cultivating new ways to deal with things.
The more you use the times of peace, when everything is going well, to work on yourself, the easier it becomes to stay strong and clear through difficult situations. This, at least, is my experience.
After many years of deep work, today I am very thankful for my own private place of refuge.
I am thankful for having one, as well as for my daily practice of strengthening it.
And especially in times of need I am thankful for my own wishes and effort to develop myself.
I am grateful for my spiritual friends and practices I can go to in times of need, and for the inner peace i’ve developed, that is now easier than ever to access.
So I ask you again:
Where are you taking refuge?
What are you doing to strengthen your inner peace?