The Importance of Instant Access to Your Sanctum Within
One of the best resources you can have at your disposal to centre yourself in this brave new world is your own private, safe, inner space that you can access quickly, whenever and wherever you need to. Some disciplines teach this practice as a way to calm yourself in times of panic; others use it as a meditative technique. Once created, your sanctuary within will serve these purposes and more. It may be entered for prayer, contemplation and connection to the higher realms.
No matter what our day-to-day activities demand of us, we can build a ‘virtual backroom’ to which we may retreat when necessary, retiring into our own soul. Long before the pressures of high-tech living, the coronavirus pandemic and economic recessions, and the toll they take on our mental and emotional wellbeing, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius spoke of such a sanctuary and called it an Inner Citadel. I borrowed his term for the title and have posted a brief quote from the great thinker on the topic, at the foot of this article.
The first time I tried this as a serious exercise was in the mid-1990s after joining the Rosicrucian order, AMORC. They use their own terminology and refer to this inner place as a Celestial Sanctum, but I am always cautious about describing their techniques publicly, as some of their teachings are “members only.” Coincidentally, however, during that same period, I acquired some books by Australian teacher Paul Wilson, who wrote about it as being the Calm Centre.
There are other works in the public domain, such as those by the late Shakti Gawain, whose writings are borrowed from heavily on many websites. About fifteen years ago I had the good fortune to be introduced by mutual friends to Australian speaker, Sandy MacGregor, and attend one of his seminars. Sandy (now 80 years old) is the founder of the Calm Research Centre and writes about “building your beautiful place.”
There are two points concerning my own experience that I’d like to share here. One is that it took me a rather long time to create my own Inner Citadel; the other is that, after it was “built,” I learned to access it instantly, at will. My readers will probably already be familiar with the methods of reaching a meditative state of calm, by means of deep breathing and muscle relaxation. The trick then is how to find your own personal and unique inner place.
There are a few different paths to discovering this special space. It could be based on a real location you have visited; it might be a natural setting, such as a garden, beach or waterfall; alternatively, it may take on the appearance of a man-made building, like a room, a castle or a cathedral. Size doesn’t matter: it may range from a park bench up to the Coliseum – or bigger.
Begin by getting “into the zone,” using deep-breathing and relaxing yourself. If you have a physical place where you normally go to meditate or think, perhaps a dedicated room, chair or outdoor setting, use that to perform this exercise. Soft music and incense can help, if you like them.
Although I am using words like ‘place’ and ‘space,’ the real location is within your conscious being, at the core of your true self. Some people find it necessary to anchor this to a part of their physical body when they first begin, usually either the head or the heart. To the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, the centre of being was the heart or liver; in India, they saw it as sitting directly behind the pineal gland or third eye; for most of us, it is best found by dwelling on the words “I Am” until you reach the place of the ‘me that watches me’.
The difference between this and meditation, is that you are setting out with a clear intention, which is to establish your Inner Citadel. Once your mind is clear, allow images of places to come to you, without trying too hard – just let it happen. I think that the reason it took me so long to find my place in the beginning (a couple of weeks of attempting it, as I recall) was that I was confining myself to the images that teachers had suggested to me – just as I have given you in the preceding paragraphs – of gardens, beaches or palaces.
Ultimately, my own sanctuary was none of these proposed ideals. I will not describe it to you here because that would be pointless; it would only interfere with your personal process while at the same time violating my own privacy. I like to tell myself that my Inner Citadel is unique, the odds being astronomical against anyone else conceiving of it. Yet, I must acknowledge the possibility that I have accessed some kind of cosmic archetype, a pre-existent imprint in the Akasha that I “stumbled” across, rather than creating it myself.
As you engage in this process, you are essentially using what is commonly called visualization, although some people claim they are unable to use visual imagery in these kinds of exercises. Most teachers stress the importance of using as many of your senses as you can, until you find what is right for you. Another tip often given is that you imagine yourself wandering along a pathway until the place you are looking for comes gradually into view.
In addition to using your inner sight, listen for sounds – maybe birds, rolling waves, music, or the rustling of wind among leaves. Feeling is a stronger sense for many of us: firstly such things as warmth or coolness, moistness or dryness, breezy, tingly etc; then inner feelings like happiness, excitement, pleasure. Check the setting for tastes and smells too – I have read that those who especially like cooking and food have found their special place to be in a kitchen.
It is possible you will be able to either create, or discover, your special inner place on the first try or, like me, perhaps it will take a few attempts. Either way, you will know it once you are there, and you ought not settle for anything that does not feel 100% right. It is equally important to stress that you should have only one Inner Citadel. This is essential for you to be able to access it at will, instantly and automatically. If you are wavering between two or more places that have appeared before you, it means you have not yet landed on the right one.
This initial establishment of your special inner place might seem time-consuming but, once you’ve reached it with absolute certainty, and explored it until you are fully familiar with it, you will be able to return to it again and again. Over the next few weeks and months, it will probably take a few minutes to access it, while you go through the steps of breathing, relaxing and visualizing. Then, I suggest you practice going in and out of it quickly, so that in the event you meet with sudden misfortune or a dilemma that requires your inner wisdom, it will be automatic.
Here is a tip from Sandy MacGregor on practising instant access, taken from his 1992 book, Piece of Mind: After you take a deep breath, close your eyes, raise them then lower them (keeping them shut). Raise your eyes by pretending that you’re looking at a spot on the ceiling overhead and then look straight ahead again (still with them shut). The idea is that you are getting your mind to go from the Beta to the Alpha state, just the same as the sequence it follows when you are falling asleep. Except you are really taking a short-cut to the Alpha state – your conscious mind takes control, knowing you do not want to fall asleep, but instead go straight to what Sandy calls your Peaceful Place.
There are two ideas that are often raised by practitioners: the first is that you should draw a sketch of your Inner Citadel once you have it clearly in your mind… I agree with that because it helped me to confirm my realization of my place; the second is that you share and discuss it with close friends… I strongly disagree with that – it should be for your mind only.
A final note for those who intend to use their inner sanctum as a place to contact guides, angels and beings on the higher planes: Yes, this is a good platform for doing just that and, it is important to note, you are in control here, and no being, person or thing can be present in this place without your express invitation and approval. Always let this be so.
Here is a quote from Shakti Gawain (in her book, Meditations) “In this deep, quiet, restful place within yourself you are in contact with your own deepest wisdom, your own natural inner knowingness, the part of you that’s very wise and knows everything that you need and is able to give you guidance in your life, moment by moment.”
And, I leave you with this translation of observations made by Marcus Aurelius:
“Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquility; and I affirm that tranquility is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind. Constantly then give to thyself this retreat, and renew thyself; and let thy principles be brief and fundamental, which, as soon as thou shalt recur to them, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul completely, and to send thee back free from all discontent with the things to which thou returnest. […] This then remains: Remember to retire into this little territory of thy own, and above all do not distract or strain thyself, but be free, and look at things as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal.”
– The Meditations, Book 4, Written by Marcus Aurelius in 167 AD