Take Refuge

Practice of the Week
Take Refuge
I take refuge in the Buddha, the one who shows me the way in life.
I take refuge in the Dharma, the path of understanding and love.
I take refuge in the Sangha, the community that lives in harmony and awareness.
-The Three Refuges (Buddhism)

In Hawaii one time, my wife Jan and I visited a "place of refuge." People fleeing for their lives could come there and be sheltered. Related customs exist around the world; for example, in medieval Europe, a person could take refuge in a church and be protected there.

Less formally, we all need everyday refuges from challenges, sorrows, and the occasional sheer craziness of the world. Otherwise, you get too exposed to the cold winds of life, and too drained by the daily round. Without refuge, after awhile you can feel like you're running on empty.

Refuges include people, places, memories, and ideas -- anyone or anything that provides reliable sanctuary and protection, that's reassuring, comforting, and supportive, so you can let down your guard and gather strength and wisdom.

A refuge could be:
  • curling up in bed with a good book, 
  • having a meal with friends, 
  • making a To Do list to organize your day,
  • remembering your grandmother, 
  • feeling strength in your body, 
  • trusting the findings of science, 
  • talking with a trusted friend or counselor, 
  • having faith, or 
  • reminding yourself that although you're not rich, you're financially okay.
The world's religions also have refuges that may speak to you, such as:
  • sacred settings, 
  • texts, 
  • individuals, 
  • teachings, 
  • rituals, 
  • objects, and 
  • congregations. 
Personally, one of my favorite refuges is practice itself. It makes me feel good to trust that if I keep plugging away, then I can gradually become happier and more loving.

What gives you a sense of refuge?


Make a written or mental list of at least a few things that are refuges for you. And if you can, take a moment each day to consciously take refuge in those things. You can "take refuge" in several ways:
  • Go to a refuge
  • Come from a refuge
  • Abide as a refuge
  • Sense a refuge at work in your life
Personally, it's been a breakthrough to imagine that my refuges already exist inside me, that I can live from them, as an expression of them in this life. When you take refuge in this way, you are giving yourself over to wholesome forces, and letting them work through you and carry you along.

You can take refuge explicitly, with words, by saying things in your mind like:
  • I take refuge in __________. Or 
  • I abide as __________. Or 
  • __________ flows through me.
Or just sense the refuge without words: feel what it is like for you to be in it, safe and supported, home.

Then repeat your way of taking refuge for each of your refuges. Try to do this every day, as soon as you remember to do so. It only takes a few minutes or less. And you can even do it in the middle of traffic or a meeting.

Once you have finished taking refuge, sense the good feelings and thoughts sinking deeply into you, filling you up, and weaving themselves into your being -- a resource and inner light that you'll take with you wherever you go.

For Journaling
  • How would you fill in each of the following blanks? "I take refuge in _________." "I abide as __________." "_________ flows through me." Record how various terms in the blanks feel for you.
  • Write about events in the last couple days when it was (or might have been) particularly helpful to take a moment for taking refuge. 

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For list of all weekly practices: "Spiritual Practice Directory"

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