Creating an Inner Sanctuary

meditation, inner snctuary, inner retreat, mental calm, tranquility, peacefulnessWhenever I am working with clients I like to make them aware as soon as possible that they have responsibility for their own state, whether mental, emotional or physical.

Most people do not realise just how quickly and easily they can change how they are feeling from a ‘feel bad’ unresourceful state, to a ‘feel good’ resourceful one.

One of my favourite meditations or self-hypnosis exercises is to create an ‘Inner Sanctuary.’ A quiet place of retreat within. A place that it is possible to escape to at any time that it seems necessary.

The Inner Sanctuary may be used as a place of calm and relaxation. The Inner Sanctuary may be used as a place to rest and recuperate, to de-stress and to re-charge the batteries. The Inner Sanctuary is an excellent place of retreat for people who habitually feel anxious, worried or scared, and the Inner Sanctuary is one place it is possible to escape to from the discomfort of chronic, nagging pain.

I usually get my client or whomsoever it is to sit quietly in a chair and just allow themselves to drift off into a light trance state. If you are not yet adept at going into trance easily on your own, then just relaxing and focusing on breathing steadily and deeply is fine too.

I will then ask them to think of somewhere they have felt calm, safe and secure; a place perhaps that symbolises relaxation for them. Somewhere they can not only feel relaxed, but that also offers some feelings of safety and security.

You might like to try this meditation for yourself…


Sit in a calm relaxed fashion somewhere you will not be disturbed.

Close your eyes and take a couple of nice long, slow deep breaths and let yourself drift away to a place you can think of that is, or has been extremely relaxing for you. It may be somewhere you have been on holiday to. A place you have visited in the past. In might be a tropical beach, or somewhere in the countryside, perhaps looking out over fields, or rolling hills. It might be in a forest or a woodland glen, or perhaps a walk you remember beside a magnificent lake.

It may be somewhere you have visited only once, or several times, or somewhere you are very familiar with; however the more important to you, and therefore more memorable the better. It should at least have some emotional significance for you, even if you choose your own back garden.

Of course you may not have a place like this neatly stored away in your memory, but don’t despair because you can simply create it yourself. It doesn’t have to be real it could be a place you only know from a film, or a book, or perhaps it is somewhere you have seen in a magazine or a travel brochure and longed to visit. It is your place, your Inner Sanctuary, so you can choose wherever feels best for you!

I have several places of inner retreat that I go to at various times. Some are more calming, and some are more inspiring. Others are mere flights of fancy that don’t necessarily follow rules of the real world. How would it be to have a place to visit where you could fly, for example?

Anyway, first choose where based on the state you want to access. I am suggesting a baseline here of calmness and relaxation. Then start to imagine the details and here you should think in terms of your senses.

First picture the scene and make it more vivid by adding details that correspond to your senses. What I mean is first look around and add in as much visual detail as you can. Not only see what you see but make the scene more detailed and vivid. Look up and see the sky. Are there clouds in the sky? Is the sun shining brightly overhead? Is it day or night? If it is night time is there a moon in the sky? What kind of a moon is there? As you look around you what else do you notice? Are there trees and shrubs? Is there grass underfoot? How far can you see and what is in the distance?

As you notice all the things in this world, notice too the colours. Paint the picture now. Is the sky blue? What particular shade of blue is it? It isn’t enough to imagine grass and tell yourself it is green. What shade of green is it? Are there flowers there? What colours are they? As you look around you imagine the colours of everything you see, and if some things look dull or uninteresting jazz them up a bit with a lick of colour!

Once you have imagined the place, and the visual details, and painted in any colours as necessary think about your other senses. So far you have been working in visual mode, what about sounds? What are the sounds you hear here? Can you hear the crashing of waves on the shore, or the slapping of water against a jetty? Can you hear the sighing of wind through the trees? Can you hear birds singing, or crickets chirruping? Perhaps if you like people with you in this personal place of retreat, you may be able to hear children laughing and playing some way off in the distance? You may find it easier to think of this as your very own film that you are editing.

You have set the scene, worked out the visuals and adjusted the colour, now you are working on the soundtrack. You can even have a music track if you want to! What would that be like? What kind of gentle music would you have playing in a calm and relaxing, safe and secure place like this? Unlike a film though you can also add the sensations of taste and smell to this film experience you are creating. What does this environment smell like? Can you smell the sea, or can you smell grass? Can you smell the scent of flowers growing nearby, or is this an exotic location with rich and unusual perfumes? Have you noticed how the sense of smell and taste are inextricably linked to one another? There are some smells that can almost be tasted. Sometimes at the beach you can taste the salt in the air. If you are in the countryside there might be a fresh stream or babbling brook nearby and you might like to taste the taste of cool, refreshing spring water perhaps?

Now really know what it is like to be in this place by feeling what it is like. Notice the warmth of the sun on your skin, or the coolness of a light breeze. Reach out and touch some of the things that you see, and begin to play and interact more with the environment. Feel the waves washing over your toes, or the damp grass under your bare feet; the coolness of spring water as you walk through a stream. Feel the roughness of the bark of an old and gnarled tree. The smoothness of a pebble you pick from the stream, or the roughness of ancient rocks in the landscape. Enjoy the sensations of sand slipping through your fingers or between your toes. Notice what it is like to be standing or walking, or perhaps you would like to sit for a while and simply enjoy the view?

And lastly decide why it is that this particular place is calming and relaxing for you? This will give you some clues for the final touches. Are you alone in this place? Is it the solitude you enjoy most? Is it so unlike your own ‘real’ world that makes this place appealing? Or are there people here who are important to you? Are there valued friends and family members? Do you feel safer and more secure with them around?

The richer the sensory experience the more real this place will become for you. Also as you focus your attention on the details the deeper you will be able to go into a state of deep relaxation and trance.

Here are the main points again:

  • Choose a place that feels calm and relaxing for you. Also a place you can feel safe and secure
  • Imagine the place in your mind, and notice the details of the place you are picturing
  • Paint in the colours and add an extra dimension to the visual sensation
  • Add the soundtrack and hear the sounds
  • Smell the smells and taste the tastes
  • Feel the feelings as you enjoy textures and physical sensations
  • Make any final finishing touches

Revisit this place as often as you like to escape and relax, and enjoy!

Once you have read these instructions you might like to listen to me talking you through the process. Click here for the Free Download section.

We often practise the Inner Sanctuary meditation/guided visualisation at the Tuesday morning Meditation and Relaxation class at Oak Lodge, Fairlight. Click for more information.