A Sound Mind

Creating a place of sanctuary

During the run up to October 10th 2021, the date set aside for World Mental Health Day, I have been asking myself “What can I do to make a difference..?”

As with so many other causes we are asked to be mindful of, throughout the year, it’s very easy to talk ourselves into a state of inactivity; telling ourselves that any contribution we might have made wouldn’t have made a significant difference. How wrong could we be..?  

As I write this, I’m reminded of a short story by Loren Eisley; about a young boy who is picking up starfish and throwing them back into the sea. (I’ll provide a link at the end of this article for those that would like to read it.) In this modern-day world of extremes, where individuals at both ends of the spectrum are struggling to navigate their way through the day-to-day challenges confronting them, we should never underestimate the importance of having somewhere to retreat to. A place where we can attempt to restore the balance when life has thrown us a curved ball. A place where we can reenergise and begin the healing process.  

“A place where we can find help, comfort and relief.”

It doesn’t have to be somewhere grandiose or costly. It could be as simple as dimming the lights, sinking into a comfy armchair and listening to a relaxing piece of music. Other ways might include going for a walk and immersing yourself in nature, standing by the ocean and watching waves crash upon the rocks or looking up at the stars on a cloudless and moonless night.

They don’t have to be solitary places. Sometimes we might just need some company; in the form of a trusted family member, a valued friend, a kindly neighbour or an understanding colleague. Maybe a chat over a cup of tea, or while walking in the park, is enough to change our perspective on things. A timely telephone call might also be enough.   

The occasional need to find some form of sanctuary in our lives, isn’t the preserve of any specific age group. It can be a requirement at any age. I can well remember how important it was, as a child, to be able to seek refuge at either my Grandfather’s or Auntie’s house; whenever things at home became unbearable. Which, for the most part, was due to arguments between my mother and father. 

As children, we were also lucky to live next to cornfields surrounded by hedgerows of hazel and hawthorn;  beyond which was a beautiful wood that filled each spring with native bluebells. Many is the time that I would seek sanctuary there. The truth is, not everyone has such a fabulous place to retreat to when needing to take some time out. Nor do they always have a person to turn to when they feel the need to talk to someone.

It is for this reason that The Listening Planet has teamed up with Mädchen Amick; a well-known Hollywood actor and passionate advocate of increasing awareness of mental health issues. Along with her likeminded friends, we have produced a series of beautiful and immersive meditations; designed to bring to life, within the comfort of people’s homes, some amazing places in which to escape and recharge their batteries. Places like Costa Rica, Mexico, The Serengeti and more. These will become available over the forthcoming weeks.

As for thinking you can’t do anything of any note, in respect of World Mental Health Day, just reaching out to someone is enough; either by way of a phone call, visiting a neighbour or spending time chatting with a homeless person. Not only will it make them feel like you care, it will also enrich your own life.

John Hill
Trustee & Editorial Director, A Sound Mind

Here’s the story I mentioned…

Story by: Loren Eisley

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.

Then, smiling at the man, he said…“I made a difference for that one.”