Ep. 190: Islands of Sanctuary – Being a Refuge for Your People

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I’m willing to be wrong about this, but it seems we can no longer solve the global problems of this time (climate change, poverty, violence, and more) at the global level. 


The scale feels like it has become too large. In many areas, we have gone beyond the option of reversing our mistakes.


The conditions necessary to implement the solutions aren’t in place (the capacity to take courageous political action, willingness for collaboration across borders, placing compassion and the good of the whole over self-interest, for examples).


I’m starting to consider that perhaps we need to move beyond the concept of “changing the world.” While thinking at a global scale sounds optimistic and important, it’s can also be overwhelming and often leads to apathy when we try to change things that we have no power to change.


And again, in many ways, we there are many things going on in the world that we can’t change anymore.


As a result, many of us feel that we have to protect ourselves from the increasing toxicity of this world by withdrawing – in my case, this looks like constant fantasizing about disappearing into granite mountains. 


This withdrawal can also look like buffering with overworking, busyness, and stuffing away our difficult emotions like despair, grief and powerlessness.


But not being with reality and our authentic emotions is exhausting and ineffective.


So if we might need to admit that we can’t change the world in the same way that seemed possible even just 20 years ago, what CAN we do?


Margaret Wheatley, a leader in the field of organizational development, uses a term here called “Islands of Sanity.” These places are dedicated to doing the work together and creating the conditions for humans to be creative, generous, and kind amidst the chaos and toxicity of the world around us.


She states that these aren’t places to feel comfort, per se; she places more emphasis on creating conditions for important work to be done.


However, I prefer the term “Islands of Sanctuary,” because it is absolutely necessary for effective changemakers to have a place that is nourishing and comforting as well; a place to reset our nervous systems so we can build the resilience needed for the unavoidable chaos around us.


Wheatley emphasizes that while this descent into chaos can be a necessary part of the birth of a new way of being, we can’t skip the chaos that is to come and only focus on what happens after.


This descent into chaos is a part of the cycle that we need to prepare for. 


She explains that this “chaos cycle,” when things fall apart, forces the system to abandon its old ways and respond to the new, because those old beliefs, meanings, and structures no longer work now that the environment has changed.


Preparing for this isn’t all doom and gloom. We can use a mountaineering analogy. -and you know how much I love those! – and knowing a storm is coming when you’re on an exposed ridge.


We can do our best to prepare. We can “bomb proof” the camp, tying everything down and putting away anything that might blow away, protecting our gear.


We bust out the playing cards we brought to weather out these storms in our tent – for a potentially LONG time. 


We get our heads on straight for a long ride and try to make the most of it. We write bad poetry or play card games and tell horribly hilarious jokes.


Then when the sun eventually comes out, we can dry out our gear and laugh with our companions as we read our (bad) poetry under the clear skies.


However, what if we don’t prepare? What if we choose to just pretend the storm isn’t coming, or just focus on the fact that the sun will come out again someday?


We’d be screwed, right?


So these Islands of Sanctuary are places of refuge, where humans and our positive qualities can still flourish during confusing times.


Where our people can prepare for the storm, and even continue to experience moments of joy.


Where humans can expect generosity, kindness and creativity as the norm, and give it willingly in return.


Wheatley chooses to use the concept of an island because to protect these qualities, we need to set this island apart from the toxic and destructive dynamics of modern industrial growth society “on the mainland.”


It doesn’t have to be a physical place (though it can be… I think of the literal islands of Hawai’i for my family and me). Moreso, it’s a philosophical orientation and commitment to our deepest commitment to contribute to our people in meaningful and purposeful ways.


Islands of Sanctuary can help us escape the distrust, anger, fear, and apathy that often comes as a result of the chaos around us.


We can choose to create these islands for our people, dedicated to creating conditions for more people to realize their best human qualities.


Now, we can’t do this alone. We need to gather and bring our diverse ideas together, experience times of struggle together and stay together, fail, succeed, learn, forgive, bounce back again. 


These islands give us a sense of hope that there is meaningful action AND of the possibility of rest and restoration…and a sense of belonging.


We need to be together, and when we’re isolated by conflict and fear, we literally go crazy. And goddess knows that’s the last thing this Earth needs!


We don’t need to start a non-profit (but you could!) – we can also create these Islands within our own household, with friends, colleagues, and in our spiritual communities.


Being an Island of Sanctuary for our people is an honorable role. Wheatley says, “At dark times in history, a small group of people arise to protect and defend what is most valued. In this era, the human spirit and the spirit of Life are in great need of protection.”


We can change that. You can. And like the Shambala Warrior, we can do this with the weapons of wisdom and compassion, which the Islands of Sanctuary help cultivate so we can have wise compassionate citizens amongst us.


So, I want to ask: in the midst of the uncertainty of these times, can you be an Island of Sanctuary for your people? A place of refuge?


Are you willing to consider being someone in your community who people can look to to feel safe, unjudged, calm, at peace… A place where they can feel seen, heard, and inspired to manifest their qualities of generosity, creativity and kindness to contribute to society in their own unique way, when everything else is screaming hide and think of yourself?


I really really hope so, my friends. Please say yes…or at least maybe.

You will learn:

// Why “saving the world” might not be as noble as it sounds

// The dangers of not having discernment about what we can and cannot change

// The importance of helping those within our reach

// What Islands of Sanctuary are and why they’re so necessary for effective changemakers

// Why we can’t skip the chaos and collapse, no matter how much we want to – and how we can prepare for it

// Qualities of an Island of Sanctuary for yourself AND your community


// Episode 188: Connected in Our Grief and Wonder


// Episode 179: Medicine for These Times


// OK my friends, as we arrive in a brand new year, If you’re looking for your own Island of Sanctuary to do this deeper work, to open to truth and most importantly to the truth of your own soul, come join me in the Adventure Mastermind.


It’s a small group of self-identified women (you’ll probably never see a group this small in the coaching world and certainly not in altered states work these days), and we have an absolutely magical curated experience for you to go deep. Head on over to AdventureMastermind.com and apply now – we’ve got some great bonuses too!


// Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Plus, we have entire months devoted to wisdom and compassion. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there!

// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.