A Place for Me
By Arnie King
I had never really understood the concept of sanctuary. It was always someplace far, far away in the distance, like heaven. Growing up in a large household, there were always people in my space. I lived in a room with bunk beds and filled with hand-me downs. If I was late for dinner, my portion would be cut up among the dozen hungry mouths of my siblings and several neighborhood kids. How can one find sanctuary fighting over the last piece of sweet potato pie?
To find a place to feel safe has been a personal task for most of my life. I was always searching for a location in my immediate surroundings to create peace and contentment in my heart. I was a man in search of meaning and determined to discover it.
Maybe sanctuary wasn’t a physical place, after all. I began to look for it in isolation. I sought peace under the most inhumane conditions, such as twenty-four hour lockdown in a 6' X 8' cell, with no personal interaction, and no control over any part of the environment, not even the sound, which went from extreme noise to absolute silence. During that time, I pursued a conscious contact with God through prayer and a more caring relationship with myself through meditation. I established quiet time periods in my daily schedule — pacing alone, listening to the radio, or reading literature during the early morning hours. I realized that by starting the day proper-like, I had a much better chance of maintaining serenity into nightfall. Sanctuary.
By participating in discussion groups, I have sought this special place, where I am centered and balanced. Sharing, listening, and providing service has been quite helpful for me. It’s a debt of gratitude being paid by contributing presence during another’s momentary crisis; a kindred soul aided in the midst of my many episodes. A simple return on a worthwhile investment. My own version of the butterfly effect. (Some folks believe that the motion of butterfly’s flapping wings in China could, in due time, impact the wind and weather patterns in Boston.)
Wherever I go, I’m bringing me there. To the gym, the visiting center, another prison, or the street. I’ve learned that I’m capable of sanctuary, whether alone or in the company of another. God is always present. The physical location is not as significant, compared to the degree of spirituality. Sanctuary is not a place for me to hide from problems or avoid situations. Within my sanctuary, I have a wellness of strength and courage to utilize towards resolving personal conflict, from within me and among the community. Relationships are more fulfilling when I’m able to show up.
That is my sanctuary. To enjoy a oneness and peace with God, myself, and other human beings. Wherever I go, that’s where I hope to be.
Arnie King writes from a Massachusetts prison cell, which he has occupied for over 45 years. Comments can be sent to Arnie at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: Arnie King (W33734) MCI-Norfolk, Box 43, Norfolk, MA 02056.