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" Live out of your imagination

not your history "

Stephen R. Covey

Taking Refuge: Victim Consciousness or a Path to Liberation? Tea with a Druid 49

November 13th, 2018

This week I feel drawn to talking about the idea of refuge. It’s easy to think of a refuge or shelter as a place of failure and fear: it’s where homeless people go, where women who are escaping abusive partners go. They are necessary, vital, places and we need more of them. But if we are not truly broken by circumstances, if we are not homeless or being physically abused, it is easy to think that we don’t need to take refuge. Or that any desire within us for this is a sign of weakness. But in many traditions it is a treasured concept. The universality of this idea suggests it is pointing to something of deep value to us. We are perhaps most familiar with the Buddhist idea of taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha – the teacher, the teachings, and the community that has gathered around them. But you find it in Jainism and Hinduism too. You find it in Christianity and Islam – taking refuge in God, in Allah.

For those of us who pride ourselves on independence of thinking, on our freedom from the chains of dogma, the idea that we should take refuge seems to go against the grain, as if we are being infantilised – treated like children – or are being urged to take on a kind of victim consciousness, which needs protection.

But what if we draw not on our beliefs about religion and its dogmas, but on our experience of life itself? The refuge then becomes the cluster of trees that gives shelter to the sheep on a windswept hill, the mountain hut that you fall into cold and exhausted when trekking, the arms of a lover who comforts you when you are hurting. I think of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush singing that wonderful song ‘Don’t give up’ which depicts the giving and acceptance of refuge so movingly:

The world can seem so cold and bleak sometimes, we all need to be able to seek refuge – to feel safe, to find again our centre, our soul, our brothers and sisters, our connection with the All.

5 Responses to “Taking Refuge: Victim Consciousness or a Path to Liberation? Tea with a Druid 49”

  1. Beautiful song, so moving. So importantant to find these places, these people, of refuge. Like these times together in the grove.
    It struck me as you were talking about this on Monday how many people seem to have forgotten when they hear the word ‘refugee’ that these are not invaders, but fellow human beings seeking just that, refuge.

  2. I’d forgotten how utterly beautiful that song is. There is refuge in so many places, in so many ways. Once accepted and given it changes so much.

  3. At a music event earlier this year, we were taught a short song – a modern one. It was all about being shelter for someone. It stuck in my head as our house is called “Fasgadh” Gaelic for shelter. It’s on an album with Gillian Fleetwood (who was teaching it to us). I’ll see if I can still remember the words:
    Pull, pull out my lungs, pull out my heart, if you should need them.
    I’ll, i’ll be your blood, i’ll be your bones, if you should need them.
    Carry sticks, carry stones, carry rocks, build our home.
    Outside the wolves do roam, let them, let them.
    Shelter. I will be your shelter.
    Shelter. Your shelter.

    And the tune is lovely.
    A very relevant ‘Tea with a Druid ‘ to me. Thank you Philip.

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