Indeed, what is a sanctuary? And what is it a sanctuary from?

For me, sanctuaries are those mental and physical spaces where we can be ourselves. They are primarily sanctuaries from interruption. This mostly means other people’s priorities, but we also continually interrupt ourselves by judging what we are doing or thinking. Sanctuaries thus also embody acceptance and non-judgement. This allows us to almost step outside our day-to-day reality and experience ourselves in different ways.

We no longer need to keep up the exhausting pretence of being a certain way. Instead, these sanctuaries allow us to take off our masks, simply be ourselves and ponder what is truly essential to us.

They can take many forms – meditation, walks in nature, surfing, coaching experiences. We may experience them alone or in the company of other special souls who intuitively know how not to interrupt us. One of my favourite sanctuaries is a biweekly call with some coaching colleagues where we can truly take off the armour and have whatever conversations need to be had.

Sanctuaries are central to my life and my work. Indeed, much of my day is about moving from one to another. I am lucky not only to inhabit them but also to create them for others.

I have learnt that we can’t take them for granted. They offer us protection so we in turn need to consider how best to protect them from busyness and distractions. Indeed, I would invite you to not only seek to protect them but to create more and more sanctuaries where you can safely be yourself, free of the judgement of yourself or others.

Questions in the Image:

  • Where is my sanctuary?
  • What it is a sanctuary from?
  • How do I protect it?
  • How can I expand it?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh (link to This book is about reconnecting with the peace that is available to us throughout our day. It is about creating sanctuaries where we previously had stress and pressure.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day – raindrops hitting the roof remind me of Thich Nhat Hanh’s metaphor of watering seeds. I wonder what I am watering in my life? The seeds in our life and work we pay attention to, or “water,” are the ones that will grow and manifest.

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share?

I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.