“Remembering Donald: A Tribute to a Good Man”

In my three heartfelt encounters with Donald before his passing, I was struck by his gracious and humble spirit. Together, we meticulously planned his funeral service, from newspaper announcement, music to the eulogy. 

His legacy was simple yet profound—to be a good man. Donald’s contentment in recounting his happy life served as a testament to the depth of his character. 

In his quiet way, he reminded us of all that a life lived with kindness and humility leaves a lasting impact, far greater than any accolades or possessions. 

Donald’s memory continues to inspire us to be better, to be good people, just as he was.

‘Hear beyond words’

In this second offering exploring our motto we are considering the line `hear beyond words`. We are told that only 8% of all communication is speech. However most of us give much more credence to the words we hear than the manner in which they are spoken or the context in which they are said. Not forgetting `hearing` the words that are unspoken.

It is easy for us to remain at the level of words. It can be so easy to hear the words and then judge and respond from our judgement  keeping both the speaker and ourselves trapped at the level of words. Words à  miss-interpretation à reaction : which is invariably experienced as a `lose, lose` situation. 

Sometimes our non-listening can be  disguised as the polite chat we engage in with others, it might be at work, shopping or just seeing people  in passing. We have all done it, walking into Tesco ( other supermarkets are available) we pass someone we know and ask how they are without breaking step…as for the answer, how often do they or we call “fine thanks” over our shoulders. How are they really? How are we really? Might it be nice to spend a few minutes being honest and real with someone?

In this state of rush we can,  and often do, miss the subtext, the context, the body language, the subtleties of cadence, pitch and vocabulary.  As it is wisely said, hear what is not said, or, as Rumi said 

“There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen”

Listen to the tone of the voice,  the timbre, the hesitations,  sighs and what is left unsaid. Herein lies the truth. 

In the Open Sanctuary our aim is always to have time to listen, to stop and hear how the other truly is, to listen more deeply and tune into their language. To hear when ` I am fine` really means I am lonely/drowning/confused/help me and any number of subtle truths the other is desperate to say but has no place to utter the words.

In these modern times there is no `acceptable` place to go to be heard by a truly open mind. Yet there you are, in the post office queue, at work, with family or friends, a walking Sanctuary. 

It sounds so easy, to just listen, however to do so consciously is another matter. Have a conversation with a friend  and commit to listening to your inner motivation and see how it plays out. You may become aware of your desire to join in,  to fix, to cure, to sort out, to advise, to know more, to diffuse, to make a joke, to cheer up etc. In other words not listen to the other as there is too much focus on your part in the conversation…when lost in these thoughts we are not hearing the other and, in truth, doing a form of what politicians do. Answering what we want to say rather than truly hear the other.. Discovering who you are when in communication  is a huge step . For this self-knowing  alone opens the door to hearing more 

In the Open Sanctuary  we aim to listen , just be there,  we do not speak as the other feels our listening and is enveloped in the sanctuary we offer. Everyone has their own inner voice guiding them, we are just safe, gentle sounding boards offering a sanctuary for verbal release allowing them to hear their own story…. And their own solutions.   Breathe, just breathe.



One of the remits of the Open Sanctuary is in supporting each other discern their core truth and live their spiritual belief to best of their ability. Deepening understanding of the values that support living in close alignment with that core belief. 

To further this, I offer an expansion on the motto of the Open Sanctuary in the next couple of blogs. Taking a line at a time what does it mean to see through masks? 

“Sees through masks

Hears beyond words

Loves unconditionally”

Do you remember the last time you held the gaze of a baby, that unflinching open look of pure innocence. The feeling that they, in their purity, see into the heart of us, know our true self and still maintain the gaze. Perhaps this is a form of Divine connection… in that gaze we are seen, we are not judged but accepted, loved and held.

As we grow older, we engage with more of life and the masks begin to appear. The smiles in order to please, be liked, needed, or a haughty look to protect a fear of inadequacy, or being found out; the masks of daughter or son, sibling or friend, partner or workmate etc. There are as many masks as there are emotions that we will interchange as and when we feel the need.

But who are we really?

This is a huge question and is worthy of much honesty, time and percolation as only when we recognise a mask can we gain awareness in which the need for the mask dissolves away. 

We won’t tackle that here, but it is an important part of growth in self-awareness as it   from here, our current state of self-awareness, that we engage with the `outside world`.

The desire to be truly see is the ultimate Catch 22 situation, as much as we desire being fully seen we are equally terrified of being seen and then rejected. It all links back to a deep belief we are not worthy. 

Here in the Open Sanctuary our motto reminds us what we are offering each person we encounter; the gift of being seen, truly seen, seen beyond the masks of protection, or the image that they project; we see beyond to their inner gentle innocence that is who they really are. In seeing the other at this depth, we remind them of their Divine inheritance.

Start this journey by looking into your own eyes in the mirror…and bless who you see.


A beautiful harbinger of 2023

Welcome to our blog.

Recently the Open Sanctuary had a community meeting, the first in our new community formation. It felt timeous that it happened so early in the new year,

A beautiful harbinger of 2023. 

Having been absent for a while it was a heart warming experience to return to the fold and feel held. Not just in smiling faces and warm words, which are received by a tender heart, thank you; also in witnessing and sharing in the respect given and received by all members of the community.

A perfect reminder of how these values that we explore as a community can share in our personal spiritual journeys; through designated gatherings, speakers, short and long courses committing to deepening personal growth. Simultaneously being creative in our openness to others through offering more in our website, in our prayers as well as physically planting more trees in our Grove honouring nature and the planet.

It is an exciting time enhancing the Open Sanctuary website and community with so many community members offering experience, wisdom and creative skills both relevant for the present and also looking ahead to the future.

These offerings will appear as they are addressed and made manifest.

The meeting ended up over-running yet the attention remained focussed throughout reminding me of the depth of commitment this community holds in maintaining its ethos. 

“See through masks

Hear beyond words

Hold in  unconditional love.”

Being a part of a community like ours means you are never alone.

I have always seen convents, monasteries, communities like ours as beacons of light shining love and peace upon the world through our intention to, as Mahatma Gandhi would say….

“Be the change you want to see”

Join us, we have many different ways in which to engage.

Have a blessed day


Life is a Lifelong Lesson/5

Over the past three months I have lost 3 friends.  Each relationship was very different and related to a different part of my life.  One friendship was over 30 years, one over 50 years, and one of 65 years standing.

This prompts the reflection that each life has a limited span, and this takes me on again to the thought that “Life is a Life Long Lesson” (regardless  of how long that particular life is)

I have mentioned before in this space that am fortunate to live in the Highlands of Scotland where we have recently had a spell of good weather… this can occasionally happen in March !

As a result of Covid, vulnerability, and isolation I have rarely been anywhere over the past couple of years so when we recently enjoyed a good spell of weather I decided just to make the most of it.   

Now it appears clear that this was a real gift, and given for the purpose of reflection.

Day 1.  A trip to Findhorn.   I used to live fifteen minutes from Findhorn and much of my Spiritual reflection and indeed emotional healing (post divorce) was done pounding the beaches on the Moray Firth, beaches not only at Findhorn but elsewhere on that coast.  This was a short day away and is not far from home but set me up for what was to come.

Day 2.  Three days later I set forth early, with thermos and sandwich !  

Three weeks earlier I had noted an article in our local paper on an Iron Age Broch which was being maintained (made safe) up on the West Coast.  I cut out the article !!  

I arrived in Ullapool and there was not a breath of wind. The water was totally still with true reflection of moored boats and the surrounding snow covered hills … so rare and quite magical. 

On I went, driving north.  Not a cloud in the sky and the magnificent mountains of Assynt standing proud and clear, then on into Sutherland where they are the same.   How is it that I have only recently found this mind blowing area?  I came to the turnoff indicated in the article and tiptoed along a single track road….somewhere I had never been before… such a rollercoaster, and much care and concentration was needed.   

I really thought I was lost but how is this possible on a single track road in the middle of no where?  When I came to a row of cottages (one with washing hanging out in the sun) I went and knocked on the door to reassure myself that I was indeed going the right way.  Yes, I was good, and there was not much further to go.

I parked in a church car park.  Put on some serious walking boots grabbed my walking poles and set off.

It was not far but the walk was challenging… over a five bar gate, along a beach, walking on a difficult stone area, and negotiating the access to the broch which on arrival took me back 3,000 years.

I was alone there. With my thoughts for company I carefully explored the building.  Quite, quite, extraordinary.  The sun continued to shine, with the sound of the sea so close as I thought about those brave souls who created this place.  Their families, their way of life…..  utterly mind blowing.

The return walk to the car was also challenging as I thought I spied an easier route, but this resulted in having to negotiate two styles…. with two artificial hips, and an unreliable knee this too was a challenge.  However back at the car a well earned cuppa from my thermos was enjoyed.

The drive home was equally fabulous.   Stopping in Ullapool for a chippy then a quick dash out of the village before the ferry from the Western Isles came in with the ferry traffic filling the road.

The roads were clear through to Inverness, and then on home.

I love to drive, and spent much of my latter working life driving in remote areas for work.  So this day was a joy and the driving no chore.  This left my mind free to reflect on the lives of those who lived in the areas I had visited that day.  How different were their lives from ours today.  Every life has its journey, and challenges and thereafter its lessons.  

Regardless of the lives we lead, indeed regardless of which century we live in, we each have our lessons to learn.

Day 3.  The following day was again another wonderful weather day.   Thermos in hand off I set again, this time I decided to explore another area I had never visited before.   There is a small particularly picturesque village on the way to Skye.   Skye I know, but not Plockton.  I drove the northern route to Inverness, and then on to Plockton via Strathcarron.   It lives up to everything that is said of it!  Quite beautiful, friendly, and I loved spending a few hours just wandering around and exploring.   

Then, I went on to Skye, which I know.  I returned briefly to familiar corners loving the fact that this is all pre-season, with the peace and space to take time just to be.   Again grabbing a chippy as I left Skye, I drove on to Eileen Donan Castle (built from the 13th to the 16th century).  There I sat quietly and enjoyed my supper sitting in the car and watching the sun set behind the castle.   Then onwards home the big decision being which route to take.   

That decision is for me to know and you to guess !! However it was a good clear run home after another fabulous day.

I have wonderful photos from these few days, but as I couldn’t decide which one to put into this I have decided not to put any in…!   They are all snapshots in my mind anyway, as well as on my phone….. If you wish to see them you just need to ask !

The lesson I learned from this magical period is:


See you all next month – April!

With love,

Sarah Jane x

Life is a Lifelong lesson/4

This month is flying by.  
There has been so much happening it has been hard to find the time to write a few words.
February is well known to be a difficult time of the year.   Days are short and dark, the weather is traditionally bad, and many of us struggle to find our way through.

This February I have found particularly difficult as I have  lost one of my dearest friends:  “my spiritual buddy”.  Death is so final; but nature teaches us that out of death comes opportunity for a new perspective of life.  In time the death of a loved one does indeed give the opportunity for reflection, growth, learning, and eventually realignment, both internal, and external.

So, here I am.   

These past few days have seen terrible storms country wide.  Yesterday in the Highlands of Scotland we then had heavy snow. 
This morning I woke to glorious sunshine and inches of snow outside.  The snow covers all the debris from the storm, and with the shining sunlight, it is a gloriously bright day to behold. I have just returned from walking where it is safe in the village and surrounding fields and woods.  The sun still shines and the birds are singing.  It is a glorious day, and such a joy to be alive and to live in such a place.

It is time to be thankful and to be filled with gratitude for the opportunity to realign, and that such a lesson can be a lesson for life.

With love,
Sarah Jane

Life is a Life long Lesson/3

We have arrived in this new year of 2022 with many social activities postponed or cancelled for the second year.  In my case this situation gave me more time to reflect, but sadly not the enthusiasm to transfer these reflections to paper !

However at last, as we are now in mid January, here I am with ‘pen to paper’.

Under open sky’s (both night and day) I have from time to time walked and reflected on the passing of the past year.

This, of course, brought up the subject of the covid pandemic, which led inevitably to the subject of love and loss.

As I held these thoughts at this time of the new year, my mind travelled back just over 100 years to 1918-1920 and the Spanish Flu epidemic.

My own mother lost her mother at this time and at a very young age.  Some years ago as my own Mama approached the end of her life we talked of this event in 1918 when she was only 11 years old, her mothers’ only child, and the impact it had on her life, both positive and negative.

This series of blogs is entitled “Life is a life long Lesson”.  Sometimes perhaps this may apply not only within our own lives, but within the lives of those who have gone before, and what they may have learned from their life’s journey.  Sometimes perhaps the lessons we need to learn come from not only our own inner voice, but to listening now (and possibly even again! )to the voices of those who love and care about us ….. both past and present. 

With love and all best wishes to you all for this year of 2022.

Sarah Jane 

Life is a Life Long Lesson/2

We are now in the first week of December with all the excitement, noise and chaos that  this time of year brings.

Last weekend my family joined me here at home, just for 24 hours.  We do this every year at this time as we have so many family birthdays.   So we make the most of it, reconnecting, chatting, eating/drinking, and the grandchildren put up my Christmas tree.  Much laughter, noise, and each year the children perform or talk about something that is new or important to them.   This time the youngest has taken up the violin,  precious times and memories.

This year Covid infection meant that one of the families were isolating and couldn’t make it but we were still eight bodies and three dogs ! …. so this involved dog walking in the snowy woods….. magic !However as part of our ‘Life is a Life Long Lesson’ series I invite you over the next few weeks to each and every day stop for a few minutes to connect with your Personal Centre.Take a few deep breaths and go to that peaceful place that is there inside each of us to access at will. Know that those few valuable minutes for yourself will help centre the precious memories being created with all those around you.Know that for each and everyone of us there is love, peace, and light just waiting for us……all we have to do is take time to access it.

I would like to sign off 2021 wishing you all a very happy, peaceful light filled holiday season.

With love,  

Sarah Jane

5th December 2021

Life is a Life Long Lesson/1

This year, (and this morning) the glory of the autumn colours has given me pause to think about the cycle of the seasons, and why some years are more spectacular than others.

Is this due to circumstance of bad weather or blight throughout the year, or on other occasions does the nourishment of the sunshine and the refreshing rain encourage and result in this glory?

Or is it a combination of the two, and is this echoed in our human cycle?

Sometimes we require to be buffeted by illness, incident and/or the unpredictability of human relationships in order to come to full bloom and glory. Other times it is the love and support of those around us that nourishes us and brings about the same result.

However it comes about, regardless of our journey, at this time and as we approach winter, it gives much reassurance that the journey is as it should be, and that all roads lead home.

With love, Sarah Jane.

 November 2021

Life is a life-long lesson!

Is this what we call “life experience ?”   …. or ….. “learning by experience ?”

I have been asked to write a few words as a Blog – my response was “ what is a blog?”

I am still not sure what the answer is to either question, so please bear with me while I ponder a while.

Today as I mull this over, it becomes clear that ALL of life is learning, and the experience is what we do with the learning.  Or maybe the learning is what we have from the experience ?

Should I put that last sentence in my blog ?

I hope, maybe, that you would like to join me from time to time as I explore some of these questions.

This week is the beginning of October 2021.  This is Monday morning, and after a few weeks of glorious weather, today it is cold, wet, and miserable (in Scotland we call that dreicht!)

This is a perfect day to start a new project, a series of new experiences, and I hope that you will join me for “The Blog Ride!”

Who knows what we might all learn.

Sarah Jane

 Oct 2021