On Sanctuary



Sarongs on sail. photo: Steven Scurletis

photo: Steven Scurletis

While no one single word can possibly describe the experience known as Midwest Men’s Festival, Sanctuary must certainly be on the short list.

Two men performed a reading of On Sanctuary, a moving essay written by Stella Maris, at last summer’s KnowTalent Show-unplugged. Maris’ reflection moved many of the men there, as the reading seemed to describe the MMF experience. With the blessing of the author, an excerpt is published here, with a link to the entire work below.


Sanctuary is a way of being. It is a verb more than a noun, a process more than a state, a practice more than an ideal, and a context more than a place.

Sanctuary is an energetic field of welcome, acceptance, and love that arises from the intentions and actions of all who enter into it. Sanctuary is a space of possibility created in each moment by the quality of our interbeingness with ourselves and everyone and everything else.

Sanctuary exists within a context of holy separation: outside of everyday life, yet interdependent with it. Sanctuary thrives within a strong yet permeable container: held with intention, defined by traditions and agreements, and maintained through our commitments to respect and tend its boundaries.

Sanctuary is a communal spiritual practice and an ongoing magical working. It requires and inspires kindness, discernment, patience, improvisation, tenacity, humility, and devotion. It is potent medicine for loneliness, selfishness, despair, and other suffering caused by modern delusions of separateness.

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Sanctuary is the manifestation of a communal commitment to the practice of radical hospitality. It arises from hearts overflowing with gratitude and the desire to pass on and amplify blessings received.

Sanctuary makes sense and can function only within the context of a gift economy. Sanctuary subverts scarcity by cultivating a culture of generous and abundant sharing. It calls forth our willingness to give beyond what we receive, and to be happily indebted for gifts we can never repay.

Sanctuary is rooted in a mycelial web of kinship, friendship, and lovership: relationships of mutual caring, respect, and trust. It is blessed and protected by all the beings and spirits with whom we exist in such relation. The well-being and capacity of sanctuary are determined by the strength of our commitments to these relationships.

Sanctuary is hard work. Sanctuary demands sacrifice. Sanctuary puts us through initiatory ordeals that make us and our community grow up.

Sanctuary calls us to self-care. Tending sanctuary does not relieve us of the responsibility of caring for our own needs. Rather, it enlarges our capacity for service by teaching that caring for others requires caring for ourselves first.

You are encouraged to click here to read On Sanctuary in its entirety.


A few of the comments from some of the men in attendance:

I think this statement written by Stella Maris is one of the best things I have ever read about sanctuary either permanent or temporary such as Mensfest or Camp Camp. I continue to swish it around the palate of my heart and brain like a fine vintage and find little to spit out.

A gentle kiss to those who cast the circle and to those bold enough to step within it. The ancestors watch as we continue our bold experiment of queer men learning to live together under our own terms surely a place no man has gone before. And at times we will walk through shit but let’s walk through it while wearing fabulous red high heels!



This is a great distillation of some of the intangible that makes Festival so unique and precious and a touchstone for me to remember what we create together. THANKS, Michael for sharing!

And Michael, come back and be among us again – you are missed.



Wow, this is so powerful. Read it and substitute sanctuary with MMF. Or maybe we change our name to Midwest Men’s Sanctuary.

I think we should have a circle and read through this as a group. It answers so many questions around what I think we are trying to do.



This speaks to the essence of heart circle.



SG and SC (and I forget your new name, sorry) I loved your unplugged performance of Sanctuary. And SC you gave me your copy, and when I was unpacking I couldn’t find it. Is it possible to send it to me electronically? Or could you remind me of its author please? I’d really like to use some of the concepts within my classroom this year.

Thank you!