Winter 2017: “Your Sacred Place” Powerful Voice Winner Mara Peruzzi

Read Mara's essay, "Candelight," about how meditative drawing helps her cope with misophonia, a disorder that causes the hatred of specific sounds.

Mara Peruzzi, a tenth grade student of Haley Campbell at Mount Madonna School in Watsonville, Calif., read and responded to the online YES! Magazine article, “Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t Forget the Whitestone Massacre.”

In this story, founder and director of Sacred Stone Camp, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard describes how her identity, history and survival are intrinsically connected to the land—and water—that is being threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline. To protect this place, Allard says they have no choice but to stand up.

Writing Prompt: Describe how you would feel if a place that defines you was threatened to be destroyed or taken away. What would you do? Would you fight to save it?


The place I consider sacred is neither physical nor concrete, but rather mental and abstract. My sacred place is the art of Zentangle, a very detailed art form that involves drawing designs that, when put together, form intricate structural patterns.

Zentangle is a beautiful and soothing thing. Its warm and welcoming hands reach into my heart and ignite my inner candlelight, quieting the bustle in my everyday life. Its radiant colors waltz across the page, hand in hand with my pencil and, “poof!” my frustration disappears.

Creating Zentangles is my personal therapy. Here, in this mindset, I’m free from the buzz and chatter of noise, and from the violent blizzard of anxiety that small sounds conjure up in my mind, freezing me, paralyzing me with insecurities. When I’m drawing, nothing interrupts the quiet. The flourishing fire inside of me is protected by a sturdy and sure barrier: the power of my mind. I feel safe from disruptions and self-condemning parasites. And, most importantly, I feel in touch with my surroundings and with my heart.

Unfortunately, I can’t stay in this paradise without a fight against an opposing force. I have recently been diagnosed with misophonia, “hatred of sounds,” a rare neuropsychiatric sound sensitivity disorder that causes severe annoyance and anxiety when triggered by small specific sounds like chewing, sniffling, clicking, typing, breathing, or almost any repetitive noise.

To me, seeing and hearing someone chew (especially gum) is as if an annoying little brother is yelling and poking me non-stop. Sometimes, someone breathing through their nose gives me the anxiety of nails being scraped across a chalkboard. With the click of a pencil, I feel like a ticking time bomb about to explode. Sniffling makes me feel like a jackhammer is tearing up a concrete sidewalk right next to me. While sounds like these may not bother the average person, for me they make my soul feel like ice. My sacred place is destroyed, and my inner candlelight is extinguished.

It is hard for most people to grasp this rare concept because it’s something they’ve never experienced. Misophonia may sound unrealistic but it’s a very personal part of my life that I am forced to deal with every day. When the blizzard of sensitivities strikes, it leaves me with a whirlwind of insecurities: What is misophonia? If only a minuscule fraction of the population has this, why me? How can so many little sounds irritate me so much? What’s wrong with me? These are the questions I ask myself, but I have recently learned that asking these questions won’t get me anywhere. Instead, I jump to the most important question: How can I get out of my own head? As the Dalai Lama said, “Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” By keeping in touch with our bodies and creating an enlightened sacred space—like I have done with art—we can rid ourselves of worries and excess anxiety. 

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard states in her YES! Magazine article, “Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t Forget the Whitestone Massacre,” that “We are the river, and the river is us. We have no choice but to stand up.” This quote shows the importance of standing up for yourself, or a part of you that you love. The quietness of art has always been a part of me, and I am a part of it. I have no choice but to stand up when misophonia threatens to destroy my sacred place of art and calm my state of mind. I must use the power of my mind to fend off the blizzard of sensitivities.

I am making it my mission to shield myself from this blizzard, and to keep my inner candle lit. When I developed this rare sound sensitivity, I also nourished and redefined the beauty of Zentangle and its peacefulness. I dug out the artwork I had created before my diagnosis, looking for inspiration to get back to a safe state of mind. When I am focused on art, I can quiet the howling storm and focus on the path to mindfulness.

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