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It will be 10 years next September after Ambika Menon embarked on the journey that is Sanctum.
Evolve Asia catches up with Ambika for her insights into the community and a look back upon her journey and vision for the future. Here are excerpts from the dialogue broadly categorised into key questions.
How do you usually introduce yourself and your line of work to lay people?
Generally I simply say I operate a healing/meditation centre; it seems to be more acceptable and easier than trying to explain the concept of a “holistic” centre. I would explain that we provide services such as yoga, meditation and complementary medicine. With those people who are familiar with such establishments, I might choose to expand on some of the more esoteric aspects of the work we do, but only if they show an interest and ask leading questions. Generally, those not familiar with centres such as Sanctum would probably ask more questions on the yoga and meditation sessions. That is always an ice-breaker!
What are the common responses?
People have been puzzled or intrigued by the idea of such places in Singapore. Then the inevitable question of is it profitable or is there a market for such services. Some do occasionally seem perturbed, probably comparing it to some of the more extreme examples of occult shops abroad.
Those who know obviously would be more interested in obtaining more information about the range of services being offered. Those who are comfortable with meditation and perhaps some forms of alternative healing may be curious but others would generally be more reserved and immediately ask if it involved the occult, with the implication that of the less savoury variety!
How long have you been interested in your specialization?
I have had an interest in metaphysics from my teenage years. As you learn and evolve with your understanding and experiences, you eventually create a philosophy that is tailored to your individual personality. That is the guiding principle that i use when i share my personal journey whether in casual conversations or formal workshops.
Tell us how you chose or were chosen for your line of work? What experiences led you here to where you are today? What decisions did you make? What trials did you face?
Was I chosen? I don’t know; I do know that very interesting circumstances happened in the space of a few years that completely revised my expectations of how my life would turn out. Some of these experiences were painful but with the wisdom of hindsight I can now see that they were the turning point when I began to see the possibilities and not just dismiss this venture as a pipe dream. The old adage about people who are in your life for a reason and a season contributed to both the sorrow and the joy/excitement of finally seeing a concrete way forward. Everything I have achieved and accomplished are largely due to their influence.
Deciding to leave a full time job after 20 years, beginning a business from scratch with no prior experience or knowledge, having to make difficult decisions on whether to continue or give up when the going got tough are just some of the challenges I faced and am still facing. Maturing psychologically and emotionally in ways I never knew possible was very unpleasant! But I could have never have had as much satisfaction and known the level of peace that I have experienced in the last 9 years if I had continued as I had been before Sanctum. What the future holds I truly don’t know, but the journey thus far has been worth every mistake and loss.
About your work
How has your work evolved and where is it headed?
Most immediately I can say that over the years I have gained a lot of confidence in my own abilities and learned not to be attached to outcomes. I am more at peace with myself and no longer worried about the presence or lack of clients and the stresses of managing clients. Sometimes it is difficult to gauge a client, if you have been helpful, you will never see the client anymore since they have found their answer and moved on. If you have not helped, you won't see them for sure. Thankfully we have enough repeat clients and the occasional clients who kindly contact us with positive feedback of the help we've given.
It helps to speak my truth, everyone has their own style. Like attracts like and there is no such thing as any(one) or centre being better than the others.
If Sanctum has a failing, we fly too low under the radar, people don't know we exist. We're still resolving the fact that it is a business, it's not a non-profit organisation, we need to be focused on scaling, getting people to come here as opposed to somewhere else by virtue of what our centre practices. It's not grocery or electronics. Here, facilitators and clients must have compatibility, like a marriage.
I hope in my lifetime to relate the philosophies and beliefs that make up a holistic healer relevant to a person on a daily basis.
About the sceneWe are fighting forces on the outside and inside.
I feel that we most definitely have a tendency to be cultish, because of competition over a limited audience base and negativity will unexpectedly arise. It's always ironic for a bunch of people who call themselves light workers all about truth and love carrying so much negativity. But i don't exempt myself. I've been reading this book by Thomas Moore, "Dark night of the soul", and the book acknowledges that these are aspects integral to who we are. I have not formed an opinion on the industry but i would like to see more discussions and work done about the integration not the absorption of dark into light. Every healer has his or her bad days and each centre has its own distinct identity. Constructively, if we work together behind the scenes, the support we can lend to each other and clients would be immeasurable and will give the whole industry a better reputation also.
What are your aspirations for the industry moving forward?
I hope we can take the mystique out of the whole industry although the element of mystery is part of the charm and attraction of it all.
I feel that it will always be alternative as opposed to traditional mainstream beliefs but it shouldn't be alternative because it is cultish or exclusive. By giving people the freedom to browse without feeling that they need to be chained for life to a centre is one way to make our industry more approachable to wider audiences.
Sanctum can be found at
34 Arab Street #03-01 Singapore 133799
Opening Hours: Mondays - Saturdays
11.30am - 8pm
Find out more about them at www.sanctumsg.com