Friday, April 28, 2006

Sacred Housekeeping

How to Make Your Home a Sanctuary
Excerpted from Islands of Grace: Finding Sanctuary in Daily Life © 1996 by Christopher Forrest McDowell, PhD
The care of one's soul is perhaps the most challenging aspect of living on Earth today. Whereas the soul is entranced by beauty, and seeks to celebrate life in many ways, it also desires opportunity for reflective solace. Some places naturally renew our sense of spirit - a special natural setting, a garden, a church or temple, or even a historical sacred site. But how often do we remember that our home itself can be a personal haven - a sanctuary - amidst a world of turmoil, obligations, & demands for our time and resources?

On one hand, our home can be seen merely as a place filled with objects and beings (humans, animals & plants) each vying for attention. On the other hand, there are ways we can consciously plan to steward our home so that it emanates a sense of spirit that is honoring, celebrative, contemplative & peaceful.

A home seen as a sacred place - a personal sanctuary - may in fact be the most important & readily accessible reverent setting on Earth. It can serve, in its unique & thoughtfully furnished way, to regenerate our spirit. This brochure suggests numerous ways to bring more soulfulness into your living space. Whereas some suggestions may appear commonsense, we hope they inspire & remind you about the fine art of "sacred housekeeping."

A Place of One's Own
Perhaps the first and easiest step in creating a sanctuary of your home is to imagine a special place within it where you can turn to for privacy & peace.  In a busy house with children present, or even a small apartment, this may not seem possible. But don't give up hope! Perhaps an extra room exists, an attic, a spacious closet; or, even the potential for partitioning off a section of a larger room by creatively using a decorative free-standing screen, plants, shelves, furniture, etc. In any case, it is highly likely a workable/suitable spot can be found, even if input from other family members is necessary.

Knowing that a place to retreat from the world or household obligations and turn inward is possible & desirable - even if it is a quaint nook - will encourage you to create the same effect for your entire house. In both instances, however, it may be helpful to consider those key qualities which make an otherwise ordinary place truly a personal haven.

Four Key Qualities
Close your eyes and visualize your ideal home sanctuary setting. Most likely, some aspect of these four key qualities come to mind:
Mood - What feeling or state of mind do you want to evoke? One of contentment, coziness, focus, serenity, inspiration, etc.? The amount and type of furnishings, even the use of color & lighting can help shape the mood or ambience of a setting.   Some people desire a more austere looking haven in which to focus on meditation, while others may create a cozy setting much more lived-in, for journal writing, reading, listening to music, or contemplation.

Aesthetics - What makes a setting visually appealing? Beauty & artistry feed the soul, and be it artful crafts, furniture, artwork, nature objects, even special plants or a floral arrangement - each can add to the overall mood of a setting by inviting our absorption & contemplation of their unique quality. For this reason, your personal sanctuary should reflect your mindful consideration in selecting each object - from the tiny seashell on your altar to the texture & design of an area rug.

Inviting - How to create a setting that is inviting to you each time you enter (and of course, just as inviting to a visitor!) - this should be given special thought. Perhaps it is the way furniture is arranged, how color & lighting are used, the opportunity to listen to inspiring music, a scent in the air, a relaxing chair or pillow, or even the display of nature objects, personal mementos, & inspiring quotes. All this (and more!) should give you or a visitor a feeling that you can relax and be one with yourself or a companion. A thoughtfully designed sanctuary space should feel inviting, not haphazardly cluttered or sterile.

Enfolding - One of the primary qualities of any sanctuary should be the opportunity for interiorzation: to go within oneself and sip from the contemplative well of peace. A home or setting, by the way it is consciously stewarded, should feel as if one can easily claim sanctuary, i.e. sacred time & sacred place, within it, even for brief periods of time. Thoughtful effort to create an inviting heartfelt entrance, to maintain a personal or family altar which honors & celebrates life, to embrace and show tribute to the many aspects of nature, and to uphold the spiritual presence of a preferred deity - these are key in helping to peacefully restore & regenerate one's spirit.

7 Special Ways to Enhance Your Home Sanctuary

1. An Inviting Entrance:
Make the routine of merely entering a room or your home more inviting. Hang an inspiring quote or piece of artwork, place nearby a bowl of polished pebbles, blessing cards, or quotes from which one may be selected, hang a whimsical windchime, place a statue or objects from nature, perhaps have a display of interesting brochures & informational literature you are willing to share. Set a tone for entering your sanctuary - it will do much to make one feel enfolded & honored.
2. Create Focal Points:
Purposely create places that draw one's attention. A well-placed & designed altar is always magnetic. A creatively decorated window with a view, an especially fine piece of art, a unique object from nature, a seasonal vase of flowers, even that overstuffed chair with a lap blanket and an open book - each of these beckon the wandering spirit to come, relax, celebrate & honor.
3. Integrate Nature:
Always find ways to honor nature. Maintain plants & flowers you are attracted to, seek furniture & crafts explicitly made from nature, panel a wall with wood, hang art that depicts nature, even consider an indoor fountain gently dripping water.
4. Create an Altar:
An altar is a sacred hearth to which one approaches with humility & honor. Here one can pray, find peace, sit in communion with someone, celebrate nature, even honor the lives of family members, friends, or some deity. A home may have a family or public altar as well a personal one, perhaps in a private space. The altar surface may be a specific piece of furniture such as an antique, bookshelf, chest, table, mantel, even the floor. Always be creative & open to change with your altar. Let it reflect the true spirit of you or family members - decorate it with nature objects, personal items, pictures, a deity, candles, incense, whatever moves you deeper to your soul's core of serenity & self-empowerment.
5. Effectively Use Color & Lighting:
Colors have a powerful influence on vital energy, effecting feelings & thought processes. By understanding basic effects of color tones, you can decorate & furnish your setting to evoke certain states of mind. Green, for example, is very healing and emits growth, balance & abundance. Blue emits peace & spiritual unfolding. Purple promotes intuition & inner awareness. White suggests transformation while black suggests mystery. Red is very energizing, orange is happy & social, and yellow promotes communication, mental stimulation & positive thinking. Through experimentation, you will find color variations which stir your soul.

Lighting is also important in setting a mood. Soft ambient light from a window, a tinted light bulb, stained-glass, even from candles or a lantern are much more preferred to create intimacy than harsh bright light from overhead.
6. Heal & Soothe with Scents:
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries to salve the soul & human emotions. Herbal sachets, a bowl of dried crushed leaves & flowers, scented candles, and especially essential oils are vital to setting a mood. The latter are concentrates of flowers, plants, & woods that, when released in specific combinations or individually, have a definite therapeutic effect on one's psyche. An excellent book is, Complete Aromatherapy Handbook: Essential Oils for Radiant Health by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi (Sterling Publishing, 1990).
7. Other Helpful Ideas:
As you proceed to personalize your sanctuary setting, remember these: Let the music you listen to be inspiring & soothing. Have objects that are pleasing & interesting to touch. Have at hand a favorite meditation shawl or lap blanket. Honor the animal realm with a picture, artpiece, even a special "stuffed animal." Find creative ways to honor key natural elements such as air, earth, & water. Maintain a small library of inspirational & soulful literature. Con-sider using part of a wall to paint a mural that exemplifies the mood & drama of your space.
These are just a few ideas on how to stir that unique soulfulness within you. In conclusion, remember to always be open to change. Like a garden, your spirit changes with the seasons and with the course of events in your life. Your home sanctuary is an expression of your evolution. As a reverent setting, strive to bring spirit into your home that is honoring & celebrative. It is here you can feel able to take sacred space & time from the outside world.
Suggested Reading
Sacred Space: Clearing and Enhancing the Energy of Your Home, by Denise Linn (Ballantine, 1996)
The Temple in the House: Finding the Sacred in Everyday Architecture, by Anthony Lawlor (Tarcher/Putnam, 1994)
The Woman's Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide to Restoring Balance in Your Life, by Jennifer Louden (Harper SanFrancisco, 1992)

Also see Jann Mitchell's new book, Home Sweeter Home: Creating a Haven of Simplicity and Spirit
Clare Cooper Marcus's House as a Mirror of Self
Sue Bender's well-received Everyday Sacred: A Woman's Journey Home
Gunilla Norris's audiotape Home: The Meaning of Sanctuary.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.