A Happy Spiritual Home | Living North

A Happy Spiritual Home

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Seat with throws and cushions
In this extract from Happy Starts at Home, design psychology coach, interior designer and eternal optimist Rebecca West explores how spirituality in the home can help you care for your soul
Make sure that what you value is seen and reflected as you look around your home

What does it mean to have a spiritual home? Is it a home where you meditate daily? A home with corner shrines? A home that hosts Bible studies? It could be any of these things and still not actually be a spiritual home. It could be none of these things and yet be a deeply spiritual home. If there is no one way to create a spiritual home, how do you make sure that your home is meeting your spiritual needs? As you’ve done with all of the other slices of life, identify what spirituality means to you, how you need to be supported in your faith, and what needs to change in your home to do that.

Sometimes our spiritual lives seem to be experienced only at a retreat or in a house of worship. I have experienced spiritual renewal everywhere from my childhood church in suburban Michigan to a silent meditation retreat in the middle of a Pacific Northwest rainforest. Each time, though, my connection to spirit seems to fade as I reenter ‘real life’ and face the chaos of balancing the work, housekeeping, and relationships in my life. Can you relate to that struggle? Let’s invite spirituality into our homes.

Bringing spirituality home
How can you bring the meditation retreat home? How can you make sure that your spiritual needs are met in your home so that you are constantly in touch with what deeply matters to you? If we accept that your spirituality is an essential thread in the fabric of your life, then naturally we need to make sure it is represented in your home and that your faith is supported and nurtured. Spirituality at home has three components: what you have, what you do not have, and what you do.

What do you have in your home?
Creating a spiritual home is less about things and more about space – to breathe. To be. To meditate. To pray. Do you have space in your home where you can practice your faith? For some people, a spiritual home means literally having an altar or meditation space. It can help clear the mind and literally create space for worship or reflection. Research shows that as little as three minutes a day of meditation has great power, so why not create a space that helps you focus? Something as small as a smooth rock, or as large as a whole guest room turned into a meditation space, can support you in resting your mind and letting things flow again. My client Monica had a lovely, airy, rarely used guest bedroom. What she really needed was a space where, after a long, hectic day in her medical practice, she could quiet her mind and reconnect with the meaningful things in her life. We made over the room with a lovely daybed so it could double as a guest and meditation room. Of course we can’t always closet ourselves away when we need to get in touch with our faith. That means that a spiritual home won’t just have special spaces for prayer and meditation—it will also allow you to connect with what is meaningful while doing even the most mundane stuff like cleaning the cat box or making the bed.

As you think about your home, perhaps you want to set up a specific meditation or prayer space, but consider the big picture of your home too. It’s possible to create harmony between your spiritual needs and your living spaces. Make sure that what you value is seen and reflected as you look around your home. Many of my Christian clients display beautiful crosses. Many of my Buddhist clients have altars. One symbol of your faith, however, can’t counter a house full of items that show a contradictory set of values. If you say that your deepest values centre on nature but your home is overfilled with low-quality, rarely used stuff, does that align with your values? If you say that your deepest values centre on family and connection with others, but your whole home is focused on TV and screen time, does that align with your values? If your God is a god of loving kindness, simplicity, and generosity, do you see that in your home? If you connect to Spirit by being surrounded by friends and family, it is essential to set up a home that makes it easy to gather and entices people to linger. If you connect to Spirit by retreating into silence and prayer, set aside a private, sacred spot. And if you connect by surrounding yourself with nature, make sure you have easy access to the outdoors.

What should leave your home?
Creating a spiritual home is as much about what you do not have as it is about what you do have. Perhaps more so. Our lives are, quite frankly, overstimulating. There is too much noise, too many options, too much input for us to hear the voice of our conscience, of our instincts, or of God or Spirit. The only way we know to cope is to tune out and turn off. We know we pay a price in the quantity and quality of our experiences and miss opportunities to connect socially, but with such relentless stimulation attacking us, it’s as if we have no choice. We shut down just so we don’t implode. We tune out in response to the overstimulation of our outside environments, yet then we turn around and compound that with overstimulation at home. Junk mail, kids’ toys, television, radio, newspapers, cell phones, email… It’s no wonder we can’t hear our own inner voice or the voice of the universe. We must create space for silence, for retreat, and for calm. What better place to do that than in the place you call home? 

That means we probably have to let go of a bunch of stuff. We have to stop hoarding. And hoarding may not look quite like what you imagine. Hoarders are not just those poor souls on TV who are barricaded inside their own homes with decades of trash or two-for-one purchases. Hoarding is found in every ungenerous choice we make. It shows up every time we stuff yet another lidless piece of Tupperware in the already-crowded cabinet. It is found when we refuse to create space for our partner’s preferences. Every time we are ungenerous we are lacking in faith, because faith permits us to let go and know that we have and will have everything we need. 

Creating a spiritual home means letting go of the stories we tell ourselves, like ‘I don’t have enough.’ ‘I am always broke.’ ‘I don’t know what’s going to come; better to be safe than sorry.’ Out of fear we hold tightly to our narratives. Why hold on to something now just in case you need it, when you can give it to someone who needs it and to whom it will bring joy now? Why not have enough faith to be generous today, and trust that the universe will provide for you tomorrow? It is so easy to live in a state of fear. Our culture, especially the media, bombards us with buy now! Act now! Don’t miss this show tonight! What we see, we believe. Try turning down the volume on all those messages (maybe by turning off the screens in your home?) and listening for the voice of God or Spirit in your home and in your life.

What do you do in your home?
Your home is the foundation of everything in your life – including your faith. Compare the tenets of your faith to the behaviour going on in your home and in your heart. Do you wish to practice forgiveness, but find yourself wallowing in anger at your ex instead of letting the past be the past? Look around. If reminders of your past relationship surround you and keep you tied to old hurts, you will find it hard to let go. It’s hard enough to release past injuries, but so much harder to practice forgiveness if you are surrounded by pain. But if you create a space that allows you to move on, you’ll find that you can more easily practice forgiveness because you are able to look forwards instead of backwards. Many of us hold tightly to our past in large part because it feels good to have that past to blame. But if you want to fully align with your spiritual self, you’d do well to let go visually, physically, and emotionally.

Do you wish to practice kindness and consideration? Take a look at the activities and games in your home. Are they all screen-focused or solo-play games? Consider making your main areas screen-free and choosing games that encourage teamwork and sharing. By having to interact and to negotiate, we learn to accommodate other people’s needs and to practice being considerate. What we play, we learn, and it influences our behaviour outside the home.

Do you wish to practice generosity? Look at your belongings and consider how muchcomes in versus how much goes out. A simple one-in, one-out rule can help you balance giving and receiving. It can apply to shoes, games, coats, even relationships and money. To fully commit yourself to a new partner, it is important to release the baggage of old relationships and let the new relationship grow on its own foundation. And when it comes to money, the simple principle of tithing reminds you that 10 percent of what you receive is meant to be given back.

Do you wish to practice gratitude? Gratitude is a central tenet of prayer, especially before meals. If your busy home and lifestyle prevent your family from gathering around the table to celebrate a meal and show gratitude for the bounty, a change might be in order.

These small, incremental changes are like drops in a bucket, and over time, you’ll find your bucket full. Just celebrating your faith and values as a family one more time a week than before means you are growing in alignment with your faith. In time it will come more naturally and you will come to crave that time with the calm and support of the universe.

Leave room for spiritual growth
Setting up a spiritual home isn’t a one-time event. Spiritual homes are not stagnant. That is because what you need from your home, and in your home, will change over time. The systems that worked for you five years ago might not work for you now. How has your life changed in the last decade? New job? New family? New hobbies? New friends? Unexpected health challenges? As input and demands shift, you’ll want to adjust your home to meet your new needs. Finally, the spiritual home reminds us that in the end we own nothing. Our connection to the otherworldly has nothing to do with our sofas, cars, or TVs.

 

  
Happy Starts at Home by Rebecca West, 
published by CICO Books (£9.99)
Photography © CICO Books

Published in: March 2020

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