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Lions Roar : January 2003
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2003 81 IN MY GRANDMOTHER’S IRELAND, homesstillhad magi- cal thresholds and doors joining the inner and outer worlds, magical gates symbolizing the gates of perception and mag- ical ladders, stairways and chimneys—preserved in our Santa Claus stories—joining above and below. Home, in my grand- mother’s day, was a landing pad for vital unseen forces that went by many names—spirit guests, deities, muses, angels or simply “energy.” A home devoid of this natural presence was, in the words of Samuel Beckett, “a house of non-meaning bound to collapse.” How can we invite helpful subtle energies into twenty-first- century homes? Begin by exploring your own beliefs about the continuum of energy between the seen and unseen, the gross and subtle physical realms. How was it related to by your ancestors? By other wisdom traditions and cultures? These can be a source of timeless inspiration and practical ideas. Then identify the energies you’d like to enhance in your home: peace, health, richness, warmth, vitality, wisdom. Various kinds of energy can be invoked in different rooms for different purposes: a kitchen shrine to celebrate abundance, an acknowledgment of the deities of knowledge and wisdom in the study, a meditation room for personal practice. The most important thing to remember is that nothing can enter a space that’s already full. To create a landing pad, first clear a designated room, wall, niche or shelf of its clutter. Then, to pro- tect the integrity of this space, provide it with good boundaries. This is like reserving a table at a busy restaurant: because your table is ready and waiting, you can enter the space and enjoy your meal. Providing your space with good boundaries means it’s off- limits to your coffee cup or magazine. Cleanliness, clarity of pur- pose and respect are the main beacons of a sacred space. To honor the “heaven” principle and one’s highest aspirations, elevate your designated space: a kitchen shrine is happier on a small, high shelf, not housed on the counter between the bread box and the blender. Adorn the surface with a special piece of fabric or decorative paper, and in this space place a photo, statue, calligraphy or some other represen- tation of your inspiration. Structural spaces, such as the Japanese tokonoma, the Greek iconostasis niche and the Irish hearth shrine invite subtle energies into the home. It is traditionally believed that out- side the house such energies fancy natural or ritual enclosures—caves, granaries, wells, magi- cal circles—and a proper invitation in the form of offerings—food, tea, alcohol, flowers or light. Offerings express an awareness, appreciation and longing that connect us directly with the desired qualities of energy. To bring wakefulness and blessings to your preparation of meals, leave offerings of food or drink on a kitchen shrine. In the study, for the deities of knowledge and wisdom, offer a flower. Keep all offerings fresh. To bless and protect a baby’s room, hang a meaningful pic- ture over the head of the crib. (Many young children seem to have a natural affinity and fondness for angels.) For older children, cre- ate a personally inspiring shrine in an elevated spot—not at the foot of the bed—that will sow seeds of self-esteem as well as sacredness. Work with appropriate images, symbols or colors from your own tradition to bring signifi- cance to your designated space. A scallop shell motif on a kitchen shrine, for example, has associations not only with culinary arts but also with medieval pilgrimages and spiritual jour- neying. In general, warm, rich colors (yellows, orange, gold) resonate with the energy of abun- dance; cool, clear colors (cool whites, blues), with IllustrationsbyHelenBerliner ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN • HELEN BERLINER House of Spirits A home devoid of spirit guests, deities, muses or simply “energy,” is, in the words of Samuel Beckett, “a house of non-meaning bound to col-