Homes are important. Even if you feel that you spend most of your time at work or school, home is the place where we should be able to wind down and be ourselves. It is where we eat, sleep, and love. Home is where we experience our emotions and thoughts away from the public eye. However, it is easy to take this miniature landscape for granted – using it as a waiting place before going on to the next thing. Or perhaps home is an overwhelming space, full of anxiety, quarrels, or coldness? There is a way to transform that space into your own sacred ground, even if that space includes only your personal area.
What I suggest below does not speak to interpersonal relationships, how to communicate with your family or housemates, or even how to decorate your space. Rather, these are practical and simple measures that will set a foundation – an environment, actually – to cultivate peace.
It is not my intention to give “rules” of housekeeping. Creating a sacred space does not depend on the color of the walls, what kind of embellishments fill the house, or how often one has company. All of these things are an individual’s prerogative. Certainly, there are people who will insist on particulars regarding these details, but I believe they are less important than the few points I list below. Think of them as the wide outer circle that encompasses the variety that can make a home, supporting the decisions made by the people who live in it.
Before moving on, it is important to define the word “sacred” and to discuss the reason for its use in this context. Sacred space can come with loads of meaning – good and not so good, depending on an individual’s experience with religion and spirituality. Here, I use “sacred” not to define a specific tradition, but to refer to the peaceful and revered space within the walls of a home. People who do not have a permanent “home” talk about the kind of stability that having one creates in a person’s life. Living in a space of one’s own creates a sense of individuality, but also community, since the person living in a home experiences pride in being a part of larger social structure. These are some of the most common refrains of those living in shelters. It is also one of the things to most easily take for granted. Comparison and desire run rampant among those who have permanent homes.
When talking about a sacred home, the most useful definition is to “regard with great respect and reverence.” This is why: wherever you live is your home, regardless who owns the property, if it is a rental, or how many people live in that space. There is a common adage that goes something like, “You are responsible for your own life [happiness, health, etc.]” Even if the suggestions below only apply partially to your current living situation, they are still doable to some extent.
All of the points I make are practiced in my own home, so are offered with the knowledge that they truly work. Each are elements that we had to transition to over time and we certainly did not always live this way. However, we have a home that I truly feel is sacredand it is my deep desire to share this realization with you.
1. Make a decision to leave shoes at the door.
This may be difficult for some. It is much more convenient to keep shoes on throughout the day and while walking in and out of the house. But let me give you some reasons to reconsider. On a practical level, the home stays cleaner and there is less wear and tear on the carpets, rugs, and floors. Additionally, regardless of how “clean” the shoes look, footwear contains toxins (like gasoline and other chemicals) that we cannot see.
If these chemicals had color, I’m sure we would never want them where we live! Even beyond the “clean” factor, taking shoes off before walking through the home is the number one rule to a sacred space. Cultures around the world remove shoes before entering homes for this very reason. Have you ever attended a religious building where the custom is to take off shoes when entering sacred areas? When we remove the surfaces from which we gather debris and chemicals, it exhibits respect and honor for the space we enter. This is step one for creating a sacred space.
*If it is not practical to establish this the guideline for your entire home, consider it for particular parts of the house – the bedroom or living room are perfect places to begin.
2. Hold regular periods of quiet by turning off the television, radio, and digital devices.
No, this does not need to be a 24-7 decision, but it is a common idea that we are overstimulated in this modern era. Certainly, television, music, and other digital entertainment has a valuable place in life. What is important, though, is to acknowledge our need for quiet – something that can be a little scary if one is not used to it.
So, instead of waking up and turning on the television, or keeping it on throughout the day, or connecting through digital devices the whole evening after school or work, perhaps designate a time when the house would be free of extra “noise.” Quiet gives us a chance to hear and see and be with each other. Quiet gives us opportunities to be with ourselves. Quiet also lets us dial it back a bit to refresh – and this does not even require a one-hour yoga session or that bubble bath that you wished to take for weeks! It is easy self-care for the senses.
3. Bring life into the home.
No matter how strong or weak your green thumb, there is a plant for you. By bringing life to our living spaces in the form of houseplants, we connect ourselves to nature even in the depths of winter (or heat of summer when everything is dry and brown!) Studies show that the human brain and body respond keenly to imagesof nature, let alone actual, physical nature. By taking home something green we can stimulate a sense of wellbeing. Also, taking care of something that is alive can be a sacred act in itself, requiring patience, love, and dedication.
4. Designate an area in your home that is specifically used for contemplation, prayer, meditation, or sitting quietly without distraction.
This is incredibly important for finalizing the home as sacred, especially for children. No matter the personality, it is imperative to have space that one can go to for contemplative activities. So many of us grow into adulthood without learning to enjoy time without distraction. We even need breaks from regular interaction with others. Children, in particular, crave moments to themselves. Adults and children alike can learn to meditate, pray, or to steal away from the commotion of the world. The space does not need to be large. Simply a corner with a cushion, bean bag, or chair would do. Contemplative coloring is currently popular with people of all ages. A small table and chair would do the trick. The “rule” of the space would be simple: have respect for the person, whatever the age, who decides to use that space by leaving them alone! The Quiet Space can be the center of the sacred home and whatever positive energy and renewal is cultivated there will extend out through the rest of the building.
Hopefully some of these suggestions peak your interest. I encourage you to try one at a time to see if they work for you. Alter them as needed for your family personality and home life. Blessings to you as you cultivate your sacred space.