Home is a container of soul. The roof and walls shelter and nurture the spark of life that animates our modes of dwelling. They define the setting where soul is transformed from raw energy into the myriad experiences of living. Furniture, clothing, and other objects foster the inner work of the psyche. A stove, for example, is an appliance that translates the undefined stuff of spirit into experiences of nourishment. The bed encourages the soul to dream and make love. Each element of home plays its role in bringing forth the latent possibilities of soul.
Theories about soul can make it seem dry and abstract, but the walls and furnishings of a home allow us to care for the psyche directly and immediately. The grainy touch and subtle hues of an oak table, for example, can nourish the soul’s desire for richness and connection with nature. Water gurgling in the bathtub, sunlight sparkling on a windowsill, flowers scenting the air, and numerous other experiences invite the soul to enter the rooms of our houses and apartments.
The headlines of spiritual experience are often grabbed by dramatic tales of angelic light and celestial encounters, but soulfulness mainly grows within the realms of everyday life. A cozy moment in bed that warms a deep place within us, a conversation at the kitchen table that connects parent and child, and other common experiences sustain and enrich the depths of who we are.
The needs of soul are satisfied through the archetypal actions of human dwelling —cooking, eating, gathering with others, sleeping, dreaming, lovemaking, bathing, managing finances, and solitude. Cooking, for example, is a practical activity that creates edible meals; it also cares for the soul’s creative urge to transform the raw stuff of life into digestible and appetizing forms. Eating satisfies the hunger in our bellies, but also satisfies the soul’s desire for fulfillment.
Each room in a home is a physical setting that supports a different archetypal action. Taken together, the rooms of a home encompass the full circle of the soul. They serve as a microcosm for understanding and working with the totality of mind and body.
The rooms and furniture of your home are more than a mere collection of isolated objects. They are tangible nurturers of soul. A home for the soul sparks our imagination. Its architecture and furnishings offer more than mechanical functions and urge us to explore the essence of who we truly are. Colors, textures, and shapes act as bridges that lead our attention from the material world of isolated objects into the interconnected realm of he spirit.
A home for the soul offers more than one level of experience at a time. It simultaneously addresses all levels of mind, body, and environment—our myths, emotions, thoughts, senses, actions, bodily functions, and the ecological processes of nature. The bathtub of such a home might honor Venus’s desire for beauty, ease the conflict of a hectic day, warm and soothe the body, cleanse the skin’s pores, and connect us to the sprinkling of rain and the flowing of streams.
A home for the soul is not a material goal to be acquired, but a setting for inquiring into the processes of living. Within its walls we can discover how the germ of consciousness within us grows to become the events and circumstances that define our existence. We can discern the links between our personal needs and dreams and the universal forces that shape the cosmos. In a home for the soul, common objects and actions become symbols that at once hide and reveal the deeper powers that animate our lives.
A home for the soul has character and personality. It contains rich textures and colors that invite the hand and delight the eye. It reflects subtle gradations of light that range from murky shadows to shimmering points of illumination. Forms are imaginative and reveal how they support activity. There is care and attention to detail. Natural materials such as wood, stone, wool, silk, and cotton are used to create an environment that opens to the vitality of sunlight and fresh air. A home for the soul is a sensuous dwelling place that urges us to savor the mingling of spirit and matter.
Reprinted from Home for the Soul by Anthony Lawlor. Copyright © 1997, Anthony Lawlor. Reprinted with permission of Clarkson N. Potter, a division of Crown Publishers.