Last night I was at a meeting about the design of a worship space. I was wearing my theological hat (or biretta, miter, skullcap, veil, ring of roses) because it is very hard for me to take that particular item off, even with the best intentions in the world. Anyhow, during the meeting I explained to the group why a portable cross (or a selection of interchangeable portables crosses) is more in keeping with who we are as a people of God than something affixed to a wall. Which also, by the way, applies to fixed pews rather than moveable chairs. [If you are interested, let me know and I will send you my explanation.] And I must have been more persuasive or articulate than I realized because the general consensus of the gathered throngs was, “Cool!”
In the car going home, I was thinking about how architecture – which you might suppose would always be at the service of the people who inhabit or otherwise use it – often ends up limiting or shaping human behavior and belief and values, demanding that people adapt to it rather than vice versa. In our faith tradition, for instance, we say (frequently and with confidence) that the church is not the building; it is the people. Except that the building often determines who the people will be. Example: If you have no way for people in wheelchairs (or on crutches or canes or walkers) to enter your building or to sit comfortably when they are there or to use a restroom, the congregation will consist only of able-bodied folks.
That thought kind of segued into memories of reading The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka (a fabulous and startling read if you have never done so) and the epiphany that there is a vast abyss between the houses people build and how people actually use those houses. I have often marveled at all the wasted space, and uncomfortable space, and awkward space I experience visiting friends and colleagues.
Which brought me to wondering about the interior design of my spirit. How have I built or arranged my inner being to serve my visions and dreams and (changing) vocations? Have I been intentional about it at all, thinking about how that space will be used productively, and what needs to be accessible in it or near it? Or have I just knocked out a wall when I needed more elbow room and cobbled together something on the other side of that opening, so that I now need to walk through the bathroom to have access to the library?
As Samhain draws to a close – and we are beginning the final week – we will be stepping across a threshold of time-space into the spring quarter (Imbolc). That is a quarter marked by new endeavors: planting new fields, visiting new places, embarking on new projects, building new dreams. It might be useful to look not only at our selection of tools to see what we already have and what we need to obtain, but to look at the spaces in which we will dig our foundation, or paint our masterpieces, or cook our sustenance, or spread our seeds.
It might be worth looking intentionally, with curious eyes, because I can assure you that if we don’t shape the space, the space will shape us…and will limit our possibilities. If we don’t have an internal kitchen, it is unlikely we are going to be cooking up much soul food. If we have no single space long enough to lie flat and breathe deeply, it is unlikely we will seriously consider stretching our heart or mind or spirit in (the internal version of) down dog or salute to the sun.
Here are the questions that are nudging me, maybe they will jump start the process for you, too.
How flexible (multi-purpose) is my internal house? Can I try new experiences here or am I limited to familiar ones (in other words: can I grow and change)?
How spacious is my inner geography? Does it restrict me to careful movement or can I breathe deeply, stretch in every direction, dance exuberantly, exercise options?
Does it reflect my style? my personality? my values?
Is it welcoming? comfortable? beautiful? inclusive of many activities, people, dreams?
What clutter needs to be cleared? what old or broken elements need to be discarded?
Does it need a little tweaking? some re-imagining? a major overhaul?
Enjoy your exploration of what is, and your preparation for what is to come!
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2010, 2014, Immram Chara, LLC
Note: The Cloisters in Winter is available from my Etsy shop as a card or print. The Zen Garden image is available by special order. The window looks into the sitting room at Emery House in Massachusetts where I was on retreat last fall.