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Sacred Shelter 

An Arizona interior designer contends that we shouldn't ignore the spiritual aspects of our homes

Most people don't think of their homes as being alive, but Arizona interior designer Laurine Morrison Meyer contends that some of them appear to be more alive than others. There are homes, she says, that have a kind of aura about them, a salutary feeling that seems to stem from the confluence of color, lighting, the occupants' personalities and some other quite ineffable qualities.

Actually, Meyer believes that houses, in a sense, really are alive. Pointing to findings in quantum physics, she says that all matter, animate and inanimate, is composed of the same infinitesimal and interacting bundles of energy, evidence that our homes (and everything else) influence us more than we may think.

"You are literally mingling," she says, "with everything in your home."

Meyer suggests that one element that can enhance a home's positive effect concerns how well it expresses the essence of the owners and their spiritual aspirations. She writes that designers are often more focused on the latest styles and preconceived notions of what is beautiful than on what their clients find psychologically and emotionally sustaining. In Sacred Home: Creating Shelter for Your Soul, Meyer helps people bring out their homes' aesthetic and spiritual potential by drawing on myriad esoteric teachings and her solid grounding in design principles.

According to Meyer, the idea that a house has a spiritual function is not new. Before the advent of patriarchal religions, she tells us, spirituality was omnipresent in everyday life, and human habitats, starting with caves and the most primitive of huts, served both as living space and sacred ground--places that reflected, through the use of symbol and ritual, early man's reverence for nature and the mysteries of life. Over the centuries, nature religion was gradually suppressed (especially in Europe, as Christianity came to the fore), but, Meyer writes, many of its symbols still survive in architectural and design motifs that can be found around the modern home.

Meyer deciphers a variety of deeply rooted images and forms (triangles, ovals and arches, for instance, represent female reproductive powers, and the home itself symbolizes the womb) and discusses a broad range of European household deities (just about every nook and cranny of early dwellings was watched over by specialized spirits).

Meyer contends that these forms of expression are more than just quaint remnants of a superstitious past. Choosing personally meaningful symbols, rituals and tutelary spirits to incorporate into our domestic lives can serve an important psychological purpose, she says, by allowing us to access the collective unconscious, send ourselves positive subliminal messages, experience a heightened sense of gratitude, stay centered and invite "Spirit, guardian angels, Ancient Mother, Father God, sacred ancestors, spirit guides and teachers to protect your home and family and share your space" (hopefully, without having to add extra bedrooms).

This book also addresses the more conventional aspects of interior design, and Meyer provides plenty of guidance on how to enhance a home's "look." She says, however, that in order to create an attractive and spiritually nurturing living environment, people have to know themselves.

"Creating spiritual shelter ... involves knowing the deep longings and passions of the inhabitants," she writes. "Know what it is that makes your heart sing and then display your passions in your home."

To this end, Meyer links personality types to congruent design styles, using a complex system based on astrology, tarot, Jungian psychology and the elements of earth, fire, water and air.

While the "aliveness" of inanimate objects is certainly an interesting question (just how did life emerge from seemingly inert material?), and most people would probably agree that we are affected to an extent by our living environments, some of this book will undoubtedly be written off as a bit flaky. Meyer urges readers to frequently sweep corners of rooms behind diagonally placed furniture, because this kind of configuration is a breeding ground for "negative energy." She also details a housewarming ritual that involves rattles, bells, candles and brooms. The participants march through the house in a clockwise direction sweeping, rattling, ringing, clapping, chanting and sprinkling salt and holy water until they reach the perimeter of the property, where they release negative energy by flicking and shaking. Then they circle the property three times, counter-clockwise.

We've never had a procession like that at our house, but I can't dismiss it as completely meaningless. Intrinsically, it doesn't seem much different from a Pentecostal service, a gathering of Hare Krishnas or a pilgrimage to Mecca.

"As we incorporate sacred objects and reintroduce ancient rituals into our homes," Meyer says, "we bring spirituality into our everyday lives. We decide how and when and in what way we will honor our own personal deity."

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