The Spirit of the
Why are our homes so very important to us? How come,
when we talk about our worst nightmares many of us will
shudder and say that the most terrible thing we could
imagine would be to lose our homes, to become homeless,
to live on the streets? Statistics show that homes are
very much on our minds nowadays--more and more emphasis
is being put on them. More of us in the West own our
homes than ever before. We spend more money on fixing
our homes and one of the most popular hobbies is home
improvement. It seems that now, maybe more than ever
before, we need to feel the security of our homes. Itís
not hard to see why. Our working lives are becoming ever
less secure--few people nowadays can count on a job for
life. With divorce rates soaring there is little
certainty in our relationships. Acts of terrorism like
9/11 shake our faith in the predictability of daily
life. And as our knowledge of space and the cosmos
deepens, we can no longer rely on being at the centre of
a gentle, embracing universe. Life is becoming
psychologically very frightening.
In an uncertain, scary world, we cling to home. Yet
many of us find our homes are not satisfying our needs.
I think thatís because we often equate a
"good" home with a large, showy, impressive
home. We talk about getting larger square footage,
upgrading to a bigger space, a grander style of house.
We fantasize about pillars and columns, huge back yards
and monumental spaces. Our egos might rate such criteria
yet our souls cringe. Iím sure, if you think about it,
you know what I mean. Iím talking about the kind of
buildings which are built and designed so full of pride
and prestige that you feel uncomfortable the moment you
walk in. You barely like to sit down in case you crease
the cushions. These are the kind of homes that make you
stand to attention; that make children and animals
unwelcome and adults feel ill at ease. They symbolize a
complete breakdown between the owner and the earth--the
link is simply not recognized. But anyone with
sensitivity of soul can feel it in their bones. The
place is not a home, it is a statement--like the latest
designer clothes or the smartest sports car. It is
A true home should be our own mini-world, our own
Mother Earth. It needs to be the kind of place which
nurtures you and makes you feel safe yet also gives you
the freedom to be totally yourself. When we feel safe
and comfortable in our homes then we feel more able to
deal with the often frightening outside world.
I find the psychological aspects of home totally
intriguing and could merrily go on about it for the
entire feature. But I want to get onto some more
practical suggestions. So, if you want to look into the
psychology and archetypes of the home, Iíd suggest you
check out my first book on the subject, Spirit of the
Home, which goes into it all in far greater detail than
I can include here.
OK, weíve looked briefly at why we need a home full
of spirit and soul, but how can we practically achieve
it? There are so many components Ė space cleansing and
feng shui is part of it. So too is indulging all the senses and bringing nature into the home. I love to use ritual and build altars to provide small places of focus and contemplation. There is just so much to say. However, for now at least, Iím going to take it right back to
WHAT DOES HOME MEAN TO YOU?
Letís start by looking at your
childhood home. This can have an enormous effect on your
entire life--particularly on your attitude towards
CAUTION: If you know you had an
unhappy childhood or suspect you might, it would be
advisable for you to work through these exercises with a
trained psychotherapist or hypnotherapist. Equally if,
when you start working this way, you find uncomfortable
feelings or memories emerge, I would strongly urge you
find a qualified professional whom you trust and talk
through what came up.
Weíre going on a journey back in
time. It should last as long as you feel comfortable
with it, but no longer than twenty minutes. Our first
port of call is to the most important home of your
childhood. This may be your very first home; at least
the first one you can remember--or it could be the one
in which you spent the most time as a child. It should
be the "major" home of your young years. This
first exercise will put you into a state of deep
relaxation. If you don't feel comfortable with this, cut
out the instructions for going down the flight of stairs
and simply use your memory and imagination in a full
state of consciousness.
If you are fully awake you can note
down your thoughts and feelings in your journal. If you
are keeping your eyes closed you may find it useful to
use a tape recorder, or have a friend ask you the
questions and note your responses. If you would like,
you can take your guardian angel or spirit with you on
- Settle back and make yourself comfortable. Close
your eyes and focus again on your breathing. Breathe
softly but deeply, gently slowing down your breathing to
a comfortable rhythm. Check through your body to make
sure you are as relaxed as possible. Now imagine you are
standing in front of a short flight of stairs. You are
going to walk down the stairs, one at a time, counting
slowly from one to ten as you walk down. As you walk you
are aware that you are going down deeper into the past,
down into your childhood, down to the house you used to
live in, down, down and down. Count each step as you go,
reminding yourself, "one, going down,"
"two, going deeper down".....until you are
right deep down at ten. Before you is a door. The door
looks familiar because it is the front door of your
first real home. Look at the door and recognize it--the
color, the material, the knocker, maybe the number?
Slowly the door opens and you walk through.
- You are now in your childhood home. Is it the one
you were expecting or somewhere else? Take your time to
get your bearings. The front door is behind you so now
look and see what lies ahead. Walk around this place. Go
into every room and remember what it was like: how was
it decorated? What colors were there? What was the
furniture like? What could you see out of the window?
What did you do in that room? Was it one you went into
often or rarely, or not at all? Who used that room? What
was the feeling of the room? Go round the whole place
like this, remembering, recording. With this process you
will find you remember extraordinary details about this
home - details you had quite forgotten.
Where were your special places in the
house? Where was your bedroom and what was it like? See
yourself in your room--what are you doing? Did you have
a special place to play, to read, to dream? Was it a
secret place, a corner? Where was it? See yourself
there: what are you doing; how do you feel?
- Where was the heart of your home? Which room or part
of a room encapsulated the soul of the house? Stand
there and wait a moment while you connect to how you
feel. What are your feelings towards this place? What
emotions does it raise? Were you happy there?
Can you connect with the spirit of
that house? What is it/he/she like? How did the house
feel about your family? Ask the spirit of the house for
the house's impressions of your time there. Ask the
spirit for any useful insights into this early house.
What key words would you use to describe this house?
What colour do you associate with it? What smell or
scent? What name would you give the house?
Are there any elements of this
childhood home which make you feel nostalgic? Is there
anything there you would love to incorporate into your
present home--whether something in the physical
structure, the furniture or furnishings or a feeling or
mood? Is there anything you dislike, which makes you
feel uncomfortable? What don't you like about the house?
This is quite enough for your first
trip back in time so say goodbye to the house and thank
the spirit of the house for helping you. Make your way
back to the front door and gently open it. Before you
there are the short flight of steps, as before. Step out
and start walking up to the first one as the door closes
gently behind you. Count from ten to one as you go up
the steps, up towards a light which you know is your
home in the here and now. As you go up you feel yourself
becoming more and more awake, more and more aware of the
world around you. You are feeling relaxed and yet full
of energy. Up and up, more and more aware, hearing the
everyday noises around you, feeling your weight, sitting
on the chair. One--and you're back in your room, fully
awake, fully aware. Open your eyes and stretch.
Spend some time thinking about what
you saw, heard, smelt, felt. Record it all in a journal.
Or talk it over with your friend and then make notes in
your journal. Were there any surprises?
Spend some time thinking about the
- Have you lived in very similar places through your
life or have they differed widely?
- Which was your happiest home? Why do you think that
was? What elements of it made you feel good?
- Did you spend long periods away from your early
homes? Were you sent away to school or to camp or to
stay with relatives? Did you enjoy going away and, if
so, what did you particularly like about it? Did you
look forward to going home? What did you particularly
miss about home?
- What was your first home of your own? Was it when
you went away to a new job or when you went to school or
college? What was it like? How did you make it your own?
Did it feel good to be in your own place or did you miss
your old home?
- As you grew up and moved out of your family home did
you have to share your space? Did you have room-mates,
flat-mates? Did you enjoy sharing with other people or
did you crave your own company?
These exercises build up a kind of
web. At first they may not seem to make sense but as you
constantly add to them and review your thoughts, you
will most probably see a clear pattern. Certain
thoughts, moods, ideas, feelings will repeat over and
over again: watch out for these markers of the soul.
THE TREASURE MAP
I love this exercise and include it in virtually
every book I write because itís so incredibly
powerful. Basically youíre making a map of your
subconscious. Hereís what you do:
- Over a period of weeks collect images that speak to
your soul. They could be pictures of houses (exteriors
or interiors), decorating details, colour swatches etc
Ė or pictures which evoke a certain feeling or mood (ie
kids laughing, a serene seascape, someone meditating, a
- Look at them quite often and see which ones really
call to you. You may find this will alter over a few
- At the end of a month, pick out the ones which
really tug at your solar plexus Ė the ones which
really have a charge. Stick them onto a large sheet of
paper. Add a photograph of yourself in the middle. Now
put the map somewhere you will see it every day. Thatís
You may well find that, as you look at the map, you
find certain images start to jar. If so, take them down
and replace with others. Your subconscious is taking
over from your conscious mind. The other fascinating
thing is that you may find that aspects of your treasure
map start to come true! The subconscious is unbelievably
clever and its language is symbols and pictures. So your
map is asking it to act. I find this usually happens in
quite unexpected ways. See what happens with yours!
TALK TO YOUR HOUSE
OK, this is the bit when I lose a lot of people! You
either get this or you just think itís completely
bonkers! Let me briefly explain how it started for me.
The house I lived in before this one was totally
beautiful Ė but a complete nightmare. Everything that
could go wrong, went wrong. It was the archetypal money
pit. One day I was looking round the beautiful hall with
its oriel window, cantilevered staircase and high
vaulted ceiling, and began to wonder whether it was
really worth it. I started getting really angry with the
house and, without really thinking about it, started
talking to it. "What the hellís the matter with
you?" I asked, well shouted. "Here we are,
slogging our guts out for you; spending all our money on
you and how do you repay us? What is the problem?"
I waited, for all the world as if I were awaiting a
reply. And - this is the weird bit - I got one. In my
head I "heard" the house respond. It sounded
old and weary and rather like a crotchety old aunt.
"Whatís the point?" she, Iím sure itís a
she, said. "Youíre just like all the rest of
them. You like the look of me but you canít be
bothered to spend the time, effort and money to put me
back to my proper condition. You just donít care. Iím
sick of it - sick of all of it. Why donít you just go
away and leave me to decay by myself."
It was a bit of a shock. I donít consider myself
psychic particularly and houses arenít in the habit of
talking to me so I wasnít quite sure of the proper
etiquette. But the feeling of the house touched me
deeply and I spoke back to it - with the suitable
decorum. I told it that we werenít going to be fly by
nights and we werenít bodgers. We would do all it
would take to restore the house and give it back its
dignity. It was then I realised for the first time that
a house has a spirit, a soul, all of its own. That it
isnít enough to come in and stamp our will on the
house - we need to take into account its own wishes and
desires. A house is a living entity - itís way more
than four walls, a floor and a roof. It breathes, it
feels, it watches and listens. There are merry happy go
lucky houses and there are dignified, rather snooty
houses; there are serene peaceful houses and excitable,
bustling houses. Ten to one you will pick a house which
suits your own personality. There is a certain amount
you can do to alter the feel of a house - but itís
very hard to totally change a house.
How do you talk to a house? Itís up to you but I
find this works quite well:
- Run through some relaxation exercises or stretching
to open up your subconscious.
- Find what you think is the centre or heart of your
home. You may like to light a candle or burn some
incense or aromatherapy oils.
- Now just stand or sit quietly. Allow yourself a few
moments to centre yourself quietly and breathe.
- Now quietly and respectfully greet the house and ask
if itís willing to talk to you. Remember you may have
lived in it for years and never bothered to say a word
before so donít be surprised if itís a bit sniffy.
- What happens next varies from person to person. Some
can "hear" the house speaking in their heads.
For some it seems like active imagination, you imagine
what the house might say. Others get the odd word, or
image, or feeling.
- If you do feel a connection, you can ask it
questions: is it happy or unhappy? What would it like
you to do? What could it do for you? Is there anything
specific it can suggest?
My house has given me all kinds of answers Ė from
where to find a set of lost keys to what colours it
wanted to be painted. Is it really the house or just my
own intuition? Who cares?
OK, Iím running out of space but, before I go, I
canít resist adding in just a few more very swift
pointers to bringing a sense of spirit and soul into
your home. Think about the following:
- Clear the clutter. Seriously, it makes a huge
difference. Clutter exhausts you on all levels Ė
physically it attracts dust and causes allergies;
psychologically it makes you anxious and stressed (what
have you forgotten to do?); energetically it causes the
vital energy of your home to stagnate and go sour.
- Learn basic feng shui Ė if you do nothing else,
try to keep rooms uncluttered and your passageways
clear. Keep shapes soft and organic. Always keep your
toilet seat down. Sit with a clear view of the door.
Most of feng shui is common-sense allied with your own
- Learn how to space clear Ė itís as important as
physical cleaning. You may find this hard to believe,
but try it and notice the difference. Spirit of the Home
or Spirit of the Living Room have details Ė or check
out my website www.janealexander.org
which gives instructions.
- Indulge all your senses Ė throw away artificial
air fresheners and use the power of aromatherapy. Make
every surface a delight to touch. Think about the sounds
in your home and how they make you feel. Choose
ornaments and pictures that feed your soul AND your
- If you canít have a real fire (the ultimate heart
of the home) then designate a spot to be the heart and
have a tray of candles to bring the warm, embracing
energy of fire into your home (but be safety conscious
- Enjoy the other elements. Have real flowers in your
home whenever possible Ė they raise the spirits and
can smell lovely too. Water features raise the energy
and are good fun. Or float petals in bowls of water (add
a few drops of aromatherapy oil if your flowers arenít
scented). Have beautiful stones as door stops. Choose
real wood (from sustained sources) where possible.
- Make your home safe Ė shun building material and
furnishings which emit noxious gases and choose natural
alternatives instead. If you have young children please
PLEASE pay attention to this. What horrifies me above
all else is seeing parents-to-be decorating nurseries
using toxic materials Ė from paint, curtains, carpet
to the brand new furniture. If you can, check out Spirit
of the Nursery, which will tell you whatís safe and
whatís not to use for your precious newborn.
- Spritz rooms with space clearing mists Ė they
smell gorgeous and also impart a lovely clear, relaxed
feeling. Check out www.pacificessences.com
for some of my favourites.
- Build altars Ė they donít have to be big fancy
affairs. Most of us do it subconsciously anyway Ė we
stick a few favourite pictures next to a vase of flowers
and maybe a candle. Put together things that are
meaningful to you Ė or even disturbing (altars should
challenge as well as soothe). You might want to include
affirmations, prayers, wishes, hopes. Make a point of
pausing regularly and thinking about the items there. If
you have a particular faith, obviously include sacred
images, symbols or texts. If not, meaningful poems or
images will be fine.
I hope this helps you, in some small way, to enjoy
your home more. I send you a blessing on your house and
on everyone with whom you share it. May it bring you
peace and pleasure, comfort and joy.
Read more of Jane Alexanderís work
on her website: www.janealexander.org
Copyright © 2002 Jane
Alexander. All Rights Reserved.
Jane Alexander is a UK-based writer on natural health, holistic living and
contemporary spirituality. She has written sixteen
books on holistic (and soulful) living, including the
bestselling Spirit of the Home (Thorsons), The
Energy Secret (Element) and The Five Minute
Healer (Simon & Schuster). Her website, www.janealexander.org
is full of tips for living soulfully.