Mod­ern homes can be places of con­ve­nience, clean­li­ness and effi­ciency. Released from the long list of chores that com­prised an olden day labor-filled lifestyle, we are freer to come and go, travel from home, and invest time out­side of our home in activ­i­ties. For some, it can seem impor­tant to step away from the work of tend­ing the home. It can seem like lib­er­a­tion to be less focused on the daily phys­i­cal struc­tures of life.

How­ever, spend­ing less time tend­ing our space can mean that our homes are fail­ing to pro­vide essen­tial nour­ish­ment for our human spirit. Our world is one where peo­ple can com­plain of feel­ing dis­con­nected, lonely or stuck in a rat race that lacks mean­ing. Some symp­toms of these com­plaints are addic­tion to drugs, alco­hol and over­spend­ing. Health symp­toms such as stress and heart dis­ease also are preva­lent. Our homes can be rail­way sta­tions of fam­ily life; with mem­bers rush­ing out to work and school. Some par­ents stuff food into the kids at night before an evening meet­ing or a late night tryst with the inter­net. Week­ends can be spent recov­er­ing from the work week, attempt­ing to get caught up on the laun­dry, shop­ping or attend­ing to needs for fun and enter­tain­ment. Houses can also be clut­tered with too many belong­ings and they can fail to pro­vide a sense of peace, warmth and security.

Like the com­fort and mean­ing that the struc­ture of reli­gion can pro­vide for a fam­ily, cre­at­ing a soul­ful home can pro­vide some­thing essen­tial. A home rife with mean­ing, sym­bol­ism and per­sonal and spir­i­tual beauty can alle­vi­ate stress. It can give a solid cen­ter to our lives. Indeed, as Thomas Ben­der says, align­ing our build­ings with our sense of our uni­verse gives us the oppor­tu­nity to affirm and clar­ify our beliefs. Resid­ing in a soul­ful home makes us hap­pier and health­ier because, through mean­ing, it con­nects us to an inte­gral part of our human roots. It con­nects us to our history.

In ancient times the very first con­cept of home was the hearth, the round fire that warmed, cooked and kept us safe from harm. The home fires rep­re­sented phys­i­cal nour­ish­ment, secu­rity and the focus point for tribal relat­ing. Humans gath­ered around the fire to tell sto­ries and nour­ish them­selves in spirit and body. There is evi­dence of hearth wor­ship­ping as far back as archae­ol­o­gists have dis­cov­ered remains of human life. Hes­tia is the ancient Greek god­dess sym­bol­iz­ing the hearth and the guardian of the home. In Greek cul­ture, every house had an altar for her and it was cen­tral to daily life. The alter was cleaned, tended and hon­ored with incense and fresh flowers.

The ancients also acknowl­edged Hes­tia by pour­ing a lit­tle of the first drink of wine on the ground as a trib­ute to her. Accord­ing to Jane Alexan­der in her book Spirit of the Home, a house or a tem­ple was only a build­ing until the altar to Hes­tia was set up. The Hes­tia altar was pur­ported to bring to the home the prop­er­ties of seren­ity, secu­rity, pro­tec­tion and safety. It was said that home pro­vides a ves­sel for a har­mo­nious fam­ily , as Jun­gian James Hill stated in a lec­ture on the soul of home in 2009. Humans have a need for this con­tainer as a place for rest, retreat, soli­tude and for dreaming.

In the past, it seems that humans under­stood our need for a mean­ing­ful way to expe­ri­ence inti­mate places. Our ances­tors per­formed spe­cific actions to cul­ti­vate their soul­ful con­nec­tion with home.

But Hes­tia is in dan­ger of being aban­doned. The home fires have gone out. This is sym­bol­ized by the stop­ping up of chim­neys and the instal­la­tion of flip-of-the-switch cen­tral heat­ing. The glow­ing fire­place has been replaced by the radi­ant screens of com­put­ers and tele­vi­sions. Mod­ern archi­tec­ture is sick, says archi­tect Christo­pher Day.

We lost our havens when we lost our habits of tend­ing and hon­or­ing the spirit of the home. We also lost our focus. Inter­est­ingly, the word focus is a Latin word mean­ing hearth. To focus like this can mean to cre­ate the time and the place to digest, express and muse on the expe­ri­ences of the day. And this hap­pens at home. Indeed, as Gas­ton Bachelard states the house is one of the great­est pow­ers of inte­gra­tion for the thoughts, mem­o­ries and dreams of mankind.

Christo­pher Day reminds us that­ev­ery place should have a spirit. Indeed, unless it has been destroyed by bru­tal unre­spon­sive actions, every place does have a spirit. Look­ing from an his­tor­i­cal Hes­t­ian per­spec­tive, we can gain some clues for sim­ple ways that we inter­act more mean­ing­fully with our homes, even in the midst of busy mod­ern lives

Cre­ate a small alter in the cen­tre of the home and light­ing a can­dle or burn­ing a stick of incense every day to honor the spirit of the house. This brings back the ele­ment of fire into the home, regard­less of whether the home­owner pos­sesses a hearth.

Gar­den­ing or tend­ing house­plants is another mean­ing­ful activ­ity that can con­nect a home­owner with the spirit of the house. Indeed, a soul­ful home would not be com­plete with­out the beauty and har­mony of green liv­ing plants. Plants sym­bol­ize the cycles of life.The great­est delight which the woods and fields min­is­ter is the sug­ges­tion of an occult rela­tion between man and veg­etable. I am not alone and unac­knowl­edged. They nod to me and I nod to them, wrote Emer­son. This sug­gests the con­nec­tion of the divine forces of the plants and gar­dens to human beings. The phys­i­cal activ­i­ties involved in car­ing for a gar­den con­tribute on another level to the health and vital­ity of a soul­ful homeowner.

Another method to increase con­scious atten­tion of the phys­i­cal sur­round­ings of the home is to cul­ti­vate aware­ness of all of your senses as you move about your home. The senses include: sight (notice and reduce clut­ter, empha­size color in the home, choose images sym­bolic of soul), hear­ing (water, wind, chimes, bird sounds), smell (essen­tial oils, kitchen foods, incense), touch (fab­rics and tex­tures, wood, stone, clay). Con­sider nam­ing your house as a way of com­ing into rela­tion­ship with the unique per­son­al­ity of your home.

So, it seems that in the acqui­si­tion of the clean­li­ness, con­ve­nience and effi­ciency of today’s house, there has been a giv­ing up of the heart of the home. This giv­ing up of the heart is felt by mod­ern soci­ety with a sharp warn­ing pang and spe­cific symp­toms. With proper guid­ance and under­stand­ing, how­ever, it’s very pos­si­ble to re-focus our time and atten­tion in ways that can sup­port the revival of the soul of the home, Hes­tia. Reviv­ing Hes­tia replen­ishes our roots and nour­ishes us on lev­els unseen yet cru­cial to our health and vitality.

Rachel Ross

Man­dala Homes