Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Nest: Interiors as Spiritual Discipline

About four years ago, before Kate and I felt called to community life we discovered this magazine of interiors called Nest. I do not know quite how to describe this quarterly magazine, it was neither a "how to" of home decorating, nor was it simply a showcase. The simplest description was that each article and each issue of Nest saught to explore how we shape the interior space of our lives. For the editors and authors of Nest interior decorating was a spiritual and very human reality. I am thinking of Nest this afternoon because the journal is no more. It stoped circulation just before we were to recieve the last issue on our subscription. A few months back we finally recieved our two compensitory back issues. I miss Nest, and how much it fed my soul.
I also realized that I had failed to make a connection between interior and interior. As spiritual director I seek to help people sort out and arange their interior life; their journey with God, their perceptions of God, their prayer life, the various elements that make up their person. This concern for the interior life also causes me to be concerned for interiors, how the space of a house is aranged, both our community house here and the houses of my directees. Inveriably at some point in a spiritual directing relationship some aspect of our conversation will lead us to the arangement of their house, whether it is having space to pray and meditate or connecting the chaos of ones life and the arangement (and possibly chaos) of ones house. The interior of ones house can inhibit or encourage aspects of ones spiritual life.
Unfortunately the prominent climate in American Christianity downplays the importance of interiors, or perhaps better favors primarily pragmatic approaches to interior space. Churches are often designed not as a sacred space but multipurpose spaces that can serve as theater and stage and other uses as well. In fact there is often an attitude that discredits the need for having spaces devoted to our life of prayer and set asside for worshiping God. This attitude ultimately says that interior space is not spiritual, attending to spaces and their use and arrangement are merely pragmatic issues that have little to do with our spirituality and our relationship to God and others.
My experience as a Spiritual director and member of an intentional community contradicts this attitude. Arangement our interiors (spatial and psychological/spiritual) are never purely practical, or rather even supposed practical arangements and appointments have spiritual effects. Most people I have directed need to be able to set a space in their homes for spiritual practices, without that they usualy find that it is difficult to regularly take part in spiritual disciplines. It doesn't have to be an elaborate shrine, it can be as simple as a pillow and a candle in a corner used for meditation and prayer, or as elaborate as an Icon corner (something I recomend for Christians). But even with that a chaoticaly aranged house probably speaks of chaos in ones person, and begining to arange both interiors reinforces the order being worked out in each. Usually, I can only get so far with a directee before the arangement of his/her house becomes a subject of conversation and usualy something needs to change in the interior of the directees home before the spiritual thing under discussion can be fully addressed.
I certainly know that changes in the life of this community usualy mean needing to rearange the apartment we live in, and the health of the community in part depends on careful attention to the interior of the appartment from what is hung on the walls to the position of the soffa in our sitting room.
I miss Nest because I miss the constant creative reminder it brought every quarter: As spiritual beings we are physical and spatial beings, attending to the beauty and arangement of our homes is not a luxury (though we are told this is so) but simply a fact of being human, and thus a necesisty that we ignore to the detriment of our relationship with God and our neighbor.


madbull said...


i see you use the same design as i did...
if u want to i can help you improving it a little...

Larry Kamphausen said...

I am farily content with the design as is. Though if you have some ideas of improving it I would be interested in hearin them.
I did visit your blog and do notice that you do not use two side bars, which is what had originaly attracted me to this design.
e-mail me using the e-mail on the blog if you want to share any suggestions.