the luxury of less
The desire for peace permeates the national consciousness. Since 9-11, many people have been seeking refuge at home, converting guest rooms, alcoves, and living rooms into areas conducive to meditation. Some of the largest luxury home-builders in the United States now offer meditation rooms as design upgrades. Interior design serves its deeper, ancient purpose when we use it to create spaces that cultivate our spirituality. Meditation rooms orient us inward by soothing the senses and offering a philosophy for living that embraces the luxury of less.
It is through the senses that we perceive our environments, and feel their stimulating or relaxing effects. The perception of subtle, interior realms is easier when the senses are calmed. Then, they act as receptors not only of external stimuli, but of our souls’ transcendent, indwelling bliss. When we understand the five senses as instruments of the soul, they become divine guides to interior design.
Consider Buddha’s teaching about the Middle Way when transforming a Western-style living room or guest room into a space conducive to meditation. Keep what is essential for comfort and practicality, such as the sofa or bed, and remove any excess. Allow empty space softened by filtered light to be a presence in the room. Spaciousness functions as a mirror of the meditative state, and helps to take you there. Choose a candle, a simple altar or a statue for its transcendent beauty, and place it where it is a focal point. It will silently invite the inward gaze that prepares you for meditation.
While colors are usually thought of as visual, in the territory of the soul, there is a sensual fusion. Perhaps that is why we speak of colors as loud and soft. Neutrals, cool celadon greens or the warmer Indian palette of curry, cinnamon and indigo create environments that are both visually and literally quiet. Color assists in attuning your hearing inward to the natural, primordial sound of your breath, your mantra, and ultimately the bliss of pure silence.
Simplicity may be an acquired taste, because we tend to look for security outside ourselves in material things. If you resist simplicity externally, you may resist meditating, too. However, the luxury of less implies simplicity as elegance, not scarcity or famine. In the territory of the soul, taste is experienced as total absorption in our essential nature. Curiously, an indication of slipping into a meditative state is salivation. What do you hunger for? What satisfies you? When you sit down to meditate, you may ask yourself, “What do I want?”
Natural fibers and textures bring the healing, peaceful effects of nature into our homes. Bamboo floors, woven mats, stones, water elements and orchids grace many spas and yoga studios for this reason. Wearing cotton and silk lets our skin breathe. Touch as an inner sense is reverence for nature and its energetic essence, prana or breath. In meditation, when we revere or pay respectful attention to our breath, we feel safe.
Smell is the oldest of the senses and it triggers a very deep response. The scent of subtle essential oils, candles or incense can induce a meditative state. Smell, as an inner sense, is intoxication with essence, interconnectedness and unity. Lighting a candle or incense stick brings a ritual element into your meditation space. The flame of a candle is never diminished in lighting other candles. The smoke swirls from incense are believed to carry prayers to heaven. While meditation is not prayer, the ritual use of fragrance and light serve to remind us that our practice is not for ourselves alone.
The time and space that we create for meditation at home is a metaphor for our dedication to peace on our planetary home. Using interior design for spiritual purposes is an evolving art in the West. Hopefully, it reflects a growing commitment to the heart of yoga philosophy and the practice of ahimsa, non-violence towards ourselves and others.