What it is about a house

watercolor by Anabel Shuckhart, 2020

Living in California, I witness a lot of conversations about real estate. Home prices, relocation, asset management, remodeling and renovations … all topics that slide into time with family, friends, and strangers almost daily. Even in my high school, teachers used mortgages to teach math modeling and asked for our square footage on Econ homework. Kids knew that houses were a quick way to categorize each other and our families.

Presumed to be a fundamental, universal goal in our culture — and a source of either personal pride or shame depending on a person’s access to and success in it — owning property is also energetically consuming and entirely temporal. Among hundreds of souls I’ve connected with in readings and countless specific topics they’ve lit up for my clients, not one has emphasized property ownership. In fact when I’ve been called to read the energy of houses, most often spirit presence has pressed upon me the importance of freedom and choice to balance our fixed ideas about the house or other possessions.

The notion makes sense to most of us. We do at least know “you can’t take it with you,” and many (OK, some) of us know that personal worth isn’t actually tied to property values. But even if we’re able to engage our higher selves on the topic in theory, why do we still fixate on owning and embellishing the place where we sleep and keep our clothes and cereal?

Considering the trauma inflicted and re-inflicted on displaced and assaulted people all over the world, I took a hard look at the anxious thoughts I kept having about home and possessions when my family went through an unplanned move a few months ago. I had to act fast to choose a new place and decisively let go of furnishings and other long-held objects that wouldn’t work in the new space. Before this clean sweep, I’d thought I had a fairly simple lifestyle relative to what’s around me in Los Angeles, but of course that standard equates to obnoxiously lavish by global measures. Comparing my situation to neighbors or to people on the other side of the world couldn’t fully explain or ease the emotional toll of the change, so I had to look to the plane of universal love where I go with clients to work with spirit … where I knew I’d have to see through a different lens what my physical home is actually for.

There, where our souls instinctively dwell, the widely differing physical details of our home spaces are both irrelevant and so influential. Irrelevant because of their temporal nature, and influential because what we believe about our surroundings becomes our very being. At the extremes, we can find examples of spiritual devotees of ascetic traditions renouncing property ownership (and most physical comforts) and wealthy business leaders at the other end stockpiling opulence, ostensibly to pass its benefits to later generations. In truth, neither set of circumstances can tell us whether one is more attuned to joyful existence than the other. Instead, that question always comes back to the inner balance of the soul living in either condition. As French philosopher Gaston Bachelard put it, “A safe and well-housed unconscious is at home everywhere.” A home does matter, but not in the way most real estate listings describe it.

Far more intricately than I will do here, Bachelard dives the depths of meaning that we can extract about a house and calls it the great integrator of our thoughts, memories, and dreams in his work “The Poetics of Space.” Crucial in our relationship with our original dwelling place, he says, is the shelter it provides for what many call imagination and daydreams of early childhood. In the proof of stability that we ask from every later house we inhabit, we’re instinctively seeking support for the life of “daydreams” we all continue to need — what my work tells me is actually the all-inclusive spiritual world where purpose, unconditional stability, and creativity are born and sustained.

Then can this core of the American dream, home ownership, actually play a spiritual role as much as it further entrenches our materialism? We get to choose our answer. Without the intention to connect with our home space at that level of meaning, a house is nothing more than real estate — at worst it becomes an albatross around the neck and at best an incubator of inner well-being and imaginative freedom. Like so much of the spiritual journey that all life is, finding harmony with our home space essentially calls for a remembering of our full range of inherent gifts, which go well beyond material acquisition.

It is so foundational to the United States to leave one’s birthplace and familiar community to focus on work and home ownership in a new land that most people here don’t “have roots” where they live. We have forgotten to value the number of essential and primitive life-sustaining benefits that are lost in that disconnection from our original home; and any such substantial loss calls for eventual karmic balance somehow. In divine perfection, our lives will show us our need for balance until we attend to restoring it at a soul level, wherever we set up a home and whatever its footprint may be.

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