This is post eight in a series about spirituality, time, and place. Find the previous posts here:
You Are Your Stories
Own Your Story
Is Now Really All We Have?
Where Did You Come From?
Where Are You Going?
A Bigger Story
Where Are You Now?
Have you ever experienced changes in your energy levels, mood, and clarity of thinking depending on where you are? To what extent are you aware of how the places in which you live, work, play, and rest impact your physical, mental, and spiritual health?
For six years I lived in a small, two-bedroom flat in Sea Point, Cape Town. The entire building contained just ten or twelve units about half of which were only used by their owners for a few weeks of vacation each year. Yet, there was something very unhealthy about this building. It was surrounded by much taller buildings that obscured any views of greenery, ocean, or sky. It was situated on a very busy road. And for some reason the people who lived there were often at war with one another.
Living in this environment took a major toll on my mental and emotional health. The day we left felt like emerging from a nightmare into a bright, breezy morning.
SICK BUILDING SYNDROME
For quite some time sociologists and health researchers have known that buildings can seriously impact the health of those who work and live in them. This sick building syndrome as it’s known can be related to air quality, mould, light, toxic building materials, or other factors and can cause a wide range of symptoms in those who are affected. But, in my experience even buildings or spaces that may seem benign can have negative effects on those who spend time in them.
We all know places in our cities and neighbourhoods that feel threatening, depressing, or exhausting for no apparent reason. Some spaces seem to be ‘haunted’ in the sense that they carry the emotional residue of those who have suffered, grieved, or been persecuted there. Walk through an old Nazi death camp in Germany, or the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, or the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and you’ll know what I mean.
IDENTIFYING OUR NEGATIVE SPACES
We all have spaces that are negative or sick for us personally. They may be places where painful memories always return. They may have associations with things that make us feel unsafe, or they may carry a negative ambiance for some reason.
When those spaces are a regular part of our living, working, or relating they can significantly damage our mental and emotional heath. Pause for a moment and consider what spaces in your life have been sick? What impact did (or do) those spaces have on you?
HEALING SICK PLACES
Healthy spirituality can guide us to address the toxicity, exorcise whatever metaphorical demons may remain, and bring a new light and energy into sick spaces. But, when necessary, a healthy spirituality will also lead us to leave a space to find the health we need.
We will talk more about this in next week’s blog post, but when we are unable to leave or when we feel capable of redeeming a space, here are some simple things we can do:
- Cleaning up a space, and filling it with light, heat and comfortable, welcoming furnishings can make a huge difference to how our souls feel in that space.
- Filling spaces with objects, art, symbols, music, and scents that comfort, inspire, or enfold us in safety can transform an unfriendly space. If some of those objects are especially meaningful that is even better.
- Bringing positive energy, associations, and experiences into the space and keeping conflict or distasteful activities out can transform the energy of a space.
Creating spaces that are healthy and life-giving is an important, albeit often neglected, spiritual practice. But, when we become mindful of how a healed space can heal us, we can embrace this task with hope and compassion—and the gifts can be immense.
- How have you experienced sick spaces?
- Have you ever managed to transform a sick space into a healthy, healing space?
- How did you do that?
Please share your experiences in the comments, and let’s learn together.
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