The home should be the treasure chest of living.
— Le Corbusier
I went to Montpellier last June to work with a yoga teacher who had the privilege of working with Desikachar for many years. He has a depth of knowledge of yoga and Sanskrit, is hugely insightful and illuminating. His unique way of working involves building a structure and a language that is individual to every student. So the friend I went with seemed to spend much of her time with him in inverted postures such as headstand, whereas I sometimes only moved from my chair in the last 15 minutes of a session, and for the rest of the time had some fascinating discussions that led me to reflect for months to follow.
In the middle of our conversations he asked me about my home. He said he had a vision of it – a spacious front room like ‘a saloon’! I did a doubletake, having an immediate mental picture of Mae West serving at a bar…. He then corrected himself, being a Dane who lives in France yet speaks impeccable English – and said he meant a ‘salon’. Proust then floated to mind. Ah, that was better. He had an image of me hosting groups of intellectuals and artists engaged in stimulating exchanges. Well, not quite…..but I did rather like the idea, as described in Wikipedia:
‘A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace’s definition of the aims of poetry, “either to please or to educate” (“aut delectare aut prodesse est”). Salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th century and 18th centuries, were carried on until quite recently, in urban settings, among like-minded people.’
He talked about finding space for the expression and simply being of one’s spirit, and how through some simple posture work I might discover a different place within myself to respond to others from, more space for understanding. I was invited to explore these postures, and to see how my relationship with myself and my home developed. On reflection this was an invitation to make my home the treasure chest of living, perhaps through exploring how the body may be the treasure chest of the spirit.
I was intrigued by this link. Not so long ago, we had moved to a much larger house than before. More space, more freedom, yet the move had felt enforced, unlike any other house move I have ever made. In our previous smaller intimate house which I loved, we found ourselves surrounded by an encroaching world, crowding in on our space – new neighbours on one side who razed their inherited overgrown garden to the ground, using a small bulldozer on a beautiful May evening, and then sat on their porch staring at us day after day, so we soon had to erect a fence to get some shade from their insensitive gaze. Their situation unfolded, with occasional incidents of domestic abuse involving social services which were extraordinarily distressing. And neighbours on the other side whose over-exuberant children invaded our garden – in the nicest possible way. And then there was a plan to build a holiday park in the woods full of deer five minutes away. Two cats run over and my husband nearly run over just down the road – maybe we were a little slow in picking up the signals but eventually we knew that the world was giving us a message and so we had to move. This home was no longer the treasure chest of living.
We found our house at the same moment when the perfect house we already knew and loved came up for sale: a house where we had stayed several times more than 200 miles away in Somerset, sited in a warm, inviting garden with stunning views. For me the choice on one level (the Feeling level) was obvious. But Thinking and logic prevailed, and the choice wasn’t simply mine. The logistics would have been exhausting and maybe impossible. And then the dream house went up in smoke anyway, due to the owners changing their minds about selling (who wouldn’t?). So we ended up where we are now.
I like our house. I enjoy the way it relates to the space of the garden. The house asks me questions though – do we fill it? is there too much space? is space a luxury? what is the space for?
Is your home a treasure chest of living? How do you use your space? I am interested in other people’s reflections on these questions.
The yoga teacher’s invitation to revisit the space of my home, and the space of me, felt timely and spoke to me. At some level I have been doing that since I went to Montpellier, and my relationship to the space of my home has changed, and to myself, and to myself in my home. And so I was struck when, in November, hosting a home concert for 45 people, I realised my house was now, for that evening anyway, a salon.