The unimaginable tragedy in Southeast Asia has done one important thing: it has brought people of all faiths and classes, ethnicities and backgrounds, together. It has shown us how much a part of one family we all are, reminding us of the things that unite, rather than divide us.
In the midst of our own grief and confusion over the disaster, we were reminded how the hearth–the traditional center of the home–has always, in every culture throughout history, been a place for connecting with what matters. There we spend time with loved ones, we commune with our center, we find peace. While many of us don’t have a fireplace-type hearth, we can create a place of fire, warmth, and peace to be a focus for sending prayer or healing, for being in gratitude, for meditating or simply breathing in a quiet space. This spirit-hearth crosses all ethnic, cultural, and religious barriers. It gives us a place to celebrate family, and it brings us a measure of solace in hard times.
Here are some suggestions for creating a special spirit-hearth place for your family. We can use it as a focus for keeping those who are now without homes in mind:
Find a Place
All you really need is a small surface on which to set a candle, although a larger space will permit more objects on your spirit-hearth. It needs to be in a place where you can be quiet, apart from any hustle and bustle. A little table in the corner of a room will do, or a mantel, or the top of a bookshelf. It is ideal if cushions or chairs can be placed nearby, and the area may be screened with plants or furniture to give it a sense of seclusion. If you are fortunate enough to have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, this could become the natural place to make your spirit-hearth.
Choose What You Want to Include
Besides a candle, the choice of special objects for your spirit-hearth is completely open to your own unique preferences. Some will want photographs of family or teachers and spiritual leaders, or paintings or statues of spiritual figures that have meaning to you. You may want to include objects from nature that vary with the seasons: a seashell or bunch of grasses in summer, a brightly-colored leaf in autumn, a pinecone in winter, a flowering bulb in spring. Many people like to include a growing plant or fresh flowers, and a receptacle for incense or a small smudge stick.
Spending Time By Your Spirit-Hearth
Even just a few minutes spent beside your spirit-hearth will comfort you. The simple ritual of lighting a candle, and perhaps some incense, is calming to the deeper self. You can bring all your troubles, concerns, sorrows, or joys to this special spot, and rest there. It can be a wonderful place for opening to guidance, and strengthening ourselves to do what needs to be done. And when we gather with our loved ones in this special place, we invite hearts to open and real connection to happen. We can also gather here to send our loving thoughts to the tsunami survivors, lighting a candle and offering it with hope that their lives may be rebuilt and home found again.