What do a rabbit and the Queen of England have in common?
What do all living creatures need in order to grow and fulfil their development?
The answer to both is the same.
The answer that I am looking for here is: a home.
We all need homes. We feel sadness, compassion and a sense of injustice for those who are homeless. A home is a natural and God-given right for all sentient beings. Rabbit or monarch. Swallow or human.
We need homes, I suggest, because we are rhythmic beings, pulsing between expansion and integration. We experience this tempo second by second in our bodies in the rise and fall of our breath. We do activity and we do rest. We go out and then we come home. We need safe and nurturing spaces in which we can rest and do the more vulnerable and personal activities, such as rearing our young and recovering from challenge. We need space for reflection, refuge, relaxation, contemplation, warmth and sleep.
We experience this tempo too in the cycle of birth and then death â€” decades of human activity followed by a blissful rest in heaven.
It is not only humans and other creatures that have this rhythm. We live in a cosmos that is pulsing to this tempo of in-breath and out-breath. The universe is expanding and will contract. There are stars and constellations that have emerged and expanded, and are now sinking back into black holes. The tempo of these heavenly beings is numbered in millions of years. How long will our Sun shine and radiate before sinking back into a nurturing slumber?
This cycle of activity and repose is especially relevant as we enter Autumn and the cycle of the seasons reaches a consummation in harvest time and is followed by a period of rest. I have many friends who feel deeply influenced by this in their own lives, using Autumn and Winter as a period of reflection and seeding new growth.
It is also at this time of year that we look back to the hearth in our homes and, if we are lucky enough to have open fires, start to prepare them. In my own home, when we moved in almost twenty years ago, I wanted to knock down the whole wall between the kitchen and lounge and create a larger open space, but there was a sealed fireplace in the wall and the cost of removing the chimney and placing in new props and beams was prohibitive. I spoke to two architects and they both said the same. ‘Be grateful that you have a home with a fireplace. See the hearth as the heart of your home.’
So I did some feasible knocking down, opened up the old fireplace, retiled it and put in a wood-burning stove. I remember very well the day that we first lit a fire in it. The atmosphere of the whole house changed. A warm and cosy and safe ambience glowed through the space. We were touched by this obvious shift and felt very grateful. It seemed as if the heart of the home had earthed.
Heart plus Earth equals Hearth.
There is a very important and reassuring insight that emerges from appreciating that in-breath and out-breath are cosmic rhythms.
The insight here is that this wonderful quality of atmosphere, which we call the hearth or home is not something just restricted to humans or other creatures on Earth. Home — a place and space to rest, reflect, nurture and grow quietly — is also a cosmic dimension or archetype. A planet or star or galax even a universe — has its rhythm and in-breath and home.
The home, the hearth, is a multidimensional and very big . . . what word can we use to best name it? Idea. Archetype. Angel. Archangel. Dimension. Spirit. God or Goddess. Energy field. Matrix. Platonic perfect form. Whatever word we use to describe it, we know what it means and what it feels like. We find it in a wee bird’s nest, a rabbit warren, a bed-sitting room and a palace. And we find it in the cosmos too. It is universal. The heavenly home. The cosmic womb.
When I opened up the fireplace in our home and we lit the fire, we were engaged in an ancient household ceremony. We were doing physical actions — placing fuel, lighting flames. We were also acting symbolically, linking with the great cosmic archetype and dimension of the hearth and the home.
This happens too when you might pause and light a candle on your home altar, which could be temporarily on a kitchen table or mantelpiece. In that mindful and sacred action you connect with and call in the angel or spirit of your home. So it is, of course, that all across the world and in most spiritual traditions, households have home altars and daily make an offering or light a flame to the spirit of the home, the angel of the household.
Understanding the cosmic context, you can see that your local household spirit is, in fact, connected to the cosmic energy field of the great heavenly spirit of the cosmic home. So — here is the crucial point — when you light your candle and connect with your local angel of your home, you are also connecting with an enormous cosmic spirit of help and support. Nest, bedsitter or palace, you are part of the great heavenly home.
Enjoy the Autumn. Enjoy your hearth.