Sanctity of spaces

by Anurag Ojha

Do you feel tranquility and peace at places of religious worship? Do you feel awe and a sense of history when walking the streets of a city with several hundred years of history? Are there places or spaces where you always feel a certain way? When you visit your parents place, do you find yourself behaving in old ways which you never would in your own home? (Lazy, never showing up on-time at the dinner table)

An explanation to these could be that humans are creature of habit. We see a “cue”, our mind suggests a “routine” to get to a familiar “reward”. Religious places give peace, because our minds have been trained since childhood to feel that way. Historical places feel that way because of biases we have already entered in our mind from our research on these places. We are lazy at our parents home simply because we always have been lazy growing up.

Psychology says its our mind that induces these feelings. But what if there is more to it. What if every “space” has a memory? What if the walls remember how people felt when they were between them?

I think what people do and feel leaves invisible signatures in the space they were in. These signatures last across time and can only diminish by adding different signatures in place of them to dampen. When we visit temples which are hundreds of years old, we connect to the reservoir of faith and peace that has been enriched over centuries by visiting pilgrims. Households which have seen violence, grief might also leave behind negative imprints in the walls. I think its also for the same reason visitors often feel a sense of eeriness in places like Aushwitz or Jallianwala Bagh, which have seen great human tragedy.

If spaces have memory, it gives us a opportunity to add some certainty over how different corners of our home influence us. If we sit on a study table only if we have a clear intent to work on something productive, we will induce feelings of “focus”, “discipline” into that space. The easy chair for reading. The dinner table for friendly chats and sharing thoughts. If we “bank” enough of those feeling into those spaces, we could use them to regain our focus and purpose. If personal projects are lagging behind — sit on the study chair and get cracking. If the mind is troubled — sit on the easy chair. If it needs distraction — sit on the stool and pick up the guitar.

As a kid I was strictly forbidden from studying while on bed. The bed was for one purpose only — sleep. I would like to think because of that, to this day, I always fall asleep within minutes when I hit the bed. I always find myself aimlessly reading stuff on the web as soon as I sit on my chair. No matter what my initial goal was before turning on the laptop, my focus just drifts away and I end up reading a random article on my favorite sites like theatlantic, newyorker, facebook, artofmanliness or one of the news websites. I am working to cultivate my study table to be a space of learning and writing. I am very happy that my easy chair always calms me down and makes me think about family. The stool in the corner of the room puts me in a mood to play and improve my guitar playing skills.

Places and spaces affect us in ways that can be apparent only if we really sit down and meditate. We are surrounded by so much noise and distraction that we rarely can connect with ourselves, let alone with whats around us and where we are. I think with a little bit of discipline we can cultivate spaces that help our minds. The living room can be a place for communication, settling differences, adventure. The bedroom — a place for love and relaxation. I think all forms of negativity and debauchery should be banished from the household. We will be richly rewarded for preserving the sanctity of our spaces.