House Shaking

By Mary Reddy

Our culture encourages us to wander far and wide on digital waves, unmoored from our physical surroundings. In reaction to this slightly disembodied engagement, many of us instinctively go out into nature. Fresh air, green growing things, and our bodies moving across the earth remind of us of who we are. Yet most of us spend a large part of our lives inside buildings, especially inside our homes. How do we remember who we are inside? Who or what do we relate to, beyond the other humans in the house?

The spring cleaning impulse took hold of me recently. Think of what spring cleaning was like before the age of the vacuum cleaner. In colder climes, one could finally open windows, invite spring breezes to blow out the winter mustiness, hang rugs on lines outdoors and beat the dust out of them. In Iran, spring cleaning is known as "khooneh tekouni” or “house shaking”—such a lovely phrase! Spring rituals were firmly in place when I was growing up. I was often charged with polishing all the silver until each fork, serving spoon, and platter glowed. I loved that task in particular, more than dusting or washing. The polish removed all tarnish—made all things new again. 

Perhaps some of us still perform these cleaning rituals by the season. But whenever or however one cleans or moves about the house, admiring a vase on the shelf or the smooth river stones placed on a table, the attention acknowledges an existing energy relationship. In Working with Subtle Energies, David notes that “each of us, wherever we are, is always a participant in the energy flow and life of that particular environment. Just like any mass shapes the field of space-time around itself (creating the phenomenon of gravity), so a living presence and consciousness always shapes in some manner and to some degree the field of life around itself.”


In “shaking” my house, I’ve grown more intimate with all it contains. Lately, I pick up objects I have not paid attention to for years. The question is always—why? How long has this item sat in a crowded drawer, waiting the hour of usefulness which never comes? “Oh, it’s you!” I may say to one object, thus renewing my respect and friendship with it. "Please let me dust you, or polish you, or move you to a more graceful location." Other times, I may say “Who are you? What do you need?” And the reply is to move on. “Let me go where I can be used. Let me matter to someone.”

As my children grew up and left and I moved repeatedly, I said goodbye to precious objects, ones I thought I’d never have to release. I found my compass at those moments. I realized these beautiful mementos of the past were just that—mementos. The experiences would not cease to exist if I no longer held these things. How many could I carry? “You are not a museum curator,” I told myself. I realized that I was asking these things to hold back my grief. In saying goodbye to them, I experienced the paradox of grief over loss resting side by side with supreme gratitude for having, at least for a time, that which was precious to me. “Go ahead and cry,” they tell me, “and we will carry the love you’ve given us into our next landing place.” 

In The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachalard writes about the numinous meaning of things in interior spaces, “How big, how enveloping, is an old sheet when we unfold it. And how white the old tablecloth was, white as the moon on the wintry meadow … If we give objects the friendship they should have, we do not open a wardrobe without a slight start. Beneath its russet wood, a wardrobe is a very white almond. To open it is to experience an event of whiteness.”  And my favorite poet, Rilke, notes “A box top that is in good condition with its edges unbattered, should have no other desire than to be on its box.” 

There is life in the things around us. If you choose to, you can open your heart to them and they will remind you of who you are.

Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) If you wish to share how your life has benefited from your relationship with Lorian and IS, please email the editor at We prefer submissions between 700-900 words. We rarely accept previously published material (including blog posts.) We also reserve the right to edit or decline your submission. Any accepted submissions will be published in the order that best fits our schedule.