In my home, the first person to get up lights a candle in the kitchen. Usually it is a four-hour nightlight that sits on a little shelf next to where there are pictures of our loved ones. In a way, it is an altar. It is one of the many places in our home where we have pictures and objects of the people, animals and places that we love.
Across all cultures and periods of history, most homes – from stone castle to straw hut – have had altar spaces holding important objects and images. This is normal human behavior. It is so normal that people do it in their work places, too. On desks and walls all over the world, you will see images of loved ones, landscape and favorite activities, like sailing or trekking.
When my wife, Sabrina, or I light this candle in the kitchen, we pause for a few seconds – and ask for our home to be blessed. This is not just a mental request, but also a brief, heart-felt experience. I use this word "experience" very purposefully. In that moment’s stillness, we allow our bodies to feel what it is like when the home is in harmony. It is as if in each cell of our bodies there is a commander from the Starship Enterprise saying, "Make it so!" And it is done. And felt.
This short, self-initiated experience sends a good message through the whole neural and hormonal network of the body. Whatever mood we might be in, whatever crises may be happening, we deliberately transmit this good message into our bodies. It is a short, but positive, assertion of how we want to feel in our home. Even though we do it only for a few seconds, it is symbolically powerful. More than that, it has a biological effect that echoes through our chemistry, through our behavior and out into our lives. It is like that butterfly’s wing, one flap of which might build up to a tornado on the other side of the planet.
That brief moment of raised awareness has consequences – which can only be positive. I pause, too, and experience a safe blessing before I set off on my motorbike for the long journey from Glastonbury to London and back.
Doing nothing sucks. Doing nothing sometimes has terrible consequences.
The most small of gestures can have enduring force. Starting the day with a blessing for your home. Being grateful for food. Buying things that do not damage nature and people. Welcoming newcomers.
These minimal positive acts of raised consciousness empower and have meaning. Done day after day, through good and bad moods, through good and bad times, they build into consistent waves of benevolence, good for you and good for the world around you.