Fragments of a Full Life

I tore it down.

I tore it all down.

I looked at my space, my little corner room, which is both an office and the home to my small shrine, and I realized that there was something wrong. There was something stale. It did not feel like a sacred space, like an active creative space. It was just a repository for stuff.

Worst of all, the outside was beginning to feel like a reflection of the inside.

It needed to change.

Both needed to change.

So, I tore it down.

I took the books off the bookshelves and stacked them into small piles in the center of the room. Next to the books I placed old journals, notepads, and spiral notebooks — 100, 150 of them, maybe — dating back some twenty years. They all went into the middle of the room, all of these archives of my inner work.

Out came the drawers from the garage sale dresser, along with the incense, tapestries, cigar boxes filled with birthday cards. They were moved out of my little corner room, and the destruction began spilling out into the hallway.

From the walls I removed the Brighid’s triskel I made at Pantheacon, the burlap calendar from 1979 (the year of my birth), and all of the other bits of beauty I’d used to decorate my space. It all came down. The walls were stripped bare.

Within an hour, there was a landfill of papers, books, and long-forgotten mementos in the center of the floor. These things I keep, this paper trail of my hopes, my desires, my questions, my doubts — it all lay there in a heap.

I danced around my memories, leaping from clear spot to clear spot, cleaning off old surfaces and repositioning bookcases. I turned the entire room on its head, and turned my head into a much more spacious room.

Once the furniture was repositioned, the journals went back on the shelves. I placed them closest to my desk, on the two highest shelves, so that I could see clearly the evidence of my life whenever I felt devoid of history. I could reach out and grab hold of fourteen, of twenty-four, of yesterday. I could look at the ways in which I’ve used creativity to cope with confusion, to liberate anger, to reinvent my identity. It’s all there, ink on paper…

Fragments of a full life.

It took a while to clear the floor of my life. Hours. Not everything stayed. Some things were discarded altogether. But when it was done, I stood back and looked at my little corner room and felt calm again.

I remembered myself. I remembered what I do, and where I’ve been.

I remembered my name.

I tore it all down, and then put things back together again. It was a fitting way to start out the waning of the moon.

Our religious spaces can become static. Our creative spaces, too, can begin to feel like the piling up of old things, forgotten tools. These spaces — inner and outer — need to be kept alive and filled with movement. Interestingly, I find that by shaking up the physical, by rearranging the furniture and reconnecting with the archives of my life, I am better able to engage with stillness.

This place, after all, is where I practice my religion. It isn’t where I do it perfectly, or where I am an expert. It’s where I practice my practice.

I wonder —

What’s your relationship like with your space? Do you keep record of your spiritual life, and if so, do you ever look back on where you’ve been? Can you trace how you got to this point?

Is it important to you to have a place for contemplation, meditation, or ritual in your home? If so, what have you done to make that space open, useable, alive?

How do you engage with the fragments of your full life?

[All photos by Martin Kilmas]





12 responses to “Fragments of a Full Life”

  1. Heartache Into Beauty Avatar

    This struck some powerful chords in me. When I left my former tradition, it felt much like you’re describing – in my inner space, I found myself tearing down all that had been built up, rearranging some things, and discarding what no longer served. And then I did all that with my physical space. Very cathartic, and I definitely found stillness and a greater sense of wholeness in the process.

  2. Surina Nathaniel Avatar
    Surina Nathaniel

    I have been keeping a journal for the greater part of five years. Sadly, all my journals from my childhood are lost to the sands. It’s important to me to keep writing, especially if I feel as if something is stuck within me – as if writing is the lubricant I need to squeeze it out. I have thought recently of writing more often in regards to my own practice, because at this juncture my pagan ways haven’t made an appearance. But I always get stuck at, Do I need to start another journal for that? I’m a witch, so I will, at some point, begin writing my own spells, and they too will need a home.
    I live in a room, so my bed, office, television, altar, and everything else is in one room. Sometimes I do wish that I had the space to separate everything to its desired area, since having everything right in one space can at times be dizzying. Yet there are times when I am glad that everything is in arm’s reach as well. I think I have a while until I figure that out with any certainty.
    The truth is that the fragments of my full life extend beyond the borders of my efficiency. They include my boyfriend’s home, my parents’ home, my workplace, where my friends are, and, of course, the infinite space of the outdoors. It’s pleasing to get to share myself with so many.

  3. Éireann Avatar

    I did something similar recently, although not on such a grand scale. I remade my house altar to my gods, with different imagery, different items, and in a different location on a different piece of furniture. It was primarily knowing that the former piece of furniture would be moving soon to a different room in which the altar would not fit so well that prompted the change, but it became a need to reinvent it as well as relocate it. I needed fresh items and imagery to better articulate the truth I was holding to, so I could better see and be reminded of it daily. I had known in some small way that it was needed, but beginning the project really threw it into relief for me, and now that the change has been made, it does feel like it properly expresses my religious understanding at this time.

  4. Saule Avatar

    That was beautiful Teo. I can’t think of the right words but it struck something in me. Thank you for the unnamed gift I think I needed that.

  5. Jennifer Hawley-Zechlin Avatar

    Teo, really enjoyed this piece. No, enjoy isn’t quite it, I think I really NEEDED this piece. Stagnation, both spiritually and creatively, is the single most frustrating place for me to be and yet your gentle reminder that we PRACTICE not perfect our religion was a balm this morning.

  6. Luke Landry Avatar
    Luke Landry

    This post resonates with me a lot. Over the past year I have picked up a bunch of stuff, both literally in terms of trinkets on my altar, and figuratively in terms of spiritual angles to pursue, and I now find both my shrine and my practice cluttered and disorganized. I think the time has come to tear down and simplify both of these.

  7. Lo Avatar

    Makes me really appreciate just that much more the fact that my religion has so many festival days set aside for renewing things–cleaning, throwing away, repairing, rededicating, and making some things from scratch. Feels amazing every time.

  8. Doodle pops Avatar
    Doodle pops

    I have done exactly this, recently. Things were static, ornanental instead of practical. I took down all my shrines, stripped them of extraneous objects, sat without them for three days until I knew what I needed from them. At the same time, I shook up my daily practice. Dropped aspects that had become habit, asked friends and mentors to describe their practices to inspire me to see my practices differently.

    My shrines and practice had been constant for nearly two years: it was a comfort in a fairly hectic time, but I needed the change. Those objects and symbols and practices that survived the transition feel deeper, now. They feel more authentic to me and my practice. I’m not trying to emulate anyone else anymore.

    It is blessed liberty to be able to do this.

  9. Sarenth Avatar

    My relationship with space is, is if it is not being used it finds another home. This might be handing it off to a friend, a family member, or donating it to Goodwill. I’ve been through multiple moves in the last ten years, and if that taught me anything, is that though I deeply love my statuary and my ritual spaces, that if I am not actively using them for worship they need to move on.

    I no longer have a record of my early spiritual life, aside from books I’ve kept, because most of my altar tools from when I began my path in Paganism as a Wiccan were consumed in an altar fire. I did not realize how cleansing that was until some time later, because there I was, carrying around years worth of pain, as well as pleasure, blessings, as well as bane, in a plastic tub and about my ritual spaces. What survived the fire was what was directly related to my path as it was then, and as it is now.

    It is important for me to contemplation, meditation, ritual space in my home, and the altars I keep now serve that purpose for myself, as well as my son and my girlfriend. The difference is from this and other similar spaces I’ve made in the past, is that we set this space up together, so while it is in the room I share with our son, it is our space to worship the Gods, have contemplation, and have peace.

  10. Kourtney Avatar

    I know exactly where you are coming from with this post. I did something similar recently… though not on this scale. Sometimes I feel like its weighing me down rather than lifting me up, and when I get to that point I know that its time to change. Usually its a signal that I need to find a new approach, take another turn on this long path, find something new, take the next step.

  11. Kristin McFarland Avatar
    Kristin McFarland


  12. Wes Isley Avatar
    Wes Isley

    Interesting approach, and you’ve got me thinking–so, yeah, major achievement, that!