One City

One City

Close Encounters of the Kind that Take Place in Your Kitchen

close encounters.jpgThe typical conception of a spiritual person’s home is a minimalist abode painted with soft, calming colors.  The tipple of a small fountain, the shadow of a bonsai tree, hemp fabrics, lightly sounding gongs, African throat singing music, ethnic cushions, plates of kale, the steam of a kettle wafting the smell of roibus tea into the air to mingle with the scent of tea tree cleaning products – all these combine to gently peacefully accentuate the light, spacious airiness of the dwelling place of a soft-voiced individual clad in soft fabrics with a gentle demeanor and excellent feng shui. 


What the typical conception of a spiritual (lay) person’s home does not include (besides any basis in reality or resemblance to the image above) is what I’m thinking about today.

Other people.


To paraphrase a talk I once heard by Bob Thurman, one of the most depressing and annoying facts of life is that every single person in the world thinks they are the most important person in the world.  And yet of course they are wrong, because although I think other people are certainly important, it is very clear to me that I actually am the most important person in the world.

And certainly nowhere does this fact become more present in all its depressing, annoying glory than in the sharing of living space.  Be it with partners, family or roommates it becomes achingly clear that occasionally people like to do something in your home that you didn’t have in mind.  And you like to think of your home as the one place where you can do exactly what you want to do.  And so if they take up all the hot water before your nightly bath or leave dishes in the sink or clothes strewn around the living room – should they decide to break your favorite glass, watch TV too loudly or simply walk in the door during your weekly role-playing session as hermit-troll-who-talks-to-nobody then that sense that you have any control over your experience in this world is lost. 


My roommate is moving out.  I have to replace him.  I’m nervous.  I’ve been writing about the place for ads, facebook messages and the ID Project listserve (sorry I spammed you guys, by the way – I apparently do not know how technology works).  I’ve been thinking about the ideal roommate.  Now, nobody can replace the friendship I had with my extant roommate.  However they could, perhaps, correct some his irritating quirks.  They could be towel-straightening-naturally clean, they could stay in their room with the door shut, they could play their music quietly, so that I couldn’t hear, they could never leave grocery bags on the floor, they could watch movies in their room, they could stay out of my way in the morning, they could never be in the shower when I need it, they could host no guests and they could never criticize me ever.


In fact, I’ve decided that the ideal roommate would be an invisible silent ghost who brings flowers (cleaning them up when they’re dead, sheesh) and leaves a check on the breadboard once a month.

As a meditator and mindfulness practitioner I am sensitive to my environment.  I like to make my home feel peaceful and calm, quiet, a sanctuary where I can write, work, relax and recharge.  I like the air to be fresh and the dust at a minimal.  But I kind of feel I’ve become a hippie wacko about it.  Part of the benefits of mediation are supposed to be going with the flow, taking life as it comes, having a flexible mind and a generous heart.  So why is it so hard to be peaceful about interruptions in your living environment?  What should I meditate on to get better about this?  I ideally want my new roommate to feel as though the space is their home too.  I know emotions are inevitable, and we’ve had some great discussions on the ID Project website about how meditating makes a body more sensitive to emotions rather than less.  But there have to be some tips for peaceful cohabitation, be it with roommate or spouses or, gasp, children.  What needs to happen? How can I let go?  What say you, interdependent inhabitants of your own personal worlds?  How do we quench the fire of the hell that is other people when they insist on drinking our kombucha?

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Lynn Somerstein, PhD, RYT

posted June 4, 2009 at 6:43 pm

Hippy wacko person has puppy mind.
Roommates, wives, husbands, kids and puppies all make messes on the carpet sometimes. You do. I do too. Training puppies is part of the practice.
So when you notice the carpet is dirty, try not to step in the mess and just return to your meditation. When you step in the mess, clean it up and go on.
Be kind to the puppies.

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posted June 5, 2009 at 8:30 am

Thanks for the info..nice movie

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posted June 5, 2009 at 9:40 am

I have been encouraged to paint my apartment and do some overall redecorating. It is forcing me to explore my sensibilities, which is interesting.

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Julia May

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:50 am

Me too! Well, I’ve been encouraging myself – I haven’t been encouraging. But as Andrew is moving out I can redo the living room, which I have been wanting to do ever since it got intially done.
So far it is painted pink and I’m trying to understand how i should decorate it – my sensibility for as long as I can remember has been “intellectual Vermont farmhouse.” Do I want that? Or something else? And, beyong sensibility, you have to take the initial character of the room in stride.

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posted June 5, 2009 at 1:13 pm

You can’t live in an intellectual Vermont farmhouse in NYC. I’ve tried. You can, however, get your apt to smell like tea tree oil

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posted June 5, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I like the rustic-intellectual vibe too. eva is a high modernist and is a little aghast i think.

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Julia May

posted June 5, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Bauhaus meets farmhouse is a good look! You two should collaborate. She gets to make one choice and you make another. It would probably turn out better than if you decided it all for yourself, like how one’s favorite clothes are always the clothes that your friend gives you and you would never pick out for yourself.

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