It's a late winter afternoon, the sky a deep cobalt blue. I walk out the back door of my house and step into what used to be a cobwebby garage. As the door opens, I move into a space that soars upward. Even on this dark day, a hushed light filters down from the skylight cut into the high roof. I walk to the window, light a candle, pull out my meditation cushion, and settle in. Every day, 20 minutes. That's what I do now, and it's all because of this place.
For years my husband and I fantasized about adding space to our small home by creating a cottage at the side of our garden. Two years ago, we finally did it.
We knew we wanted a home office and a guest room. But once we'd built it, the space seemed to have its own ideas—or maybe our deeper needs made themselves felt.
The cottage was finished in the middle of a long, rainy winter. Most days, it was easier not to venture out through the garden; some weeks I hardly entered the new space at all. I fretted that we'd built an expensive white elephant.
But when spring arrived, the cottage beckoned. We didn't have much furniture for it yet, and the gleaming new floor seemed to invite a yoga mat. Since the space got lots of natural light, I liked going there. Since it was quiet, meditating became easier. The more time I spent there doing yoga and meditating, the more I wanted to be there. Now my whole life feels more spacious and calm. It's logical: You have a kitchen where you eat, a bedroom where you sleep. If you want to strengthen your yoga practice, why not create a dedicated space for it?
"In Western culture, sacred space was almost always outside the home," says interior designer and architect Sarah Susanka, author of the Not So Big House series and Not So Big Life. "By creating a place in your home, you're building the practice into your everyday life."
The space needn't be a separate building or even a separate room. A corner of a room, an alcove, or even a hallway can work. The crucial thing, says Susanka, whose own meditation practice blossomed after she created a tiny attic sanctuary, is to carve out some kind of space.
Here's how to create your oasis:
Make it private. "You need a place that feels secure," Susanka says. Set up a folding screen or, if your space has a door, close it and let your household know you're not to be disturbed. Turn off your phone.
Make it beautiful. "The more beautiful it is, the more you'll want to go there," Susanka says. Human beings are drawn to natural light, so set up near a window if you can. (If your window has an uninspiring view, you can cover it with Japanese rice paper.)
Make it simple. Keep your props at hand, and display flowers and other items you love on a shelf or altar. But keep clutter away.
Make it happen. "People will often use 'lack of space' as the reason they can't do something," Susanka says. "It's almost never true. I know a mother with two young children who does her sitting meditation in the bathroom."