The Four Rooms
“There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.” ~Rumer Godden
Balance. An excellent but elusive idea.. and one that that can be extraordinarily challenging in the world we are living today. Stress by its very nature exists in every aspect of our lives; in our physical bodies, our minds, our relationships, and our souls. This quote is one that I found years ago in a book called Simple Abundance (more on this later..) by Sarah Ban Breathnach. She uses the quote to begin an essay on simplifying our lives by establishing a sense of evenness in all four of our “rooms”. I went on to hunt down her original source and stumbled upon an out-of-print but beautifully written memoir by Rumer Godden entitled A House with Four Rooms, which has served as the inspiration for not only this exercise in therapy, but a passion for writing and creativity in my own life.
I began using this idea in initial therapy sessions a few years ago and I find it immensely useful to create a visual representation of these four aspects of our life. I like to think of the exercise as a form of “holistic housekeeping.”
The Physical Room:(BODY)
Our physical self. This includes our overall health, nutrition, quality of our sleep, daily schedule, exercise, posture, energy levels, etc.. and can also include environmental aspects like the condition of our home, finances, etc..
The Mental Room:(MIND)
Our mental self. This room includes our thought patterns and mindsets, ruminations, mental health issues, memory, learning, concentration, cognitive processing, self-talk, etc..
The Emotional Room: (HEART)
Our emotional self. This includes all of our relationships- family, friends, co-workers, intimate partners, pets, and ourselves. Also in this room: feelings, moods, passions, communication, self-esteem, etc..
The Spiritual Room: (SOUL)
Our spiritual self. This room houses our philosophies, beliefs (religious or not), values, meaning, purpose, etc..
HOW WE DO THIS:
In the first part of the exercise, we take a neutral inventory of all four rooms; taking into account the specifics of each category and listing in a journal everything that at this moment applies to that room of our life.
Think about what our currency is. In life all we really have to “spend” is our time, our energy, our attention, and our resources. When examining these four categories, consider where you are “spending” your time, energy, attention, and resources. This will point to the areas which may be out of balance.
For example: in the physical room, things like chronic pain, recent illness, sleep changes, vitamins, traveling, going on a diet or changing exercise routine are all significant to this area of our “house”. It is important to keep in mind that the first part of the exercise is a non-judgmental accurate depiction of how things are TODAY.
In the second part of the exercise we consider:
~what does better look like?~
Reviewing the four rooms again, we can then notice the imbalances which can lead to effective goal setting.
For example: in the physical room inventory mentioned above, making a doctors appointment, establishing a regular bedtime routine, improving nutrition, increasing exercise, and drinking more water may be just a few of the answers to the ‘what better looks like’ question for that area. The idea is to become aware of imbalances and the crises that often lead to these imbalances, which can unconsciously become a life spent all in one “room” at the expense of the others.
How well we take care of ourselves and others in the “house” of our life is a result of conscious living and a positive outlook. Balancing these four areas while keeping in mind that crises such as disease, disaster, mental health issues, grief, stress, and heartbreak can and do push us into one room in order to deal with what is necessary. However, this exercise can be a useful tool for reorganizing, decluttering, and cleaning up those four rooms of our lives and creating space for more health, more peace, more happiness, and more inspiration.
Body, Mind, Heart, and Soul