Bringing Light into Your Life and Home
We are so pleased to host our talented friend for the House of God Series, Leslie Graff. She is an acclaimed artist, and knows firsthand the importance of light in design and art. We love how she not only brings physical light into her home, but her ideas for bringing spiritual light into our homes and lives as well. Thank you Leslie! You can connect with Leslie on her website here or on Instagram @lesliegraff. Thank you so much Leslie, for sharing these inspiring ideas and thoughts.
As an artist I admit to having “light issues”, each room must have multiple sources-check, mirrors and glass to reflect it—check, everything dimmable—check, and well don’t get me started on the color spectrum of light as they range from sublime to garish (let’s talk kelvins here). While these are reflected in the design of my home, what reflects even deeper is my belief in personal light.
I used to always think the more light the better but the truth is light is only powerful, and informing when there is contrast. Growing up I tended to think “living right” meant no hard parts. So when difficult things came along I buried those feelings, thinking they were a sign of weakness. I believed if I tried hard enough, life would just be light, and happy. But growing up, the “hard parts” got bigger and harder and there wasn't a way to deny them. As I experienced 7 miscarriages in 3 years, I was forced me to examine my belief about the hard things in life. It was “leaving the garden”. I thought that the garden was the ideal, but I realized innocence wasn’t power, knowledge was power. Adam and Eve couldn't appreciate, or really learn, it was only in leaving the garden they became more like God, which meant experiencing the “hards and the darks” of life to know and value the light.
I realized that each emotion is given to us to learn from, yes each and every one. They were not incompatible with light but rather necessary to understand light. A mature view helped me see that opposition means experiencing ALL emotions because in those varied, opposing experiences you become a person of wisdom, compassion, and will.
Just this week my first grade son was telling me how he was so angry because of a comment someone made and his first instinct was to retaliate (insert karate moves). I explained we all have “impulses” or feelings that come, but then our job is to think about them and learn from them. Emotions teach us about our character, they reveal to us what we fear, they inform us of our insecurities, but mostly teach us what we value and desire. So in those spaces as we feel anger, loss, sadness, or failure—we can in turn ask deeper questions, and use them as our teachers and forge a deliberate path of purpose, wisdom, love and connection and turn toward spiritual things. In my clinical training I specifically work on helping children and families deal with stress, grief, and loss, and change. They key is to make meaning and learn from experiences and develop compassion for ourselves and others. We find deep atonement, mercy, discipline, and grace. By design, contrast helps us find the beauty and form of experience.
We can’t talk about light without talking about power. Power enables light. Agency is the power we have which brings light into our lives.
The most beloved room in our house is the “lounge”, styled after a 1960s conversation pit. I reclaimed and re-purposed our office, which was previously serving as a parking lot for the printer and bills, and decided I’d rather have a space that was about connection and talking. So 23 feet of U shaped couch later, a lounge was born. On the wall is a contemporary painting I acquired from a teacher at Rhode Island School of Design. The piece is layers of text, on a large white canvas; the words are from Kant’s universal law of nature. It is about moral behavior, the last phrase stands alone “by your will” in bold black script. Every time, I see it I am reminded of agency, or our ability to choose for ourselves. I think agency is really made up of two parts—the first, choosing good over bad, right over wrong, but then there is another part which is what we choose to do of our will, what we create without being told, what we do with our time and energy.
Bringing light into our lives means activating our agency and living more deliberately. It means we create behaviors and habits to scaffold our growth. Sometimes it just means setting a reminder on your phone so you can be more purposeful!
So in seeking to create a house of light, deliberate design allows us to find ways to allow light to permeate not just our physical spaces but our psychological, spiritual, emotional, and relational spaces as well. Here are a few ways I bring more light into my life and home:
I tell my boys often every person has gifts and every person has experiences that have taught them things, and you have the opportunity to discover, appreciate and learn from their experiential wisdom. See the beauty in other’s stories. This deep belief is reflected in my volumes paintings. This perspective invites compassion and unity. Whose gifts have you noticed today? Who have you learned from? Give sincere, specific compliments; tell others of the way they add to your life. Everyone can stand to feel deeply loved and valued far more than they are. Be the source and create a culture of affirmation and appreciation.
I often say we “bump into other people all day long”—meaning we encounter people in some form. What do we do with these “touchpoints”? The moments in our day when we physically, emotionally, spiritually interact with other? How can you create leave them better for their interaction? How can you create more affection and connection? A sense of value for others? How can you increase the quality or frequency of those in your home?
Construct meaning from your own experience. I journal daily and I have my own “form” that really works for me, in short time I get to cover a lot: a brief recap of the day, my thoughts (a place to empty my head find meaning in my emotions and experiences), I pick a song of the day (I curate killer playlists for my hours in the studio), and I put in a scripture and quotes from my study that day (and most importantly my thoughts about it after the quote or verse I just put parenthesis and write how/why it struck me). It improves the economics of thought—we think and feel and experience so much but it quickly it gets buried, forgotten like things in my inbox! Inspiration is too important for that.
SEE YOUR POWER
My motto is “Be useful”. I both head into a day and critique my day by asking two questions: What did I learn today? How did I help others today?
I love the charge, “let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” (D&C 43: 34) I make this into an action, and spend a few moments (3-5 minutes) in mindful meditation, lying down with a furry blanket, and allowing myself to clear my head and imagine the things of eternity. For me it is images of stars, sights, faces of people I love. These moments leave me with greater peace, calm and help me place daily cares back into perspective.
Leslie Whyte Graff
Leslie is an award wining studio artist and her works can be seen frequently in museums, universities, and gallery shows. Leslie also holds an M.S. in Marriage, Family and Human Development from Brigham Young University, She has taught for BYU and Ohlone College. She received clinical training as child life specialist from Johns Hopkins and worked at UCSF. Leslie has done medical missions since 1999, traveling to many countries, helping children and families deal with psychosocial and emotional issues. She lives outside of Boston, husband, Allen, and their three sons. Leslie loves to bring the party and believes in living life deliberately and filling it full of faith, love, experiences, and connections.