I love my bed. I love being in bed. I still have a button that a girlfriend gave me in 1987 which says, “I have no idea what I’m doing out of bed.” I can no longer remember if that had amorous undertones or was just a commentary on my preference to be resting under soft cotton sheets, but the sentiment is still funny and true.
Bed is the ultimate sanctuary for me. My safe place. My retreat. Actually, the entire bedroom feels that way, but it starts with, centers on, the bed itself.
The wrong mattress can ruin your life. That’s not a joke. And good linens can be transformative. The right pillows, too, are essential.
I spent most of my sleeping adult life on a metal frame. The kind that comes free with a mattress purchase. Easy set-up and lightweight. Perfect for the person who moves a lot. It wasn’t until I bought my home that I finally committed to a wooden sleigh bed. It’s not the highest quality, but it feels incredibly grounding. It is, undeniably, the center piece of the room.
I think our beds and our toilets are the most intimate places of our homes. Our most vulnerable and purely human places. The places where our masks come off. Where the good and the bad, drool, farts, and radiance are intertwined. There is something incredibly profound, even holy, about that.
I spent a lot of time in bed as a kid. Under the age of 10, I was sick a lot. Of course, we all spend time in bed when we are sick. Bed rest is the only way we heal.
We have this ridiculous notion that resting is doing nothing. That we need to constantly consciously be doing something. We completely forget that the body is always at work. It is incredibly active even when we’re not paying attention. Blood is pumping. Cells are regenerating. Toxins are being purified. Life is happening. Our psyche, too, is integrating information and change. In other words, resting is not a passive act.
A friend recently said beds are great because you can do almost anything in them. You can read, talk on the phone, watch TV, eat, play, and yes, sleep, all from the comfort of your bed. She said being a writer is the one occupation you can do from the comfort of a good mattress and firm pillows. Well, certainly another occupation comes to mind, but as a writer herself, I think she was channeling Edith Wharton.
Except that I don’t want to do those things in my bed. In a hotel room, certainly, but not at home. Watching TV, eating or working while in my bed doesn’t feel right to me. In fact, it feels very wrong. Like wearing flip-flops and a t-shirt to church on Sunday. Yes, people do that these days. But I don’t. I can’t.
My bed is a sacred place. Where I say my prayers. Where I record my dreams. If I’m in a relationship, it’s where I make love. None of these activities distract from the bed’s true purpose: to support me. To reconnect me. To restore me. It’s where the splintering of my daily life is healed. Where my broken, cracked, and bruised parts are mended. Where I am strengthened. Where I am made whole.
One of my favorite parts of The Odyssey by Homer is when we learn that the palace in Ithica was literally built around the king and queen’s bed. In Book XXIII, Odysseus tells us that on their land was an olive tree and around that tree he designed their entire home. From that tree, he carved their bed. The bed can never be moved. To remove their bed would be akin to cutting out their hearts – completely destroying their lives.
Trees, with their roots deep in the ground and their branches reaching to the sky, are an axis mundi – the place where heaven and earth meet. They are a conduit, allowing movement, communication, and nourishment between above and below. They are an intersection between the worlds. Where the ordinary, the mundane, reaches and connects with the divine. The world turns and this axis remains. It is constant.
Consider this meaning from The Odyssey: the heart of the home is their bed, built from an olive tree, the most sacred of trees in their world. Their bed is infused with the power and energy of this tree, the most stable and solid trunk. Everything they do in that bed is rooted to the earth and reaches to the heavens.
I like to think of my bed this way. As an axis mundi. As the place that grounds me and lifts me. A constant in the storms of life. An ordinary place, a basic necessity, that is transformed—and transforms me—when I surrender to it. The bedroom is a holy place. The bed, a container for communion.
While the kitchen is symbolically the hearth of the home, where the fire literally burns and our bellies are fed, the kitchen nourishes our mortal selves. The bedroom nourishes our souls. It is the beating heart. The purification of our blood. The regeneration of our spirits.
I spend a lot of time in bed. Since Covid, more than usual. Long naps are a daily routine. Previously, a short power nap would restore my energy. Not now. These days I need more. Big change is happening. Like a caterpillar that retreats to a chrysalis, I am transforming my life. And that takes energy. And lots and lots of rest. I still struggle with not doing “more” – things that allow me to see immediate results. And then I remind myself, resting is not a passive act.
Maybe this is what most of us need right now. More time in our beds. Less conscious doing. More resting. We are all going to need our energy for the changes to come.