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Coming Home

Coming Home

 “You didn’t come into this world.  You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.  You are not a stranger here.”  Alan Watts

“We are all just walking each other home” Ram Das

My sister recently came for a long overdue visit.  She moved with her husband to the UK at the beginning of Covid, a hard transition, but she has found a house, adopted some cats, and made a home.  My brother moved to Germany 6 years ago.  Previously he had owned a house in Durban, where the weather is balmy, dripping hot in summer and the foliage is as mad and eager as the Durban heat. He loves Germany and his small apartment of pot plants and central heating, which apparently is only switched on in winter due to German efficiency.  They both have found new homes and rooted down. 

We are first-generation South Africans, an immigrant father and immigrant grandparents.  My mother says that her parents had one foot here, and one foot in Europe, and were never truly home in either.

I am fascinated by the word “home.” What constitutes home and for whom.  I recently heard someone refer to South Africans as a nation of displaced people, that we have either been (forcibly) taken or came from somewhere other than the land on which we currently live. This is increasingly the story of humankind.

When I think of home, I have a flood of images, my childhood house, my favourite home where my children spent their early years, my current four walls, skylight, mountain, and forest, but mostly it is the images, the sensations that flood my being are those of my people and natural spaces in full colour. Home is a place of felt connection and it would seem we have many homes.

But there is always a lingering one which feels closer to our hearts and bones, our place of rooting. This place of original felt connection. Home is truly where the heart is, and the heart has many rooms.

The word home stems from the old English word ham (as in hamlet) which refers to a dwelling, village, or region, home and house are mutually inclusive but not the same thing. Home suggests others, not a life of isolation defined by four walls. My favourite definition is “the abiding place of affections”, a place of safety and connection and love. Home.

I know that not everyone’s home is safe, not everybody has positive sentiments when thinking of home. Home is many things.

Yoga teaches us “so above, so below, so without, so within”. That the vastness of the earth and universe in which we exist is reflected within our minds and bodies. Our home. In our modern urbanized world of technology and desire, we find ourselves somewhat displaced. We spend more times indoors than ever before, where our feet don’t touch the earth and our eyes rest on screens instead of the horizon, we watch the flicker of Netflix and not the dancing light of the stars. In place of the expansiveness of nature and community we find ourselves divided by walls and fences. 

Research tells us that our disconnection from nature comes at a cost and has an impact on our brains, our psyches, and our health, it is termed “nature-deficit disorder” affecting our social, psychological and emotional wellbeing. Simply viewing images of the natural world can produce a cascade of calming effects on our minds, while time spent outdoors can help to soothe our nervous systems and positively impact our sense of connection, happiness and creativity. We are biologically wired to and for, our natural home.  To have the sun on your skin, wind in your hair and your feet on the earth. And of course, without a relationship with nature, people lose interest in protecting it, failing to see how it is an intrinsic part of us.

We have a home even closer in proximity, our bodies. Our feeling, thinking, living, breathing, moving, feeling, being bodies. This idea that we have in Western culture, that the mind reigns supreme and exists as a superior consciousness, something that is divisible from our bodies in which we reside, seems counter-intuitive. Eastern teachings offer us non-dualism, that mind and body are one, we are a part of the greater universe, drops in the ocean of life and that our minds are matter (and not). Mind and body. Our home. This flesh and blood are where the totality of life experience occurs, not only in our heads, but in every cell of our bodies. Increasingly psychotherapy is also turning to integrating mind and body therapeutically, for while the body often feels unsafe and there is disconnect from ourselves, our body is where life/trauma/joy happens and therefore is to be brought into the healing process: Your body is your home.

Yoga offers us a way home and proposes that all our suffering comes from the belief and identity with our current limited reality and our attachments to it, and as a sub-plot, our mind, spirit, and body are truly one, we are not divisible parts but one harmonious whole.

Through breath, movement and stillness coupled with tools of relaxation and presence, we can move from intellectual to experiential knowledge of our bodies, find spacious rooms unvisited. We are feeling beings before we are thinking beings and our body is an limitless domain of potential experience, vibrating like all living things, alive and vast, with an innate connection to the world, to other sentient beings, part of the cosmos, the ocean, the wind and the stars. The more we begin to feel the life of our bodies, we begin to feel ourselves physically and emotionally.  We come home.

So do what feels good for you.  Bask in the sunlight (put on some sunscreen and a hat!), walk in the wilderness, swim in the ocean, dance as if no one is watching, sing out loud and talk to yourself, your plants, and others, laugh and play. Fill your house with pot plants. Do yoga (I can highly recommend it) Do yin yoga,  it offers us time to sense, feel and breathe. Do hard things and easy things and sense these in your body. Life is not linear. Remember to breathe and notice your breathing body. Find stillness even if it’s in the brief pause between actions, between thoughts. Do anything and everything that lands you back into your body, the place of space, joy and love (an sadness too), engendering safety and ease. Feel your own aliveness. Restore your place of abiding affection.

Come home