Going Home Is Not Just for Holidays

Living in New York City, a town full of transplanted people from other states and locales, it’s common at this time of year to encounter some variation of this conversation:

Q: Are you around for the holidays?

A: No, I’m planning to go home for a visit.

Q: Nice. Where’s home for you?

Good question. Where is home for you?

For many, the phrase, “Home for the holidays,” is a clarion call that conjures fond images of familiar, welcoming sights and sounds, along with lovely aromas emanating from the kitchen. From many years later and thousands of miles away, those words can bring us immediately into the loving embrace of the folks–some no longer with us–who have over the course of our lives accepted us, foibles, flaws, and all. These are the people who knew us before we went off into the world to become who and what we are today. Our relationships may not have been perfect, but they provided a unique kind of comfort and sense of ease.

Of course, not all holiday memories–or even childhoods–provide fodder for homespun yarns of cookies and mulled drinks enjoyed over tidings of comfort and joy. When our childhood home has failed to provide a foundation of safety, comfort, or feelings of being loved, it’s sometimes necessary to carve out an alternative path toward a sense of belonging and acceptance.
breathe you are home with frame copy
Whether from a close circle of friends, therapy, a spiritual community, or just a place where everybody knows our name, many of us have found other sources to fuel feelings of being safe, happy, healthy, and comfortable.

Physical cues and geographical markers can provide tangible reminders, but they are mere touchstones. What really makes that concept of going home seem so, well, homey, has less to do with physical surroundings and more to do with who and how we see ourselves in those moments when we feel safe, content, and at ease.

This idea got me thinking about that concept of “home.” I’m wondering whether that question – Where’s home? – misses the mark, at least a bit. I’m thinking:
Better question. What is home for you?

Yoga can help not only in the quest to find our true home, but also in helping us to see that it’s not necessarily a place. And we needn’t wait for a holiday to visit.

The Yoga Sutras, an ancient text compiled by the sage Patanjali in about 300BC, describes yoga as an eight-limbed path (ashtanga) that includes guidelines and practices intended to help us master the fluctuations of the mind. These practices, especially the deeper ones that cultivate inner focus and self-awareness, help to integrate body, mind, and spirit, thereby revealing our true nature–the unchanging presence that lies within each of us, independent of the artifices of space, time, and current situation.

The picture you see here hangs at eye-level as you enter my front door. It’s an original calligraphy created by 88-year-old Buddhist teacher, poet, author, and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh–Thay to his thousands of followers (including me).

On a good day, I remember to look up upon entering and register the fact that I have, indeed, arrived at my residence. These simple words, “Breathe, you are home,” instantly connect me to my life, my family, and this place of solace. Sometimes, in my haste to get to some task that seems important enough to take my attention away from what’s right in front of me, I brush past the picture without glancing up. It seems that sometimes even when we’re at home we forget to go home.

I have enjoyed the privilege of sitting in Thay’s presence at several retreats. At those times, or any time really that I experience the elegant simplicity of his message, whether via podcast, one of the hundred-plus books he’s authored, his poetry, or sitting in practice, I’ve felt the overpowering sensation of being complete within myself. I realize that I am home and I am home. It requires nothing more than pausing to watch my breath, looking at the blue sky, or noticing that I’ve entered my front door.

Currently, Thay clings to life in a hospital in France, having suffered a massive brain hemorrhage on November 11th. His prognosis has been dire, but having modeled for us the simple practice of being present to each moment and each breath for some 70+ years, the health update shared by his monastic community on November 30th  aligns perfectly with what we might expect:

“…Even the doctors have been surprised at the consistent level of oxygen in his blood. Thay is truly the best breather in the world, inspiring us to deepen our full awareness of the breath. Thay continues to remind us that each day we are alive is a miracle, and that simply to breathe is a gift. …”

Please hold a place in your prayers for Thay.

I hope this holiday finds you happy, healthy, and home.

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9 years ago

This is an awesome post Lynn and I thank you for sharing. While reading this post I was reminded that it is alright to breathe in order to relax, relate, and release the stresses of everyday life. I still need a lot of practice but I think I am on the right road since taking you yoga class at Mercy Center. The lessons that you have shared has really helped me to start making new choices for my life. I have learn that I have to take some time for myself so that I can be centered in my mind,… Read more »