The following piece was written by Kathy Hartsell, a fellow yoga instructor and mind-body practitioner who studies alongside the Mind Body Dancer® community. She writes from Boston, MA.
For me, the notion of home takes the form of a puzzle. This puzzle teeters on a rickety shelf in my heart, cozied up next to a variety of other mysterious heart contents that ask for attention from time to time. A jolt to my chest has always been enough to shake this puzzle from its resting place and into my lap, where it has many times stumped me with pieces that wouldn't quite fit together.
Having moved to boarding school at a young age, I’ve grown accustomed to the low ache that drifts in with homesickness now and again. As I am sure many people do, I sometimes even feel this ache arise
in the very places and with the very people that I recognize as home.
For a while, I tried on different zip codes, convinced that the right match would surely dissolve the disconcerting tug of longing that kept showing up uninvited in my gut. But as I searched for the "perfect place" to unpack my work and stretch out my soul, I couldn't shove away the gradually growing awareness of chasing a kind of stability that our world does not offer. At tortoise pace, I began to register that my outward quest, while wonderful in its own way, would never satisfy the longing to
move into my own being
. Of course, I discovered that certain spots beneath particular skies built a welcoming space for my life, but it wasn’t until I was willing to inhabit my own housed experiences that I could understand the messages encoded in that longing. I’m sure that I am not alone in these mindful circles when I say that, despite this understanding, I forget said lessons often. I have found that the push-pull of life will quickly sweep away things I thought I had already learned, slyly granting me some kind of “insight amnesia.”
requires not only that I practice on my mat often, but that I find ways to also practice beyond the safety of designated space, and in the context of real life.
The puzzle of home has landed in my lap quite a bit in recent months. As my husband and I search for a house with a little extra room for our growing family, it’s amusing to see the long list of conditions we have created for our supposedly simple abode. Every third day we consider whether laying thicker roots down in the city even makes sense, or whether “home” might actually be somewhere else entirely. Officially waiting to adopt, we fret over how our future child will adjust to the new home we offer, and how we will best help her learn to trust this home.
As we work through these steps, I have been grateful to have Ethan Nictern’s
The Road Home: A Contemporary Exploration of the Buddhist Path
for a companion
Thanks to Audible, Ethan has been reading his witty, compassionate and timely wisdom to me as I take long walks in Boston (and ironically resist the expression of impermanence provided by September’s air!) In the book's introduction, Ethan relates a conversation between his father, David Nichtern, and the lama Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche:
My father (who loves small talk) decided not to ask a question about the Buddhist teachings. Instead, he asked Rinpoche a small-talk question: "Where do you live?" It was a simple enough question, a little dose of chitchat to blend with all that profundity. "Where do you live?" Dad asked. "When you aren't on the road--traveling, moving around, teaching---where do you live, Rinpoche?
When he heard the question translated, Khenpo Rinpoche raised the brows above his wide eyes and said something in Tibetan to his translator... "Rinpoche says to tell you that he lives in the center of his awareness!"
In a million different ways, Ethan inspires me to return to the hammock in my own heart. From his teachings, for both the literal and figurative suitability, my meditation anchor these days has become “easing home.” I can’t say that I “live” at the center of my awareness (like the Tibetan monk in Ethan’s book), but I’m quite grateful to have become a frequent visitor who can find my way there.
Photography by Kathy Hartsell.