July 16, 2012

Home Is Where You Are.

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ~ Maya Angelou

Home is where the heart is? Although I like to think that my love, metta and compassion extend beyond my immediate physical space, anatomically speaking, my heart is in my body. So wherever I am, I am home.

Naturally, we are all at home on Mother Earth, though sometimes we don’t act like it.

A few weeks ago, I temporarily left my adopted home of Guatemala.

I own (or, rather, have a mortgage) on a home in south Austin. I lived there for three years and have been renting it out for the past three years, so it cannot really be considered home at this time.

Right now, I am home, in my childhood home of Round Rock, Texas, the two-story structure my parents have owned since 1989. I am sleeping in my old bedroom, using the wooden dresser and desk set they bought for me when I was eleven.

Breath awareness reminds us we are home, in our bodies and on the Earth, Pacha Mama. All beings breathe, whether shallowly or deeply, whether consciously or unconsciously, from the moment of birth until the last exhale before death. As my most favorite eighth grade student haiku from last year reads:

Do you breathe?
Me too!
We have so much in common

Thanks to my enduring yoga and mindfulness practice, I feel at home in my body. I feel at home, therefore, even on an airplane or in a foreign city.

Of course, there are times when I do not feel at home, when I long for a sense of belonging. When fear takes hold and I am gripped by anxious and worried thoughts over something small and silly—or something that seems huge but is actually small and silly. When a sense of fear or loneliness arises, I breathe deeply, feel my feet on the ground, connect with my heart and relax my face and shoulders.

This, like everything, takes practice. But with practice, it becomes second nature. With persistence, love and compassion flows effortlessly.

Now, I am almost four months pregnant. My body is changing. Will I still feel at home here, as this baby grows and grows? As s/he takes up more space and reduces my cherished lung capacity? Pregnancy, so far, is a huge lesson in letting go of the illusion of control, both physically and emotionally. Fortunately, so far, there is still a sense of home in my body and mind with each precious moment, each delightful day.

This is Woody, a one-year-old rat terrier who belongs to my friend Amanda. He was abandoned in her neighborhood in New Orleans, and being a bleeding-heart animal lover, she took him in, even though she has a cat and a tiny efficiency apartment with no yard. I was watching him for a few days while she was out of town, and we had fun hanging around Austin and taking luxurious afternoon naps.

Yesterday, I put him in the backyard in the morning and went inside to shower. When I went out back half an hour later to collect him, he was nowhere to be found! He must have jumped the one section of the fence that is only four feet instead of six. My parents and I patrolled the neighborhood, driving around slowly looking for him. But the neighborhood is large with lots of side streets. I called Amanda to tell her the bad news. She was devastated.

Luckily, Woody had a tag on his collar with his vet’s phone number and one of our neighbors (two doors down!) had rescued him from the middle of the street and put him safely in their backyard. We were reunited with Woody within a couple of hours, and he was thrilled to be back with us, the surrogate family he had met only two days prior. When Amanda returned later in the evening, he sprinted and danced in circles, so ecstatic that she had come back.

Woody had felt abandoned. We all feel abandoned sometimes. And maybe we have been or will be. But, paradoxically and marvelously, we are all also home—no matter what we are feeling or where we are.

“Where thou art, that is home.” ~Emily Dickinson

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