Finding the Way Home
“Home is where the heart lies,” goes the saying. And hopefully, when the heart feels uncared for, home is the healing place where “the peace which passes all understanding” abides. But how to find it? I’m pretty sure it’s not in some non-terrestrial heaven of no hurt, no challenge, no pressure, no demands because, whether or not we are suffering, real life is full of pressure, demand, and challenges.
It would be nice, sometimes, to lean against a firm, protective wall, or to be in the arms of someone strong and caring. That is, to find that other Self, the stronger, surer part of me. But it’s not easy to open to that. When I tried to sit and listen for that presence under the towering pine trees, I fell asleep. So where’s the door that can open my way to you, my Other Self? Or maybe it’s my job to find the way to let her in if she is hidden from my ardent seeking.
Perhaps that’s the central problem! What I seek is always there, but I am not always available. My Mother used to say we often talk about how we wish TO BE, without realizing we aren’t ready for that. First we must learn to be available. The rest will follow. So what’s in the way of my being available? For one thing, I’m always too busy. There’s never time enough to be still, to be silent. And even when I have plenty of time, I can’t find the way—only the taste of longing to be with her. “O.K.,” I tell myself, “I’ll accept that. It’s enough for now to live with the savor of my need.” And as soon as I accept to do just that, an inner warmth suffuses me, and suddenly she is right here, listening.
My home is with that Other Self. Maybe she has to teach me to find the door, to give up some of my busyness, my inner and outer talking, and rest more often in her. To come and sit (or lie down) after a day of work that’s perhaps filled with achieving, or more probably of failing to meet the demands that besiege me from all sides, and wait for that presence, while I listen to the silence that surrounds her.
Here are some notes on how to get Home:
- Gurdjieff says we see everything upside down, and this can also be true of our efforts at meditation. We sit down determined to get to Nirvana, or whatever is our idea of the perfect place to rest inwardly and be refreshed—yesterday’s successful meditation or tomorrow’s further desire. But to find that inner home base we need to make space in ourselves, not get somewhere else. There’s a Zen story of the Buddhist scholar eager to visit a famous Master. The latter offers him a cup of tea pouring it out until it overflows. The new disciple probably wonders if the old man is a bit gaga but politely points it out. The Master replies, “You come to ask for teaching, but your cup is already full. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.” See if you can empty your cup a little today. Leave room for an unexpected connection with yourself.
- When you seek that place of rest, your inner home, do you think of it as going somewhere, as moving away from wherever you are? Try another approach today. Think of going home as staying right where you are, as making more room in yourself. Come to a stop a few times in the middle of your day to realize how full you are of whatever’s going on in your life, your worries, duties, reactions, longings. Can you clear some of that out so there’s space for meditation, or to listen to all the conflicting voices in yourself, or assess your body’s needs, or reconnect with your heart’s desire.
- Your most powerful instrument in the search for inner quiet is your attention. Whether you focus it on listening to the inner or outer world, or on observing the sensations in your body or breathing, you are harnessing heavy-duty help, a workhorse so to speak. It is more powerful than you can imagine. But first it must be gathered. We have the illusion that we are in control of it but unfortunately our attention wanders everywhere, attracted by any and everything we see or hear or think or feel. A few times today try P. D. Ouspensky’s exercise. Take out your watch and focus all your attention on the second hand. Write down each time how many seconds, or perhaps minutes, you can keep all your attention on it.
- We often stop to ‘take a break,” have a cup of coffee or tea, or simply look out the window. Those are times of moving away from the duties and pursuits we are engaged in. Begin to connect them consciously to your wish for presence. As you turn away, take an impression of yourself with all three parts of you at once—mind, body and feeling. Gurdjieff calls them snapshots. As the thought reminds you to take the photo, your body and feelings must respond instantly and honestly as well. What’s going on with all three of your functions at this very moment? Begin to collect snapshots for a future album.
- Sometimes we feel very far from home, lost in the desert without an oasis in view. Those times it’s important to remember that there is help. There is always help. Marion Woodman likes to tell the story of the person cutting through the jungle with a machete, trying to find her way. At last she reaches an open space above a huge river. When she looks at the other side she is instantly depressed because there’s nothing but more jungle, but when she looks more carefully she sees someone has been cutting through it towards her. We are always met. We are never alone.
6 Responses to “Finding the Way Home”
Your creativity continues….Great that you provide step-by-step helps for participants in this ministry of yours. Congrats!
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Thanks so much, Jim. Your words always mean much to me!
This is very interesting as it captures a shift that seems to be occurring in the mindfulness world in general. Dr. Dan Siegel just came out with his book “Aware” about his experience working with several thousand people using his “Wheel of Awareness.”
Jan (my wife) and I came across this image of the wheel back in 2010. We always thought it was central to Dan’s work but he barely mentioned it in most of his books until just this August when “Aware” came out.
As it turned out, we built a website largely centered around what we came to call the “core” – which he refers to as the “hub” of the wheel of awareness – the place (now, here, not going away somewhere else to ‘nirvana’) of calm, peace, and contentment (“santosha” in the Yoga Sutras).
Ultimately, we found even this image a bit dualistic (there’s peace “here” in the center, and out “there” on the “rim” of the wheel are all the things we’re aware OF).
About 2 years ago, we began work on a 12 week e-course on meditation and the brain, and decided to shift away from Siegel’s image. I wanted to do something more along the lines of the unitive awareness which was so fundamental to what my Sufi teacher, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, taught, and to the simple “pristine awareness” practices of the Mahamudra and Dzogchen “schools” of Tibet.
I looked through Loch Kelly’s “Shift Into Freedom,” at that point. Loch and I had talked for a number of years about how much it might be possible to teach non-dual awareness to folks just starting out with mindfulness practice. When I first spoke with him in the late 80s, he was quite doubtful about this. I hadn’t talked with him in some years, so I was quite delighted to see in this book he has been doing just this, more and more, in the intervening years.
We refer to it as “open heartful awareness,” and it very much is not just the place of calm, awareness but includes (“includes” is even too dualistic!) all that we are aware of. We use some traditional exercises like Alan Wallace’s “space of awareness,” and Tolle’s exercises for coming into the present, and have found working with folks in person that it can be rather amazing how someone who never meditated can get a taste of this all encompassing still yet dynamic awareness, an awareness which ultimately is the substance of all we think, hear and feel.
Well, I was just glancing at Parabola, in the midst of taking break from editing some music for one of our breathing videos, and here I am rambling on and on! Sorry for taking up so much space in your comment section, but I was inspired by your gentle, sincere reflections on attention and allowing oneself to “just be.”
Thanks so much for sharing this heartfelt response, Don. I’ve been locked out of my site and couldn’t get in to thank you and post it. Like me, you and your wife are clearly long-time seekers, yet also people who end up discovering there’s nothing to be sought but the present moment. Thanks again for sharing! Patty
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oh, i must add this – I just learned, in the opening chapter of Martin Laird’s “Into the Silent Land” (which Alan Wallace calls the best Christian version of Dzogchen he’s ever come across) that the 3rd century Christian desert fathers used the image of the wheel as an aid to contemplation – only instead of “awareness’ they placed God at the center of the wheel!
Yes, and from them comes a very special ‘prayer of the heart’.’ They knew so much and saw so differently from ourselves today
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