What does HOME mean to you?
According to conventional definitions of Home, I don’t have one. I’m not partnered, and I have no children or pets. I rent an apartment in Paris for five months a year, and most of my physical belongings are currently gathered in a storage bin in downtown Los Angeles. It sounds fairly grim on paper, not having the trappings of a conventional Home, but I really do have a great life.
One of my great life secrets is that I honor my passion. Every few years I enjoy moving to challenging, unfamiliar cities–NYC, LA, Paris, for example–and building a brand new life from scratch. I’ve done it so often that I’ve become quite adept at it, and what I’ve learned from these moves is that rituals and routines are the essential building blocks for creating a sense of home. I use the phrase “sense of home” deliberately because I’m evolving the definition of Home to include more than physical structures or even geographic locations.
For me, Home is a feeling–what I experience in my body, mind, and heart at any given moment. If I find myself in situations that trigger fear, anxiety, or suspicion, then I’m a homeless man. If I feel a flush of warmth, love, tranquility, and deep trust, then I am definitely home.
Here’s an example: When I first moved to Paris, I suffered from chronic anxiety. Nothing was familiar, not the language, the culture, the terrain, the food . . . nothing. Desperate to grasp onto some shred of familiarity, I executed a simple ritual:
I visited the same vendor at the same Farmer’s Market on the same day of each week, repeatedly. Distant at first, the vendor slowly began to soften over time. I learned his name (Gregoire), and he finally remembered mine. Soon, as our ritual gained traction and momentum, Gregoire began gathering my fruits and veggies without my having to ask, and if I missed a week, he’d inquire where I had been.
Warmth, love, tranquility, trust. Home.
Now, this Farmer’s Market ritual I created was no accident. It was calculated on my part because I instinctively knew exactly what I needed to do to survive: create a groove and deepen it through repetition. Routines and Rituals are our tools for sculpting vast swaths of the scary unknown into familiar, digestible experiences. Consciously or not, we create habits out of necessity to find steady ground in a precarious world.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali refers to this act of regular practice over time as Abhyasa, and Ayurveda applies it to Dinacharya (a.k.a. our Daily Routine for self-care). Using this time-tested roadmap of routinized behaviors, I’ve been teaching these Dinacharya habits for years, and I am continually astonished not only by the health transformation my students experience but by how at-home they begin to feel in their own, well-oiled bodies.
I want to be more at-home in my own body and mind in order to help others do the same, and I have learned through my own practice how habits become our sanctuary. I invite you to visit my Evolutionary Habits page to learn more about this practice which I will begin teaching again in a few months.
So, there. I have spared you the cliché Home Is Where The Heart Is and I Am A Citizen of the World yoga speeches. (Although it is.) (And I am.) But I also know that a snuggle in a warm bed with a partner and a pet is super-duper-homey-amazing.
” . . . Find that place where your feet know where to walk and follow your own trail. Please come home into each and every cell, and fully into the space that surrounds you . . . And once you are firmly there, please stay home awhile and come to a firm rest within.” — Jane Harper
P.S. A propos of just this, I urge you to read (or re-read) Chapter 21 of The Little Prince by St. Exupéry for a lovely sojourn into childlike wonder in which the Fox teaches the Little Prince an important lesson about the necessity of “rites.”