If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again,
I won’t look any further that my own backyard.
Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.
~ Dorothy, “The Wizard of Oz”
For those of us who are privileged enough, to have a safe place to call home, and to not be an essential worker, these past 6 months have meant spending time at home.
Even though the pandemic, which is the reason we are staying home, can heighten our sense of anxiety and uncertainty, we can use this time to bring our practice precisely to where we need to be, home.
As Sharon Salzberg says “At a time of great suffering when there’s nothing else to rely on and nowhere to go, the return to the moment is an act of faith. Openness to possibility can arise.”
In our mindfulness practice, home means coming to the present moment, home is our refuge, we are not trying to get anywhere in our practice.
For those of us who have been used to going on silent retreats at, to meditation centers, as a way of developing our practice, we can fall for the belief that we need to be at a retreat center or under ideal circumstances to deepen our practice. However, this time at home can also be an opportunity to cultivate our practice right where we are.
Even though I have a full-time job working from home, to my surprise, during these times of the pandemic I have been able to be on retreat several times, right here at home. Some retreats were for just the weekend, some for a week. Being home and having intense practice at home has given me the opportunity to experience what practicing while being in the world, really means. It has brought a learning possibility —experiencing that I can be triggered by something 10 minutes after coming out from meditating and facing right here in real life, what it’s like to have more space to respond.
Being on retreat at home has helped me to have more confidence in my capacity to bring my practice home — being here by going nowhere. Practicing while arguing with my husband about what we can’t recycle, while doing laundry, while cooking, or while watching my cat go through her frenzy of “la hora loca” as I call it, and then coming to meditation. This is it; this is where I can slow down, where I can be intentional by consciously arriving in each moment and knowing each experience as fully as possible.
As Pico Yver says, “The point of gathering stillness is not to enrich the sanctuary or mountaintop but to bring that calm into the motion, the commotion of the world”.
We don’t develop mindfulness just to be mindful in isolation. The purpose is to develop insight and clear seeing exactly where we are, and right now this is where we are, home.
Stillness is what creates love. Movement is what creates life.
To be still, yet still moving—that is everything!
~ Do Hyun Choe
Practicing mindfulness is to go against our habitual state of mind. If we don’t pay attention to what that is, the habits of mind that makes us unhappy, or that are not beneficial to us, can take over; and those habits are very deeply ingrained. So, it requires training the mind to really pay attention to see: how do we make ourselves suffer; how do we make ourselves stop suffering, and how do we make ourselves happier?
As Guy Armstrong says: “The knowing aspect of mindfulness is deliberate and conscious. When you know something this way, not only do you know it, but also a presence of mind grows in which you clearlyknow that you know”.
This is an Inner Knowing, that Gil Fronsdal describes like this:
“It is like being one of two calm people in an unruly crowd. Neither of you gets caught up in the crowd’s agitation, and a spark of recognition, maybe even a smile, passes between you as you share knowing that both of you are not caught”.
For those of us who are always trying to make something happen, just observing the mind can be a radical change and a relief. So being at home is an opportunity to bring awareness to what is limiting us from being free and peaceful.
And because of the circumstances, we now have more opportunities than ever to deepen our practice with online meditation retreats, classes, programs, and daily meditations.
We can have a choice of how we are — here, now: let’s go nowhere; let’s choose to be just where we are.
I have nowhere
to go and
nowhere to go
when I get
back from there.
~ A.R. Ammons