“There is only one happiness in this world, to love and be loved.” George Sand
Life is a series of beginnings and endings hopefully including many opportunities to love well and be loved indeed. Our desire to feel at home, to know as well as to be known is universal. As the world shrinks, the question of what is home or how can we create a sense of home is being challenged. Pico Ilyer’s fantastic Ted Talk entitled ‘Where is Home’ (http://www.ted.com/talks/pico_iyer_where_is_home?language=en) addresses this growing issue brilliantly.
The concept of home has a transient quality due to predictable, chosen, or tragic endings. After a period of normal grieving as a chapter ends in our lives, a new beginning or chapter can open. Please remember it’s okay to feel sad even during positive transitions because most likely a chapter in your life is closing. Transitions both positive and the negative in this life on planet earth can leave us topsy-turvy for a while as we find our footing and redefine our sense of home. Think about one of your most difficult transitions. What helped you find some equilibrium or sense of home? In an uncertain world in which anything can happen, knowing how to help create home for yourself is an essential life skill.
The primary concept of home for me is the ability to create the feeling of being grounded and connected . . .safe. Here are a few suggestions for creating the sense of home especially if you find yourself feeling a bit lost or untethered.
Practice a ‘flow’ activity on a Regular Basis
For me, home is on a mat anywhere I am in the world. There may be differing styles of Yoga but in the end it is all about breathing and a series of flow movements on a mat. The practice of Yoga is the same around the world even when taught in a language you do not fully understand . . right now, in French for me! So when everything else around me may feel chaotic, unfamiliar, and out of sorts the yoga mat has a tremendous grounding affect and facilitates the ability for me to face whatever is out of sorts.
“The self expands itself with acts of self forgetfulness” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Any activity that you can lose yourself in is a flow activity. Basically any activity where you can turn your brain off for a while and just be. Playing instruments, art work, praying, sewing, knitting, meditating, running, martial arts, walking, or simply practicing deep breathing. For an activity to become ‘flow‘ movement a person must practice until the activity becomes almost unconscious. In other words, you become the activity. Practicing your choice of a flow action will make it readily available to you when you need it to calm down, refocus, feel safe. and at home. A quote from Haruki Murakami’s fascinating novel 1Q84 sums this up: “I move, therefore I am”.
The emotion wheel above displays the array of human emotion. At the center of the wheel are our most intensely felt emotions or our primal, survival emotions. When you find yourself going through an adjustment that has you feeling quite anxious, angry, frightened, questioning, or despairing . . . time to reach for a pad of paper and a pen. Journaling can be considered a flow activity; however, journaling is especially noteworthy! Journaling seems to calm humans down almost magically. Why? Hand writing forces you to move from the more primal part of your brain, the reptilian complex with the amygdala at the helm, to the frontal cortex of the brain. The frontal cortex is considered the CEO of our brain in charge of logic, reasoning, filtering and analytical decision making. So hand writing gives us the opportunity to think about what we are feeling.
When you are going through a major change there might be moments or days when your lizard brain kicks into high gear causing you to respond in a more ‘life or death’ manner when it is not truly necessary. Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ (http://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Intelligence-Matter-More-Than/dp/055338371X) has named this phenomenon ‘amygdala hijacking’. Hand writing or journaling will assist you to name and therefore tame your emotions. Also, hand writing requires the use of the left hemisphere of your brain which is more analytical and often used for problem solving. The really cool thing is when you are hand writing the left part of your brain is occupied freeing up the more creative, intuitive right side of your brain. The right hemisphere of your brain can help you find unexpected solutions to difficulties or problems even when a situation seems impossible. Eureka!
Community and Food
Finally community is essential to establishing and re-establishing a sense of home. Although the concept of community is somewhat elusive, I am focusing on a sense of belonging as community. The sense of belonging within a family, group of friends, or a collection of people with a similar purpose or cause creates the feeling of ‘a safe place’ to exist. Gerda Wever-Rabehl states, ‘our need to belong to a group is, and always has been, essential to our survival’. Just like practicing a flow activity, building your circle of community is ongoing and not to be underestimated. With the endings and beginnings in life that we all experience, our sense of community and belonging changes. When we lose someone who provided a significant part of our safe place of belonging it can rock our world! Be ready to adjust and give to others what you want to receive.
Now I end on the positive note of food and eating with others to whom we belong. Think of our ancestors who needed their community to hunt and gather food for their survival. Sharing food was a celebration often around a fire. No wonder I love camping! Sitting around the table to eat and commune with family, friends (old and new) creates a magical sense of belonging. Do it as often as possible. Bon appétit!
“Like when you sit in front of a fire in winter-you are just there in front of the fire. You don’t have to be smart or anything. The fire warms you.” Desmond Tutu
Helen H. Thomas, Licensed Clinical Social Worker providing E-therapy services http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/name/Helen_Hobart_Thomas_LCSW_Fort+Worth_Texas_197844
Excellent piece. “Home is on the mat” is a deep statement.
Thank you Dr. Das!