Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Coming Home

-on a wilderness trail-

At this time of year, many people from all over the world come to spend some time out here in the desert where I live.  In this "tourist season" the population almost doubles.

Yesterday evening I was at my yoga class when someone asked me, "So where's home for you?" It was one of the questions that really caught me off guard. I "hemmed and hawed." I literally could not answer that question. 

For one thing, I wondered if he was asking me if I lived here in the desert, or perhaps he was asking about my place of origin-where I was born or where I grew up? Then, on top of all that, before ultimately moving out to the desert, we made our home in a variety of different places.

So which of those places is "home" for me? Maybe all of them? Maybe none of them? 

I've been thinking about last night's question about "home," recalling the move we made from the East coast to the West some ten years ago. 

Western and Central New York had always been home for me. I was born there. I grew up there. I was ordained and married there. We raised our two boys there. My wife and I built careers there. All our friends and colleagues were there. We were established. It was home. 

And then after our boys had "left the nest," we made a big bold move. We sold our house, packed up the dogs, got in the car and traveled 3000 miles across this country, from the East coast to the West on the way to a new life, a new job and a new home in Los Angeles, California. 

It happened almost 10 years ago, but I recall that cross-country journey as if it was yesterday.  As my wife and I (and our dogs) traveled from one home to the next, we both experienced deep, poignant,  and utterly paradoxical feelings.  We were homesick, tearfully missing all that we had left behind; while at the same time, it was wildly exhilarating and exciting to be on the road and on the way to a new home and new adventures in life.  

We longed for stability while also relishing the excitement of the journey. 

I have since come to realize that my cross-country experience brought me to a sense of deeper wisdom-the paradox of our human condition.  We want to stay "home," yet our hearts are also restless and so we are also wanderers and pilgrims.  

The wise old 4th century Ammas and Abbas (mothers and fathers) offered this paradoxical wisdom to the younger monks in their desert communities:

-In whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.
-We must always wander in order to finish our course.

They taught that "stability" was a necessary ingredient of the spiritual life.  In their wisdom they taught their charges to pay attention to the place in which their feet were planted, for it is always in the "here and now" that we enter into deeper truth and find that deeper peace.  

At the same time, they taught of the danger of being unduly attached to the conditions of our earthy dwelling. There is something in the human spirit that compels us to be seekers and searchers -always on  a journey for deeper truth before we finish our course.

So where is home for me?

I sit in my garden in my desert home. Is this home for me now? My final destination?

It is a beautiful home and I love being here. I find peace and beauty in every moment of every passing day. Indeed, this is home for me now, and yet is not not my home.  

I am also a wanderer and a pilgrim who has discovered that the less I cling to anything in life, and the more I embrace unknowing, the deeper peace I find.

I am aways coming home. So are we all.

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