The concept of leaving home, or returning home is becoming a bit of a curiousity to me, because the word ‘home’ means many things. This post is an exploration of some of my perspectives on home – from the very gross and familiar to the deep and inexplicable….
Land and Soul
When I am asked why I am going back to Australia, my response always linked strongly with ‘home’ in relation to the landscape. At a ‘soul’ level (something I think of as deep, but not as deep as ‘spirit’) I have a very deep sense of attachment to Western Australian land and sea-scapes. There are some particular spots that really resonate with me, including the Irwin River near Dongara.
Before leaving Australia in 2005, I was working in the central coast region of WA, around Geraldton and including Dongara. I had also previously done a geomorphology project there. I will never forget the feeling of walking down the dry river bed during that project. I spent a few days observing ripples, measuring the river bends, talking to local farmers, gazing over the river from the top of ridges and imagining the water flowing down. I recall very, very strongly a set of hard-to-describe emotions relating to a sense of place, home and connection with the landscape. I had a sense of thousands of years off Aboriginal history all still being alive, present and accessible (if only I knew how).
It is that sense, and that sort of connection that inspired me to get into this whole environmental, sustainability field in the first place, and is where I feel drawn to return to remain authentic about what I am standing for, speaking about, and working for.
Spirit and Ground
The ultimate sense of home for me is a place I have never left, and a place that will never change yet always feel fresh. Most often in the stillness of mediation, but even in the un-self-conscious immersion in a moment of ‘flow’ at work or play, home is always there. I know that there are many ways to step back, change perspective, induce a state, or inquire that remind me of my ultimate home. And home as the ‘ground of all being’ is always, always available.
It would be hard to describe this in my own words because this home is not a place that can be conceptualised or explained by metaphor or analogy. And, it is also a place that has been described by others (Cohen, Gangaji, Wilber) whose words I will definitely be stealing.
One of my first and still strongest experiences of this was after ten days of Vipassana meditation in the Blue Mountains. I remember standing on the wooden verandah overlooking the gum trees and scrub, then standing at the train station in Sydney, then sitting in Joel’s place in Newcastle…and all the time having no attachment to any of the very few thoughts arising. Behind my eyes was an infinite ocean of incredible depth with not a single ripple of attachment or thought arising on its surface – no future, no past, no me, no that. Just….home.
I’ve had more of these types of experiences since, but now my sense of this home is even evolving. For example, I have experienced this state in inter-subjective spaces I.e. With other people in conversation. And, I have come to recognise this not as a state, but who I am and everything that is and is not. This stillness is always there, has never changed, and the more time I spend in meditation….the less I want to ‘leave’ (even though I/we never really leave). I have to stop writing now, because I am not doing this justice. If you are curious about this, perhaps review these links and see if you want to investigate it for yourself: http://www.dhamma.org/ http://www.gangaji.org/ http://www.andrewcohen.org/
Tribes and Culture
When I arrive in Karlskrona to start my sustainability Masters, I almost immediately felt ‘at home’ amongst the people there. Though from diverse nations and backgrounds, we had all accepted the same invitation to participate in a programme that was specifically about leadership, strategy and sustainability. We had shared passions, interests, values and hopes for the future: this was my tribe, where I could be ‘me’.
I remember the first lecture that Karl-Henrik Robert gave in hospital’s lecture hall near the campus. After the lecture, I was sort of in love – in love with the ideas, the perspectives, the passions, and the people who were so in to this stuff. This was actually a bit traumatic, because it contrasted with other relationships and aspects of my life where I didn’t feel the same passion and love.
This sense of a tribe, where I felt I could settle into a more open, and higher sense of who I was only grew through my time in Karlskrona. The whole thing was a sort of ‘state’ experience, like an extended initiation and experiment in a new way of being.
There are some other, shorter, subsequent experiences where I have also really felt at ‘home’ and ‘met’ by people who I would consider to be ‘my tribe’. This is a funny sort of tribe, not defined by geography, skin colour, but definitely sharing a perspective and culture. These include but are not limited to: the week in Boulder at the Integral Sustainability event, the few days in Denmark at a SoL Jeans gathering , the EnlightenNext retreat in Tuscany and the most recent Leadership Development Framework training in Chichester.
In all of these last examples, there are ways in which I have felt ‘met’ by others who are on similar paths, driven by the same passions, and at the same or later stages of development. In many ways, the depth of connection in some of those engagements means I will never forget people that I only actually spent about 10 minutes talking to!
Nature and Tents
I have done a good number of camping trips, and for a period of at least 5 years was spending an average of over 30 days a year in a tent. Many of these have been on long cycling trips in Australia, Canada and Europe. These long rides have been important for me, and I really do feel at home cycling for long periods, and then sleeping in my little tent. So many times I have lain down in that tent, surrounded by the few things I need to really be self-sufficient, exhausted but satisfied after a long day’s riding through amazing landscapes….and felt right at home.
There are many other places and ways in which I feel at home. Not the least of which is with my family – brothers, sisters, parents, cousins! But, I would also include surfing, mountain biking, and lying in bed feeling safe and warm with my (ex) girlfriend as other contexts when the sense of ‘home’ really comes to mind.
Looking up dictionary definitions of home does not really help make sense of my many interpretations of home. My own sense of why I call all of these home is something to do with where I most feel like myself. Rather than the most important variable in this equation being how comfortable I feel, it is more about who/what I consider to be my ‘self’. At various times I may define myself by my role in society, as a son and brother, as a surfer/mountain biker, as an Australia, or as consciousness itself.
When defined like that, the only reason I would ever not feel at home is because I chose to identify with a sense of self that was not congruent with the context in which I am at that very moment. I may be overseas and choose to identify with my sense of being an ‘Australian’ rather than my sense of being ‘a global citizen’ and so feel distant from home. But I can always choose.
Increasingly I am choosing to feel at home everywhere. This trip will be a bit of an experiment of to what degree I can actually do this, and to what degree I can express that light, relaxed sense of connection and confidence in very new and different contexts. So, if you see me along the way, please welcome me home, and remind me that I really have never left ; )