No matter how nice our home is, it is still “of the of world,” as my Buddhist teachers in Asia would say.
We are settling in to a new house. As I get older, moving feels more emotional, more gut-wrenching. Witnessing our old home slowly coming apart, with carefully chosen bits going into carefully chosen boxes, I felt a little vulnerable.
Little bits of me separated, re-arranged with other bits, and put away. Only to re-emerge and be put into new places, with less dust and more air.
Carrying one of the last boxes out of the old house, I heard my footsteps echo through the fresh, open spaces of our old home.
Yes, it’s all temporary, everything eventually falls apart, and as the Buddhist masters of old would say
The end of collection is dispersion.
The end of rising is falling.
The end of meeting is parting.
and yet, and yet …
Yes, of course, but as the 17th century poet and Jodo Shinshu priest Issa wrote after his first-born child died shortly after birth —
The world of dew —
A world of dew it is indeed,
And yet, and yet . . .
And yet there is a longing for stability, for protection, for refuge.
For Issa at that moment, impermanence is no longer just a philosophical concept, but a real feeling of sadness and longing.
The poignant “and yet, and yet…” also points to something else, something waiting for him to discover, something he feels is missing.
I fall for it again
What is missing? Is ask myself as the tears dodge bits of dust and dried sweat on my unshaven cheeks as they trickle down.
Then I catch myself. I fell for it again! It’s just life being life. No mistake anywhere, and nothing is missing.
During times of stress, transition, heartache, and struggle it is easy to get stuck in “and yet, and yet…” We can feel uprooted at times, abandoned, homeless.
So, what is this place like where nothing is missing? Where we don’t feel uprooted even when we are?
Where is home?
Essayist and novelist Pico Iyer, in his Ted Talk ‘Where Is Home? “says what we call our real home has more to do with a piece of your soul, not your soil.
While our outer home is a protected space in which to thrive; a place of refuge from the storms of the world—it’s still “of the of world,” as my Buddhist teachers in Asia would say.
The old house, as we call it now, is someone else’s house. It was home, but now it’s not. And this house will be someone’s else’s when we are asked to move again. It’s just a temporary shelter, and not just because we are renters.
No place to settle among conditioned patterning
“You can’t make a permanent home in a sankhara” Ajahn Chah would say.
There is no place to settle down in conditioned patterns. But you don’t really need to worry about it, he retorts, because it’s not your real home anyway. Ajahn Chah continues:
Anyone can build a house of wood and bricks, but that that sort of home is not our real home. It’s a home in the world and it follows the ways of the world. Our real home is inner peace. An external material home may well be pretty, but sooner or later we’ll have to give it up. It’s not a place we can live in permanently because it doesn’t truly belong to us, it’s part of the world.
The refuge we never leave
When we come home to who we are in our entirety, not to some borrowed or imposed image, but to who we are, as we are, moment by moment, we discover we never left the “place” of true refuge and inner peace Ajahn Chah describes.
We have been pining for something that has been there all along – a silent wakefulness through which all our experiences to pass effortlessly.
The poet Mark Nepo writes that this wakefulness is not a destination but a song the human heart keeps singing, the way birds keep singing at the first sign of light; and the journey of becoming who we truly are never ends.
We don’t really arrive anywhere new; we just keep growing out of that radical peace of being. We blossom out from the timeless loving awareness; we shift smoothly into what Ajahn Chah called “the One Who Knows,” the impersonal witness to all things.
Our simple, dedicated mindfulness practice reveals a remarkable peace within, just waiting for you. A place inside beyond the clutch of the thinking mind, untouched by any memory or personal history.
And, funny thing, the body is always giving us subtle hints to go there, but we seldom listen.
It’s really so simple
It’s so simple, really. Just be kind to yourself and others. And meditate.
Open your being to embrace whatever happens with less judgment and more loving-kindness, especially to your imperfections and vulnerabilities.
And come home for the holidays, without leaving your seat.