It's the end of the summer, and for many of us, that means its time to move. And, I mean, move -- as in, pack up everything and transport all of it -- somewhere, somehow. The process of moving can feel like one big drag, and it can also be cathartic because every time we actually move from one home to another we start afresh. In fact, moving offers a marvelous opportunity for practicing mindfulness.
"Moving" is a funny word; it's shorthand for relocating our lives and it implies intense physical action, emotional effort and mental energy. But, we're always moving, aren't we? I mean, if we weren't moving in the most basic sense we wouldn't be alive. And time, as we know, is always moving. So what's so special about the kind of moving that happens around the first of any given month, and especially just before or after the summer?
Part of the answer may be that we're a lot like hermit crabs. You know, those wee squishy creatures that scavenge for a new home when the old one no longer suits. They claim someone else's old shell as their own, literally making home -- even taking their new home -- with them as they move through life. Those shells are things of beauty and testaments to time and life. And, while there are many houses in the sea for any given crab, only one becomes home at any given time.
For humans, especially mainstream modern humans, home is a place (akin to the crab's shell) and also a state of mind (only I'm not sure whether crab's have self awareness). We move in and out of structures, and as we settle in them, we transform a physical place into a personal space. Home is different from house. Home is personal; house is not. Home is our shell too, since like the crabs we're squishing things seeking protection.
Having a home is good, but better yet is the realization that having the capacity to make a home -- in any one of many different houses -- is what truly travels with us and provides protection.
Okay, let's shift back to the mundane, and consider the copious boxes of stuff that also travel with us. You know, the crates and cartons that contain all those things we collect through life. In the midst of packing the stuff, I wonder whether these are things of home or house? What do we really need? And, what do we carry out of habit, nostalgia or fear? What can we leave behind?
So here are some questions to pose internally while packing boxes and practicing mindfulness:
- What does "home" mean to me -- is home a physical place, a space in the heart and/or a state of mind?
- What do I want to take with me, from home to home -- actual stuff (like furniture and clothes), things that cue emotions and memories (like photos and keepsakes), and/or a mental sense of being "at home" internally as well as within the larger world?
- What can I leave behind -- which stuff of form and substance, emotion and memory, and/or thought and habit are not longer part of my life?
There are no simple answers to any of these questions. In fact there may be no answers to some of them, at all. With mindfulness, the point is to stay present with the experience. In this case, to hold the question, notice the query and recognize the response. This three-fold process is what's most important. Just notice. Just breathe.
We've all heard the saying "home is where the heart is." And where is the heart of emotion, I wonder? Where is the mind? When we look really hard for either (or both), we see that neither mind nor heart are bound to any particular place ... they seem to be with us where ever we go. So by extension, home must always be with us too, and not only a matter of structure or location. Home is an expression of potential, and we realize that potential through our energy and movement. We make home in each moment, moving through time.