What Being At Home Really Means

Dr.Rick Hanson
May 6, 2020
A silhouette of a person at home, through their blinds

Right now, many of us are spending much more time at home than we are used to. And yet, paradoxically, many of us are also feeling less at home.

That’s because our true home is not a physical location but our fundamental nature as human beings, the resting state of body and mind.

When the body is not disturbed by hunger, thirst, pain, or illness, and when the mind is not disturbed by threat, frustration, or rejection, then most people settle into this resting state: true home. We are engaged with the world, participating with pleasure and passion, but on the basis of a background sense of safety, sufficiency, and connection.

But when body or mind are disturbed – as most of us have experienced in recent weeks – Mother Nature has endowed us with hair-trigger mechanisms that drive us from that resting state. Fight-flight-freeze systems in the body get activated, and experiences of fear, anger, loneliness, shame, and spite occur in the mind.

But in times of chronic stress, like these – in which the body gets worn down and depleted, and the mind gets frazzled, pressured, prickly, worried, and blue – becomes the new normal. It’s a kind of ongoing inner homelessness. Although it once served important evolutionary functions, it undermines well-being, wears down long-term health, and can shorten the lifespan.

So how can you come home to yourself? Here are some reflections that I invite you to consider along with me, right now, as you’re reading this.

First, be at home in your body. Take a breath and exhale slowly, abiding as a body relaxing. Get a sense of being in this body, inhabiting it. Nothing needs to be a particular way for you to be at home in it. Whether this body is tall or short, young or old, even healthy or ill, you can find an immediacy, presence, and familiarity with it that feels like coming home.

Next, be at home in your senses. Be aware of sounds coming and going, known without effort. Pick a touch or taste, and allow yourself for some seconds to be at home in it.

Be at home in this place, wherever you are. Take some seconds to look around. Let go into truly being in this setting, this location. 

Be at home in this moment, right now. Be present with whatever is happening. Let there be a sense of arriving. Again and again.

And then, play with expanding this sense of ‘home’ outward.

Be at home in life, being the ripe fruit of three and a half billion years of evolution, cousin to every other living thing – even sharing much of our own DNA with that of a banana!

Be at home in this universe. We are here in this Milky Way galaxy distinct from several hundred billion other ones, now nearly 14 billion years after the universe began, built from stardust, cousin as well to every physical thing, awash in the sea of quantum foam that is our common nature.

And, if it is meaningful for you, be at home in your personal sense of whatever may transcend the material universe. Perhaps that means reflecting on an intuition of that which is unconditioned; or a perception of a kind of light shining through the stained glass of our lives; or a knowing of a presence, a love, a consciousness beyond our own.

Finally, know what it feels like for the mind to be at home; get your brain familiar with this feeling. Doing so is like leaving a trail of mental breadcrumbs that will help you come home again and again, whenever you find yourself lost.

It’s good to be home.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a psychologist and New York Times best-selling author. He’s been an invited speaker at NASA, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, and meditation centers worldwide. His newest book is Neurodharma: New Science, Ancient Wisdom, and Seven Practices of the Highest Happiness.

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