A significant part of my heritage is Czech, so I spent four days in Prague this past fall during my ancestry trip to Europe.
Perhaps in part due to its geographical location—kind of between Western and Eastern Europe—the Czech Republic has had a volatile history. The land has changed hands a lot over the last couple hundred years, including a drastic shift from Nazi German rule to Communist Soviet rule after WWII. In 1989, communism ended in Czechoslovakia. And in 1993, Czechoslovakia (peacefully) split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Anyway, whereas some countries have national anthems heralding their greatness, e.g., The Star Spangled Banner, O, Canada,etc. The Czech national anthem is literally called:
"Where is my home?"
This cracked me up because it felt super honest.
[Aside: If you've ever read even a little Franz Kafka (one of the nation's most famous writers), the song title seems to make even more sense.]
I feel like Rumi would approve of this anthem title—and, naturally, take it a step further. He says:
“All language is a longing for home."
I've reached this point where home, to me, is not really a physical place. It is a feeling. An inner energy, if you will.
Maybe it's because I'm officially in my thirties and have been renting my whole adult life with no end in sight of that lease life.
Still, we've been able to make our current Brooklyn apartment feel more at home than any of our previous rentals—and it has nothing to do with the apartment itself. (This is the smallest and least "equipped" place we've ever lived.) It has to do with how we feel when we're there. Yes, there's no dishwasher, and yes, you have to go to the building's basement with handfuls of quarters to do laundry, but it is a place where we can relax and just be. Our four rooms of respite within the frantic five boroughs.
If you get real big picture about it [And why not? ;)], we're all just renting our bodies, too. They're not permanent. And yet, we can work on feeling at home in our bodies. A huge step in that direction for me was to stop looking for the feeling of home in anything outside of myself.
For years, I was searching desperately, like a person obsessively scouring real estate apps for a place to live. I was looking outside of me, looking for the answer to all my problems in something out there. Would a high paying job make me feel at home? What about a marriage? What about writing a book? What about a cross country move?
And I kept feeling like I was coming up short. Like I was perpetually back at square one. New year, new apartment, new job, same bullshit. I began believing I'd never feel peace, never feel like I'd belong, never feel like I'd "made it."
Until, in a radical shift of perception (spawned by a major low point), I started looking within instead of without. This shift changed everything.
Byron Katie (author of Loving What Is) puts it like this:
"We've been looking outside us for our own peace. We've been looking in the wrong direction."
My personal definition of spirituality is this: I do everything I can to pay more attention to what happens inside of me than what happens outside of me. That's it. And it is not an exaggeration to say my whole life has changed because of it. One way I can "measure" the effectiveness of this shift is I've begun feeling more and more at home in myself.
But how??? Is always the question. Well, the beautiful thing is, you know how. You can go on a long journey if you'd like (I sure did), just like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. You can think you need to travel for miles and miles down a long and winding road. You can think you need to meet an expert, elusive Wizard.
But the truth is—you always have the power to return home. Dorothy had it from the second she entered Oz, she had it throughout her difficult trek. She didn't need the Wizard. She only needed herself. Same goes for you.
"There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again."
My way might be nothing like yours.
Walt Whitman says:
"Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know."
And also goes on to say:
"If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip, And in due time you shall repay the same service to me."
There's no shame in seeking help from others on your journey inward, as long as your fully understand it's your journey. It's beautiful to support each other on our individual treks home to ourselves.
Ram Dass says:
"We're all just walking each other home."
I'd be honored to walk down the path beside you. We can lean on each other when we're tired.
with Love and with Light,
p.s. Rumi: "Be a lamp, a lifeboat, a ladder. Help someone's soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd."