I once had a sheepdog named Sophie who was a homebody. Wherever her body was felt like home to her. If she was outdoors, she did not want to come in, and if she was in, it was tough to get her out. Anywhere she resided was where she wanted to be. As long as it was close to the house.
On the Camino de Santiago last month, her spirit walked with me for a bit. The first day on the trail, my right forearm hurt in the particular spot it ached when I carried her aged body to her bed each night during her last weeks on earth. I asked her what she was here to tell me. “Be happy where you are,” she said. “Be home.”
Many of you have asked me about my Camino experience, and frankly, most of what I want to say defies language. But if I had to pinpoint the main idea, I’d say I’ve come home to myself. I’ve become a homebody of sorts. Not in the sense of never going anywhere, but in finding a contentment in the now moment, wherever it is. By being in my body.
Home can be a fraught concept sometimes. And I must acknowledge my great privilege in having a safe, comfortable home. I know that’s not the case for everyone. My home is my oasis. It’s a place that offers me physical and emotional security and full permission to be. No matter how exciting my adventures away, my home beckons me to return again and again. That can be the same with our internal home when we cultivate it.
At one point on the Camino, I had this thought: Here I am in a beautiful foreign country doing what I have yearned to do for a long time, and I am so grateful. And, I could be having this same deep, spiritual experience anywhere because I am home in myself.
What does coming home to oneself mean exactly? Part of it for me is to remember to notice myself in my body. To let my thoughts rest so I may attune to my muscles, bones and internal organs. To become aware of physical sensation as well as emotional resonance. Here is where my intuition resides.
After I received my message from Sophie, the discomfort in my forearm began to dissipate, then went away. And as I stayed present to my body on subsequent days, all my usual aches and pains disappeared. It was as if in coming home, I gave my body permission to relax.
On another level, coming home feels like a combination of being centered and recognizing myself as a divine being. It’s placing the same value on my needs as I do on the needs of others. It’s voicing how I feel even when I worry that others won’t like it.
Like everything else important, it is a continuing practice. During my first few days off the Camino, I noticed a lot of fear and shame coming up, dressed in the clothing of abandonment memories. It was pretty emotional, and I wasn’t feeling particularly content. But, as I allowed the memories and the emotions they carried to flow through me, I reached a resolve to no longer abandon myself. That feels like home.
What meaning does the word home have for you at this moment? What does home feel like in your body? Can you find that centered place in you to return to again and again? These questions are particularly significant during the holiday season when it’s so easy for our energy to become scattered.
But I believe the practice of returning home is relevant in any season. I don’t have to tell you that the world feels chaotic right now. That you will face or are currently facing impossible challenges. That people you love will unknowingly or knowingly abandon you. But you always have a home in yourself. Breathe in and remember the divine in you. Breathe out and release what is blocking you from knowing this part of yourself.
One thing I should mention about Sophie the sheepdog is that she was the goofiest creature I’ve ever met. If we were hiking and she decided we had ventured too far, she would stop, lie down belly to the ground with all four legs splayed out and refuse to go another step. Home was more important to her than anything. She was goofy alright…in the wisest possible way.