Friday, November 26, 2010

There's no Place like Home

“You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right. “ -Maya Angelou

I was reading through some of Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s works recently and one piece in particular got me thinking about the definition of the word home.  Born in Vietnam in 1926, Hanh grew up under French colonial rule.  Banned from his country for his non-violent, nonpartisan stance during the U.S., he has spent the last 40 years in exile in France.  In Together We Are One Hanh shares that “I have arrived, I am home” is the embodiment of his practice, and also expresses his understanding of the teaching of the Buddha.

“It was because I did not have a country of my own that I had an opportunity to find my true home.  Our true home is the present moment, whatever is happening right here and right now.  Our true home is the place where we no longer seek, no longer wish, no longer regret.  Our true home is not the past; it is not the object of our regrets, our yearnings, our longing or remorse.   [When} we stop trying to find our home in space, time, territory, nationality, culture or race, we find happiness.”

Have you ever felt, at some point in your life that you don’t fit in? And that if you could only find that safe place to call home, things would be better?

I was born and raised in Canada by parents of Indian descent and have always equally acknowledged the influence of both cultures on my identity. I experienced racism as a child, which first made me conscious of the way that some people saw me, that I wasn’t from there (Canada), when in my experience, it was the only place I had ever known (the India I knew at that point was what I saw in Bollywood films).

After graduating from University, I spent some time in India, where I thought I would finally be fully accepted and at home, because my family’s roots were there, and because I “looked” like everyone else. The opposite happened; people did not truly accept me as an Indian because I spoke Hindi with an accent, I carried myself differently, and did not always act according to the customs of the community. I wasn’t upset as much as I was fascinated with people’s reactions towards me.

For a long time, I struggled with the reconciliation of how the world saw me, and how I saw myself, as if I had to choose one culture to identify with.  Eventually I came to the realization that I was grateful for every influence that helped me to become who I am today, regardless of what people’s ideas of me were. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I would be a very different person if I had been raised somewhere else (India, or even the U.K as my family settled there first before moving to Canada) and am grateful to know the experience that I call my life as it is (warts and all).

For a few years in my life I was living and travelling abroad so much so that I remember thinking “home is wherever my bags are.”  Although the experience helped me to detach from my traditional idea of home as being where I was raised, and with the people in my family, I still felt a profound sense of homesickness, and longing for the known in my life, especially when things became challenging in my work overseas.  It's ultimately what brought me back to Canada.

I aspire to the inner sense of home that Hanh refers to, and hope that through meditation, personal reflection, and through Hanh’s readings, I will be able to find that place within myself. Home.

Where do you feel the most at home?
What would it feel like for you to embrace Hanh’s idea of home in the present moment in the here and now? To see home as a state of mind rather than a physical place, or with specific people?

“Every one of us needs a home. The world needs a home. There are so many young people who are homeless. They may have a building to live in, but they are homeless in their hearts. That is why the most important practice of our time is to give each person a home.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

1 comment:

  1. another great post Leena. And what good timing for me. I spent some time with a close friend from the highschool days and increasingly felt that we were growing apart. and left me wondering how come my friend has not assimilated as much into the Canadian culture as I have been. Then I realized that even though I have assimilated into the Canadian culture, I still don't call it home. And geographically, culturally and emotionally I don't feel like I belong with the identity of "Canada". But your post gave me the enlightening "aha" moment - that home is not a geographical place, there is no temporal location, not a territory, not a building, not a nationality, not even a culture or race or even with someone whom you share a life with. But home is always in your heart.