What does ‘home’ mean to you? To many, it means the familiar territory where they can rest, shut the rest of the world out, and feel secure. To those lucky enough to have a physical building to shelter in, it is the area behind the front gate or the front door, where, legally, they can refuse entry to others, and therefore have enforceable space for themselves. To those lucky enough to be in a happy family, it is perhaps the place where they can rely on the protection, care, humour and company of their nearest and dearest.
THE PHYSICAL SPACE
So many people throughout the world do not have a secure home. There are countries where whole populations cannot rest secure, without the fear of bombing, or visits from army or police. Some ethnic groups are turned out of their homes by those who think they have a right to take over their land. If you have a secure place to be, then you can feel grateful to be given that space. You can also spare a thought for those who are not so lucky.
Even when a building is not available, there are ways to create a sense of secure physical space. We can choose clothes which give us a sense of ‘home’ – perhaps the material is a familiar one, or the colours are preferred or significant. For many, their car is a ‘home’, a little box in which they can relax for a while, secure in the knowledge that others are not allowed in without permission.
This physical sense of protected being is enshrined, in part, in the ‘right to a private and family life’ (Article 8 of the Human Rights Act). This includes the right not to be physically or psychologically invaded.
THE MENTAL SPACE
Beyond the physical, we can also think of home as a secure and happy space in our mind.
To give you an example, we can feel ‘at home’ with another person, if that person is ‘accommodating’. Such people let us feel that we are allowed to be, and think, without being invaded by them. Equally, they are prepared to protect us, to offer us security. If a child has such a person as a parent, then they are more likely to grow up with a predominant feeling of security rather than insecurity. They are more likely to feel ‘at home’ wherever they are.
In meditation, we can try to establish a similar mental sense of ‘home’. This is partly why some meditators talk about ‘seeking refuge’. They are seeking protection from the suffering in the world. They do this by building up a kind of fortress in their mind. It is a fortress with a difference. Normally, a fortress shuts out the rest of humanity, regarding outsiders as enemies. Meditators create a fortress which includes everything and has no enemies. However, it is hard to do, and in the meantime meditators often seek retreats, and quiet spaces, in order to train themselves in peace.
Just for today, perhaps consider what home means to you. Which people make you feel at home, and which people perhaps give you a sense of unease and insecurity? Equally, which thoughts make you feel at home, and which thoughts perhaps make you feel like an alien in your own skin?
In general, I would suggest that when you are angry or anxious, it is accompanied by a feeling of being ‘not at home’. In contrast, when you are peaceful and secure, it is accompanied by a feeling of being ‘at home’.
Perhaps meditate for a short while, and in that meditation just sit with yourself. Notice how you are feeling. See if you can accept who you are, as though you were your own kind parent. See if you can help yourself feel at home.
When you wake from the meditation, maybe see if you can make others feel more at home with you, by welcoming them, and looking after them for a while.
What is home? It can be a physical space, such as a familiar building which offers protection. It can also be a mental space, such as a mind which feels secure in the company of a trusted friend.
In general, when we are angry or anxious, we feel less ‘at home’. It is, therefore, worth training our minds in techniques which help us to feel more peaceful and secure. Meditation is one way of doing this.