Foto: the view from my living room in my former apartment in Copenhagen, Denmark
How do we find our place on earth?
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled to feel at home in myself and in the world. It was therefore with great excitement in the last days of 2018 I read a book by Zenju Earthlyn Manual: “Sanctuary. A Meditation on Home, Homelesness, and Belonging”.
It is a beautiful, small and thoughtful book that describes the author’s search for herself, for a home and for sanctuary. A life deeply characterized by being black, queer, descended from slaves and woman and thus in search of a place to belong.
In the following I have taken quotations from the book that resonate with my own life. The sentences are brought here to reflect for those who themselves go the way of finding a place of refuge, a home, identity, tranquility or security.
One of the worst things that can befall a child is not being taken care of. Not being loved, met and supported on the path to becoming oneself: “the early loss of home brings a sense of not belonging” (11).
When I started school as a 7 year old, I was anything but equipped for this world. From that moment, a development began in which I began to feel very alienated from both myself and the world.
In my life it started very early, but of course, the same feeling of not belonging can also happen later on in life.
Instead of finding rest in oneself, comfort, care and a home: “you might find yourself masking or growing numb” (14).
“Not fitting in meant never feeling welcome, body and spirit never being at home” (23), which sooner or later raises the question: “Where do I belong?” (23).
Ever since I have been concerned with what it means to belong, to have a home, to experience peace and security.
The quest for finding refuge in the world
The basic feeling of not being “at home” in ourselves and in the world can become a form of homelessness: “homelessness is like walking in a dark forest, step by step” (25-26).
Along the way, we try to find calm and security, a place of refuge: “taking sanctuary is an act of saving one’s life from the suffering of the world” (6).
“Sanctuary is a place you create when you are“ missing ”in the scheme of humanity. Establishing sanctuary is critical to finding home” (7).
“When we say,” I take refuge, ” we’re appealing to what brings us home to ourselves” (31).
The need also arises to find a home. Perhaps a place where seeking refuge can become a home. Though “the words “I am home” don’t resonate for many who are marginalized by society” (4).
“Finding home is… ..a spontaneous experience of shelter” (57).
“Having a home and being at home can be completely different experiences” (29).
On the one hand, it is vital to have a roof over your head to experience a minimum of security, safety and to have the opportunity to be yourself. On the other hand, we can start asking ourselves the question: “what is home?” (25).
“Finding home, feeling home, and being at home are complex, multilayered, spiritual and cultural experiences independent of the place we live. Where is home? What is my true nature, and what does it mean to be at home with it? When I feel at home, where can I find sanctuary? ” (2).
“Thich Nhat Hanh is famous for saying,” Your true home is in the present moment. ” The home he speaks of is not only in time and space; it is in your heart. Is there peace, loving kindness, and warmth in your home? Is your home with you wherever you go? ” (14).
“True home is not an object to aquire or item to check off a to-do list. Nor is it a marker of enlightment. Our true home is in this moment, and this moment is passing and we are changing. If there where no change, none of us would have come into being. Home is a groundless force of nature that transforms our existence. It might appear that some people are stable in their homes while others are not. In fact, neither is stable. True home is impermanent. It cannot be possessed. Only a home that comes into being, arises, and ceases to be is a true home. The Earth displays its ever-evolving nature, making any home momentary. Right now I am home and at home internally, but if this experience is based on an external condition, the experience of home can disappear at any moment” (74).
The path forward
“When fear, angst, frustration, or “why me?” arises, ground yourself in the ordinariness of your life and live one day at a time. Suffering teaches us this. When we suffer this much, we can only be still and take each moment as it comes” (25).
“I rise to what I am called to do, have agreed to do. I sit upon the earth, among trees, breath rising and falling, like those who have come before me” (59).
In Thich Nhat Hanhs words: “I have arrived, I am home”.