Perhaps home is not a place, but simply an irrevocable condition. -James Baldwin
HOME. This is one of those powerful words with much depth, many layers, and significant personal nuance. It also is one of those words that we can FEEL. Our lived experience in physical places and meaningful interactions with particular people contribute to creating what we know as home. These experiences are important so that we have a reference point. However, home transcends the physical. Home is more than where we live or have lived. and is not limited to the people we have lived with. That said, the feeling of home can definitely arise when we are in certain spaces, with certain people, or have certain sensory experiences (e.g., smell of food, hearing a song). We can feel the energy of home when we are reminded of those spaces and people, when something triggers that set of experiences that created “home”.
But I wonder if home also has origins beyond the material. As a therapist, I have had clients with abuse or abandonment histories and do not have any significant sense of home connected to places or people. Yet, they too know home when they encounter it. James Baldwin says home is an “irrevocable condition”. This suggests that home is internal state of being that is not entirely dependent on external circumstances. Perhaps home is also an inner knowing that we already have within us and that can be awakened by life experiences. We know in our soul when something feels like home. So what is this condition, this inner knowing that we call home? Some of my initial reflections resulted in words like seen, affirmed, accepted, known, understood, grounded, rooted, safe, supported, connected, protected, respected, loved, cared for, lifted up. Home is an empowering space of authenticity and liberation where we can exhale and take off the public mask. Home is a profound sense of deep belonging. Home is soulful joy. Beyond places and people, our sense of home can be strongly connected to transcendent experience (e.g., being home in the presence of God, Spirit, ancestors, nature, etc.). Meditation often brings me home.
I believe we can awaken, nurture, enhance, and return home. Strengthening our sense of home involves intentionally surrounding ourselves with those physical triggers of being at home and coming home. It also means creating opportunities to expand our collection of experiences and memories that awaken that irrevocable condition of being “home”.
What does “home” mean to you?
With Peace, Love, and Soulfulness,
Dr. Shelly Harrell