The only true address for fully-alive living is: You – Mentally and Physically, c/o Your Body in This Present Moment, Here and Now. Excerpt, Yoga Expression Spirit – Tools for Authentic Living
“You live around here?”
Most of us are fortunate to be able to respond to that question with a yes or a no. We can also provide directions to a spot on the map where our stuff is located. This location likely has universally recognized coordinates with which it is identified. Most call this space ‘home’, but is that really where we live?
In the meditation and mindfulness course I teach, nearly every participant acknowledges and laments the fact that they spend nearly all their time in their head, utterly captive to and tossed about by their persistent thoughts. Unable to stop or even calm their racing mind, they arrive in class exhausted and nearly desperate for tools to stop the perpetual inner chatter.
For many of us, the mind chatters away, day and night, waking or sleeping, coloring every experience and robbing us of peace. Living exclusively in the mind, we also become disconnected from the body, ignoring its needs and signals, surrendered by default to a two-dimensional, less-than-resourceful life. Many simply experience this as a deep sense of unrest. The inevitable answer to ‘Where do you live?’ is, sadly, ‘In my head.’
At the same time, the question is not only ‘Where do you live?’ but ‘When do you Live?’ If you are not living in the present moment, you are most likely leasing an empty space in a past that no longer exists, in a future that is yet to be formed or perhaps in a space that belongs to someone else – a refugee of sorts, cast out by your own mental devices.
So, where do you live? When do you live? These questions call for a bit of reflection as the answers – your mailing address and your experiential address – have consequences. In fact, they shape your experience of life as well as your biology.
For twelve years, my husband and I have enjoyed a life lived in two states, Minnesota and Arizona. During a dozen winters, we explored the glory of an utterly distinct geographic region, the desert southwest. We forged beautiful friendships, adopted much-loved past-times, joined meaningful organizations and, yes, we enjoyed the warmth of each Arizona winter. These experiences, the people we met and that place changed us and shaped who we are. For me, twelve years as a snow-bird brought abundant life-changing, course-altering gifts too numerous to thoroughly catalog. Of note, however, there are three: 1) yoga, 2) biking and 3) a church.
Yoga: During our second winter in Arizona, I saw a small ad in the local paper for a yoga studio located in ‘old town’ near the public library. In January 2006, I tentatively took my first yoga class. On my brand new yoga mat with my stiff and pudgy body, I began a journey of self-care and discovery that continues today, a journey through which I am utterly, joyfully and forever changed. For three snow-bird seasons, I stretched and breathed and learned and grew in a supportive community with a wise and capable teacher, always encouraging, prodding and guiding. In those classes I met people who remain dear to me today. I also reshaped my relationship with myself, body and mind. For the first time in my life, I found the possibility of a kind and welcoming home within in my skin.
Biking: In 2008 we happened upon a 21,000 acre mountain regional park that became our home for eight winters as part of a team of volunteer park-hosts. For eight years and thousands of volunteer hours, we forged community and friendships that became family. In this place and with these friends we were re-introduced to biking, both mountain biking and road riding, a gift that became so much more than a past-time. Through biking I found a moving meditation to sooth my mind and a vehicle to explore parts of our glorious 21,000 acre refuge made easily accessible by two wheels. Biking continues to shape my understanding of ‘home’, molding my physical body, exposing and soothing my mental landscape as well as shaping my experience of the places I live.
Church: In January 2009, I wandering into a Methodist church near our adopted winter home. To be honest, I had one foot out the door on the whole church thing at the time and this was a last-ditch attempt at something that had great meaning for me in my youth. The big-hearted, warm, welcoming community into which I stumbled has fed and nourished me thoroughly like, well, like welcome rain in the heat of the desert. My time in this community has brought me alive through friendships and service as well as permission to wrestle with all of my questions. In this community I found a spiritual home.
Yes, our snow bird life of a dozen years has been magnificent and has shaped us both physically and mentally. And now it is time to once again redefine our understanding of ‘home’.
For a variety of reasons, my husband and I have decided to no longer divide our lives. That’s right, we are once again card-carrying Minnesota dwellers. While it has taken a bit of reflection to make peace with this change, in some respects we are deeply grateful. The many friendships we have shaped now travel with us in the warmth of our hearts. No more running and, at the end of the day, this is where we are, here and now. And it is good.
Surprising Gifts As I exhale into this change, I am noticing a deep and wide sense of spaciousness as I consider both the calendar and the clock. Since 2004, we have moved twice per year. Twenty four moves in twelve years. Think about that for a moment. Only now I am recognizing how this ping-pong life has both blessed me greatly and fragmented my inner being.
For over a decade, we were nearly always preparing to leave, in transit or settling in, reacquainting and regaining our feet, and figuring out once again where the doggone can opener is located. Around the edges of each transition, we were either leaning forward and planning or looking back and pining, fully present only in a small window of time.
A perpetual sense of urgency helped populate the calendar, accompanied by an underlying sense of ‘not enough time’. Don’t get me wrong, we saw a lot and did a lot, and we are far, far better for it. As I look into the approaching autumn, however, it is with a sense of spaciousness and great anticipation. There will be no packing and mending this year, no tossing and preparing. Instead, there is the opportunity to be present to the change of season, within my being and in the world around me. I can take time to be still and witness the autumnal splendor, without boundary, deadline or interruption.
Resettling in our sweet 1910 cottage home also brings a welcome sense of rootedness and firm footing on solid ground, fully committed and ‘all-in’. I am no longer hedging my bets emotionally and steeling myself for the sure-to-come heartache twice yearly departures bring. In this rootedness I am finding a welcome sense of both spaciousness and possibility.
At a deeper level, I believe we are meant to be here in this place for reasons not yet revealed. Perhaps it is time to create something fully, not simply planting and running, planting and running. This change of address – mentally and physically – will no doubt shape us in ways unforeseen. I have decided to see it as a gift and look forward to unwrapping it.
What about you? What is your address? Where and when do you live? How does this shape you? Is anyone home?
Next time: Getting out of your head and into your life.