Owning a home is more work than I thought. The effort required to raise money for a mortgage versus rent, to call a contractor versus a landlord, shines a daily light on how much energy is required to support this roof over our head. When my spouse and I purchased our home 2 years ago, I might have anticipated that it would make my sense of “ being home” more secure. And while I love this house, its history, its story, it is no more or less secure against the threat of loss than any other home. Close friends and family going through foreclosure show this to be true.
In the Curtis Park neighborhood of Sacramento, where I live, a gentleman spend his days threading a shopping cart heavily laden with soda can filled Hefty bags very slowly through the tree-lined streets. I hesitate to call him homeless because I have no idea where he parks his cart at night. But it would appear he is. I met him soon after we bought the house, our paths as I bike to work cross frequently, and we nod and say hello to one another, gravely, but politely.
One day, on the way to work, I saw a shiny white Volvo had pulled over and it’s driver was talking animatedly to the man. I don’t know what I expected to hear, but as I biked closer, I heard the woman at the wheel say heartily. “Okay, Oliver, you have a good day now, you hear?” as he replied “Okay, Carol, you do the same.” (Names have been changed to protect the innocent and also because I can’t remember them.) The scene struck me for many reasons, but mostly because if I closed my eyes it was the tone of neighbors speaking over a shared fence. Which of course, is what they were.
That was not the last time I saw a car pulled over to speak with Oliver. I am clearly not the only person in this neighborhood who notices him, who says hello. Often, these people are pressing bills into his hand.
I won’t attempt to guess the motivation of those who stop, or try and guess the path that led Oliver to live as he does now. But the small details of these stories that I have witnessed lead me to consider the nature of home for myself, for all of us. And the truth is that home is impermanent. When you buy a home, you mistakenly believe you are putting a down payment on “forever.” But of course, this isn’t true. No place that we inhabit in our lives is forever. Our only constant refuge for the duration of our lives is the breath. I could include the body, but dang, it goes through so many involuntary remodels that at times it is unrecognizable.
In yoga, the second chakra, Svadhistana in Sanskrit, is sometimes translated as “One’s own home.” As discussed in the last post (Gwyneth Paltrow in all of us…) the element of this chakra is water, and it is associated with flow, with change. Our home, therefore, is in a constant state of flux, and the sooner we can accept this reality the sooner we can relax. The more we recognize there is no permanent home, the more we are at home anywhere we are. It seems an oxymoron, like the assertion my teacher Mary Paffard often makes that we must “ground into the essential groundlessness of life.”
To maintain a home in good working order, to be a responsible steward to this land, is a joyful and tough job. But does my bodily security come from holding on to this house, this mortgage? Or does the only true security start within the body and emanate outward, making any cirumstances feel safe? To remember that this home, and the land it sits on, neither began with nor ends with me helps me to hold this job more lightly and with more love.
(If pondering the philosophical implications of the term “home” is your thing, perhaps you’d like to join my second chakra workshop)