Finding Our True Refuge
“Your true home is in the here and the now. It is not limited by time, space, nationality, or race. Your true home is not an abstract idea. It is something you can touch and live in every moment. – Thich Nhat Hanh.”
Where do you seek refuge?
During times of strife, anger or worry, where do you seek refuge? This is an important question, as it helps us become aware of our where and how we are relating to life. When we face challenges, our tendency is to seek refuge in things that take us away from this very precious life. As Joseph Goldstein says, “it’s as if we are toppling into the next moment over and over again. Seeking a better place than here.
There is no better place than here…
The truth is that if we aren’t present in our bodies, we are living in a virtual world of thoughts, stories and fantasy. And if we aren’t present in our bodies and hearts, when challenges arise, we can’t help ourselves. This leads to us feeling disconnected from ourselves, others and life. And when this happens, we can suffer immensely. This habit of leaving isn’t something we are born with. It is a learned behavior. We learn how to interact in the world from the people around us, who learned it from the people around them, who learned it from their ancestors, etc. etc. etc. So there is no one to blame. The other part is that our minds have a natural tendency to wander. So again, it isn’t our fault. However it is our responablity to learn how to help ourselves.And that is great news! And we can do this just by becoming aware of the breath. The breath brings us home, it connects us to what is is happening in our body, mind and heart. As we become more embodied, we can begin to see how we are relating to life. In moments of anger, we might feel how the heart is beating faster, the breath is shallow, our muscles tense and the feeling of anger arises. We might become aware of how our mind contracts around angry thoughts and instead of feeding these thoughts we can calm the body by practicing mindfulness of breathing in and out. As the body settles, the mind settles and we can feel more grounded. We can bring compassion to the hurt or fear that is present and felt in the body. In this way we help ourselves to respond in ways that are both kind and wise. As Tara Brach says, we learn to tend and befriend what is most in need of our attending and the truth is that we can only do that if we are present in body, mind and heart.
I’d like to end with a quote from the Beloved Thich Nhat Hanh on coming home to the body. He says:
“If you know how to take care of your body, if you know how to take care of your feelings and emotions, you will feel more comfortable with your body and your feelings. If you know how to create a feeling of peace and joy, of happiness in your body, in your feelings, you are in the process of creating a true home for yourself. You feel comfortable with your body, your feelings. You are not afraid of your painful feelings because you know how to handle them.”
P.S. Finding True Refuge is the topic of our upcoming retreat that will take place from Feb. 25th-27th at The Great Mahakala Retreat House in Miami, Fl. To register please go to Residential Miami Mindfulness Retreat. We will practice coming home to the body, wise mind and the compassionate heart.