Going Home: A Mindfulness Practice
Hom·ing /ˈhōmiNG / adjective : relating to an animal's ability to return to a place or territory after traveling a distance away from it.
Do you know what “homing” is? The biological definition refers to an animal’s ability to return to a place or territory after traveling away from it, often into foreign and unpredictable terrain. The esoteric human practice doesn’t differ much from that definition. My practice of homing, initially inspired by the enchanting re-told story of “Sealskin, Soulskin” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her book of ancestral stories entitled, Women Who Run With the Wolves, is a mindfulness practice that I’ve been developing and exercising intentionally for years.
Estés uses this ancient Celtic story as a mechanism for teaching women how to reclaim and protect their wild home or soul-self. I’ve since adapted her teachings into a mindfulness practice that I regularly use to reconnect with my own soul-self - my own inner wisdom. While Estés’ writings target women specifically, the practice I’ve created isn’t necessarily exclusive to one gender but extremely beneficial for any person to exercise.
Homing is centered around the idea that our soul-home, or wild home (in whatever form it may exhibit), connects us to our soul self. Anything that enriches, enlivens, or connects our body and mind to our deeper self is considered home. It’s a place of personal refuge from the chaotic outside world. It’s a place that liberates our true self. The practice is based on the philosophy that if one often spends too much time traversing about the contrived landscape of an egocentric world, their soul becomes prone to suffering. More notably, the potential to lose one’s self altogether becomes not only dangerously possible, but incredibly likely. On the other hand, if one often returns to a refuge - a place rooted in peace that offers simple joy, they will find themselves replenished, centered, and strengthened in their personal sense of self.
“Every creature on earth returns home. It is ironic that we have made wildlife refuge for ibis, pelican, egret, wolf, crane, deer, mouse, moose, and bear but not for ourselves in the places where we live day after day. We understand that the loss of habitat is the most disastrous event that can occur to a free creature. We fervently point out how other creatures’ natural territories have become surrounded by cities, ranches, highways, noise, and other dissonance, as though we are not surrounded by the same, as though we are not affected also. We know that for creatures to live on, they must at least from time to time have a home place, a place where they feel both protected and free.”
- Clarissa Pinkola Estés
The process of going home could be literal for some - going to the people or places that make childhood memories come to life. It could be the process of reconnecting to the ancestral heritage from which one descends, or connecting to an ethnic culture that one feels a unique kinship with. It may also take on the filter of nesting or building a real-life sanctuary. But often, homing is much more interpretive and mysterious.
Homing is going to the places that call to us; the places that feels steady and safe. It’s a time in space where, no matter where we are, we feel gently nourished by our surroundings and secure in our wild flesh - the physical casing of our soul. It’s a place of deep peace yet emanating with freedom. It’s a place where we feel so comfortable, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and true. It is a place our soul can finally shed the layers of domestication and expectation. We become less automatic and more lush. We begin to forget our modern conditioning and attune to our wild, naturalistic, inner-being. Soul-home is where we feel totally aligned in mind, body and spirit. We feel excited and composed, grounded yet totally soaring with inspiration. Home is where we remember our true self - our soulful self as we are created to be.
This mindfulness practice provides abundant sustenance and restores our reserves so we have more to give our projects, dreams, family, partnerships, and creative work. It ignites creation, yields wisdom and balance, and fosters self-awareness. It teaches us to listen to the whisperings of our intuition and develop spiritual insight. It reminds us what we are born of, what we are called to do, and who we are called to be.
Finding our soul-home starts with self-inquiry then materializes into action. We begin by asking:
What does my soul need?
When we meditatively ask this question in solitude, then patiently wait and listen, the quiet whisperings of our inner wisdom inevitably bubble to the surface. The response is a deeply moving feeling that rises from the gut, radiates through the heart and becomes epically clear in the mind.
Often times, when I ask myself what my soul needs, she tells me that she craves mountains, meadows, streams, and definitely solitude. Other times, it is salty sea mist and crashing waves. She calls me to pack my bags, take leave, and travel to find refuge in the wild places. Freedom from cement, contrived noise, or enclosed spaces is what my soul often longs for. Other times, finding home is as simple as taking a hot bath, or watching the snowfall. It can look like stretching after a long day, or pushing my body until my muscles ache. Sometimes she urges me to reach home through yoga, gardening, walking among the trees, helping another, or sitting in meditation. It depends on my needs at the time - but she always seems to know what is best.
After the soul murmurs where home lies, our path becomes simple.
Go. Do It.
We must do whatever is necessary to navigate home. If we ignore our deep-seeded needs, the internal cries become painfully loud and obstructive to our life journey. Ignoring the needs of our soul casts a shadow on our countenance. We become weak, dry, and voiceless - a mere echo of our former self. We lose touch with our body. We become easily conditioned and controlled. We forget how to see with our intuitive spiritual eye. We act on autopilot. We lose our sense of self. Our soul starves.
The truth of the matter is that home is different for everyone. The time, the place, the action, the details are all relative and based on one single thing - each person’s unique internal yearning.
Homing is not running away to escape reality. It is not a rarely taken vacation, nor is it necessarily the mainstream idea of self-care. It is a daily and weekly practice in soul nourishment and cultivating intuitive awareness that can be done in an afternoon, an hour, or even a few minutes. It’s consistent micro-dosing of intentional living. It may need to involve simplifying, cutting down on digital scroll-time, or adopting a healthy morning routine in order to make time and space for finding home. On a grand scale, it could involve traveling to a far-off destination that calls to us. It could also involve exiting a soul-sucking job or a co-dependent relationship, or perhaps enforcing boundaries that may disrupt the comfort of others. However, these grand motions may not always be necessary for everyone.
It is best to tap into our inner wisdom, our true self, by practicing homing as a habit - not sparingly. Distilled down to simple daily actions, it most likely requires saying “No” to the non-essential tasks in order to say “Yes” to the most important objective. It could look like solitude in the morning, a warm cup of tea before bed, a prayer, a heart-rendering musical composition, a peaceful walk, a thrilling stroke of the paintbrush, a grounding touch of hand in loam, or any number of other actions. There are as many possibilities of home as there are people.
We live in a crazy world. It’s easy to get caught up in the race, in perfectionism, in blind ambition, in doing-it-all, in acquiescing to others ideals and expectations. The career, the materialism, the accomplishments, the projects, the clout, and the responsibilities form the landscape of an ego-driven world. Many behavioral habits surrounding drive, ambition, influence, and living up to another’s expectations are based on an agenda that serves the needs of the ego’s appetite. While it is necessary to navigate this space in order to get anything done in this life, this is not a place where our soul can thrive singularly. If we stay here too long without returning home, this ego-centric domain can entrap us, consume us wholly and cause our soul, the pithiness of our true essence, to suffer. This ego-centric domain can easily blind us, and de-rail us, by creating self-developed illusions and false realities. In contrast, our soul-home speaks truth and provides clear, unadulterated vision.
The benefit of practicing homing regularly is that it creates space in our day-to-day landscape for our soul-self to co-exist. As Estés teaches, the relationship between soul and ego becomes open, fluid, communicative, and balanced. The soul becomes the decision maker and driver while the ego provides the muscle and warnings of danger from the back seat. This arrangement allows each portion of our self to become nourished and equally exercised. When our ego-self and soul-self exist symbiotically, we are better able to actualize our purposeful dreams. When we align soul and ego, we are better able to make a lasting difference in our relationships, family, community, and the world.
Now, more than ever, we must have an intentional practice in our arsenal that makes us stop, breathe, and simply be our true self. We must find the places that call to us; the places that emancipate our souls. We must find the refuge that allows our soul to rest, run, play, sing, create, and dance in delight of existing.
If you find yourself at odds, overextended, anxious, exhausted, blocked, stifled, bored, misunderstood, dry, entrapped, or yearning for more, then I encourage you to find your home.
Then GO! Go there often.
Homing Mindfulness Practice
Use these journal & meditative prompts to help you find your soul home. Sit or lay in a meditative position. Breathe deeply. Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly, then ask yourself the following questions:
What does my soul need?
Where do I feel most secure?
Where do I feel most inspired?
Where do I need to go, or what do I need to do in order to feel deeply nourished?
Where do I feel connected to a higher universal consciousness?
What am I doing when when I feel the most purposeful & fulfilled?
What reminds me that life is special?
What unlocks a deeply rooted sensation within me?
What places or actions make me feel alive in my body?
What places or actions make my heart sing with joy?
What causes me to remember my natural wild self?
What places call to me?
Listen to this Spotify Playlist for inspiration in finding your home.
Where is home to you?
*If you are interested in diving deeper into the concept of homing, I highly recommend reading Estés’ book, Women Who Run With the Wolves. While my blog post was inspired by her teachings, my writing on the topic and my self-inquiry practice is based on my personal experiences of finding home.