My daughter, Caroline, just completed her freshman year away at school. As we began the arduous task of loading up my car, we realized she had doubled the amount of 'stuff' she'd accumulated during her first year of school in Massachusetts. As cramped as my car was on the drive south this past August, it was even more complicated trying to fit in every bag, every item, and all her new belongings. Caroline had acquired two milk crates filled with books, a shelving unit holding even more, and lots of new furnishings. She had received projects, awards, different types of recognition and been part of many photographs. In short: we weren't loading up the car, trudging up and down two flights of stairs, and then back across the green simply with accumulated junk...we were loading up her first year of memories. With every bag, with each book, with every parcel, there was a story. Each new item contained a memory of her freshman year. Caroline remembered which she skirt she wore to her first day of class, the pair of shoes she wore giving her first Biology presentation and each athletic award's significance. Her mug reminded her of getting tea with her dorm mates, her pillows were ones that matched her with wonderful roommate and her books either evoked wonderful, or dreadful memories of particular classes. It was a cluttered car, but that car was filled with conversations to have on our way home, and then even more as we began to unload and put things away.
As proud as I am of Caroline's success during her first year away, I am thrilled to have her home again...and for all her independent spirit, she's very glad to be home too. Despite the fact that many freshmen feel a sense of disassociation when they complete their first year and arrive back at their homes, Caroline expressed an exuberant joy and loving her school, but loving being back in her own room...with all its childhood memories. She realized that she didn't need to be a leadership role model, at the top of her game (academically or athletically) or even particularly mature. She was able to just be herself again...her persona that she kept tucked in her back pocket while she was at school. Caroline was able to be a daughter and a sister once again....and to enjoy mingling her school things with the memories of her growing up.
Home can be a wonderful place to which to return. As proud as we can be of our accomplishments out in 'the big world', who are innately, our strengths, as well as our weaknesses, can be let free. There are times and places in our adults lives, and especially in the lives of young adults, that we must adopt and enact a vision of our ideal selves. These ideal selves are often more articulate, more well read, more coordinated and better prepared than we truly feel. Our inner selves can feel out of our element, confused, inferior and unworthy. But, when faced with a challenge, we often rise to the occasion by projecting all the qualities we wish to possess. As we become more comfortable in each new situation, and as we face each obstacle, we may well gain confidence in these new abilities. And yet, there are times in which these personality traits we have "tried on", as we would try on a new coat, feel heavy and burdensome. When we come home, we can peel off that overweight layer at the door, and leave it there...choosing either to pick it up, or not, when we leave.
In Yoga, in the beginning of each class I teach, we take a few moments to leave our personalities, egos, preconceived notions and outside worries outside the door. I encourage my students not only to mentally relax, but to physically let go of those areas of competition in our hearts that are holding us back from truly realizing our authentic selves. One way to accomplish this is to practice the "Breath of Joy". This exercise is a three part breath, with the exhalation allowing the yogini to completely release. Not long ago, one of my students shared me how much this small part of our practice meant to her. In her own words, she told me that the "Breath of Joy" felt as she was "coming home after a long, hard trip". This description made me feel exceptionally pleased because that is the asana's full intention: a sense of letting go, and coming back to that inner place in which we feel completely ourselves.
My wish for my children is that, as they grow up and move on with their lives, they always know that their father and I will always be their touchstone...their home base, their place of comfort and familiarity. But, for many of us, our childhood homes no longer exist. Either our parents are no longer with us, or they have moved to a different place. We are incredibly fortunate, however: we carry the blueprint for creating our sense of home within our very nature. We can find time, space, and intention each day to slug off those burdens we carry, check in with our true being. Sometimes it may just finding a quiet place to breathe and clear our minds. It may also be writing, painting or in some other creative outlet. For still others, it may be going for a run to engage our physical being down its essence. However we can tap into that sense of 'home', it has the ability to give us time with who we really are. It can also give us a gift of appreciation of all that we are able to accomplish, and the lessons we have learned along the way.
I encourage you to begin a pilgrimage: find your way home. That may be a place to visit...or it may be a journey inside your own heart. Either way, you may find yourself enriched and relaxed.