Feeling At Home Exercise
Time: Five to ten minutes.
Posture: Sitting or lying down.
When: Anytime you feel like it.It is no accident that home sounds like OM.
Explore: Ask yourself, when have I felt really at home? Really at home in myself? Call up an experience and breathe with it for a few minutes. That’s all. The following page is a meditation induction, meant to be read slowly. It’s repetitive because the process is one of calling forth an experience, breathing with it, then letting it go and shifting to a different aspect of the experience, and breathing with that.
Set your mind free to wander over your life experience and recall instances when you have felt very, very comfortable. It could be anywhere, any time, under any conditions.
If you like, get some paper and jot down all the times you can think of when you felt at home, in yourself, in your body, in the world, or in your heart. Your note can be a brief reminder, a couple of words. Then select one at a time and go into it deeply and let it teach you. Soak in it with all your senses.
As each impression and each aspect of the experience comes to mind let it also come to your senses and your body. Let yourself see with your mind’s eye what you saw, feel what you felt, hear what you heard, smell what you smelled, taste what you tasted.
If one of your memories of being at home is standing on the shore, there is the smell of the salt air, the sound of the surf, wind and seagulls, the wetness of the spray on your face, the brilliance of the sun or the gray of the clouds, and the blue rolling motion of the ocean. Immerse yourself in each of these, let yourself rejoice in each sense.
Perhaps you recall a time when you walked for hours in the mountains and then sat to rest under a tree overlooking a meadow. Let yourself recall that moment in rich sensory detail. You may have been aware of the buzz of fatigue in your muscles, the feeling of expansion you felt in your heart as you looked out at the meadow nestled in the mountains, the ease with which your eyes took it all in, the beauty of sunlight shimmering on a stream, the quiet sound of the brush rustling in the breeze.
As the images and memories come, breathe with them. Enter the image, see the scene, breathe with the feeling you had in your body. When you do this, the feelings come into the present. You are, in the present moment, meditating on the feeling of “being at home.”
When you are feeling at home, how do your eyes work?
When you are at home, how do you experience sound?
How does your skin feel?
Allow the memory to infuse you, take you over, teach you, bless you. Bless the memory in turn, and give thanks to life for the gift of being at home.
In so doing, you are giving your body a chance to learn from the condition of being at home. You are learning from your own spontaneous experiences. You are learning how your senses operate when you are at ease, at home in yourself.
Recalling an experience brings up the way your brain and sensory nervous system and breath operate when you are in that experience. When you associate that with your breathing now, today, it alerts your brain to let meditation be that friendly and inviting.
Keep returning to this exercise over and over again when you have quiet time. If you like to write, you could journal about your experiences. The primary task is to let your senses, all of them, be refreshed by the process of recollection. You will find that the process get faster. The positive qualities you love about life will be at your fingertips to call upon when you need to. Also, you may find that your memory improves.
Do this for a few minutes, and if it is going really well, continue for as long as you like. Let your experience be leisurely.
Each time you do this exercise you may recall different experiences: holding your baby, sailing, dancing all night, sleeping under the stars while camping, a long and wonderful conversation with a friend, a vacation cruise, the day you graduated from a school, riding a horse. It will teach you about the way your senses are operating when you are having vivid, life-affirming experiences.
If you are tired or under stress, do not do this exercise, unless you seem to fall into it. Find one of the breathing practices to enjoy. Some day soon, when you have more energy for it, come back and explore being at home.
Surprisingly, many people who learn meditation never learn to be at home in the practice. They always the feeling of doing a technique coming from outside the self, and the authority for how to do the technique resides in India, or in a Tibetan, or in a Japanese teacher.
Your meditation practice for the first month could be simply remembering times you felt at home in the world, spending five minutes or so a day in this way. If you think that sounds too simple, try it!
You can do this same exercise with experiences such as feeling intensely alive, being extremely alert, being flooded with gratitude, and love. Each of these will teach you something different about your natural gateways into heightened attention. Doing this will be a great gift to your life and to your path in meditation.
The secret is so simple that it is easy to overlook. When you bring up a memory and breathe with it in the present moment, your entire nervous system is alerted to that way of functioning, and if it is appropriate, will make use of those sensory pathways.
In private instruction, I spend much of the time listening as people tell me about their experiences of being at home, being in love, being in gratitude to be alive. As they access the memories, people go into meditation spontaneously, in their own natural way. Then I interview them while they are meditating, and have them teach me about their individual path.
You can do this on your own. It may take a little longer because no one is there holding the space for you but you. But you can do it. If tears come, let them come. If regret comes, let it come. You are not doing anything unnatural to yourself; you are simply engaging in an honest process of reflection and learning from your own experiences.
Over time, you may find that once you open the gate, these experiences may come of their own accord, each seeking to give you its gift. Accept the gift.
This exercise is not just an indulgence. Doing this for even a few seconds a day gives the body a sense of remembered wellness. This strengthens the immune system, reminds you of what life is all about, and makes you emotionally more resilient and self-sufficient.
Each of these spontaneous experiences is your teacher. Your task is to savor these experiences periodically and let them instruct you. It is a body-based teaching: your nerves practice doing what is involved in the experience as you remember. This gives your body permission to feel that way when you are meditating. And ultimately, you will meditate everyday if you feel safe to. You will learn to function in a state of relaxation, without pushing your panic button all the time, if you feel safe to do so. You will learn to move through your world with your senses wide-open. The Feeling At Home exercise will not interfere in any way with your ability to panic if you really need to, or if the emergency response is needed. This exercise just clears the roadway, so if it is appropriate to feel at home in the world, you are more likely to be able to.