Saturday, July 20, 2013

On Finding Home

Many people know I recently walked the traditional pilgrimage Camino de Santiago de Compostela (also known as The Way of Saint James) with my colleague and friend Joan. We walked the popular Camino Frances route from St. Jean Pied de Port in France, through the Pyrenees mountains and across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. We walked about 25 km a day over 6 weeks for a total of 780 kms (about 500 miles).

One of the many reasons I went was to get away from the online world and to quieten my mind. I spend so much of my usual day in a constant race to keep up with email, writing, blogging and reading, and find these get out of balance with the work I love--client work and volunteer committee work--as well as my personal life. 

My walking was, for the most part, meditative. I was not seeking specific answers or trying to resolve any great problems in my life. And yet I was surprised to find many answers. I was also surprised by the sense of community we developed along the way--the Camino life was far more social than I had expected, and we made many friends along the way. 

During one of our dinners the conversation turned to relationships with our parents. One of our dinner companions was a psychoanalyst so this in itself was not surprising. I gained a number of interesting personal insights during our discussion.

Of them, the most powerful was probably the discussion about the idea of home. I long have had a specific idea of what home is to me--connected with a specific person in my life, as opposed to a city or house. This was likely developed from moving periodically with my nuclear family through the years and not feeling completely connected with a specific place.

But what I learned during the conversation was that the ideal really is to develop a sense of home within oneself. I like this concept very much--it means I am not reliant on things (I do not like seeing myself attached to things) and it means, while I can connect and rely on other people, I am not reliant on them to make me feel at home or within my comfort zone. I can create that myself wherever I am. 

While on the road I also happened to read Pico Iyer's book about the Dalai Lama's journey, The Open Road. Is it a coincidence, then, that I came across this TEDTalks video published this week, featuring Pico Iyer discussing the concept of home? 

I especially like that he talks about standing still and stepping outside of one's life. I feel very much that is what I was doing while walking the Camino. I do not think it a coincidence I found this video--it is just another instance of the Camino at work in the life of a humble pilgrim.