My true home is life itself. My true home is the here and the now.
–Thich Nhat Hanh
Kennesaw, Spring 2015
Filed under the label stuff I tell myself is the adage that we shouldn’t postpone our happiness.
When I came home from the Camino, my heart was cracked wide open from the effort of walking by myself from the Pyrenees in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
A woman whose heart has cracked open looks like this: she cries over the littlest things, or she experiences sympathetic joy (not the typical jealousy or envy she used to feel); she’s in tender mode; she’s patient with those who still don’t know they are on a pilgrimage.
Because we are all on a pilgrimage, whether we know it or not.
Lately, though, I had been postponing my happiness and slowly I felt my heart begin to harden. I had been caring for my mother-in-law for a month and a half, and walking had become an escape from the fact of her constant presence in the house. Rather than walking to reconnect with myself, I was walking to escape. I was postponing my peace of mind until the day she would go to Chicago.
I found myself already planning my next pilgrimage to France without having fully processed and integrated my recent journey to Spain. An escape maybe?
But I have found comfort and redirection in the words of one of our time’s greatest sages, Thich Nhat Hanh, a world-renowned Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who has helped refugees and war victims recover from their trauma through mindfulness meditation.
In his audiobook titled Living Without Stress or Fear, Thich Nhat Hanh explains how mindful walking can reconnect us with the present moment, the only moment where life takes place. He suggests while walking to breathe in and think “I have arrived,” and on the exhale to think “I am home.”
Mindful walking does not have any outward destination in mind, but rather it is inward. When we reconnect with the simple act of breathing and walking, we rediscover happiness in the present moment. That’s how it works for me, and it works for others, too.
Today while walking I also let my mind drift to the many refugees that are trying to escape Syria by any means possible, whether on foot or by makeshift boats. I dedicated my walk to them, wishing that they find inner peace as well as a means of escaping the physical threats they are under. We can’t experience inner peace while our very lives are under attack. They have to find a way out of danger.
And so I felt much gratitude for having the freedom to step out of my house and walk, with my only goal to connect with the ease of my breath, the ease of being. Walking is not an act that we can take for granted. Connecting to the joy of being alive is what I am grateful for today.