This evening I settle down to read, and then to sleep.
But my mind is restless, active, thoughts crashing in on one another. Everything is interrupting everything else. I’m whirling from one thing that needs doing to the next. Emails ignored demand attention. Projects unfinished. Shame arises, and harsh inner criticism. I’m caught by all the ways I’ve been inattentive, by everything that is still undone.
I cannot read. And I cannot sleep while I’m in the grip of this.
But there’s a pattern in all this chaos, and in seeing the pattern is part of its undoing. I’m longing. Longing for peace. Longing for everything to be ok. Longing to be free of imperfection, of incompleteness, of uncertainty. Longing to be home.
And I have made an error – one which I imagine most of us make, often – in thinking that the way home is to get it all done, tie up all the loose ends, attend to everything and everyone. I am sure that I can be at home only when I have met all of the world’s demands, when I am perfect. And I should not be surprised my mind is so active, so frenetic, so critical, filled with so much confusion. It seems there is so far to go and, whatever I do, home feels just as far away as it was.
In this way, I keep myself far from myself, far from any sense of peace.
The antidote? Learning that I am home already, in every moment, in every place, no matter what still needs doing. That I do not need to pursue anything to be there. That home is not at the end of a list of tasks. Nor is home an empty email inbox. Home is not a finished project, or the recognition of others.
Being home does not require the completion or achievement of anything.
Home is always here.
Thich Nhat Hanh offers a simple practice to remind us of this. Breathing in, “I have arrived”. Breathing out, “I am at home”. In, “I have arrived”. Out, “I am at home”.
And perhaps, unsurprisingly, when I remember that I am home in every place and in every moment, when the world and life becomes my home, so much more becomes possible.
Including reading. And including sleep.