Psychotherapist Kevin Anderson answers questions from S&H readers. “I keep trying to figure out where I should move, but I feel stuck and unable to make a decision.”
Two years ago I moved across the country to be part of a spiritual community at the invitation of some friends. My work has been challenging here and I’ve become anxious and depressed. I’ve pulled away from the community and people in general. When I visit family and friends in the town where I grew up, I don’t feel at home either. I keep trying to figure out where I should move, but I feel stuck and unable to make a decision. Any thoughts from you would be appreciated.
Kevin: After reading your letter I thought of a line I like from an obscure song called “Enough to Be on Your Way” by James Taylor: Home, build it behind your eyes, carry it in your heart. If we can’t find home in ourselves it becomes difficult to find home anywhere in the world.
Not feeling at home among the people you know from your youth is a clue that there may be some complexity to your life history that makes it difficult to be at home in yourself. None of us comes out of childhood without any wounds, but some of us get hurt more than others in our early years by those who populate our world at home and school. When we walk through life afraid that people we hope will care for us will hurt us it becomes difficult to be at peace no matter where we live.
By finding home in oneself I’m not thinking of a perpetual inner sense of perfect calm. The home we need behind our eyes is grittier and more suited to the challenges of real life.
If we think we can construct a home inside only with therapy or self-help books, we will feel like the project is at best half-built. A sense of home within is like the manna that rained from the sky in the biblical book of Exodus: It had to be gathered each day. If it was kept overnight, by morning it was stinking and full of worms. In other words, our task is to find an inner sense of home again and again in each moment.
But how do we find home in the moment? Contemplating this question, I stumbled upon something fun in my journal: If you write THE MOMENT on a sheet of paper, you can prune it down to HOME by crossing out five letters, like this: THE MOMENT.
Finding HOME hiding inside THE MOMENT reminded me of looking for hidden pictures in Highlights magazine as a boy. Once you find the rabbit barely disguised in the swirl of the tree bark, you wonder why you didn’t see it sooner!
This exercise might seem a bit like a gimmick, but what deepened it for me was remembering a favorite line from Meister Eckhart: “God is not found in the soul by adding anything but by a process of subtraction.” Substitute “Home” for “God” and the quote still works.
What might the five letters subtracted from THE MOMENT to get to
HOME signify? In other words, what
do I need to let go of to find home in
With a nod to the Beatles,
I offer this nested meditation.
Let it be.
Let it be as it is.
Let it be,
as it is
clearly here already.
Let it be,
as it is
clearly here. Already acceptance is transforming it.
From Now Is Where God Lives © 2018 by Kevin Anderson
T: Talking to myself in a way I would never talk to a good friend. (Who can be at home when enduring self-imposed emotional abuse?)
E: Ego comparisons of my talents, level of success, finances, body, family, intelligence, spiritual depth to anyone else’s. (Who can be at home when feeling inadequate or inferior?)
M: Mindlessly looping through anxiety and negativity. (Who can be at home in the present moment while regretting the past or fearing the future?)
N: Not accepting the moment as it is; not accepting that I can’t control my life to go exactly as I wish. (Who can be at home in the moment while simultaneously rejecting the moment and wishing for some better moment?)
T: Treating the small-i self as if it is the only self; forgetting the large-I Self that is capable of accepting the moment as it is and making our best response to it. (Who can be at home while identifying only with the part of us that does not know how to be at home?)
For me the most important of the five subtractions above is N: Not accepting the moment as it is. When we accept a moment it’s not because we approve of it or want to be passive. We accept it because it is already here. I like Byron Katie’s aphorism: “When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100 percent of the time.” Finding home in the moment is not feeling that all is well with the world. It is radical acceptance of the moment and of our lives as they are in the moment.
When we let go of self-imposed
abuse, ego comparisons, mindless
loops of negativity, not accepting the
moment, and treating the small-i as
the only self it turns out finding HOME in THE MOMENT is like seeing the
rabbit in the tree bark. It’s hiding in full view!
If you chose to allow the five subtracted letters (T, E, M, N, T) to stand for other things you need to remove from THE MOMENT to find HOME, what would those letters signify for you?