As human beings we are quite vulnerable within our environment. We don’t have armor like a snail or a turtle and we don’t even have fur like most other mammals. So we have a need for a comfortable and safe home. This need has shaped us into beings that highly value the nests we create for ourselves. We put a lot of energy into our homes. We’re also highly social beings, which means we huddle together and create homes with our close ones.
At the beginning of our lives we were not able to care for ourselves. We needed our parents to take care of our needs and help us grow through our long childhood. At that time our caregivers created a home for us and we accustomed ourselves to nesting. When we moved out into the world, many of us recreated a new home that reminded us of some of the parts of our first one.
There are always certain things we need to survive. And then there are many different large and small things that we prefer. Often we don’t recognize what all of our preferences are when we own our own place and shape it over many years. It might be that we enjoy a very different type of place for our vacations; however when we decide to move into another home we can notice what actually makes a place “home” for us.
Our Love of Familiarity
Wherever you are right now, you might have some kind of feeling of familiarity with the environment. Maybe you are at home and you know where things are, what sounds are there. How does the light move during the day? Maybe you are in your extended environment, in a coffee shop or at your workplace or in your favorite park. What scents are familiar? All of those places hold some kind of familiarity and safety. If you go to a movie or a talk you tend to choose a seat that feels good to you. Maybe you like the left side of the theater, or the right, the front or the back. If you travel on a train or bus you try to find a place that seems to be most comfortable for you. It’s interesting to see what happens when we enter the unfamiliar.
We recently moved. It was so interesting to notice my decision-making process about the new place and how I packed my life up into boxes. Some things I chose to keep and others were outgrown. Some aspects of the old home were definitely missing in the new home and others were similar. The new home holds surprises that I didn’t know I’d like. Overall, in many ways I felt like a plant that was uprooted and set into another soil.
As I felt into the experience I noticed that many of the roots that were testing the new environment were not necessarily in the soil. They were listening to the sounds, they were noticing different scents, they were feeling into the energy of the space and they were looking for others to connect with. I felt like a jungle plant that can receive nourishment from the air and even from the space around itself.
Some time ago I wrote in the post “Home” about our natural ability to find our home inside. We can practice different meditative skills and through that establish more and more our consciously chosen “inner home.” It’s so helpful to have a nourishing inner home, an inner neighborhood one feels at home and welcome in. Nevertheless our inner home, like our outer one, is in some ways in a constant process of maturation and change.
Inner and Outer Needs
In Abraham Maslow’s theory of a hierarchy of needs, our physical needs, our needs for safety, love and belonging develop one upon the another, each enabling a new need to arise in consciousness. Physical needs form the wide ground, the base, while esteem and self-actualization crown the much smaller top of the pyramid. The idea is that unless the foundational needs are met, those above do not even tend to arise. Late in life Maslow explored a further need at the top, of self-transcendence.
I’ve noticed that as I work to develop my inner home, my relationship to my outer needs changes. If we notice that some of our needs are not fulfilled, our own care for those needs creates a feeling of connection with ourselves. For example, if our awareness opens up to a discomfort we have with our surroundings, we might find that we don’t necessarily need to change anything. Noticing what is and being compassionate with ourselves and our experience already might change everything.
Taking a challenge as a gift, using a difficulty to be aware and to cultivate love and compassion for ourselves—this itself can make us feel home. From that place it’s so much easier to look with fresh eyes at the situation in front of us and do smart next moves.
I hope you have a warm and sunny week to move on to!