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Homeless

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Folklore is filled with the homeless. There are pilgrims and fugitives, persecuted teachers and those unfortunates fated to wander eternally as punishment or curse. Jesus said “Foxes have dens and birds have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Dionysus fled persecution from Greece to India to the ocean to the underworld. Sara-Kali was a wanderer and patron saint of wanderers, the Rom. Buddha left home in spectacular manner, abandoning wife, child and duty, never to return.

 

We may feel more settled than these figures, but at some level we know the truth: everything we have will be lost, everything we love will change. We are spinning on a planet whirling around a sun swirling in a galaxy that is itself speeding into the unknown. Like it or not, we are all wanderers.

 

I’ve always had a roof over my head, but often felt unsheltered. And so I’ve sought belonging in religion and relationships. Yet every group I joined held someone who triggered me, mythologies that called my name then lost their power, and my idea of who I really was suffered constant (and sometimes forceful) revision. I left home to look for home, but the destination eluded me. It began to dawn on me that I couldn’t replace my imperfect parents, my imperfect past, my imperfect self, with something better. That the sense of being homeless was perhaps, permanent. 

 

In just this way, if we choose to walk a spiritual path it will eventually lead us away from the certainty we sought and into the desert. And there we start the real work—not finding shelter, but learning to deal with the feeling of being unsheltered. It’s ourselves—our uncomfortable emotions—that we can’t handle, not the absence of some support or affirmation. Buddhism’s great insight is that these feelings of being lost and anxious are not a problem, not something to be solved. We can learn to weather them, explore them, and watch them shift and change. Indeed clinging to belief—in a god, in a true home, in the next and better thing—is the real source of stress and angst. It’s a gift to release the effort of trying to feel the right thing, be the right thing, believe the thing we wish were true.

 

Our job is to accept things as they are in such a way that we are both humbled and exhilarated by the complexity, intensity and brevity of life, by the extremes of cruelty and compassion, by our complete immersion in a sea of vicissitude. Embracing our connection to life means accepting this fluidity. Rejecting it cuts us off, sets us back to square one, looking for a home we never really had.

 

Instead of trying to prove the Divine is real, we can choose to regard the Real as divine, that is, worthy of our attention and acceptance.“Nature’s imagination is so much greater than ours,” (Richard Feynman) giving us so many chances to stretch the heart and mind. Pagans see this clearly, honouring a Goddess who is reality, light and dark. She is big enough to be whatever we need…but not always that and not only that.

 

In Her Charge, She tells us, “I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.” She surrounds us in the form of everything that is. And it is only when we stop desiring something other than what is that we can truly know Her.

 

Yes, She’s thrown us out of the plane without a parachute. But as we watch life elude explanation and certainty slither out of our grasp, we may begin to glimpse another truth: while there’s no parachute, neither is there any ground. She’s cast us into deep water, but when we know we are the ocean, we need not fear the waves.

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Archer has been trying to make sense of religion since her parents first abandoned her at Sunday School in the 60s. She’s a mom, yoga teacher and repository of useless bits of information on ancient religion, spiritual practices and English grammar. Check out her column “Connections” in Witches and Pagans.
 
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Comments

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Thursday, 19 June 2014

    Wow, Archer. I was a fan before, but you have outdone yourself here. Clear, truthful, uncompromising...but really beautiful and artistic at the same time. The muse was with you, and we thank you for sharing it.

  • Archer
    Archer Friday, 20 June 2014

    Thank you so much!

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Friday, 20 June 2014

    "Yet every group I joined held someone who triggered me, mythologies that called my name then lost their power." Have you been reading my diary? :p

  • Archer
    Archer Friday, 27 June 2014

    I'm pretty sure it would be a fascinating read!

  • Archer
    Archer Friday, 27 June 2014

    But seriously, I think this is a common problem for people of our ilk. We all feel a little "different" and out of place, and dream of an ideal home. So it's extra hard when we think we've found a place and find it has flaws.

  • robin fell
    robin fell Sunday, 22 June 2014

    Dear Archer,
    A brillant read about the existentialist condition. Thank you for sharing this blog, "Homeless" Can you please tell me if you wrote it or email the source of the article as I would like to read more of this.
    Thanks again
    Robin

  • Archer
    Archer Friday, 27 June 2014

    Dear Robin:

    I did write this article but I was inspired by some words of Pema Chodron about how following a spiritual path means we have to grow up and "become homeless." Her thoughts on this are in her book "When Things Fall Apart", which I think you'd enjoy.

    Archer

  • robin fell
    robin fell Friday, 27 June 2014

    Archer,
    Thanks once again. I am considering doing a 200 hr. yoga teachers training couse. Do you offer one or can recommend one to me. It could be anywhere in the world.
    Robin

  • Archer
    Archer Saturday, 28 June 2014

    I took the teacher training at Kripalu under Yoganand Michael Carroll. It was excellent--intense, transformative and thorough. Kripalu is in Massachusetts and is sort of a cross between an ashram and Canyon Ranch. If you have the resources, the one-month intensive will have you eating, breathing and being yoga in 28 days. Or you can take three nine-day sessions.

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