“Our world is a product of how we understand it, how we feel in it and ultimately a reflection of the actions we take. We often see only what we think is true. By practicing authenticity and belonging, we begin the journey of Wholehearted Living.” Brene Brown, author of The Beauty of Imperfection
I have been asking myself, where is home? Is it in Baltimore, California, the yoga studio, or on my mat?
I've been living at my parent's house for the first time in 30 years. I feel so grateful for their hospitality and find myself calling it home. I drive my dad's car, and we go to yoga together. My mom cooks for me, and I wear her clothes. Also while I am in Charm City teaching, many students meet me with love. They wish me well and share the latest excitement in their practice and their lives. I find myself calling the studio home. Today, back in Palm Desert, I see my husband at the airport and say to Chris, it’s good to be home.
Recently life has been a wild ride: twenty–two days in India, two weeks in California, teaching a lot of teacher training, packing and unpacking everything we own. Somehow, though, I manage to feel grounded. I maintain a sense of myself, a feeling that I belong. When I step on my mat, no matter where I am, I feel at home.
Brene Brown says love and belonging happen when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.
And everything is not perfect: I have been traveling a lot, and that takes a toll on my body. I neglected to take care of some important details and forgot an appointment. I was hurt, and I hurt in return. But still, I practice, teach, and feel as if there is a place for me. The real me.
One of my favorite Buddhist stories helps illustrate the idea of authenticity and belonging as a prerequisite for feeling at home.
A monk mentions to his guru that he is leaving the rural ashram to live and practice in the city. The teacher reminds the monk how dangerous urban life can be.
"They will verbally assault you for wearing your robe and carrying a begging bowl," the master says.
The monk replies. “In that case, I will love the people who shout but do not hit me.”
“But what if they do hit you," the teacher replied? "These are dangerous people."
“If they hit me I will feel grateful that they did not stab me,” the monk said.
“Ah, but what if they do stab you?” The teacher asked.
Then the monk, looking right into his guru’s eyes said, “I will think these people are kind because they did not kill me!”
"My dear monk friend, what if they do kill you,” remarked the teacher?
The monk closed his eyes and entered his heart. He took a breath and said, "Some monks get so discouraged on the path, so disappointed with their efforts and the seeming fruitlessness of the practice that they take their life. I will be happy that death finds me without my having to seek it.”
In this story, the monk is rooted in home. He maintains a connection to his sense of self and community even as he plans to move to a dangerous place. This connectedness allows him to continue to love in the face of pain. He is authentic in his assertion. He finds a way to look on the bright side.
Brown gives us a three-step plan to develop a persistent sense of home.
1. Cultivate the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
2. Exercising compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle.
3. Nurture connection and a sense of belonging. Home can only happen when we believe we are enough.
Brown also reminds us that cruelty always hurts, even if the criticisms are untrue. She reminds us of the pitfalls of perfectionism as an obstacle to authenticity. Her definition of perfectionism includes the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, act perfectly; we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.
Perfection is not a successful strategy for living without pain. A natural sense of belonging arises when I am grateful. You and I can be imperfect together. We can ask for help.
“Get deliberate, get inspired, and get going. “ Brene Brown
Like yoga postures, finding authenticity and a feeling of belonging is a practice. Its fruit is happiness. We experience, like the monk, happiness for what is going right. We find joy in the bright side of things. This practice can make us more pleasant to be around. It can also release hormones that make us feel better. Physically and emotionally we now have the endurance to complete our endeavors with more skill and more vigor. We feel at home wherever we are.
“Even when it is hard, even when we are wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we are afraid to let ourselves feel it; mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.” Brene Brown