At Easter Morning Mass this past weekend, I was “contemplating my navel” as my mum would say (head down in the thinker’s pose) during the homily, blissfully tuning out the priest’s sermon as I recovered from a vigorous Alleluia chorus when the priest’s words pierced through the cloud in my mind and rang clearly as if he had spoken them right next to me: “It is only by letting go of the worries and troubles of this world that we can truly begin to comprehend the wonder of the home God has waiting for us in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
For a moment I was stunned; had the good father recently read Eat, Pray, Love? Clearly this was too good to be true, as his statement echoed profoundly of Liz Gilbert’s own musings while she meditated in India and Indonesia. However, I have long since been aware of those precious moments when your mind goes blank and the only thing you are aware of are the words that someone is speaking or the actions someone is taking that scream to you, “You’ve been thinking about this recently, haven’t you? Well here’s your answer!” That the Sunday Mass was one of those moments was confirmed for me when, as my mum drove me down to Loyola on Monday, the NPR radio station blurted out, “What makes America different from other countries is that ethnicities are generally tolerated, but what’s important is the allegiance to the country.” (Taken from an interview on the topic of British Muslims).
What I take from this comes in two parts. The first is simple: no matter what, the home you make for yourself in your own body is absolutely critical and directly influences the home you make in the world. Gilbert demonstrates that, thousands of miles away from “home,” she nevertheless found home in the house of her friend Wayan and in the arms of her lover Felipe. I’m not saying that you need to bring yourself to the level of turiya to achieve this inner “contentedness,” but in the end the goal is the same. The second part is that I finally realized and accepted completely that my faith is a truly integral part of my home. Those beliefs and values that my parents instilled in me and introduced me to make of more of my being than I previously cared to admit, and whether that makes me a by-product of our increasingly secular society or not is something I don’t need to worry about.
Being comfortable with yourself and what you’ve done goes a long way to letting you actually come home. Gilbert’s meditation on the rooftop under the Indian sky on her divorce is a perfect example of the sort of peace that can be achieved by letting go of worries and troubles: “Let your intention be freedom from useless suffering. Then, let go.” And after that moment when Liz realized that she was truly free was when she truly was home. Because no matter how much pleasure she indulged in, no matter how many times she meditated, until she let go of that particular worry, just as she had with David, she could not truly be home in herself. What many scornfully refer to as “baggage” is much more serious and undeserving of such mockery. Those things that block us from accepting ourselves and accepting freedom are those truly worthy of attention. Once those have been dealt with we are much better equipped to deal with the problems of finding a home in a world where one man takes land from another with nary an apology or recompense.