One of my best friends in Hong Kong sent me the following Ted Talk by writer Pico Iyer on “Where is Home” – and of course the man of “multiple origins” speaks of a new age of finding your Home, where you are not bound by the constraints of our “grandparents’ age,” as he puts it. Plus, unlike most immigrants of prior generations, many of us move out of choice – not necessity.
I’d hoped to hear some revelation about what it means to be at Home. I’ve been struggling lately with this as I have frequently found myself yearning for Hong Kong again, but then finding it doesn’t suit me, and yet discovering that New York is not coming as easily as I thought it would. Am I just being fickle?
Why wasn’t I happy in Hong Kong? Why did I have to leave? I had the best job of my life, ample opportunities to travel and explore, and to top it all, just as I was leaving Hong Kong, I experienced an immensely beautiful human connection — something I hadn’t felt in a long while. And then I just upped and left.
Pico Iyer states it neatly when he says that living in someplace foreign is like being in love, and that you must awaken all your senses, since you have nothing to fall back on that you know. That was exactly what HK was like for me – and it was absolutely necessary in getting me out of what I self-diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). But then it faded, and I felt that instead of being in love, I felt like I was in a rush – feeling as though I constantly needed to be somewhere, do something, see someone in order to make my life “complete.”
I left because I needed to rest. Iyer mentions “standing still.” He explains how this is as important, or more important, than going someplace new, and how much more we can gain from just taking that moment and NOT going anywhere.
Incidentally I’ve decided to commit to 40 days of meditation – which I started about a week ago, just shortly after I got back to the US after my second trip back since leaving HK. I started with just 10 minutes in the mornings, while I was still getting back into the routine of things in the US. This was easier since I began my transition back to the US again with a career conference in (warm) Florida and did not have my usual early morning routines. Then my first week back in NY, I was still not doing my usual gym class in the morning (being still rather ill), so able to continue my morning meditations, which I expanded to 15 minutes, before my commute. Today I headed back to my gym (how I missed it!) and plan to take on my 15 minutes before bed, with a view of making t up to 20 minutes a day by the end of the experiment.
And this stillness has been a treat – not at all the way my first meditation experience was like back in 2008 or so, when a friend brought me to a meditation center in Chelsea to try it out one time. Back then, meditation made my legs fall asleep, and I could not stand one more minute than oh… one minute. I could not relax and got irritated with my every thought. They say if that’s how you feel, then you are exactly the person who should be meditating!
Today, the ten minutes easily slip by quickly, and I yearn for more. So I’ve upped it to 10:30, then 11:00, then 12:00, now 15:00. It isn’t hard, it’s wonderful. Have I felt any special benefit? Not sure yet, but I enjoy it.
My meditation sessions are by no means perfect – I notice myself thinking all the time, but I also get in a few nice breaths of air, free of any thought. And when I do think – which is just about all the time, I just tell myself to let that thought move along and focus on my breath – which I try to enjoy deeply, listening to it roll like a wave, feeling my belly inflate, and looking to notice any tension in my face or chest or back. When I get to each breath, I feel myself just letting go of any thought and control, and just being in that moment, as they say.
Has meditating done anything? I think it has calmed my mind, the chitta vritti, monkey mind. But I most certainly still obsess over things that I shouldn’t, I still get angry with some of my own thoughts, I still feel troubling emotions – but I think not as much, or that I’m able to acknowledge those feelings and just move on.
And so while I’m not sure what to expect as I continue to transition back to NY, I know I just need to take these moments to just be.