"What do you DO in your everyday is what makes a life, not what house you happen to inhabit? A home is a place to come back to when you've been away, it's a place to invite your tribe in, it's a place of solitude and of rest and it's certainly more than bricks and mortar isn't it?"
If you've been following my Facebook or Instagram, you'll know that I had a fabulous time in Germany and Austria over the past few weeks but one thing that became very clear was a sense of 'home'. It's a theme that comes up regularly in my life, see here. I became aware of being somewhere quite literally foreign to my sense of belonging and yet, I felt completely at home on the road on my own. Which made me wonder, what is home? Is it a place or a feeling? Is it a connection to a community or a physical building? What is it which gives us such a strong emotional attachment to 'home'?
I accidently referred to my birthplace (Tasmania) as 'home' during my trip away and it got me thinking about what it means to me. I'm currently reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and it really puts into focus our place as human beings in the world. Traditional societies lived where food was plentiful or could be harvested but today why do we choose to live where we do? Why do we feel the need to move from one place to another? Why do some people never leave the place they were born? And is 'home' simply a contrived place in our species' active imaginations?
I'm constantly fascinated by those television programmes which show wealthy Baby Boomers moving to the countryside or another country and being obsessed with the house that they buy, but isn't a home more than the structure that you live in? What do you DO in your everyday is what makes a life, not what house you happen to inhabit? A home is a place to come back to when you've been away, it's a place to invite your tribe in, it's a place of solitude and of rest and it's certainly more than bricks and mortar isn't it?
I've spent my entire life looking for a place to call home and for a brief time in 2008-2014, I had it - I had a safe home to live in, a lovely community, close to family and all the services I could possibly need - and I let it go. Whatever it is within me that drives me to keep moving to new places, to new adventures, to a life full of variety rather than stability may be that primitive hunting and gathering instinct that humans stopped (in most humans) following with the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago. It could be a behaviour learned from moving away from my "tribe" at 4 years old and be residual trauma from that time, but it might also be a sense of not feeling at home within myself, within my life.
When I was away, without thought of ties to my everyday life to my kids, my partner, my job, my life - the things that seem to define me at the moment - I felt more like myself than I have in a long time, I felt at home with me, I felt aligned with the Universe, or whatever you want to call it, and I felt a sense of purpose in just being me in the moment. Travelling does more than create great images and memories, we can live in a way that is not contrived in a work-eat-sleep-repeat social slavery routine, there's a real sense of freedom with being on the road and being disconnected from societal expectations and lives - we get to define it ourselves. And in that space, while I was a long way away from my physical house that I live in, I felt, for just a brief time, at home within myself. So now, I have the excitement (or challenge) of finding that sense of home in my daily life, so my whole life feels like an adventure safely in the home that is me.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2019
"In the movie Chocolat, Vianne travels from place to place until she decides that the village is worth staying in, a place where she felt welcomed, but more-so a place where she can meaningfully contribute to the community."
I've been reflecting lately on what "Home" is and I guess it's been a theme throughout my life. When I was in my teens, Australian rock band, Noiseworks had a song called "Home" and their lyrics spoke of not being able to find a place and a constant longing to find this ethereal place.
It resonated with me so much. It still does. It remains one of my favourite songs of all time. So I've spent much of my life seeking out this elusive "home". On the journey, I've been to some spectacularly beautiful places.
In 2011, I packed up my three children and with a four-wheel drive and camper trailer went on an adventure around Australia. I suppose in some way I was looking for this place to call home. I found it in Broome on Australia's remote North-West, the crystal blue water was my sanctuary every afternoon as I walked the Cable Beach and watched the sun go down. But the other thing that made Broome home was this intangible connection that I felt with the land and the people there.
Soon, I left Broome for a variety of reasons and moved to Perth where we have now moved three times in the five years we have lived here. I can't settle in this place. It just doesn't feel like home. I recently returned from five days away from Perth and I felt sick knowing that we weren't going home, but back to a house. So I question whether home is about the place or is it something deeper.
I am a seventh-generation Tasmanian and apart from Broome, my birthplace is the only other location that has truly resonated. But it's more than that. A home is just a place you live unless you have a community to belong to. With all our fancy houses and expensive possessions, what we are lacking is community and I feel that here, I don't feel a sense of community in the place that I live. Broome had a wonderful community and I feel right at home in my own birth-state around family and friends and the familiarity of community. Which made me wonder if home a place or is it something within us? In the movie Chocolat, Vianne travels from place to place until she decides that the village is worth staying in, a place where she felt welcomed, but more-so a place where she can meaningfully contribute to the community.
"Home" is greater than a place. It's a concept that is within us; a feeling of things being just right and that things are as they should be. I guess we can apply this same concept of belonging to relationships, jobs and other aspects of our lives. I think ultimately it's about trusting those inner nudges that we get that something is not quite right and being able to follow that and feeling at home within ourselves. Moving location, changing jobs, leaving relationships are just a way of trying to right this internal feeling of unease, when what we need to do in the first place is to trust that intuitive nudge that says "this is not right, this doesn't feel like home" and act on that.
May you find your home within you.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2018
"Even the act of placing my hands in the Anjali mudra at the end of a yoga session makes me cringe, it’s someone else’s truth. It’s someone else’s practice of bringing a yoga or meditation practice to a close. It’s a beautiful practice, but now it feels false. I feel like an imposter."
I have been practicing yoga on and off for about 20 years. As a teacher already, I always wanted to complete my yoga qualification and make the transition into a giver of yoga rather than being a recipient. In 2016, I enrolled in a course and within the first few workshops, I knew that something was not right.
It started when I wore my beautiful necklace with an OM pendant into the petrol station and the Indian attendant looked at me strangely and asked what it meant to me. He looked uncomfortable and moderately offended, I felt like I had violated something sacred by wearing it. Shocked and surprised by his response, I failed to capture how I felt about the symbol in any recognisable word form, it was a feeling I had about Om, not a thought. He nodded. I left, feeling like I had taken something that didn’t belong to me and started questioning our appropriation of Hindu culture, particularly in the yoga and western spiritual community. They wanted their teachers to be of a particular style and I didn't fit it.
It wasn’t overt. It wasn’t intentional. All of the people in my training were very well meaning and loving, but the culture that was created was an extension of the bigger issue and that is, everything we think that we know, we learned from someone else. The culture of yoga is something that is constantly evolving, but for me this is more than having a serious look at yoga culture and our appropriation of something that isn’t embedded in our modern society.
Increasingly I started questioning all of these things in my life. Everything I thought that I believed in, were being stripped away. I felt like a caterpillar emerging from a long metamorphosis, where I was shedding everything that I thought that I was. I was questioning my spirituality and the “spiritual” community with their loving intentions but behaviours that they have learned from others and how, in the way you react to someone, tells them whether their behaviour fits the culture or not.
What I’m feeling now, is that everything I know, I have learned from others; from people, books, media, culture, socialisation but what about what I KNOW? Where is honouring who I am deep within and the resonating truth that exists in me? Even the act of placing my hands in the Anjali mudra at the end of a yoga session makes me cringe, it’s someone else’s truth. It’s someone else’s practice of bringing a yoga or meditation practice to a close. It’s a beautiful practice, but now it feels false. I feel like an imposter.
And if it doesn't feel authentic to me to copy the rest of the class, where does that leave me? How do we, with our reaction to their behaviour, suppress who others are, their infinite beauty as an individual? And if people don’t comply to a set of behaviours, how do we exclude them from the social group?
I didn’t fit in the yoga culture of that studio and unfortunately I may never finish my qualification, but I have gained something infinitely more valuable, myself. My sense of self and knowing who I am and what I stand for. But this is bigger than the yoga or spirituality, it’s about acceptance of everyone on Earth, who they are and where they are on their human experience journey. I am so tired of so-called “spiritual” leaders telling people to “find their passion,” or “wait for the right one” or any of the other seeking-type behaviour. As the wise Alan Watts says, the only purpose of life is just to BE and every time we tell or show someone that they don’t comply with a social construct, we are asking them to put a mask on, to play the game how someone else wrote it.
It’s time that we took charge of who we are and really OWN who we are and share our gifts and not continually look to others to try and give us the answers. We need to stop looking to others to tell us how to be and trust the innate knowledge that we have within. And for me, learning yoga through teacher training, doesn’t honour who I am, and I’m okay with that.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2017
"What I’m finding that the only thing I know for sure is where I am now. I cannot make any promises for the future or plan too much because ultimately I will die, and the path that I take there will be dependent upon my decisions and reactions in the now."
Richard Dawkins, in his 2006 book, The God Delusion, proposes that all religion, particularly those with a creator of some form, is a kind of collective delusion, “that a belief in God is both irrational and profoundly harmful to society.” This theory is often applied to Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but increasingly I’m finding it coming up in the worlds that I inhabit. I have always been, I suppose, a spiritual person in the sense that I appreciate nature with a huge sense of gratitude; I am in awe of this planet from the microcosmic to the macrocosm of all that science has discovered. But I have never been religious in the traditional sense.
When I was about 10, I discovered that I was the only one of my primary school friends who wasn’t Christened, and I was mortified. What was I missing out on? I attended Sunday School briefly and after my parents discussed it with the minister, who astutely advised to wait until I was old enough to make my own decision, I didn’t get Christened. I vividly remember writing a poem about Jesus and was quickly put in my place by a girl who asserted her literary and religious dominance.
I needed to convert to Islam when I was about to be married, as my ex-husband is a Muslim. However, Muslims believe that all people are born Muslim and nobody converts, they revert back to what they always were. Needless to say, I didn’t take this reversion seriously and said all the right things to become Muslim so I could marry. But I didn’t revert from anything because I have never had a label attached to my belief, so in my mind, nothing changed.
Religion has skirted the edges of my life and I have met some wonderful people of all faiths but I wonder if Richard Dawkins was right all along and we are all under a delusion? If I transfer that thought process to my recent growth and development, I am very influenced by Buddhist and Hindu teachings, particularly around my yoga teacher training. Interestingly, I think all religions originated in India and the big five; Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are just a different interpretation on the same thing. Somehow the message gets warped and it turns into its own version of events and wisdom. The culture that is developing in the new age or spiritual community is an interesting one and I’m asking myself now if we too aren’t under a delusion of belief; if the things that we all started out believing are being warped into this ego-version of what it originally was. Our shared stories are turning into something else.
So if all oral and written stories aren’t true and there is no great God or Goddess, what are these stories? Are they just a way to explain our existence? Are they a way for our tiny minds to find some meaning in why we are here? And why are we here? What is the point of life? And why haven’t the beliefs of Indigenous populations become more mainstream? The reason for our existence is truly a question that has no answer and not one of us will ever find the answer. So many people turn to religion because it is familiar, it is comfortable, it creates community and there is historical evidence of sorts that the people in the stories were real or that they provide lessons in the best way to be human.
I’m finding that I’m questioning all of my beliefs at the moment and I think that is a healthy way to be, I get to be conscious about what I believe in. I love the human story, our collective history, and while growing up in Australia has been a fairly Western, Christian version of events, I’m constantly asking more questions about the human story in other parts of the world. We are all influenced by so many things and in this age of the internet, while we have limited censorship (at this stage), ideas can spread and, in technological terms, go viral. That, to me, is so exciting. We can start to hear the voices of other humans and not just from Western, English-speaking countries.
And the future? How can I be sure of the future and do I really want to know what will happen? If I spend too long worrying or thinking about the future, I miss the dragonfly that lands on my chair or my children asking for my attention, or being thoughtful as I vacuum the floor and being grateful for electricity and a home to live in.
What I’m finding that the only thing I know for sure is where I am now. I cannot make any promises for the future or plan too much because ultimately I will die, and the path that I take there will be dependent upon my decisions and reactions in the now. There is no delusion in the present. The messages that go to our brains from our senses; what we see, hear, feel, smell, taste and intuit that is true, it’s how we interpret and react to them that then defines us and our human experience.
©Alyssa Curtayne, 2016