Yesterday I returned to Paris after spending a few days visiting my sister across the English Channel in Kent.
I’m here for less than two days before leaving Sydney in the morning. I’ll be there until I travel to Paris again, for two months from September.
Before I departed England, my sister asked me what it felt like to be going home. I thought she meant Sydney, but she insisted she was referring to my ‘home’ in Paris.
I’m in a space I ‘own’ but I’m only ever here on a tourist visa and I hardly speak the language. So I haven’t thought of it as ‘home’.
But she got me thinking about what we mean when we say we are at home.
Today I had a few thoughts while reading back over an invitation I received recently from an Australian friend who is organising a six day spiritual but non-religious personal awareness retreat in rural France in August.
The intention is for the participants to find their ‘authentic selves’.
To some people, a phrase like that is just another piece of new age jargon. The retreat is not meant for them.
My friend and the retreat leader have in mind people who have might have undergone life changes such as leaving a long-term relationship. Or perhaps jumping into the void from an all consuming work life.
We might once have felt ‘at home’ in our former circumstances. But change – either chosen or forced – challenges us to recalibrate where we feel at home.
To do this, most of us need to gain perspective by breaking out of whatever shell that could be preventing us from reaching a deeper level of awareness.
I’m not going to the retreat, but I have been working at living life at this deeper level.
My minimalist lifestyle here in Paris enables me to be at home here because a deeper awareness takes the place of the material ‘stuff’ in my house in Sydney. Living part-time in my tiny room on the other side of the world completes my sense of self.
I’m not ready to burn the books on my Sydney bookshelf that are a monument to my past. But they represent almost all stages of my life and act as a powerful symbol that stares down at me every day and can hold me back if I let it.
There is in fact much that I cherish about my past. But I need time out from the books and the other things in my house – to be in my other home – in order to be who I am at this stage of my life.
The size of my Paris room is intentionally too small for me to accumulate things. Instead I’m relying on my inner resources for that all important sense of self.
Link: I am that I am Retreat