Be Home

Be Home

What’s your deepest nature?

The Practice:
Be home.

Why?

Throughout history, people have wondered about human nature. Deep down, are we basically good or bad?

When the body is not disturbed by hunger, thirst, pain, or illness, and when the mind is not disturbed by threat, frustration, or rejection, then most people settle into their resting state. This is a sustainable equilibrium in which the body refuels and repairs itself and the mind feels peaceful, happy, and loving. I call this the Responsive mode. In a sense, this is our “home base,” our fundamental nature as human beings. (Obviously, I am not talking about the physical location where a person lives.) We are still engaged with the world, still participating with pleasure and passion, but on the basis of a background sense of safety, sufficiency, and connection.

But when body or mind are disturbed – perhaps by overwork and fatigue, or by the cough of a nearby lion a million years ago or a frown across a dinner table today – Mother Nature has endowed us with hair-trigger mechanisms that drive us from our resting state. Fight-flight-freeze systems in the body get activated, and related experiences of fear and anger, disappointment and drivenness, and loneliness, shame, and spite occur in the mind.

When we experience chronic stress (even if it’s mild), this state of affairs – in which the body gets worn down and depleted, and the mind gets frazzled, pressured, prickly, worried, and blue – becomes the new normal. It’s a kind of ongoing “inner homelessness.” I call it the Reactive mode, a disturbance of physical and psychological equilibrium that helped our ancestors survive to see the sunrise. But today, it undermines well-being, wears down long-term health, and can shorten your lifespan.

These two modes of living, Responsive and Reactive, are the foundation of human nature. We have no choice about the core need they attempt to meet – safety, satisfaction, and connection – nor about the brain’s capacity to be in either mode.

Our only choice is which mode we’re in.

Happily, the Responsive mode is the resting state, the default, of body and mind. It’s what we return to when we’re not rattled. In the language of systems theory, the Responsive mode is the most fundamental “strange attractor” in the dynamic processes of your brain. Therefore, this mode is your underlying nature – not the Reactive one. You don’t have to scratch and claw your way to the mountaintop; if whatever is disturbing you comes to an end, you’ll soon come home to the lovely sunny meadow that has always been here – even if was hidden by the fogs and shadows of a troubled body or mind. Our deepest nature is peace not hatred, happiness not greed, love not resentment or shame, and wisdom not confusion.

As soon as you have a sense of this natural home base . . . you are home! Because body and mind are inclined toward the Responsive mode, any sense of ease in the body or feeling of calm, contentment, or caring in the mind will start activating related Responsive “circuits” in your brain.

Your body and mind want to come home: that’s where energy is conserved for the marathon of life, where learning is consolidated, where resources are built rather than expended, and where pains and traumas are healed.

Your whole being is always leaning toward home. Can you let yourself tip forward into your deepest nature?

How?

Let it sink in that your human nature is to be peaceful, happy, loving, and wise.

Be at home in your body. Take a breath and exhale slowly, abiding as a body relaxing. Get a sense of being in this body, inhabiting it.

Nothing needs to be a particular way for you to be at home in it. For example, whether it is tall or short, heavy or light, young or old – you can find an immediacy, presence, and familiarity with this body as it is that feels like coming home.

Be at home in your senses. Be aware of sounds coming and going, known without effort. Pick a touch or taste, and allow yourself for some seconds to be at home in it.

Be at home in action. In the simple reaching for a cup, be present in it. Keep noticing the workings of action, that it is being successful and thus safe to give yourself wholly over to it.

Be at home here, wherever you are. Take some seconds to become familiar with it. Let go into truly being in this setting, this location.

Be at home at this moment, right now. Be present with whatever is happening. Let there be a sense of arriving. Again and again.

Be at home in life, being the ripe fruit of three and a half billion years of evolution, cousin to every other living thing – even sharing about a fifth of our DNA with that of a banana!

Be at home in this universe. We are here in this Milky Way galaxy distinct from several hundred billion other ones, now nearly 14 billion years after the universe began, built from stardust, cousin as well to every physical thing, awash in the sea of quantum foam that is our common nature.

If it is meaningful for you, be at home in your personal sense of Whatever may transcend the material universe. Perhaps an intuition of that which is unconditioned always just prior to conditioned phenomena, a perception of a kind of light shining through the stained glass of our lives, a knowing of a presence, a love, a consciousness beyond our own.

For most of our time on this planet, people usually spent their lives within a few hundred miles of where they were born, doing much the same thing each day with the same people in their band or village, embedded in a culture that changed little from century to century. These external factors provided a stable sense of home – but they are largely tattered, even shattered today. Be confident and happy that your growing internal sense of home is your anchor and refuge amidst the jostling currents in the stream of economic and social changes we live in these days.

Know what it feels like to be at home. Knowing the sense of home is like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that will help you come home again.

It’s good to be home.



Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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