Click here to download a guided meditation of the 7 homecomings. I no longer use this particular recording, and I don’t mean to promote it, except as an example of one of the ways to walk through the 7 homecomings.
A campfire is lit just after sunset, and about a dozen chairs surround it. The focus of this event is not me, as if it were my birthday, but it takes place on my acreage. My invitations determine who fills these chairs. This circle will be a sacred space and my children are not invited. I don’t quite know why. I think I am about to receive something from the sacred circle and I don’t want my kids in a position of being obligated to support me, though I would welcome the opportunity to sit in their sacred circle in the future.
No advice will be given. No judgement is welcome. The sacred circle exists to validate who I am, appreciate where I came from, and examine the influences I have allowed, intentionally or otherwise, to shape my soul. It is a place of definition more than inspiration.
Homecoming #1 – Mentors
I take a deep breath and welcome my first guests. They are the ones invited, but I am the one arriving. Without them, I am only a cold self-image next to a warm fire. But I know I do not see myself clearly. That is why I have sent out my invitations. When they join me, I see the creators behind the creation of me, and my successes and foibles make more sense.
They arise as ghosts through the chairs: My mentors, parents, older siblings, influential teachers and gurus. This is a hard group to sit with. At first I can hear a murmur of judgement from many of them, but the light of campfire pulses, and the rules of the sacred circle purify the spirits: they are not here to discuss me, but to show me what I am. They are not allowed to disapprove, only to make known what they are. I have conjured them and they accepted because they were influential, not because I took the path they wanted.
And I appreciate all of them, as a group, for what they added as they were doing their best to provide for me. As I am in the middle of appreciation, I look around and realize these are all recent faces. Some invitations had longer to travel back in time, and a second wave of guests arrive: old babysitters, family friends, college professors, former bosses and imaginary friends. Even Captain America. He looks silly in his costume, but, as embarrassing as it is, I can’t deny he played a crucial role at an important stage in my development.
I thank them all again, and it’s time to move on.
Homecoming #2 – Media
Next I invite influential media to take the seats. Titles of books come to mind. But then podcasts, and then movies, and then the lists spirals out of control: theater productions, songs, YouTube videos, blogs, websites, television, radio, newspapers, and magazines. School text books show up – most of them were absolute trash, but a few of them warranted an invitation. I figure I’ll have to make a full list later, but for now, I zoom out, to appreciate the seemingly innumerable influences in my life.
The political radio show hosts who I podcast daily give me a nod, and I realize the actual people have stayed home, but their on-air personas are present. “That’s fair,” I think. “After all, C. S. Lewis just sent a couple of his books to fill the chairs.” I guess this meeting is more about the art that has influenced me than the artists who made them.
I do, however notice a few faces. Christopher Hitchens sees me but doesn’t nod. Classic Hitch. I mean, I never met him, but based on the books, interviews, and recordings I’ve consumed, I’ve constructed a persona and apparently that persona is a bit of an asshole at social gatherings. I forgive you, Hitch. Thanks for your influence. I’ll take the good without the bad.
Plus, maybe he’s just in a bad mood because of all these other Christians around here. He’d hate being at the sacred campfire with the Bible. But wait – where is the Bible? I look around to double check, but sure enough, my authors only date back to about Marcus Aurelius. I scan the fire again, not upset, but perplexed. Having spent 39 dedicated years in Christian institutions, I just expected it to make a stronger showing.
I look down and recognize pieces of it inside my translucent self. A part of me is relieved that I didn’t leave it out, but part of me is disappointed that I have assimilated any influence so completely. I’ll have to process that later. It is time to thank them all and move on.
Homecoming #3: Biological Ancestors
None could be found. They were each invited, but then burned away by the sacred fire. Each was too consumed by their own endeavors to see me or add to my life. They each needed a piece of me to prove something about themselves. My paternal grandmother’s lap was open, but her heart lacked empathy. My maternal grandmother’s door was open, but she would not let me stay if I did not match her ethics with mine. My paternal grandfather was open to me, which broke my heart, since he is (presumably) still alive, but I cannot contact him. I waited, alone, for several minutes, but each one that approached could not withstand the fire. No one was willing to shut up and just sit there.
But this too was valuable. Perhaps the future will grace me with avatars of these important people that contain more than just pure judgement. But for now, I am grateful for their absence; for the peace. It would be better to have forebears to look upon, and who look upon me. It would be worse to have an angry mob of judges that share my DNA.
After several minutes, I thank the emptiness and move on.
Homecoming #4: Ancestors of Influence
Next I welcome those who have shaped the world that has shaped me. I have never met these people in real life or my imagination, but they are mentors of my mentors, and legends of my areas of interest. People like Louis Armstrong, Adam Smith, Isaac Newton, Saint Augustine, Charles Darwin. Some of them occupied a seat earlier. People like William Wallace and Alexander Hamilton have also been enshrined in my favorite media, but aside from an artistic portrayal, they also made important, more complex, contributions in real life. These people reside in the bloodline of my thoughts.
I am less emotionally attached to these people, but more in awe. They have withstood the test of time, so I thank them, and it is time to move on.
Homecoming #5: Earth
Well, crap. Earth isn’t going to fit in these chairs. Also, I’m not super excited about thanking Mother Earth. I’m not that woo woo. But it’s part of the meditation, so I try to find a place to connect. The breeze. I can be thankful for that. And ocean waves. We like the beach. And the sand…which is actually crushed up shells and a million other random things. I can be grateful for whatever it was that got turned into sand.
Actually, that’s quite a long meditation on its own. So I wonder if there are other important influences other than the beach. Trees are good, right? I can be grateful for trees. Actually, dead trees are paper, and I love paper and books and writing. And pencils are made out of nature too. Actually, so are pens. Holy cow – actually, everything is came out of the dirt or the sky. Everything except my kids.
Well, okay – the cheeks that I kiss are cells that were not a part of their bodies not long ago. Their whole bodies are a constant recycling act that just use the air and food for the constant renovations. Their skin, their flesh, their proteins are made of the amino acids their bodies stole when they ground up and chemically dismantled other plants and bodies at dinner. Everything up to and including the synapses I recognize as fundamentally them – this is all thanks to nature. That’s all there was when we started, and we haven’t added any new atoms since.
No, wait – we have gotten new atoms from outer space. No, wait – all our atoms are from outer space. No, wait – we are outter space. Our planet is floating around, flinging things out, just like every other celestial location that originated the atoms we receive. We’re just another participant in this cosmic co-op.
I started by thinking I was too rational to thank the earth, but at this point, I can’t ignore the very real connection between the stardust that litters the universe and the deepest joys of my life. It is time to move on, and I am teleported from the far corner of the universe back to my seat alone by my campfire, but this time I am very aware that whatever fills these seats next has its origins out there.
Homecoming #6 – Silence
I was wrong. There is something before the universe. Nothing. The face of the deep. Infinite potential. Anything is possible; nothing in inevitable. Nothing could have stayed nothing. So for as inevitable as Nothing is, He is elusive and fragile. Literally anything destroys Nothing.
The earbuds in my physical ears block out most of the sound while I meditate, but a few stray bird songs push through the cracks. And then there’s the obvious voice from the guided meditation. True silence will not be attainable on my Northern California suburb front porch. So instead, I focus on a spirit of calm, peace, settled-ness. Just like the majority of physical mass is empty space, the majority of chaos is empty peace. I have the sense that, even in the suburban noise, I can create a stronghold where I can commune with Nothing.
I am probably not grateful enough for the Nothing, or I am at least too eager to turn the potential into the tangible. So silence becomes a 20-foot by 10-foot canvas beneath me. It is stretched tight and I am unavoidably bouncing, as my body, dripping in various colors of paint, accidentally flings an abstract piece artwork that is inevitably unique to me.
But, realizing I am going to express me, whether I want to or not, I become intentional; artistic. I start painting on purpose, but because the canvas is so large, my gyrations look more like dancing than painting. That is when the canvas fades to dark wood planks and I am on an even larger stage, paint-less and canvas-less, and still dancing.
The stage lights come up to blind me, but I can tell it is just to hide the audience that is emerging through the floor and into the seats. They are there to appreciate me, not to judge me. They have purchased tickets and want to see me be me, but I cannot take the pressure or ignore their presence. The same purifying light of the sacred campfire is in my heart, and I use it to push out the back three walls and sink the audience and their seats into the earth.
The sunlight streams through and I am staring at an open field that is alive. It knows me. I still have an audience. It’s nature. It’s God. It sees me and I don’t care. I feel safe to dance and play in front of it. After all, it created me, and it already knows the steps and missteps that are about to come. Is this Silence that is staring at me? If so, there is no hiding from the penetrating silence.
My narrator breaks the silence to inform me it is time to move on.
Homecoming #7: Self
The circles become concentric, so that all who were invited are there together. It is not a holiday or my birthday, but they have all decided to focus their attention on me for a moment, to validate me. They show me who I am because they are me. There is no idea I have originated or thing I have made apart from them. My creations are just reorganizations of what these entities have given me. “I” am the unique blend and ordering of all that is before me.
They all look my way and a quiet spirit of applause emerges, and, though no one is clapping, they are all fully attentive to me. The applause is not for doing anything “right” or for being “worthy”, but an affirmation of my value. “Yes, you are Jamin,” it says, “and Jamin is innately valuable, before, during, and after all your decisions of every type.”
I have the impulse to curl into myself, like an armadillo, and wait for the wave to pass. I am afraid that if I stand, the love I accept will inflate me into a tyrant. But hiding from the gracious affirmation feels like the cowardly and disrespectful choice. So I choose to stand and let the applause penetrate through me, like a breeze through a long sash rather than air into a balloon. I will not keep this praise, and it will not define me. But I am present in the moment and thankful for the validation they provide. I stand with my head bowed, realizing this moment, like every moment, could have held suffering instead of love. I know how to be grateful for both. I prefer love.
The spirit of applause manifests as a light that envelops me and starts to lift me to the center, above the fire, so I am equidistance from every member of each of the circles. I look down at the fire in fear, because I know that many participants, especially in that nearest circle of mentors, are temporary fixtures and would now be just as happy to see me burn as keep living. But I am reminded that the light is not their approval. They made me who I am, and I am not supported because of what I have earned, but just by being. Me.
I trust the light and lay flat with the faith I have in a roller coaster or skydiving. My gut says this is the brink of death, but my brain says this is entertainment. I choose to trust and enjoy it.
I am returned to my seat, and I thank the group for coming today. I will be inviting them back when I need to remember who I am and what I am worth. I am not worth a lot. Not in comparison to any of them. But I’m not in comparison to any of them. I am worth being, and that is enough. They brought me here, so I brought them here. And now they are free to return and I am free to live another day.
The sacred fire still burns though no one is there. It says that no one gets to invalidate me without invalidating themselves. We are in this together. I have made them and they have made me. And today, I aim to make us both just a little bit better.
The narrator rings the bell. I remove my earbuds. Am I changed? Was that a thing? We’ll see.