are you awake?



This week in central London I passed beneath a billboard that said “London is one of a kind and it is being destroyed in exchange for short term profit for the few.” I choose to live in this giant, diverse city because I want to take part in global society and to learn what it is to be alive on this planet at this time. But making a home in this pulsing microcosm of the world also means being subject to its inequalities. As the billboard in Holborn points out, peoples' homes have become a commodity to be traded and profited from, and for many of us this is profoundly disempowering and very expensive. In this age where for the first time in history more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas, how are we to make our homes? How are we to build foundations in our lives for a thriving and happy heart and spirit?

In one way our home is the building where our bed is. It is the place where we can always return to and find refuge from the elements. Where we cook and wash and be with our families. But home means something much more than bricks and mortar, doesn't it? To be at home means to feel like we belong. In a way home is the place most familiar to us, where our roots are or at least can be planted. Our home is part of our identity, it's where we say we are from. And we can relax when we are really at home because we know that we are safe and loved. As I write this I wonder again how we can be at home amidst the inequality and uncertainty of our complex, crowded world?

2,500 years ago the historical figure known as the Buddha asked his followers to “go forth from home to homelessness.” He challenged them to step out of the familiar assumptions and values of their homes and to create a new culture - a culture where we work to make our hearts kind and wise so they can become a true home for us; where we cultivate a present and loving mind that we can return to again and again and find refuge in; a place that cannot be sold or rented out for profit or from which we cannot be evicted by circumstance. Knowing deeply how the situations of our lives change beyond our control, the Buddha is asking us to invest in that which will protect us when there is a storm, keep us afloat when there is a flood and keep us safe when there is conflict. The human heart, with it's potential for patience, kindness, forgiveness and wisdom is the place he invites us to make most familiar.

There are more than the 50 million refugees in the world today. That's more people than the population of Spain, displaced from their homes. If our climate changes as much as looks likely, there will be many more of us displaced by 2100 when 12 billion of us could be sharing this planet. What kind of home are we leaving for tomorrow? What kind of investments are we making today? On your death bed, how much will it matter that you own a nice house?

Paul Burrows


Article also appears on Conscious 2