A Guest Post created for Pacifica Graduate Institute Alumni Association
Scroll down to read the post here, or listen on YouTube (10 mins) by clicking below
Human beings are made of stories—the stories we have lived; stories that serve to guide us, and the stories that we aspire to create. One ancient and archetypal story that each of us carries within is that of coming home. In mythology, the story of Odysseus offers a beautiful perspective on homecoming. Odysseus, who initially left his home to go to war, ends up being away for 10 long years, and the adventures that unfold as he continually seeks to come home—including the way he ultimately succeeds—end up changing his life forever. For Odysseus, and for each of us, the journey that leads toward coming home can result in regeneration of Self and constant new knowing.
“When I found Pacifica, it felt like coming home.” I have heard this sentiment from countless students and alumni who relate to the experience of finding and arriving at Pacifica, in whatever way we did, as a kind of homecoming—perhaps to the type of home we always longed for, a place where we felt we belonged; a soul-space inhabited by likeminded others who also talked of soul and dreams; myth and nature; and culture and longing.
This deep sense of connection stands to reason if you consider what Jungian analyst, John Hill, writes in his compelling book, At Home in the World (2010). According to Hill, the notion of “home” carries a critical effect on our psyche since home is tied to caretaking, nurturing, and sustenance. Indeed, one can be authentically fed by having a deep connection to a place that feels like home.
I learned much about the concept of home from Pacifica’s own, Dr Ed Casey, whose book Getting Back into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World ( (2009) played a significant role in my own dissertation, in which I also wrote about coming home to both ourselves and to the sacred. Dr. Casey uses the term emplacement to describe how we locate ourselves in a landscape that provides context and narrative, engendering meaning. This coincides with Hill’s (2010) assertion that home has an affiliation with landscape, community, and surroundings, and is connected to history, memory, clan, and shared meaningful experiences.
Perhaps you can relate to this sense of emplacement through your own experience at Pacifica: Here is the classroom is where my cohort held council; there out on the lawn is where we did dreamwork together; over there is the Kwan Yin statue where I sometimes ate lunch, or just allowed myself to sit in solitude and wonder. Here is the yurt; there are the incredible labyrinth with so much ancient symbolism and meaning. There is bench where I could site in awe of the ocean in the far-off distance.
John Hill (2010) further defines home as a “narrative reality,” the manner in which we attach to a place a person or an object, a nation, a group, a culture or an ideal. These attachments are experiential, conferring a sense of belonging. In fact, we each carry an urgent and infinite longing to be ecologically and psychologically embedded in something bigger than ourselves—something that offers us safety by virtue of its boundaries; something which contains us through a sense of connection and caring; that which feeds us by the very nature of being. This longing for belonging to something bigger is innate in every human being, a seed planted within our soul; a seed of memory of the way in which we are related to the Infinite.
In fact, Jung (1989) addressed this theme, writing:
“The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance.”
At the core of my own work in depth psychology, I have written extensively about Colony Collapse Disorder, the mass vanishing of honeybees around the world which was first noticed and named at the end of 2006. In the case of CCD, bees are not merely dying in and around the hive as they naturally do, even when they are faced with disease. Rather, they are essentially lost, failing to return home to the hive with the critical provisions of pollen and nectar that sustain the hive.
When I began to look at the phenomenon of CCD from a depth psychological lens, I recognized that the failure of the bees to return home to the hive is a powerful metaphor for our own spiritual journey as humans. We have all heard the adage: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. Instead, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
We were born into this world of form as eternal, soul-centered beings, but from the moment of our birth—perhaps even our conception—we began to be conditioned by our caretakers, families, teachers, authority figures, and peers, as well as our society, who each told us what to think and how to perceive the world around us. We developed coping mechanisms to help us deal with trauma, rejection, wounding, and setbacks that would otherwise have been overwhelming to our innocent child selves.
As we grew up, layer on layer of lenses, perceptions, and defensive or promotional processes built on themselves, creating a sort of patina around our essential, authentic selves. Over time, we became largely disconnected from the notion of soul—both from our own individual soul selves here in human bodies to learn and to grow, and also as a culture, which has all but forgotten our indigenous roots that relied upon our connection to nature, to ritual and ceremony, to images and dreams—to the sacred. Like the honeybees who have failed to return home, we, as humans, have also become lost—entranced by western consumer-oriented culture; entangled in our busy lives and disconnected from a sense of soul.
That, I believe, is why so many of us felt such a magical sense of homecoming when we found Pacifica. To land in a place where what matters most is soul! To not only be given permission to reconnect with the sacred in everyday life, but to understand that it is a mandate! What we learn at Pacifica is how to come home to ourselves by developing sacred practices that honor the divine spark in each of us, and how, in doing so, we also contribute to and sustain the greater hive—whether it be our precious communities, the world at large, or even the divine itself—through our presence, our love, and our deep commitment to the sacred.
And in learning to come home to ourselves, our stories change. They become enriched. When we come home to the hive, we locate ourselves in relation to the Infinite.
Each year, each of us receives a precious invitation to come home to Pacifica through the annual Coming Home event (this year, January 17-19, 2020). If you are lucky enough to be able to attend in person at the Ladera campus in Santa Barbara, you will have the opportunity to sit in precious soul-space in physical form; to make heartfelt connections with likeminded friends—old and new; to roam the landscape and visit old haunts, reliving memories that contribute to your connection to your soul-self and your sense of calling in the world; and to share your own sacred story of Life and Learning.
If you are unable to attend live, you can still take advantage of the magic of technology and join via Zoom video conferencing to hear soulful talks and engage in shared meaningful conversations on themes of Stories, Mythology, History, Legacy, Community, and Calling. When you give yourself the gift of coming home—in any form—you are feeding your soul and coming home to your Self.
In my own everyday work as a soul-centered coach, I guide my clients to use a soulful perspective to remember who they truly are; to find and nurture their own relationship to the Infinite. As Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés writes, “When you focus with soul eyes, you will see home in many, many places.” Indeed, the great gift of my own education in depth psychology is the (ever-expanding) capacity to focus with soul eyes, and my great hope is that each of us will make it a sacred practice to come home to ourselves, every moment of every day.
To learn more or register for the annual Coming Home event January 17-19, 2020, visit http://www.cominghometopacifica.com
Casey, E. S. (2009). Getting back into place: Toward a renewed understanding of the place-world (2nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Estés, C. P. (1992). Women who run with the wolves: Myths and stories of the wild woman archetype (1st ed.). New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Hill, J. (2010). At home in the world: Sounds and symmetries of belonging. New Orleans, LA: Spring Journal Books.
Jung, C. G. (1989). Memories, dreams, reflections (A. Jaffé Ed., R. Winston & C. Winston, Trans.) New York, NY: Random House. (Original work published 1961)
View the original post on the PGIAA website here