“The Homing Thought”

John Diamond, M.D.

When I was a youngster growing up in Australia, I often went surfing at the Sydney beaches. Whenever there was a big wave coming, my friends and I would dive for the sand at the bottom of the water and hold on to that sand with our fingertips. The wave would pass over, and we would come up to the surface. The water would now be perfectly calm, but on all sides, there would be scattered surfboards, and people sputtering for breath and spitting out water. We had learned that as soon as we were faced with this situation of stress, we could dive down, grab on to our securing handhold, and hang on to our “rock” until the stress passed.

There is a rock that each of us can have all the time throughout our lives. That rock is what I call the “homing thought.”

The homing thought of a young man called Peter was that he would someday be a recording star singing religious hymns in church. I demonstrated that if I pushed him, shook him, threatened him or made sudden noises, he would lose Life Energy. But as long as he held on to his homing thought, no stress could weaken him.

Peter learned to keep this thought in his mind as often as possible. This homing thought was more complex than his immediate goal of obtaining a psychological counseling job. His homing thought was his purpose in life. As long as he held on to that purpose – and this is greater than a goal – he could be severely stressed and yet remain strong.

I call it the homing thought because it reminds me of an airplane pilot who is lost in a storm. He turns on his direction finder and tunes in to his homing beacon, which guides him safely home. We each can have this homing beacon for our lives, and this is the homing thought. It holds us steadfast on our course.

Herbert Read’s “Unamuno’s Comment on Don Quixote” is one of the best descriptions I have encountered of the homing thought:

“In saying ‘I know who I am,’ Don Quixote said only ‘I know what I will be!’ That is the hinge of all human life: to know what one wills to be. Little ought you to care who you are; the urgent thing is what you will be. The being that you are is but an unstable, perishable being, which eats of the earth and which the earth some day will eat; what you will to be is the idea of you in God, the Consciousness of the universe; it is the divine idea of which you are the manifestation in time and space. And your longing impulse toward the one you will to be is only homesickness drawing you toward your divine home. Man is complete and upstanding only when he would be more than man.”1

We can all develop our homing thoughts. To begin to find yours, sit down and list some of the things that you would really like to be. Of course, these will differ from in individual to individual. You may wish to be a priest, a horticulturalist or a seamstress. You may see yourself walking through life in a monk’s habit like Saint Francis of Assisi. In your mind, you may be conducting music or playing the piano. It need not matter to anyone else – it is your homing thought. Just sit down and write down some of the possibilities to which you aspire.

As we go through life, our thinking, our desires, our aspirations and our sense of purpose all evolve and change. That is to be expected. But write down what you think are some of the most likely choices that you would work for at the moment. And then, one by one, test them. Think of each one very clearly in your mind to yourself. Picture it as vividly as you can. Hold on to one image of your homing thought and imagine yourself being stressed by something. You should be able to tell which one homing thought above all others will keep you centered, be your rock. When you find your homing thought, you will be much less vulnerable to the effects of stress.

Any sudden stress – even thinking about a stress – depletes the Life Energy if the subject is uncentered. This weakness, this vulnerability to stress, can be overcome through the use of the homing thought.

Herbert Read, Essays in Literary Criticism: Particular Studies. Faber, 1969, pp. 45-6.