“Whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own image. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation with himself. The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it. Namely the face we never show the world because we cover it with the persona, the mask of the actor. But the mirror lies behind the mask and shows the true face. This confrontation is the first test of courage on the inner way, a test sufficient to frighten off most people. For the meeting with ourselves belongs to the more unpleasant things that can be avoided, as long as one can project everything negative into the environment. But if we are able to see our own shadow, and can bear knowing about it, then a small part of the problem has already been solved: we have at least brought up the personal unconscious”
Jung – on the archetypes of the collective unconscious
It seems like an age has passed since I took those first steps along the shoreline of North West Italy. 4 years ago, I had little concept of the path I was setting out on. I imagined that there would be a simple continuity to my journey. Ever onwards, no looking back. But the road is not straight, and never has been. And the mind oft times is a dark chasm where thoughts and ideas become twisted into necessities.
Now, as I sit here, contemplating both the beautiful, and the tortuous steps I have taken, the words of John Muir have never been truer – “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, I was really going in.”
Indeed I feel like I did “only go out for a walk”, but it took some time for the going out to sink in! Initially, I was filled with the beauty of the new, and at ease with my sense of self. I was following my heart and I had a clear focus. But over time, inevitably, the outer journey merged with the inner, and I have found myself increasingly looking into the mirror of my own soul. Without realising it, I had begun to confront the shadow within.
When I stopped in Armenia, something deep within me was coming to the surface.
I had reached a crossroads.
I was simply going through the motions, a recurring pattern which had almost become a hypnotic rhythm. I was struggling mostly with the mental aspect of the travel. 30 years of emotional baggage (plus countless other lifetimes!) had come bubbling to the surface on the road.
It might seem obvious, but I had never really considered this when I stepped forth.
When I meet people they often tell me that they are reminded of Forrest Gump. In a way it has taken me a while to realise that I was having something a Forrest Gump moment:
“I’m pretty tired…I think I’ll go home now. And just like that, my running days was over”.
The only problem was, I didn’t have a home a to go to. And I wasn’t sure my walking days were over. I felt I needed a break, to really look at everything I was doing. The internal struggle I was feeling needed attention, and instead of being constantly in motion, I felt some time in one place would be the perfect antidote. But where?
And so it was that I found myself drifting somewhat between places, trying to bring my restless soul to a point of peace. To move or to stay still forever the question. But it was not as simple as that…
“I also did not want to accept this way that forced me into dialogue with my soul. I preferred to speak with men. But I felt compelled towards solitude and I feared at the same time the solitude of my thinking which departed from accustomed paths”.
Jung – The Red Book
“I am the breeze. I drift and I wander. I meet people and I touch their hearts. but people don’t stay with me. They leave me. And I keep on drifting and keep on wandering. That’s my life.”
I was talking with a travelling friend recently, and we discussed one of the pitfalls of life on the road…we become road junkies!
The trouble is, there are so many amazing people and places, that it is never enough. You get somewhere incredible, which blows your mind, and inevitably move on. Goodbyes become the norm, and more time is spent with strangers than with friends. At times it can feel like there is no substance…
There is always somewhere else to discover. Even when its great where you are, just down the road, or in the next country, there’s something EVEN better. And no matter who you are with, where you are, or where you have been, there is always some new oasis to find. Some hidden gem which is on the lips of the adventurous spirits you encounter; or a secret known only to the locals you make friends with. It is unquenchable. All of the travellers I meet have a story to share, places that are unmissable, and photos which leave me drooling. And the trouble is, I look at them and I compare myself, and my own journey…and I feel like I’m missing something! Which is ridiculous. It is just a craving for something new, a sensation which is as impermanent as the sunrise.
It is a habit we have in this world. To compare ourselves with others…
But this is something which is not just related to travel. I realise I have been doing it my whole life. In fact, I have been positively encouraged to do it. From every corner there is somebody who is doing something incredible, which will make me feel like I am not fully living, or succeeding. “I can be more” something deep within me cries. “I can become more!” “Just look at what other people are doing. Are you really living?” Asks the inner voice.
“Self-expansion in any form, whether through wealth or through virtue, is a process of conflict, causing antagonism and confusion. A mind burdened with becoming can never be tranquil, for tranquillity is not a result either of practice or of time. Tranquillity is a state of understanding, and becoming denies this understanding. Becoming creates the sense of time, which is really the postponement of understanding. The “I shall be” is an illusion born of self-importance”
Krishnamurti – the rich and the poor, Commentaries on living, first series
“I realize I’m just a silly stranger, goofing with other strangers for no reason, far away from anything that ever mattered to me, whatever that was. Always an ephemeral “visitor” to the Coast, never really involved with anyone’s lives there because I’m always ready to fly back across the country but not to any life of my own on the other end either, just a traveling stranger… (p. 178)”
Jack Kerouac – Big Sur
It’s funny how glorified travel becomes. It is the beauty that entices, the anticipation of the unknown, the exhilaration of the freedom and the sensual pleasures which arise in the discovery. It seems as if all is intensified on the road. It is that sense of possibility and uncertainty that can either lift one to giddy heights, or envelop the heart like an icy hand.
And yet, every time I stop the physical journey, I feel a sense of loss.
So when I find myself sitting comfortably in a bed (as has been the case often of late), I remember the beauty of the places I have been. I remember also how alive I felt, and I am filled with a desperate longing for that wilderness, that searing intensity that I have only found in the very depths of the physical and mental struggle on the road. I feel that here, in this moment, I am a shadow of myself, far removed from that adventurous spirit that roamed the mountains and slept alone under the stars.
In those moments I often find that no matter where I am, what I am doing, or who I am with, a strong desire arises to pack up my bag, and head off into the sunset. A bubbling, brewing energy which creates a sense of unease and restlessness. It has kept me moving onwards, leaving, forever leaving. But this definitely has its downside…
People look at me and my life, without the ties and attachments that society considers “normal”, and they often tell me “yep, you’ve got it. That’s the way to live”. Free as a bird.
But regardless of whether one is seemingly attached, or free, the habit patterns of the mind remain the same. When I am happy, and everything is going well, I feel elated. Then when it changes, as everything does, I often become depressed, sad or angry. I feel as if something is wrong because I am not getting what I want.
For the last 2 years I have been trying to understand this. I stopped in order to find some answers, and this is what has brought me to meditation. Sitting in silent meditation is helping me to view things in a new light, and to realise why I stopped. It brings the darker side into stark focus and allows me to look at everything from a different perspective, objectively.
“We keep drifting till we see light. Seldom do we realize that the light was always there!”
For the moment this is the final post on this blog.
The world is a truly beautiful place, and I have the privelege of discovering this firsthand. My heart is filled with the kindness and generosity which strangers have shown to me. So many beautiful meetings which show me how much love there can be between people. This is not something which relates only to certain places in the world. It is within each and every one of us.
I am not stopping. I will only stop when my heart no longer beats.
Will I reach India? I feel very sure I will. How? I don’t know. When? It could just take a lifetime! I try to face what comes with equanimity and awareness, and in the meantime be kind to myself and others.
“Who am I?” I ask myself. The perception I have of “me” is an illusion which I have created. I have a vision of the person I want to be, and I strive to achieve it. But it is not real. Only my imagination. So in the same way I wish to be somewhere else, so too I wish to be this person. The perfect me as I see it in my minds eye.
It is so easy to be critical of oneself. In trying to become the “perfect me” I look in the mirror and realise I am not even the person I thought I was! I believed clarity would come with time, but instead the water is murkier than ever. These are the deep blockages which rise to the surface, and now I am finding the strength to face, and understand them.
The world we see is just a mirror of what is going on inside. When we are at peace and harmonious, in touch with the truth within, this shines out. This can only positively influence our perception of what is around us, and who, and what we come into contact with.
Similarly, when there is chaos and agitation inside, our view of the world takes on this sheen.
Even amidst all the beautiful, powerful energy, there are moments of sadness. It is an inevitability. It is at once a contrast and a reflection.
Sometimes I am light as a feather, and I can feel the happiness coursing through my veins, lighting up every part of my body. The smile on my face feels like a permanent fixture, as energy and positivity fill me. There is no desire for anything else. Perfection in that moment…
And yet, this is just one flash in a million.
Other times I find myself staring into the very heart of my loneliness. The very vibrations which had given me such peace and harmony, now the source of a deep longing. I look around, and instead of feeling connected, I am looking in through a window towards a feast I am not part of. My inadequacies laid bare by the beauty all around me.
It is the very essence of life. The flow and rhythm of change. For joy and sadness come from the same well, and we cannot avoid this.
Inside there is a boy suffering. A cry for love, and approval. But as a good friend of mine says…
The world we grow up in conditions us imperceptibly. Over the years I have built a wall to hide the darkness inside. Now, brick by brick, I am allowing in the light.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
I am nothing, nobody.
I dwell only in my mind.
My world does not hold true for others.
It is mine, and mine alone.
Nobody can comprehend it’s fluctuations.
It reverberates with its own rhythm,
A song only I can hear.
I can only find solace
if I can see the truth in myself.
My world reveals itself slowly,
Bit by bit, and day by day.
But do I really see it?
Or am I stuck in an imaginary dream?
A perception of someone else’s creation?
To live in my world I must be free,
At liberty from the constraints of others,
And the limitations that exist for them.
My world is unique and pervades only to me.
Others may coincide, our paths may cross,
A moment among many,
A flash of light like a shooting star,
A flame of incandescent beauty,
Which burns with an uncontrollable force,
But in the end is extinguished,
Fading into everything else,
Becoming nothing but a dream.
It leaves behind an invisible trail of memory,
Which cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Only the taste remains, the sensation endures.
Bitterest pill or sweetest fruit,
It is an invasion which shakes the very foundations,
Threatening to bring everything down.
This is my world.
It belongs to me and nobody else.
I may spend my life trying to understand,
And their will be moments
When I stop everything and declare,
With complete conviction and belief,
“Eureka! Now it is clear”.
I will dance with happiness,
Be giddy with joy,
Feel like I have obtained clarity;
And my ego will soar like an Eagle,
Floating on the gusts of the wind.
And I will forget the truth:
I am nothing and nobody.
Less than a grain of sand,
Merely a heartbeat
In the turning of the world.
But within that great expanse,
I am free to live,
To make my own choices,
And to listen, if I can,
To the heart that beats in my chest.
For it is a rhythm only I can feel,
Constantly in flux, forever changing.
This is my world.
My beautiful living, breathing world.
And I will discover it…and die a thousand times.