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Posts Tagged ‘beliefs’

What has travelling taught you?

When I first arrived, I acted like a tourist.  I was attracted to the beautiful landscape.  I took tons of pictures and wrote my dairy every day.  Later, I found that life is just the same no matter where I am.  It is always the people I meet that make the difference.

~ Shuk Fan Ip (quoted in TNT backpackers magazine, Issue 524)

 “Life is just the same no matter where I am”.  I cannot think of a more perfect sentence to sum up where I find myself in life at the moment.

So I embarked on my travel adventure last month, at the last minute actually landing in Brisbane rather than Sydney.  I had decided – with the blank slate of life before me and truly nothing written on it, total freedom in my backpack and very little else (besides a change of undies or two) – that I was just going to follow my whim in every decision.  I was travelling utterly alone and unencumbered and nothing mattered but what I felt the pull to do next.

I had a friend once, a blocked creative working in an office job, who told me about how he had one day gone for a walk through town and decided that he was just going to follow wherever the urge or pull took him.  Along the path of this walk, he came across an independent magazine which he ended up finding creative outlet in, by doing a lot of design and illustration for them, and I think was an important step on his path to being more true to the voice inside himself.

This was exactly the approach I decided to adopt to my travel plans, just on a slightly grander scale – not “which street shall I turn down next, soul?” but rather “what city shall I travel to next?  What shall I do there?”.  I truly had no idea where I would end up or what I would end up doing.

Shortly after arriving in Brisbane, my good friend was in Cairns for a conference, so I took a train up and met her there, and had an absolute blast.  After that, my whim took me to Darwin, down to Alice Springs, then on a camping trip via Uluru and the Outback to Adelaide.  The plan had been to continue on to Perth, where I would get a job and settle for a bit.

All this happened in the space of about 3 weeks, but I learned an important lesson in amongst it all very quickly: Life is just the same no matter where I am, or in other, oft-quoted words: “wherever I go, there I am” – something everyone knows to be true but really is best learned through experience.  No matter where you go, you are still who you are and you still have to do something with yourself and your life.  Life is not suspended or changed because you are in another country or city.  Life is still sitting there saying: How are you going to use me?  What do you believe in and are you living those beliefs and values in the actions of your life?

I also learned another very important lesson, between being alone in Brisbane, to partying and chatting and hanging out in Cairns with my good friend, to setting off alone again once she went home and I continued on.  I have said this in a very old post once before and I learned the truth of it again: life exists most significantly in the interaction between the self and another.  Cairns was one of the most fun times of my life, not because of the town itself but because of the company I shared and the fun we were able to create together.  The tours and experiences, the memory of which I cherish the most, are those I shared with other people, whether it was my good friend or new found friends.  People are what make life what it is, sharing your experiences and your self with other people is what makes an adventure fun, memorable, meaningful.  The freedom of solitude and independence is a small price to pay for the deeper contentment of interaction and sharing with another person, especially one you care about – even if that sometimes means compromise.

Feeling the truth of these two lessons to the core of my bones, there was another thing adding to my experience of my trip.  I had a cold/flu the entire time.  I arrived with it and it never quite left me.  By the time I arrived in Adelaide, I was feeling very sick, I was running out of money and didn’t feel up to job hunting in my condition.  So, trusting the voice as I had been the whole trip to guide me to the next step, I flew home to Wellington.

So did I come home because I was sick?  It would be a convenient excuse – it certainly was at the time.  But if I dig deep and am really, truthfully honest with myself… no, I don’t believe that is truly why I came home.  I believe I came home because, running out of money, I was also running out of the luxury of ‘running’ – I was going to have to stop and get a ‘pay-the-bills’ job.  I was going to have to stop and re-enter the real world and face life and either answer or continue to try to avoid its eternal questions.  No matter how long I kept running or filling my days with filing and reading, I realised that Life was always there, just beyond my point of focus, asking: How are you going to use me?  What do you believe in and are you living those beliefs and values in the actions of your life? 

The thing with office jobs (or really any job that isn’t your true calling) is that they require just enough concentration to be able to block out that silent whisper much of the time or at least silence it to a dull, irritating background noise.  But they can also be mindless enough (or not engaging enough of your true interest) that every now and then, and far more often than is comfortable, that little voice of Life starts nudging its way into your awareness, tap tap tapping at the edges of your self in ways that make you squirm and desperately seek out something else to file or another spreadsheet that needs updating, as if you could somehow fit Life between cells A1 and D12, insert formula, done.  Ctrl-alt-delete and start again.

I believe physical illness is an outer symptom of a deeper dis-ease, something that manifests when there is a gap between what we are currently doing and who we are being in life, versus who we truly are and want to be and what we truly want do – when there is dis-ease between our soul and our actions, our outer circumstances.  So I don’t believe I was the pitiful victim of a nasty flu.  I believe I subconsciously created the circumstances that would require me to face up to myself and to what I actually want from life – in fact, not just want I want from life, but what I want to give in life.

I know to some, especially to worshipers at the alter of science, these beliefs sound airy-fairy, written off as new agey, esoterical nonsense.  But the more I get in touch with myself and with life, the more I believe and see evidence of them, and the less ashamed I am to admit to them.  I like to explore all of life, all of its nooks and crannies, I am not content to just sit on the surface of it, and yes, that means exploring spirituality and being open to all the possibilities.  Spirituality has become a dirty word these days and I think that is sad.  Even science is just part of the unquenchable human need and quest to understand life and all its mysteries.  Erwin Chargaff, the biochemist who discovered base pairing in DNA, said of biology: “No other science deals in its very name with a subject that it cannot define.”

What is life?  And how are we best to live it?  That is all any of us are trying to figure out.

So I came home, which was just the next step in the subconscious path I was following; I came home for a few moments of solitude, that I may hear the voice waiting for me in the silence.

I believe that when you are following your true path, things will tend to all just slide into place.  I believe that your true path is like a river and when you surrender to it, it will naturally sweep you along to places you had barely even imagined, and the best thing you can do is just let go of the oars and go “Wheeeeeee!”.

I wrote these words in the last post on this blog before I left on my trip, and they are as appropriate to this next step in my journey as they were to that last one:

Emily’s Quest is about living and loving the questions in the faith, hope and trust that I will somehow live my way into the answer.  And so I am going to embrace the unknown and keep asking the question into the darkness, in the faith that one day I will look around and realise I am living the answer already and always have been.

I haven’t stopped asking – I have realised I can’t, no matter how hard and far I run.  So I’m sitting inside the question now, and keep living answer after answer until finally something fits.

It is enough that one surrenders oneself. Surrender is to give oneself up to the original cause of one’s being. Do not delude yourself by imagining such a source to be some God outside of you. One’s source is within oneself.

~ Ramana Maharishi

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