Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘self’

Photo by ambrown (Flickr)

 

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.
 
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

For a long while, I rallied against travelling – especially the whole kiwi “OE” thing.  It seemed so cliched, and I’ve always hated following the crowd – any crowd.  If it’s a crowd, I’ll do everything in my power NOT to follow it.  This contrary nature has gotten me into trouble before – sometimes it results in me cutting off my nose to spite my face.  Case in point: the time my mother lovingly said to me, “you don’t think maybe you might be a bit young to get married…”  Note to self: listen to mum.  Note to anyone who is trying to get me to do something: tell me to do the opposite. 

I even had the outlines of a blog post in my head, which I was getting around to fleshing out to post here. The basic gist went along the lines of: I don’t believe in travelling to “find yourself”. You already are yourself. The courageous thing, the real journey, is to stay put and encounter yourself where you are. You will not find in a foreign land anything other than another set of buildings and trees and the very self you took with you. If you want to travel, make sure you do it for the right reasons – for travel’s sake, for the sake of seeing and experiencing new things and different cultures – not because you think it will reveal to you a self you should be able to find regardless of location. 

Well, it all sounds very grand and righteous, doesn’t it. But I came to realise that there was something more…. interesting…. at the heart of it. It wasn’t really the grand realisation of a deep thinker. It was the jealous justification of a lost girl envious of those living the life she wished she had and bitter about the way they kept leaving her behind. A bored, frustrated girl whose life felt… stuck. 

And that’s when I reaslied what I had to do. What I wanted to do but was too contrary to admit it. I had to embrace the crowd. 

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Part of what I have been trying to do for the last six months or so is to experiment with staying put. To try and be still, and not always running. To try just being, without having to seek. To try settling down

What I finally realised is that I was forcing it. I was forcing myself to live a life against my true nature, one that was making every cell of my body scream. Like I had grafted a foreign life onto myself and my body was crying out its rejection with a silent inner ongoing gasp. I felt like the lion I had once seen at Berlin Zoo, in a concrete cage only slightly bigger than its own body, walking back and forward, back and forward, back and forward, all day – bars, concrete, bars, concrete – so numbed that it forgot it was a lion and only knew itself as a pacing pacing piece of a grey concrete world. 

So while there is certainly truth in the saying (another cliche! embrace the cliche!) that “wherever you go, there you are” – or in the words of some fellow kiwis, “everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you” – while there is certainly truth in the idea that you carry everything you are, everything you seek, everything you think you need, inside you…. I also came to the conclusion that sometimes stepping away from everything you know, thrusting yourself into a different environment, stepping out far enough to gain a different persepctive – maybe these new inputs, this new emotional and mental and physical stimulation, can spark off or awaken parts of yourself that never could have been encountered had you stayed put in the same environment. Maybe the whole point of travel is to encounter the parts of yourself that you never knew were there. Of course everything is already within you – but sometimes it is so hidden or so numbed or so forgotten or just sitting at the edge of consciousness scratching at the corners of your brain, that it requires a complete shift of environment or perspective or interaction with the world or other people to bring it into awareness. 

We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves. 

~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld 

I think one of the most exciting things about travelling, especially on your own, is that whoever you turn up as in that new environment, that’s who people have to take you as. They have no idea of who you were or any preconceived ideas about who you are or should be, their perspective is not coloured by any previous interaction or knowledge of you or your family or your past. The person on the doorstep, right then in that moment, is who you are to them. And how liberating is that! It’s like being able to wipe the slate clean and discover yourself in that moment. Discover who you are and have become, unfettered by who you were and used to be. 

And I think it is part passive, part active. On the one hand, you can decide who you are going to be. And on the other hand, through those experiences and interactions, you discover and encounter who you really naturally are, without expectations or preconceived ideas. The more new experiences and situations you can stimulate your senses with, the more parts of yourself you can uncover and encounter. 

So I have decided to embrace this rite of passage of our generation, to not shun an experience just because it is so widely embraced. In the end, all journeys are really just variations of the human journey, the ultimate and ubiquitous quest, the search for self and self-actualisation. And each person will experience their journey in their own way, forge their own road through an oft trodden world, using it to forge a new road through a world only they can know, the world inside of them. 

 
 

So what this means in practical terms is (wait, you want me to descend from my cerebellosphere?? Give me moment to adjust here…)… ok what this actually means in the real world is that I am moving to the UK. I have gone through an agency that finds you a live-in pub job before you leave. That way I figure I have accommodation and income as soon as I land, I can find my feet and get my bearings, and then decide what do to next. I will enjoy my summer working in a pub and try not to think beyond that – after a while, the next thing will arise, and I will know when it feels right to move on, and what to.

I could have been put in a job anywhere, but as it turns out, I am going to be working in a lovely looking pub in Oxford, right on the river Thames. I am quite stoked with how it has turned out. I like that I won’t be in the midst of the London madness, that I will be in such a pretty and quintessentially English town, but that I will still be well enough located to easily make trips down to London or anywhere else I might like to go on my days off. It seems very me… again, I might be following the crowd in the sense of going to the UK, like so many kiwis do, but I have to do it my way, to put my own personal stamp on it, to do it in a way that feels right and resonates with who I am.

So I leave Wellington this coming Thursday, to wing my way towards the motherland and the great unknown and whatever adventures and experiences await me there and the rest of my life. People ask me if I’m scared, but there is no element of fear… I’m just excited – and yes, sometimes overwhelmed – but excited, because it feels right, it feels like the next step, it feels like what I have to and need to do next. Just the thought of being in Europe again, even just of getting on that plane… I feel like myself again. I feel like the self that has been asleep for the last 6-7 years of my life is stirring and awakening again within me.

I want to “feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly”, I want to risk the “cutting flints” of this granite globe and all that they might unleash within and around me.

I feel the stirring of the wings on my back that have lain dormant for so long I was afraid they weren’t there, and (at risk of mixing metaphors) that I am remembering that I am a lion.

Roar?

Roar!…. Soar!

When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly. 

~ Edward Teller 

I hope that I am taught to fly. 

Read Full Post »

I have had enough.

Enough running, enough searching, enough trying, enough becoming – enough questing. I have had enough trying to be something different than what I am. Enough trying to become – to become better, different, worthy. Enough trying to redeem myself for sins I can’t identify, enough trying to prove myself, enough trying to justify my very existence. Enough sacrifice, enough study, enough self-depreciation, enough of men who reinforce a sense of worthlessness, enough of believing in worthlessness myself. Enough of being an octagonal peg, an irregular peg, an Emily-shaped peg, in a square hole, a round hole, a triangle hole – in somebody else’s hole. I thought if I made a career out of saving other people’s lives, caring for other people, meaning something to other people – ignoring all the things I love and that make me who I am, to become the life-saver, the giver, the worthy saint – that then maybe I would be enough.

I am enough.

I am enough right now, just as I am, today. I have nothing to prove, nothing to redeem, nothing to make up for or make better. Of course I can continue to grow, to grow into myself, into all the space beyond that my body aches to fill- but that doesn’t mean I have to fundamentally change, to become – to become better, to fix myself, to become someone else, someone more worthy. I am already worthy of all I am and all I have and more. I am already a person. I am creative, philosophical, expansive, hopeful, loving, genuine, honest, expressive, independent, personable, free spirited, spiritual, slight crazy… I have nothing to prove. I already am.

Enough.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »