Movement and Stillness

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

I woke up this morning disappointed in or about (I can’t decide) someone, despite being happy with my current situation in life. I knew it was unnecessary to linger on these feelings but I couldn’t shake it. I needed to let go, so I sat down to meditate for the first time since coming back to school, a practice I had been working at throughout the summer. After I finished, I noticed something about meditation that is hugely representative of life on a grander scale. It is easier to be still when you are moving.

When focusing on my disappointment earlier, I immediately fell into the same safety net that I always do. I told myself, “It’s OK. I’ll hopefully be in Amsterdam and Ireland in just a few months and I’ll be who knows where come next fall.” Travel is where I feel safe.

It’s funny how movement can affect you. External movement affects internal movement and vice versa. I feel that when I’m moving – when I’m traveling or busy doing things that I care and am passionate about – there is internal movement. Waves of thought and feeling wash right through me but that’s just it. If the water in a brook keeps on its journey, the brook stays clear and pure. If the water becomes stagnant, it becomes cloudy and muddled with dirt and sand and outside forces begin to creep in. It’s so easy to feel the highs and the lows when traveling but neither ever last for long and each day, I awake with excitement for what is ahead, for something new and beautiful and with few to rely on other than myself. While I do look forward to coming home, the second I really settle I slowly begin to feel the cloudiness. The tendrils of attachment slowly creep out and grab tight, reeling me in until my day and emotions are affected by my responsibilities and the people I surround myself with (even though they’re all great).

I thought that movement was the key to stillness. When I go through break ups, I run and run until my shins threaten to literally splint and when I’m not running I go to the gym or I go to yoga. Anything to keep moving. When I’m sad, I get in my car and drive. When I’m disappointed or not motivated or I lose excitement about life, I fall back on travel. But I was wrong. Movement makes presence easier and presence is the key to stillness. It’s funny because if you look at yoga, this makes sense. Movement through asana prepares you for meditation. Afterwards, I feel clean, strong, energized and pure. Advanced yogis (or just the ones that really know what they’re doing) can just begin to meditate.

The trick is to cultivate that presence during periods of extended stillness, without the movement if movement itself is not present. The trick is to be present at all times rather than solely when you are instructed to be or when you don’t exactly have another choice. I think that for some people, this comes naturally. My best friend is incredible at being present, running only a single track in her mind and remaining true to her Self. I, on the other hand, struggle to keep my Self strong and pure. My emotions get attached to the people I invest my time in and they all tug and pull me in different directions depending on their selves and then I become cloudy and the outside world makes its way in. I made an active effort to address this issue over the summer, when dealing with some of my past. I would find myself lost in thoughts of someone else, notice these egoistic ramblings, and instead try to notice the heat of the steering wheel beneath my fingers, the hard, sure ground beneath my feet, the exact shade of green in the leaves over my head, and immediately, I was OK. Presence is key.

The great affair of traveling can be to move. Travel can jolt you awake and show you the way to inspiration and enlightenment. While I am excited for the opportunity to see new worlds, I want to change. Instead of using travel as a means of defense, my goal is to take what travel gives me and bring it wherever I may be.

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