There are times when the mind wants to return to a past that no longer exists because we are not spending enough time journeying to the destination that does not yet have our attention, but that wants us as a tourist.
What happens on journeys? We travel and move and see things and get thrilled by the freedom and then suddenly…tired, exhausted, and weary, the hard stop on the side of the road arrives. And when we pull over, the road that was so exciting becomes deserted and lonely. The elation provided by movement evaporates and we are left with just the sound of the wind and the hiss of cars that are anonymous and devoid of companionship. Then it seems that no one will pull over to see if we need roadside assistance.
Where I have been traveling for almost three years is a wide plateau like the Mojave Desert. Beautiful but stark. Colorful but prone to changes in weather that strip all the colors away and turn everything to low contrast black and white. Lifeless appearances that are actually vital but that require attention and clear vision to be truly observed. Long distances between places of refreshment in a vehicle that is perfectly capable of sustaining a happy life whether I know it or not.
Each day of this voyage the sun rises and falls, the horizon lights up and fades, the wind blows softly, and then severe rain falls without advance notice. And the whole time the landscape glows with a divinity that is easy to miss because the process of travel is so filled with mental processing, some of which is vital and some of which is mere distraction that takes us off course to highways that lead nowhere. Yet we can manage to get back to the main highway if we keep searching and wandering.
Eventually there is an end to the travels. We don’t know where and when. The doing is in itself the traveling. Or perhaps it would be better to say that the “not-doing” is the traveling. Lao-tzu would put it that way.
If we are traveling with a companion there is always the possibility that they may not be with us for the entire trip. And perhaps we bury them by the side of the trail and leave their bones to the sun and wind. And move on because there is nothing else we can do.
All of us on this planet are journeying whether we know it or not. Is it better to know? Perhaps. It gives us a chance to appreciate our authentic freedom when we take a moment to consider the journey objectively.
So consider these ideas:
There are those who travel without knowing it and who become disturbed with the discomfort of moving. So they stop, build little homes and slowly fade away, leaving their dreams to be picked apart by the vultures that keep the desert clean.
There are those who don’t travel at all. We meet them when we pull into the tiny towns where they live so we can gas up and take a break. Maybe they offer bad advice. If we listen credulously we receive inaccurate directions and end up in cul-de-sacs. Then we have to backtrack and find our way once more on our own. That takes up time that we may not have. Or we get stuck and die in a place that is not where we are supposed to finish.
But there are those who travel without moving. They are rare and far between but can give us directions and offer tips on the sights to see along the way. They are the helpers and the bodhisattvas, but they are not always obvious. In paying attention to the journey we will find them.
So keep your windshields clean and polished, friends. Never give up the path.