on traveling

Travel Gleanings

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

~Martin Buber~

I’m on a plane returning to the states right now and thinking about what I’ve learned on this trip. What good is travel if it doesn’t fundamentally change who we are?

  • This is the first time I’ve actually traveled around the world, east from California to Ukraine and eastward on to Turkey, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and now back home. The act of going around the world has a power of its own in that it ties everything together. When we go to a place and then return the way we came, it solidifies the perception/experience of “us” and “other,” but when the globe is circled, there is an equalization process which occurs where we all equally claim our own space, with none better than the other. The circle has unifying power that the “there and back” vectors simply don’t possess. Like the albatross in the southern hemisphere which continues to circle the globe at it’s latitude, home becomes more of wherever you happen to be.
  • The next thing that happened, if I look at the entirety of the trip, is very obvious, but somehow feels profound within me. In each place, the people are very different. No kidding, huh? When I’ve traveled in the past, I’ve often just gone to one place and back and in those cases it’s simply a comparison for me between each place and the United States. On this trip, in having gone to 5 different countries, I observed that the faces, skin and hair color, demeanor, religion,culture, etc. is remarkably different in each place. The differences of everyone and every place actually seems to unify everything for me rather than segment it. There is a much greater understanding that we are all sharing the Earth.
  • It also became clear to me how much religion depends on place. People tend to identify with the predominant religion in the place that they live- Orthodox Catholic in Ukraine, Muslim in Turkey, Buddhist in Sri Lanka, Hindu in India and Buddhist in Thailand. Even the forms of Catholicism or Buddhism have completely different flavors depending on place. Seeing this makes it just that much more clear that there really isn’t a right answer when it comes to religion, and those who think so simply haven’t seen enough of the world to realize that their beliefs are not necessarily founded in absolute truth but are more likely forged through local culture and inheritance.
  • On this trip I also learned to appreciate Muslims in different and deeper way. Two of my favorite times on this trip were when I went into Mosques, once in Istanbul and another time in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and prayed alongside other Muslims. I loved the silence within these busy places although there was much silent dialogue happening between those present and God. I loved how woven prayer/devotion is into their daily lives.. I also very much surprised by and appreciative of the friendliness of the congregants to me, especially in Colombo.
  • I learned in a new way that I really enjoy being in relationship in my life and that I would very much like to have that moving forward. I’ve spent too much time in my life either not in or not fully in whatever relationship I was in at the time. I also learned to appreciate forthrightness when it comes to feelings as they arise within a relationship. Speaking the truth, if done with the intent of strengthening the bond, however uncomfortable that truth may feel at the time, helps to build a stronger connection. As well, I learned that feelings for closeness and space have an alternating natural breath to them and should be honored through good communication.
  • Another learning for me is just how much my perception of the external world is dependent upon my internal world. When I am feeling connected to myself and am grounded in my own experience, then I seem to appreciate the specific place where I am. When I am disconnected from myself and my experience, the place where I am can feel less wonderful. I’ve even noticed recently how if I smile at people with a warmth in my heart, then they often return that, while when I am sad or disconnected, I receive the same sadness or disconnection in return. I had never experienced that so clearly. Our minds really do create the world we live in, and we do it from moment to moment, with our internal moods flavoring our experience, our interpretation and even the reaction of the external world. While I do harbor some preferences within me as to factors which I prefer in a place, there is no question to me that the state of our minds is the strongest influence on our experience of whatever place we happen to be.

Here are a couple of quotes that I love that in their own way reflect this:

“From the mind are derived all fears and immeasurable sorrows.”~Shantideva~

“Any moment is the right moment
And any place, the best place.
If only you perceive this whole heartedly.”~Panchen~

There is so much more that I learned as well, but these are a few of the main things that come to mind for me right now. Feeling very glad to have this opportunity to travel and experience new lands with renewed eyes. Glad too to be heading homeward.

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