“You’re travelling to find yourself aren’t you?” she said with certainty.
“That’s such cliché bullshit,” I said
“So why are you travelling?”
I didn’t get into the whole conversation about the journey I had undertaken to get this point. How I had crawled from the brink to liberate myself and was now celebrating my freedom from addiction. If I had been honest I would have said: “I found myself many years ago whilst working on an oil refinery.” Not the usual place for a profound and life-changing experience. Well, not a positive one anyway.
The “finding myself” experience came about because I had been given an easy job to do. It involved turning bearings to stop them from getting flat spots. The whole process would take about an hour each day. The other seven hours were mine. I had a cabin that I could sit in and very few people would come and go. So I would sleep and read the paper. Eventually, this got tiresome. I would pace up and down. It was kind of like being in prison.
At the time I had started to practice yoga and part of the DVD I had been following involved ten minutes of meditation at the end. That spiked my interest in meditation so I read what I could and had started to practice a simple breathing exercise. Focusing on the breath but not forcing the breath. Watching it come in and go out. So after I finished reading the newspaper one day, I decided to try some meditation. My ear defenders blocked out the sounds around me and for a few minutes, I focused on my breath. It was tricky at first as thoughts came to pull my attention away from my breath but over the next few weeks, I managed to acknowledge the thought and return to my breath. I started to feel a lot calmer and my mind began to slow down.
One day I had an experience that I was travelling down a road. I had no idea where the road was heading or who was in control. I manoeuvred to the side of the road and decided to proceed at my own pace. It was a strange experience but I knew what it meant. I had been unhappy in my job for a long time and felt that I was just doing it for the money. Which is a lucky position compared to some people but I felt I had no purpose. No direction. That all I was doing was working to consume, mostly alcohol and mostly to forget about work. It was a vicious, directionless existence but I needed the job for the money.
When the contract for the job finished I vowed to change careers and I did. Strangely I had the same experience whilst meditating after I had changed careers. Except, this time I got back onto the road, now in control. Still not sure of the destination but comforted by the knowledge that I could change direction anytime I wanted. It was a profound experience. One that had a knock-on effect that freed me to pursue new goals.
“Man is made or unmade by himself. In the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself. He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.”James Allen, As a man thinketh
I try to meditate as often as possible but I do let it slip when I’m feeling well. Then usually I start to see the signs that I need to calm my mind; irritability, anxiousness, overthinking. I usually take a moment to calm my mind and it usually makes me feel better. My mental health is much like my physical health; with maintenance it is manageable. Little bits here and there instead of letting it collapse and then having to work hard to bring it back.
I do check in mentally. I ask myself how it is going. Hows the whether up there? I learned it from mindfulness; finding peace in a frantic world. It has been a great addition to my toolbox. To check in every now and then. To have a deep connection to parts of my mind that I once avoided is a great privilege. More often than not the weather in my mind is good and I am content. I find it amusing that as a content person I am a bad consumer. A terrible customer. A salesman asked me in the street the other day “What are you looking for?” and my honest answer was “I have everything I need.” For that I am lucky and grateful.
I’m not saying that you can’t find yourself travelling. It just wasn’t my story. I had to find myself first and the courage to travel came along with that. I HAD to find these things because the inquisitiveness that burned in my soul was ceaseless. The only thing that calmed that yearning to explore was alcohol. When I quit drinking my wanderlust returned in force. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to have the freedom to pursue that desire and allow my outer world and my inner world align, even for a short time.
For me finding myself started that day on that refinery. I just needed to take the action to become that person. Because even though I found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it was locked and I had to work to get it open. That’s how I see personal development. That’s how I see my potential. Locked away. Supressed. Yet yearning to be explored.
“Not to know one’s true identity is to be a mad, disensouled thing – a golem.”Terrance Mckenna