My Lifelong Fear of Being Still
As my partner, Circus, and I sail down the coast toward San Francisco, stopping at ports for a few nights here and there, the transition of being “gone” is a strange one. Usually when I move away or take off for a long trip there is at least a time difference – if not a great distance – between where I’ve been and where I’m going. This “going” is the operative word, as it helps quell my lifelong fear of…simply being still.
Maybe I’m used to the buffer of comfort in being in a totally different culture with constant acclimation and newness to distract me from feelings of home- (or other place) -sickness. But with more than a week of bumming through coastal towns and minimal distractions on the boat, I allow myself no choice to be present with what is. And that is a mix of contentment, sadness, dull excitement, some residual sea-sickness and achy-ness from boat travel, and the hope that I’m headed down the right path.
Often when there are periods of quiet and introspection, little sprouts of doubt and fear creep in, trying to disguise themselves as caution and rationality. Fortunately I’ve learned to recognize their stories – which are based on distrust of the ability to flow with the waters of life and accept what is given – as just stories, and not listen hard enough to change my course. I think I still have some trouble with just enjoying life when it’s not directly benefiting a big community or working towards some life-changing goal. For all that I teach about finding balance and the necessary beauty of play, I apparently still have some negative self-talk! And for this and many other reasons, I still practice every day as diligently as travel allows. I find in my meditation more space to accept the places I am growing and integrating, and the clarity to see the small strides that I make every day. Those little negative voices tend to recede when I don’t feed them and my practice lays the tracks that I prefer to be my habitual mind-speak. Namely, presentness and a mind less distracted by negative talk and self-doubt.
I found a book called Money, Sex, War, Karma by David R. Loy at a bookshop before I left, and its relevance in my life right now makes me smile. It’s about how the spiritual path doesn’t give us permission to sit quietly and “be spiritual” but instead holds us accountable to our actions and our everyday impact. Rising consciousness hopefully inspires us to understand more macro-cosmically (on the large scale) how every thought, word, and deed has an impact on our community of human beings and our Mother Earth. We get to make moment-by-moment choices about how to relate to people, where to put our money and our energy, and how all this affects our circles at home and abroad. I guess one of the reasons I like traveling is the tangibility with which I see those effects. And the moment-to-moment impermanence that is living out of a backpack.
Lastly, I’ve been musing over my life-long discomfort with living in the place I was born. I don’t know where this seed came from, but I’ve always had a gnawing little voice that said if I stay in Seattle my whole life – or even come back there to live long-term – I am a failure. I know that is a big, fat lie and probably even hurtful to my friends and family in Seattle. It’s certainly not a judgement that I impose on anyone else. In my current musings, I identify this as my silly little ego. These past few years in my hometown have convinced me that a life in Seattle is just as noble as a life on the road or anywhere else and hopefully has laid to rest that voice of insecurity and personal judgment.
Today we sit in Newport to provision for the next leg, perhaps to Coos Bay and then to California. The rains have stopped and the skies are gray with touches of blue as I watch the rolling ocean waves outside the jetty that our boat is safely tucked behind. It’s nice to have times of calm mixed with days of excitement. The days of integration are important for me to process, be still, and communicate with you. And the days of excitement are awesome!. Gratitude for all of it and for my patient, kind and fun-loving travel companions.