Journeying in Place

For so many staying put is now a way of life. Protecting ourselves from the Covid 19 virus we keep excursions out into the world at a minimum. Doesn’t it seem natural then to focus on inner journeys and destinations that are about qualities of being that we hope to cultivate and embody?

Any journey worth its salt will have challenge in it and a sturdy intention to keep going. Right foot. Left Foot. But the willingness to be exactly, for the moment, where we are is the core of it. If we skip that part we haven’t gone anywhere.

Phrases posted on Facebook, January 2021

To journey is to be moving in time. I fall into the bad habit of planning and anticipating the future and have to catch myself “at it”. It’s a form of wanting to know and be safe ahead of time and so hopefully be able to control what will happen. Never mind that such a strategy is impossible!!! Let’s admit that we remember journeys we were on when we were really present to something that challenged us and held us in the present. I am going to strive to give up knowing, drop the K, and practice “nowing.”
Suppose you decide to go on a pilgrimage and you intend to cover ten mile with a backpack the first day. Come evening you’ll be tired and pleased you could do it. Maybe you’d revisit the high light of what you encountered. Maybe you’d salute yourself and say, “God Job”. When we journey through an ordinary day with its backpack of tasks, most of us don’t think of the high lights at the end of the day. We just make another long backpack list for the next day. There’s no resting or acknowledgement of our efforts and experience. I believe there are two very important aspects to inner journeying. They are rest and being grateful that we could do what we could do. Even adults need to hear “Good Job!”
I am enamored by the sayings of Rumi. Maybe you are as well. Here is one on the subject of journeying: ”You lack a foot to travel? Then journey into yourself–that leads to transformation of dust into pure gold.”
Though now, because of the virus, we can’t easily go on journeys, let’s think about the subject at least. We may make journey to remember a “before” that gave us joy. We may make journeys to exotic places to shake us out of apathy and let awe and surprise lift us up. We may make journeys to keep a promise, to say goodbye, or to say a “yes” at last. We’re always pilgrims, aren’t we? Each day beckons us to deepen the journey.
Sometimes in Zen training one is invited to consciously participate in suffering, for instance eating a meal without a fork or a knife for an armless child or dancing for a paraplegic. Taking the deep journey to walk in the world for another, we may find that tenderness is waiting for us when we come home to our own door.
As serious news compounds on the TV and the radio, we try to move onward we can feel as if every mile this winter is 2 and every mile in Covid is five. Still it is left food, right foot, isn’t it?
It doesn’t take depth psychology to know that if we can’t imagine something, we can’t go there. Journeys begin, are entered into, and are sustained by imagination. Inspired imagination gives us the energy to continue to develop. “To dwell in possibility”, as Emily Dickinson put it, is to live and journey in inspired imagination which must take into account what is happening all around us as well. Without that kind of imagination we would lose hope.
We will undoubtedly feel lost when we are on a path that is not our own. Then it is time to sit still, look at our tired fee, wiggle our toes and start over again.
Before starting out, if we could feel, that whatever journey we’ve decided to embark on has a hidden merit, we would take time to see worth everywhere and linger longer in wonder and gratitude. Being who we really are turns out to be the journey. Let’s go where our hearts take us.
No one can do our journey for us. And yet we also journey together. How appropriate then it is to find the word “our” in the word journey. For me it makes the point that we are alone together and together alone sharing the mystery.
In Orthodox Russian spirituality there is the tradition of the “pustia”, a resting place on the journey, the little sanctuary for the soul between its efforts. A “pustia” can also be a moment of silence, a drink of water, a deep breath, a retreat of a few days. Such sanctuaries can be actual places and also inner states . . . and are part of any journey. Here’s a link to a little pamphlet I wrote reflecting on the subject of sanctuary: In Orthodox Russian spirituality there is the tradition of the “pustia”, a resting place on the journey, the little sanctuary for the soul between its efforts. A “pustia” can also be a moment of silence, a drink of water, a deep breath, a retreat of a few days. Such sanctuaries can be actual places and also inner states . . . and are part of any journey.
Some journeys take place in the dark. We can’t see where we are going, but we give ourselves to the experience of going and learn by going where we need to go. Call it daring. Call it necessity. Call it simple faith.
Here’s one from John Muir to mull: “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found I was really going in.
Then there is the absolute journey of letting go. “No one to be. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do”. Nothing left then but spaciousness and love.