in between islands TRANS+FORM

We travel so we can learn to stay still

Moving is a type of stillness.

Moving can be a type of stillness.

No matter how fast you are traveling toward a wave of light or traveling away from it, the light will always travel at the same speed. This is a principle in physics called Maxwell’s equation.

In his special theory of relativity, Einstein posed that “light is constant, traveling at the same speed, but time is relative depending on our state of motion.” If we were moving at the speed of light, there would be no difference between time and space. It would be like standing still.

Traveling can be a way that we stay still. If travel were a song, in which silence is part of the song’s movement, the time and space that we find ourselves able to think, to refresh, to rest—these are moments of stillness.

In travel, we are moving constantly, but in the act of traveling, we are also pausing, deliberately.

We might be pausing from a life we didn’t expect would become so complicated. We could be traveling to find an alternative existence to a state of mind wherein we no longer feel like ourselves, moving from a current state of discontent or suffering to a desired state of freedom, simplicity, solace.

Travel as solace

In his book Consolations; The solace, nourishment and underlying meaning of everyday words, David Whyte writes,

“Solace is the beautiful, imaginative home we make where disappointment can go to be rehabilitated.”

David Whyte

We seek solace in times when the pain is unbearable, when our suffering permeates every room in our inner life. In my search for similar experiences of traveling as an inner metanoia, a transformation of some sort, rather than mere physical motion, I chance upon a blog called “Seeking Querencia” by Lydia, an ex-lawyer who began journaling in her blog to find a place where she could regain her strength, her querencia.

Lydia’s blog led me to an article about bullfighting as an analogy for the self seeking solace, or seeking a metanoia, a transformation in self and life. The article describes the querencia as a place in the bullfighting ring where the bull goes to rest, to draw strength, where the bull feels safe. The pause in the fight is “refuge and renewal” by momentarily being still. Querencia is the place where the bull stays undefeated; without rage and anger, it grows stronger as it stays at rest.

As we travel toward a querencia, we necessarily pause to whittle our existence down to essentials. We don’t pack our whole house when we go. We begin to ask ourselves what is truly necessary, and what is fluff.

And seeking solace, our querencia, our pathway toward some metanoia requires a rude beginning. We might plan an itinerary, make lists, prepare for the physical motion. We cannot prepare for the beginning, that first step.

It seems we take the first step as early explorers might have, with only a horizon in sight, and the bloom of possibility imagined before the voyage is underway.

Travel as a beginning

In his meditation on Beginning, David Whyte writes, “Beginning well involves a clearing away of the crass, the irrelevant and the complicated to find the beautiful, often hidden lineaments of the essential and the necessary.” He captures this distillation of self as “a radical internal simplification, where, suddenly, very large parts of us, parts of us we have kept gainfully employed for years, parts of us still rehearsing the old complicated story, are suddenly out of a job.”

What follows a beginning is a little death. The traveler may grieve for the past as the self makes what Whyte names the “last stand” of our old self as it struggles, astonished that the uncluttered simplicity of the new pathway does not include its old layers of complications.

We may never be able to go back to innocence once we find that the myriad of things we gave a fuck about are mere hulls, shiny and bling to the unenlightened until we catch a glimpse into its pretense. Once disillusionment hits us, we become wary of the old ambitions. And perhaps, we let go our old self and travel to find life anew.

Because like Lydia, like countless many others who travel without and within to find querencia, we all need to be still long enough to learn.

Travel as rest

In Whyte’s meditation on Rest, he defines rest as “a conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be.” At the intersection of love for what we do and self-care is the pulse and pace of our sojourn. It is here that we gain clues to our querencia and sample the exquisite pure sips of a metanoia. “To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals.”

Whyte continues, “To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right.”

The bull in the bullfight has one established goal: rage against the matador until he puts an end to the flapping red enticement and the pain of arrows on his back. A fight to the end. When the bull is enraged and out of his safe space, he is vulnerable to the arrows and will sooner or later bleed so much that he is weakened and likely to perish.

When the bull goes back to his querencia, he sheds vulnerability by being at rest.

“To rest is not self-indulgent,” writes Whyte, “to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and to perhaps, more importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given.”

We are moving and we are still. We are seeking solace and rest, and we are getting ready for a transformation. Shrugging off the hardened armor of a past existence, we listen to an invitational voice whispering courage and a way back into trust.

The bull catches its breath in its safe space and stays alive by eschewing rage.

The traveler braves a moving horizon to find life anew.

Travel might be a way of creating that pathway to a desired state. Keep moving.

8 comments

  1. What a beautiful post! As I see that you are a photographer, I assume that you took the accompanying photographs, all of which are stunning. Yet, I find the first one particularly mesmerizing, evocative, and a perfect depiction of both stillness and the present moment that is essential to achieving the stillness that you speak of, and “querencia” as an embodiment of such stillness.

    Moreover, I am very honored that you referred to and called out both me and my blog, “Seeking Querencia,” that I created to chronicle my journey towards inner stillness, and my true self. I see that you, too, appreciate both the beauty and the intent of the word “querencia.” I’ve come to learn that I am on the journey of a lifetime, and that, like most things in life, stillness is only rarely realized as a final destination. Like air, both “stillness” and “querencia” areamorphous, and they are inherently so. I view that intangible quality as a constant opportunity for growth.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog, as your post reminds me of the reasons that I was so captivated by the word “querencia,” and its analogy to the bull during a bullfight, all those years ago. Due to health issues, I do not post as frequently as I used to, but I hope to change that in this new year. I look forward to learning more about you, and meeting you, again and again, on my travels.

    Blessings and safe travels, lydia

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Lydia,

    At a beginning we often find ourselves groping for internal discipline, a structure to anchor the learning which is often so messy and like you said, amorphous. It was through pure serendipity that I found your blog and your journey. Your meditation on the word “querencia” was a delight as I was looking for a way to express the ambiguity of my beginning.

    Thank you for your kind words. A few weeks old, this journey is merely at its first steps. I’ll be working hard not to evaluate but to be open to the things that bring gratitude and joy each day.

    Shedding an old life and finding oneself in a new one demands a courage of sorts, and I am thankful that you showed me that. I hope you have what you continue to look for, and wish you warmth and wellness.

    Kind regards, and safe travels to you,
    Aloha

    Like

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