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
“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.