The Journey – When Getting Somewhere Keeps Us Trapped
“Breathing in, we make three steps, and we may tell ourselves with each step, “I have arrived. I have arrived. I have arrived.” And breathing out, we make another three steps, always mindful of the contact between our feet and the ground, and we say, “I’m home. I’m home. I’m home.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
The art of living can be profoundly simple, yet it’s not easy.
Even before our waking consciousness emerges as young children, we are energetically programmed by the stress signals of our environment. Deep within the formless awareness of our mother’s womb, stress chemicals in response to stimuli are already forming our core experience of physical life. In the background to these sentient events, is an undertone of dis-ease, the energetic contraction of a resistance to life; a repression of vitality; a continuous sense of expectation of future fulfillment; and a resonance of fear around the worst that could happen. It’s all in the experiential atmosphere, within the differentiating cells of the baby in formation.
Later, this is affirmed. The emphasis on future disaster pitted against future fulfillment is programmed into thought forms of crime and punishment, good behavior and reward, in a manner that appears inseparable from ‘reality’.
What is actually happening is that the agenda to get pleasure and avoid pain is building a false sense of self out of which emerges a false sense of direction. We get lost in the illusion we call the ‘real world’.
Born into the living environment, the binary message of pleasure verses pain comes from our parents, it’s given through our teachers, it’s sanctified by the reward or condemnation promised by religion, and it’s embodied in the raw threat of financial survival.
It impregnates our most intimate relationships, our freedom to manifest and even our honesty towards ourselves. It clouds our minds, confuses feelings, numbs the senses, disconnects us from life and propagates misconception. The worst thing that could happen (whatever that is), fulfills itself in every moment as we separate from life itself, and believe this separation to be determined by the very nature of our failing flesh and blood.
Like donkeys bashed with a stick from behind and following a carrot that never gets closer, we move forward with increasing despair. Between the “It might never happen” of the collapse of dreams of fulfillment, and the reassuring: “It might never happen” (our greatest fear), we falter, experiencing the present moment as senseless.
Yet, more than most humans, the donkey was always free.
Maybe I’ll never make it to the moon.
Nearly half a century after someone first stepped on the moon, we seem to be waiting for our own personal Apollo Moment. We’re waiting for the present moment – the only window through which life could ever fulfill us. We’re waiting for it to be “Now”. In which part of our future will the ‘Now’ appear?
We’re denying the life rushing through our veins, the unfathomable light of our minds, the unconfined miracle of feet on the ground, for the Now that will come ‘later’. That Now – when suddenly everything will ‘make sense’.
In numbing this moment for the moment in the future, we narrow our physical senses – our incredible sensitivity – for the sake of a “sense” that can only emerge through direct experience in this moment, through the channel of our senses. There is no “other” moment than Now.
We travel on, believing we are going forwards, although what is seen from the eyes is the earth going backwards. We believe we’re going somewhere because perspective changes. Yet if we had eyes on the back of our heads, the future would not be emerging, it would be receding. Forwards and backwards are concepts based on point of view, yet we believe we are getting ‘somewhere’.
And so we continue on this imagined journey, laden with goods and burdens that only we care about, fearful we’ll take a wrong turn and fall into a deathly ditch, yet knowing that anyway, sooner or later, we’ll take our last step and that ditch will be here, now – the wrong moment. Senseless indeed.
We look back fearfully towards where we have been, clutching at the highlights of the way – even trying to repeat them – and denying the parts that seem to threaten the way ahead.
We look fearfully ahead and agonize about choices of turning left or right. On the left, a pot of gold, to the right, a deadly trap? We don’t know which way to turn, and always, whether we turn left or right, the sun beats down anyway on our back, as if it really doesn’t matter. Senseless indeed.
The very concepts of beginnings and endings, or initiations and terminations are built on time – past, present and future. The very sense of destination is built on physical space and perspective – the nowhere, everywhere and the transient, experiential perspective of somewhere.
The actor in these parameters of time and space is you: but who are you? Are you the one that moves? Or are you always still, whether the feet move quickly or slowly, backwards or forwards? Are you everything you experience in your consciousness, or are you none of that, not even conscious at all, but that which is prior to waking up each morning, each moment, again?
As the donkey moves forward, all ways tempted and punished by the masters of karma and previous generations, there is another map, and a deeper destiny. The two great arches of the ‘here’ and the ‘now’ – boundless space and timelessness – stand deep within the living body as gateways to freedom. The senses are open channels to this freedom and to our arrival here, for real.
Each step arriving. Each step kissing the earth. Each step ultimately fulfilled.