To see with new eyes

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“The heart of the question of our reason for a quest is how to renew our vision. To see with the eyes of the heart.”
Phil Cousineau from The Art of Pilgrimage

Most advertised travel in today’s modern world is “more of the same” indulgences in luxuries that make us feel we’ve been pampered enough to return to our stress filled lives. We may travel out of the country to see  the world, but surround ourselves in safe, clean environments and people of our own economic status and cultural persuasion.

I travel not to escape the world but to embrace it more fully. I like to challenge those fears that lie in wait in the back of my brain shouting ( whispering?), “You can’t do that. It’s too dangerous. It’s too expensive and you’re not good enough.”

There is a different relationship to time on the road, a freedom of thought I don’t usually have at home or don’t allow myself–encumbered with obligations, details, expectations, gardens, and relationships. As we get older it’s easy  to think smaller, safer, and our minds shrink in their capacities. I want to break away from stultifying old habits and the addiction to comforts that strangle us “To see with the eyes of the heart.”

Belief and experience are two very different things. A belief comes from something we’ve read in a book or heard on television or radio and accepted as fact. But it’s not enough. Experience is something actually perceived. If you had never tasted an orange, I could fool you about its characteristics; but if you had already eaten one, I could not deceive you. You would know, you would have had the experience of it.

There are those, especially in the West, who are skeptical about anything beyond a full stomach and a balanced checkbook. But there are places on this earth that are power spots, revered temples, places where great souls have walked and their essence remains like the perfume that lingers on a woman’s dress.  I know it’s true because I’ve experienced it.

I’ve always had a longing for that deeper meaning in life I suppose I yearn for a certain transformation by traveling–enlightenment for lack of a better word. Pilgrimage was actually the motivation for travel as early as the 11th Century. Yes, it’s true that one doesn’t need to wander about the world in order to grow and develop his/her deeper spirituality. I don’t expect to achieve enlightenment by any stretch of the imagination, but the effort is still worth it; and besides, the food of Asia is worth every aching muscle, every annoying price negotiation, every hard mattress.

Postcards, receipts, even stories told can only convey an infinitesimal part of what I’ve encountered both in the world and within myself. It is a lonely feeling to come back to the ones I love and respect wanting to share some of that experience, but who has time to stop and listen?  I lie awake at night trying to piece together those memory bits sleeping in the grooves of my brain somewhere beyond understanding and just out of reach of the words to express. Memories that haunt my dreams–the Muslim call to prayer amidst the clamor of traffic and commerce in Kolkata–the ancient jacaranda tree I could see and smell from my hotel balcony-the children splashing and bathing on the ghats of the Ganges that felt strangely familiar.
There is something sacred waiting to be discovered in every journey even a trip to your local market.  If you’d like to travel with me, come on. My husband, David, and I are bound for Southeast Asia and India. I hope to take you along  in these blog posts.

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