Let me tell you two stories. One story casts nomads, camels and overzealous souk owners – intertwined in elaborate plot lines of survival. But look beyond the exotic adventure and you’ll find a journey far more mysterious. The second story doesn’t involve traveling across the world, but rather, looking into the deep recesses of your soul.
the ultimate journey home
Jon Kabat-Zinn said it best, “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” The journey of discovering who we are is the ultimate journey of life. Our souls are housed in this sack-of-skin we call the body. No matter where our bodies are, our soul is always here – existing through the experience of conscious awareness. Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, describes consciousness through the practice of meditation:
When you contemplate the nature of Self, you are meditating. That is why meditation is the highest state. It is the return to the root of your being, the simple awareness of being aware. Once you become conscious of the consciousness itself, you attain a totally different state.
Through intentional mindfulness practice, we can begin to strengthen the awareness muscle — awakening our felt sense of being alive. It’s really surrendering to being within ourselves, without really doing much at all. As humans, we often seek experiences outside of ourselves, but the most courageous expedition is sitting with who we truly are.
I consider travel a spiritual experience for me, a way to connect with the heart of humanity by becoming immersed in the many cultures of the world. Recently, I took a Moroccan journey that opened my heart in unexpected ways. But whether you’re traveling across the globe or just across town, we’re all on a journey inward. And finding the true nature of our inner world is life’s greatest journey.
This message was highlighted by a young souk owner I encountered in the winding medina of Fez one evening. His infectious energy captivated me and was the catalyst for a conversation about spirituality, purpose and the meaning of life. But one of his statements has been swirling around my consciousness ever since:
We all think we’re different but, really, the differences between humans are man-made.
As external differences melted away, we became heart connected in that moment, human-to-human. He was right. We’re connected through our shared sense of being alive through love and suffering. As humans, we possess more similarities than differences. I was struck by his grounded wisdom, a gift that I’ll take with me as I continue trekking along my life’s path.
stillness and silence: our greatest teachers
Daily, we’re inundated with stimulation from conversations with loved ones, noisy streets, pinging iPhones, crying children, demanding bosses — the list is incessant. Without deliberate pauses throughout the day, we become engulfed by the rat race of life, trapped in a maze of never-ending expectations. The truth is, we can’t sustain this pace and something’s gotta give. Through the intentional act of sitting with life’s difficult moments (stress, anxiety, sadness, etc), we gift ourselves space to feel the essence of being alive, of walking this earth as living, breathing human beings. And this means truly being with our suffering. Is it pretty? No. But life’s messy and that very messiness is what makes life rich.
Stillness and silence have become my wisest teachers. When I talk about stillness, I’m referring to the embodied experience of motionlessness while silence is the absence of sound. Through meditation and yoga, stillness and silence have taught me that despite the thoughts that float into my mind or the waves of emotion that I’m overcome with, I’m still here and I’m okay.
During my Moroccan journey, I camel trekked into the Saharan Desert with Berber guides. The silence was palpable. I could hear each rhythmic camel step, as their feet would sink slightly into the golden sand. I could feel the cyclical flow of my breath. And most of all, I embodied this expansive awareness of everything within my consciousness — sights, smells, sounds, thoughts and feelings.
Perched on a dune at sunset one evening, I closed my eyes for meditation. My physical body was on this journey of a lifetime but, through the stillness and silence of my being, I continued that ultimate trek of getting to know my inner world. This means welcoming whatever enters the door of your consciousness — the fear in your gut, love in your heart, anxiety in your throat, whatever emerges. That evening, I invited stillness and silence through the door of my being, welcoming them like dear old friends. They helped me become attuned to my spirit, at least in those few minutes, and I thanked them gratefully.
An invitation to reflect on your journey
As we wrap up another year, we’re presented with an opportunity for reflection. What has this year’s journey taught you? What challenges did you face and how did you cope with them? What intentions might you have for the New Year? I invite you to look inward. As you take stock of this past year, make a choice to rest in pure awareness of your present experience. Notice your thoughts, feelings and body sensations. You might see that wisdom emerges naturally from within. I invite you to give yourself the greatest gift of all — being the compassionate guide of your own inner journey.