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November 11, 2012 / A Mindful Traveler

Perpetual Travel? Perpetual Meditation?

This is the first of two related posts on this subject.  You can read the other one here.

Many people I’ve met regard both travel and go on meditation retreats as escapes.  They come to both for a break from their routine and ideally return from them refreshed.  I initially came to both in search of knowledge and a greater ability to see things as they are.  (I had no idea when I came to travel this way that this was a neat encapsulation of the purpose of insight meditation.)  Nevertheless, I’ve also returned to both at times as escapes.  I don’t judge either purpose but both are worth bearing in mind for some observations I’ll be making later.  As the Dalai Lama observed, “This is right for me. Your way of understanding may be right for you.”

Shortly after I introduced this blog to friends a week ago, one asked me whether my doing so meant that I had left my job and where I live.  (They are in a sense one and the same since I work outside my country of birth and I’m only entitled to live there because of my work visa.)  I explained to him that I have no intention to leave either, but that I do have some travel planned in the near future during the relatively generous vacation periods I enjoy as a teacher at an international school.

When I was younger and either working at jobs or doing academic work that I didn’t enjoy, I spent a great deal of time thinking about travel.  As I liked to joke with my friends, like most people I spent a fair amount of time living out my fantasies over the internet.

As think about it now, there’s more truth to this self-effacing comment than I was aware of.  The pictures and descriptions (usually in the form of travel websites and travelers’ bulletin boards) I looked at were in many ways just as unreal as the more prurient ones that often interest others.  (I’d like to think they’re rather less demeaning too!)  My purpose, like theirs, was pure escaping.  I’d also count down days to “vacation,” as I liked to call it.  I enjoy my present job and while I’m traveling to Southeast Asia next month, as I’ve made the necessary arrangements I don’t really think about it except on especially cold days.

My friend’s question led me to think about whether I’d want to be a perpetual traveler and it occurred to me that there may be a number of parallels between perpetual travel and perpetual meditation, at least conceptual.  I’ve never sat a meditation retreat longer than 10 days or traveled for more than four months at a time, but I’d certainly like to deepen my practice in both by doing them for longer periods.  In writing this, it also strikes me that as a matter of their intensity, comparison a week’s meditation with a month’s travel or better yet a month’s meditation with a year’s travel may be apposite.  (I naturally welcome reasoned disagreement, especially from those more experienced than I.)

This concludes my first post on Perpetual Travel? Perpetual Meditation?.  My second post  will explore this concept in more depth, making reference to parallels in more depth and specificity, as well as some books of interest on both subjects.

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