"Wherever You Go, There You Are"
Who doesn’t love to travel or experience new things? Some people don’t, but many do. Why is it that we as humans are drawn to these novel things, experiences or places? Are we actually vividly experiencing each present moment, or are new situations just an escape from an internal world that we are not content with?
“If we hope to go anywhere or develop ourselves in any way, we can only step from where we are standing. If we don't really know where we are standing... We may only go in circles...” - Jon Kabat-Zinn
In life we are either in a new situation or seemingly mundane, boring or routine one. These new situations are exciting, because after all, they are new. We seek these situations because of their novelty at least on the surface. There could be much more to why some people are more apt to travel and pursue new situations than others.
When we travel and experience new things, situations or places these things are so exciting that they distract us from ourselves. Perhaps there is some part of us that we are uncomfortable with, or downright don’t like. When we are in a blast of new reality we are kept busy and distracted by these new things.
These new things come in a broad range of shapes, colors and sizes. They can be anything from a new television set, to a trip, to a new country. They can be anything from a new friend, to a new job. Life is simply a series of experiences. Even objects themselves, are new experiences. We must be careful however, when we constantly seek new, we may be trying to escape from something.
Let’s look at the flip side. You are unsatisfied with your life. You feel that you have been dealt a poor hand and are doing only what you can to get by. You are never quite content and actually oftentimes you are bored with your life. You are also unhappy with your internal state. You constantly feel unsettled or uneasy. As a result, you seek to travel or consume at any chance you get.
This consuming becomes a bandage, a distraction from your present reality. After all, when is it that we get to experience our experience? There has yet to be seen a person who is actually living in the past. The only way the past exists is as a construct of memories in our brains. There has also yet to be seen someone living in the future. This is an even more sticky mess of “potential” situations that could happen in the future. Most of which never bear fruit and merely cause stress and anxiety. Nevertheless, the only moment in which we experience and can affect reality, is this present moment.
There is a chronic issue in the west. People very often live almost constantly in mentally constructed worlds. Either the past or future. Ask yourself, when is it that you are ever truly in this present moment? It does not matter where you go, or what experience you set yourself up for. You are always in the here and now. There is no time outside of the present moment. In this present moment the only thing you have is your mental state. This mental state can be affected to some degree by your surroundings. However, the thing to note is your surroundings only affect you as much as you allow them.
You have two choices. Either fully accept your situation and come into the present moment, or reject it. The greater your level of rejection and identification with a reality that you are mentally constructing. The greater your level of dissatisfaction with life.
“Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn
If you feel that your life is boring and devoid of meaning, try to be very in the moment. Cultivate a sense of wonder. Wonder how someone ever invented a seemingly simple thing like a clock, or the computer that you are reading this on, or the printer that possibly printed this. If you are walking outside, don’t judge the trees or the weather. Realize, that trees and weather are part of one experience that you have to be having in this present moment. You cannot have trees without rain. You cannot escape the experience of tree or rain unless you use each consecutive present moment to leave the area where the trees and rain are occurring. Aside from that, you should not expect an experience with no trees or no rain. But people do, all of the time, in different ways.
The point is this. We all have certain internal states. A small part is altered by the external world. You get to choose how much the external affects your internal state. Because your experience of the world is so heavily determined by your internal state, it is important to focus on this. Some believe you can work on your internal state, others believe that by just watching it you will change it. Regardless, wherever you go, whatever you do, whatever you consume, whoever you meet, you carry your internal state. Any novel situation will be fleeting. Things will always tend back toward the drab, mundane, or stressful. It is how you perceive these situations that can have life changing implications. You can get curious, or become bored. You can accept, and do what you can, or you can get stressed out. To no longer try to escape, but to instead settle into this moment, just as it is, brings use peace. As the title of this article and an excellent book by Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Wherever you go, there you are.”