“Wherever you go, there you are.”
The first time I heard this quote I laughed out loud…”well isn’t that just as obvious as the sky is blue!”
But one day, under a sky that was not so much “blue” as it was the color of a robin’s egg, I stretched out on my sarong under the most perfect palm tree in all of Thailand. There I sighed, closed my eyes, and thought to myself, “ahhhh….I’m in paradise.” With the contented smile of self satisfaction I began (as I often do) to recall in detail those other blissful moments in my life where I had expressed this same statement; sitting on a stone wall overlooking a wild sea in Greece, basking in the sun on a rock in Spain, sitting on the jungle floor while lost in the maze of Mayan temples in Guatemala, riding on the bow of a boat cruising the Caribbean waters, sitting on the dock of the San Diego shore, walking barefoot on the grass in a park in Oregon, tucked under layers of familiar warmth in my bed at home, crosslegged on a velvet pillow at a Buddhist retreat center in Australia…
And then I wonder.
How ironic is it — that upon arrival in Barbados or Hawaii or Thailand or some other “picture-perfect-paradise” found on the face of countless postcards — that the first thing a person does is lay down and close their eyes? Maybe paradise has nothing to do with palm trees or boats or Mayan temples or aqua waters or velvet pillows. For although those things are lovely, doesn’t their real value exist only in their relationship to our mind? What is the sun without the appreciation of the feel of its warmth on your skin? What is the jungle without taking joy in its overwhelming smell of life? What is the sea without feeling the break of the waves spraying your face? What is a bed, if it’s not under the roof of people you love dearly? What is a velvet pillow, if a mind is not free of sadness, anger, resentment, guilt and envy? They are nothing. They are nothing without your mind and without your love. Some people may still point at me and say, “but look…it’s because of the places you’ve gone and seen that you’ve found paradise.” But that’s not true. I didn’t find paradise on a beach. I found paradise in the pursuit of dreams. And it doesn’t matter if the dream is traveling around the world, or teaching children, or being a doctor, or writing a book, or building a house, or making a piece of art. Paradise is found where ever a person can close their eyes, look inward, and smile in self satisfaction of a potential being pursued.
Or at least…that’s my take on it. 🙂
Now I can find peace in the fact that “everywhere I go, there I’ll be.” And who knows? There could actually be a day when I’ll settle down in one spot for more than two weeks, and should that day ever come to existence — I will take great comfort in knowing that paradise is not measured in “miles away” but rather, is a destination found on my own mental map, with a boarding pass that requires only that I close my eyes.
The Buddhist retreat center was a bit of a revolutionary mark in the timeline of sol’s spiritual development. Those revelations will come to post in time. In the *current* meantime however, do not worry about me shedding my backpack for robes. Just as I will never again call myself “Catholic” and “Christian”, neither will I ever check any of the other little boxes listed under “religious affiliation.” From now on, I explore the schools of religious thought, take what I can find meaningful and applicable to my life — and run like hell with it. And in my hand, or rather, round my neck, I have adopted and ran with something new, for which I give thanks to Buddhism for letting me borrow;
It is the “endless” or “eternal” knot. My interpretation is that it symbolizes the interdependence of the universe. I wear it to remind myself of my personal need to provide and practice endless and eternal compassion for all persons and things that exist within it. And it reminds me that wisdom is found in the intelligence of nature and needs only an alert mind to be recognized and realized.
(And speaking of endless compassion… The ONLY reason I wish I were in the States today, is so that I could be there to protest war. I do what I can as an individual and as a American abroad, but this is one of the few times in my life that I would really like to express my rights as an American in America. I send endless energy to those people representing my place. Thank you.)