In the ebb and flow of life, we come on times of difficulty and strain. When that happens, the common habit is to retreat into mindlessness – to sink into a television program, to drink, to waste time and money in unwarranted purchases, or some similar diversion tactic.
Yet, such a recourse doesn’t offer balm. It’s just distraction. When we emerge, we are perhaps a little better able to cope with our struggles… but we haven’t gained much perspective or healed significantly, so we’re likely to become immediately exhausted again.
A better approach is to go back. You can seek out the places of calm and simplicity you found earlier in your life, rediscovering them and recovering yourself in the process. This is an old wisdom… a basic human motion of retracing our steps at various crossroads in our lives.
Also, he often went back to places he had been at earlier times in his life, just to see if the places would seem the same. In most cases, because he himself had changed, the places did not seem exactly as he remembered them, but there were exceptions. The simplest places, where there was only rock and sky, or water and rock, changed the least. When he felt disturbances in his life, as all men would, Famous Shoes tried to go back to one of the simple places, the places of rock and sky, to steady himself and grow calm again.
Larry McMurtry, Comanche Moon
The garden, the woods, the desert, the beach, the sea. Natural, simple scenes where we found earlier peace… there’s a bit of ourselves left in such places. We can rejoin those bits, or they can rejoin us… looking back isn’t just an old man’s game, but a way of recovery and healing.
Part of the joy of mindfulness is perceiving the simplicity in our current scenes. Part of the joy of meditation is the simple inner landscape we behold when we sink into it. These are new inner simple places at first, but offer the same recovery and healing as the outward scenes of nature.
Going back to the simple places, outer or inner, is a journey. Perhaps it’s a minor quest, or perhaps it’s a major one. Whether outer or inner, there is distance to travel that involves time for healing. When we return to calm places we’ve been to before, we usually also soothe the scars we’ve acquired since.
Have the pretty skies paled to grey? Has the company of your friends and family become a burden? Do you feel as though the weight of duties has become a meaningless cycle? Does the road call?
If so, maybe it’s time for you to go back.