This is where I differ from the other commenters, who would go back to the year in a heartbeat. Perhaps I am repressing my emotional reflections on the year past. But I would not go back, because I know there is more ahead. Those riveting moments being a lone figure in the world, traveling without anyone around me knowing who I am or where I am going, are always available when a person ventures outside their usual routes.
I once sat in a bookstore during my one day in Downtown Madison, Wisconsin, and read the entirety of Stephen Collins's graphic novel The Gigantic Beard that was Evil. The story's premise is writ in the title, a man's beard grew so big that it took over an entire city. Its size was so unwieldy a custom structure was made to prop it up. Tourists came, people gawked, it became a moment in recorded history. The end of the book was most memorable. The beard had ceased to grow and had flown off into the celestial universe. Without a freak of nature to behold, the towns people went back to their regular routines, they rarely ventured out of their way. Things were suddenly back to the status quo. Collins wrote, and I paraphrase: they did not walk out of their way to see the beard anymore. Being back in a residential, domestic sphere, makes the daily seem usual, almost mundane. But the routes are endless, and the journeys along them, even the same ones, yield different outcomes.
As the regular, the familiar, keeps on surrounding us, the way humans fend off mindless repetition, of going through the motions in order just to get somewhere, is to observe how the space around us dictates our movements. A teacher I continue to learn from, Daniel Siegel, came up with a mnemonic, YODA: You Observe and Decouple Automaticity. Human beings are gifted with the ability to direct consciousness, to pay attention to the parts of our experience we want to explore further.
I believe that in my own mindfulness meditation practices, this ability to take in the sensations, feelings, concepts, and other non-verbal ways of sensing the world around us, has been a stalwart in the living of life after a year of profound discovery and risk. Sure, nothing can compare with sitting in a rickshaw with all your belongings, your head wrapped in a scarf to fend off dust from the manual sand production occurring amidst a backdrop of untouched lush green vegetation, not knowing where you will sleep that night. The rate of stimuli arising will rarely be as high as it was during many-a-Watson-day, But, with the return to a house where little has changed in my seven years away, I face a reality dulled with the self-induced curse of retaining the status quo.
A fire burns within me as I type these words. A defiance of accepting regular behaviors or conduct, of the people who once taught me certain habits, of the acceptace of relegation the self to being dead for most of the day, and of coming alive primarily within the professional arena. I think my education and travels have continuously placed me in circumstances where I had to confront something I was unfamiliar with, and to do so respectfully, for there was no gain I could predict from such determined study, or was made aware of. In hindsight, I read books without the ability to piece together a holistic narrative, I performed plays without knowing how it all came together, and I found myself in places I had little means of interpreting. And yet it was all a period of deep satisfaction.
To locate the self in a place of not knowing, is a place brimming with possibilities. And to do so within the educational settings I was so fortunate to be a part of, was tantamount to an incubation chamber for integrating my way of coming into relationship with the world as it unfolds around me.
I began this post thinking I would steady my opinion on being a fuller part of this present I find myself a part of, and now I think I have acknowledged the structures that made the departure from automaticity possible. The daily is filled with a deeper feeling of all that encroaches upon my plane of awareness.
A child sings within me. And if I listen closely, I hear all the adult voices differing from it, yet they are the same voice. Something always is yearning, something always is speaking, and sometimes weeping, laughing, and at other times, this something is incomprehensible. There is always something there. Souls need not travel far to find space to expand in natural ways. Once the myriad of experiences have expanded in vast ways, like so offered by the Watson, everything is constantly on fire, some tending, blowing, fanning, may come in handy, but the fire is already lit, and cannot be put out. No one else is me.