Sunday, 14 March 2010

Travel, Synchronicity, Metaphor and Pink Leaves

I was on a train from Vienna to Bratislava when I read Dubravka Ugrešic's remark [from her book Nobody's Home] that I've quoted here: '...reality itself isn't so stable. It too, travels.' I knew what she meant and this morning I am experiencing what it means as I know – quite suddenly it seems – that whether you are travelling or not, reality – or your perception of it – can be at a standstill, grounded - or on the move. Travel it seems to me, has two components, and one of them is certainly the logistical, planning one, there are certain things you need to do, in order to go from where you are, to somewhere else. But the other component has to do with an under- or overcurrent, which may hinder or assist this movement from here to elsewhere. If it assists you then the journey will take place, but if it does not, there will be various invisible but real barriers to any setting off. Sometimes the assisting currents are strong leaving you with no doubt that all will take place with little effort on your part, with even the logistics taking place smoothly, but sometimes there is a touch-and-go feel to it so that you cannot be sure until the last moment which energy current will prevail, and while this lends excitement to the journey it also has a quality of insecurity, and a sense of risk-taking, even at times almost danger. And of course, sometimes it is dangerous.

Actual travel nudges you towards metaphor, so that the journey of one's life – which always is a journey whatever you do or wherever you do or do not travel to – by becoming an actual journey can also lift you into the place where the actuality joins up with the metaphor. And by metaphor I don't mean something intangible, or belonging only to the imagination, but I mean our other mind, which could be called the metaphorical mind or the imaginal mind. It is actually another perception, but one which we tend not to be so aware of during the day as we go about the daily tasks where we need to be focussed on what we are doing. Daily mind or la quotidienne tends to be in the driver's seat during waking hours, but imaginal mind has only gone into background, and if we relax focus, we are aware of it – in our daydreams, our spontaneous thoughts, a song that springs to mind for no apparent reason, providing a soundtrack to our lives, this journey we are on. When coincidence or synchronicity occurs – some outer mirroring of what is going on in our inmost thoughts or feelings – this can remind us, sometimes quite strongly, that this other mind or other way of perceiving, is present even if we hadn't been aware of it until that moment. We all know the way that someone can 'come into' our minds, and then the phone goes, and it's them and we say – I was just thinking about you! Today for example, I was on the bus and was talking to someone who got on and sat down beside me. After a short conversation I asked him if he was getting off at Galashiels. You're reading my mind he said, I was just thinking about that – if I get off at Galashiels I can get a lift back with my wife, but I could go on to Selkirk, there's a good butcher there, or I could go to Hawick market.

Last night, I experienced another coincidence. I'd just written the posting that included Asklepios bringing a dream and then I went to Robert Moss's blog, where I found his latest posting was about a healing dream brought by Asklepios!

The metaphorical mind reigns supreme of course, in dreams – where we usually are not aware that we are dreaming – in other words, we are as immersed in the unravelling of the story or narrative, and as forgetful that our daily mind exists, as we are forgetful during the day that our other, dreaming mind, is present and with us. The gesture of setting off – whether by boarding a bus or train or ferry – can be a way of linking you to the ongoing travel that the daily mind is so involved in. This can result in a greater awareness of the expansive mind that we tend to shut out with our intense focus on our tasks – and so bring a sense of engagement and connection with it. So that a journey can take us not just to a different physical and external location but can establish a link with that 'other' that is our self. Our other self. So that the actual journey links with the metaphorical journey.

This for me is the fascination of travel. The movement, the rocking of the bus or boat, inducing a rhythmic almost mesmeric motion that encourages the appearance of that other perception. And then you get the arrival too – the fascination of the differentness of wherever it is you find yourself in – different light, different language, landscape, rhythm – not to mention heat! There is also, as well as setting off for somewhere different, the leaving behind of all that has occupied and immersed you, like throwing off a weight of concerns. The fact that these will emerge again when you get back is not the point. Especially since they will be different, as you will be different, you will have been changed by your experience.

Linking the two 'minds' - or the two perceptions – is something that I was told a few years ago in a dream, was supremely important. The dream used images, as dreams do, and metaphors, which I wrestled with for some time. I understood the meaning but did not know how to apply this in my own life. It occurs to me now, as I write this, that this is what the dream meant, this linking up of the two perceptions, so that inner and outer interpenetrate each other, for the dreaming mind necessarily connects us to everything that is all around us. 'What is within us is all around us' as Rilke said. When waking mind and dreaming mind are engaged in a 'constant conversation' as Rumi put it, there is no separation, no walls or barriers, between us and ourselves, between us and everything around us.

The bus today took me through the forested hills of southern Scotland, in bright sunshine. There are of course no leaves out yet on the trees, but many of them have a greenish tinge to their bare branches, some of them have a purplish pinkish colour, anticipating the vivid colours of their leaves. Some leaves really are pink when they first come out. The young leaves of a maple in my garden are pink and reddish-maroon at first and only turn green later.

Today I crossed one border, from Scotland to England – and visited the town of Carlisle, last seen in the freezing temperatures of January, when I spent hours in the train station, watching the changing displays announcing trains which were due, and then would dematerialize. But today the sun was shining and a young woman outside the bookshop handed me a plastic cup fullof chocolates – for Mother's Day, she said, smiling.

Carlisle scenes

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