The words ring out into the empty kitchen so clearly that for a second, I think someone is standing in the room with me; but the voice is too familiar, a quiet whisper that only speaks up when I least want to hear it.
My hands rest in the murky dishwater in the sink – the sink that belongs to a friend whose spare room I’ve momentarily made home in. It’s the fourth ‘home’ I’ve attempted to make in eleven months. My life, all four boxes of it, still stacked in the boot of my car anticipating the next move.
“What if the van is just Australia repeating itself?”
This time last year I tore apart the life I had created to travel to the other side of the world and make another home out of another place.
Before leaving, I spent months convincing myself and everyone else that I wasn’t running from, but running towards. This time was different. Leaving everything in England and beginning a new life a thousand miles away, embracing the wanderlust that I’d carried with me forever – this was it, this would heal everything.
Days were largely spent training in an ashram surrounded by thick, Australian swampland, the rest of my time consumed by wandering barefoot around a free-spirited town bordering an everlasting ocean.
I danced between pursuing a life-altering ancient practice and immersing myself in the country I’d longed to set roots in far before I knew what home really felt like.
But as graduation came closer, in the quiet moments between teaching and practice, an all-too familiar feeling began to resurface. The crippling ache of uncertainty coiled within my chest, nestling itself beside me as I lay awake at night. What now?
I busied myself with studying, with nights spent dancing under full moons in drum circles, with afternoons of salt-stained lips and sun-warmed skin. Yet somewhere across the oceans, a door was left open, swinging in a breeze that once felt like wanderlust, but now more like homesickness, biting at my ankles with every onward step.
Barely days later, I was airborne once again with the same swelling feeling my chest had experienced just a few months ago, yet this time I was running in the opposite direction. The promise of possibility, of a destination on the horizon breeding within me an addictive need to never stay in one place for more than a breath or two.
And now I’m here, one year on, still fixated by a dream of travel and escape, only this time based on four wheels and an open road. But who’s to say that this isn’t just another way to be taught the same lesson, disguised as something different? The same pattern of constantly moving toward a destination that, upon arriving, only ever seems to grow further into the distance; the promise and pull of possibility seemingly more endearing than the destination itself.
Born into the race to catch up with the life that is seemingly already one step ahead of us, we are taught from our youngest years not to let our dreams escape into the distance.
But lately I’ve been wondering if it is not necessarily the destination that counts.
Instead I am learning that there is motion in standing still; that there is growth in the static, in the white noise in the background we’re all ever-attempting to run from.
Not motion in the form of placing one foot in front of the other, or in train tickets, passports, in keys to new homes and “end goals” on the horizon, but instead a quieter kind of motion. The steady motion of pistons churning, of an inner clock ticking as life turns over like a smoothly running engine - something we so often forget is always running, even when the lights at the crossroad change to red.
And it is here fingers start tapping, legs start bouncing and impatience rises, for what’s the use in finding stillness in this ever-flowing world we live in?
But perhaps, the art in this is not just continuously running towards unknown horizons, but finding comfort in the spaces between them – the space between Then and Now that we so easily mistake for limbo but is actually a beautiful thing called Present. Life unfolding around us whilst we are constantly distracted by what once was or what may yet be.
Perhaps, sitting at the red light of a crossroad is in fact the ebb in the flow of life that allows us to pause for a moment and make sure we’re turning the wheel in the right direction. Perhaps this moment of stillness is really an interval in which to notice the things that blur passed the window as we race onwards, from or toward, barely taking a second to inhale the air around us with a full-ribbed breath.
So tell me, when was the last time you were still? Content, with a clearness of mind, thinking of nothing but being where you are in this moment? Perhaps next time you reach a stoplight at a crossroad - instead of sitting with your foot on the clutch waiting to carry on off into the distance - put the handbrake on, roll the window down, and take in what surrounds you. Feel the rhythm of your heart beating in your eardrums.
Be here, really here – in presence, in now.