Early summer this year was a time for travel. Family travel. Across the continental US to a family wedding and then across the Atlantic to visit with my parents. From there I turned around and headed back West to meet my wife on the US West Coast for a couple of days of r’n’r in West Marin, before finally crossing the Pacific again back to Maui.
I’ve mused on my micro.blog website that despite all of my travels when I was younger, I feel that of late I have turned into more of a homebody. It seems harder to get me out of the house to travel. Once I am out on the road I am fine. I enjoy seeing and experiencing new places and cultures, but that initial push seems to take more of an effort these days.
Once out on the road and moving across the world I am moving from one place to another. With those moves come changes in rhythm, changes in the feel of a place. I have come to recognize that on arrival somewhere there is silent need in me for a settling in time. Why ‘silent’? Because it is not something that I overtly speak to. It is not a need that I demand by shouting out that, “I want my settling in time!" But as I have come to understand myself better, it is a need that I have noticed within me. I see how I feel more complete within myself if I allow myself to gently take in the new environment.
During my years living in South Wales, initially in a Buddhist community and then next door to that community, I came to experience the world around me in a way that was new to me. I had stopped after three years of travel. Distractions were less. Life was set up in the Retreat Centre to encourage awareness - self-awareness and awareness of the space that one was inhabiting. I started to notice and become aware of my surroundings in a subtler way, noticing the rhythms and pulse of where I was living. Even within one area of land, the perception of one corner might be quite different to another. I would come away from those experiences with a sense of intimacy with place and with that came a sense of wholeness and being grounded.
A need for that intimacy has stayed with me.
Even when I went on travels with my Buddhist Teacher, there was time spent moving into the new place. The trips might at times have been demanding and busy but within, because of this importance put on awareness, there was still quietness and space available to feel my way into our new home.
Feeling my way
As I have developed an awareness and understanding of who I am, I’ve put this need to feel and sense my way into a new space down to my highly sensitive nature.
Put simply, I don’t necessarily settle in quickly - though most everyone will be unaware of this going on in me. Unless I’m on total burnout, I do not give any external display to this need. So I function as would be expected of me. If it is busy, like at the East Coast wedding, I move into doing what needs to be done, socializing, unpacking, catching up with people. But amongst those those expected activities, I adopt an almost ninja like attitude. I look to find some time amidst the noise of activity to just be with the new environment. That can either be sneaking off for a moment, or being alone with myself in the middle of the busyness.
Where the struggle can set in for me is finding myself in a situation where I am being given a running commentary of what I am looking out on. Exclamations such as, “Isn’t this so beautiful?” “Just look at that.” And ironically, “Isn’t this so peaceful.” For me the conversation in that moment kills the peacefulness. I can feel my head dealing with a dustbowl of noise - the noise being spoken to me, and the noise in my head wishing that it was quieter - I spoke about dealing with such situations here, but I did not say that it was always easy!
When I am struggling to deal with this noise, I find myself in a conundrum. I don’t want to hurt another’s feelings by appearing standoffish. But the struggle is real. The overwhelm and exhaustion that comes with the noise is tangible. I can really feel as though I am fighting to keep my head above water, while wanting to keep my host or traveling companion happy.
At the end of the day, I do my best. I’ll find time to be alone when I can - a quick unneeded run to the toilet, turn in for the night a little earlier or later (as the case may be), head out for a short solitary walk if the situation allows.
A learning reflection
There is one thing that I do know - in time I will settle into the place. Time spent in an environment is time spent deepening the relationship. The intimacy will strengthen. There are times when the quietness that I so much enjoy won’t be available to me, and experience has taught me to be OK with that - if I can’t change it, complaining certainly won’t help - but self care is also important and so when I need some quiet time, I look to take it.
But overall, just knowing and acknowledging my needs is a release. Living in ignorance of what I am struggling with is difficult. Without an understanding of my temperament, I have no perspective other than judging myself against others and how I have been told I should be in the world. Educating myself on other possible ways of being in the world allows me to give myself permission - permission to say to myself, “you are OK. You are doing your best, and each time that you find yourself floundering can be a learning experience on how better to handle the situation next time."