56. That Place We Sometimes Go

Good morning and welcome to your fifty-sixth meditation. There is a place that all of us go sometimes that is not located in the world outside of us, but within us. Indeed, it can make the external world feel alien to us or even hostile. It is a place of deep feeling, where inner sensations like anxiety, sadness, sorrow, reflectiveness, frustration, and sometimes anger are heightened. To go there is to be overwhelmed by these sensations, to be absorbed in them. Time works differently in this place, often stretching out so that notions of yesterday and tomorrow can seem distant and a little nonsensical. Days can feel like weeks. Weeks like months. And it can be difficult imagining yourself not in that place, whether it’s trying to remember just what it was like back in the world when you were there or anticipating ever going back. And yet, all the while you are living in the world with everyone else, going through the same motions, doing the same work, speaking the same words as you’ve always practised, pretending that you are not somewhere else.

There’s no doubt; going to that place is hard. It makes everything in normal life hard. A task as simple as getting groceries can feel Sisyphean. The need to get out of bed can feel like a punishment. But taking that trip, though we rarely elect to do it, is invaluable. First off, there is the cliche that the rough times can act as a kind of foil for the good times, providing us with a point of contrast to illuminate how truly good the good times are. This is absolutely true, if a little simplistic. If we let ourselves go to that place, which really can feel like an alien world that is totally separate from everyday life, we are allowed the gift of perspective. We can gaze upon the “swing, tramp, and trudge”, as Virginia Woolf put it, from a critical distance, temporarily free of the illusions that we all regularly, cooperatively uphold. The illusions of self-importance, of the meaning of status, wealth, markets, nations, etc. And to be in a place where the immense power of these illusions can’t reach you, if only for a moment, is to be in a position of empowerment. There is also beauty there. There is a richness and profundity in the feeling you are able to experience absent the regular controls of the ego. Finally, and somewhat counterintuitively, going to this place can actually bring you closer to others. To be there is a deeply personal and introspective experience, but because of this, to share it with someone is to invite them into that most intimate and vulnerable part of you. Your confidant will probably have visited this place themselves; and the empathy that they show you can act as a pathway back to the world. Because as much as there is to be gained from going to this place, you have to come back. And it is when you do return that the lessons you have learned from being away become most valuable. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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