I once heard that traveling cures the soul. But I think it not only cures the soul but also feeds the soul. When you travel, it doesn’t matter if it is far away or near, you come into contact with different places, different people and different cultures.
In the rhythm of the life, we are extremely focused on our life and don’t have time to look around and see other things. Travel makes it possible. You can compare traveling to speaking a new language. Studies show that if you are speaking a new language you are about to inherit the culture and the identity of the people that are speaking the same language. I think traveling comes very close to this concept but if only we can be here and now.
I hear most of the time people (myself included) say: “This square/ castle/ bridge looks really like …(the place where they are living and have been before.)”. Looking for things that are familiar. This is already a known thing in psychology. The ‘familiarity principle’ of attraction. People are attracted to people and behaviors that are familiar to them because it feels safe and they think that it can’t cause harm. It seems odd but it seems like we do the same with traveling. Even if the whole point of traveling is experiencing new things, we still unconsciously seek familiar things and when we find them, the place becomes more special and attractive.
This dual situation is where you see a new place but your mind is working on finding something which you will relate to, something you know and then when it finds, it is not new anymore. Because your mind has already labeled it as a familiar thing. This can ruin the experience of traveling and when you’re back from your trip, you may end up with the same mind and the same soul. That trip neither cured your soul nor fed your soul. This makes me think about this quote. “If you’re not nowhere, you’re nowhere.” With our bodies we’re somewhere, experiencing new things however our mind may still be at the place that we’re used to…
We can also experience this in yoga. We can do the most difficult poses with our bodies and it seems like that we are enjoying the moment and giving ourselves to it, however, our mind is in somewhere else. So, we are not now here. We are actually nowhere. As soon as we leave the yoga studio, we’re back to our basics and the practice has taught us nothing.
You can see this as a curtain. You can watch the whole world behind the curtain. It will be still worth living and you will see the beauty of the outside world but imagine removing that curtain to see all the beautiful things around you and experience them, live them. If the mind keeps closing the curtain, you will not see the whole benefits of yoga.
However, remember the familiarity principle of attraction. In order to be attracted we need to seek for familiarity and then we feel safe. That’s also the first step towards a beneficial yoga practice. You take the first step by practicing different poses by using only your body. The mind is walking around in different thoughts, not paying attention to new things and focusing on things that you know. You feel safe, so you go on with the practice. At some point the body wants to move on to the new things but now the mind needs to learn to feel safe in unfamiliar things too.
This could take a lot of practice, but once you’re attracted, you will not let go and you will practice more. Because that is the whole point of yoga: setting your mind now here.