After only a few days in York, I experienced a life-changing moment.
I was standing on the balcony of our flat, looking out over the river and watching the passersby, enjoying the peace... and suddenly I very vividly said to myself, If I could stay here, I could have a whole new life and I could be a whole new person.
The unexpected force of this idea actually startled me for a second, and I just sat with it a while, but it didn't go away. The idea of starting over and redoing everything seemed like the greatest thing a person could ask for. I asked myself if I was really prepared to give up everything and everyone I know in order to live here... and I deeply believed that I was.
I was rattled by this perception of being so utterly dissatisfied with my life, with my actual self, that I had no desire to salvage any of it, and wondered how this could be. Wouldn't I have been experiencing this deep dissatisfaction before, in my day-to-day life at home? Am I really that indifferent, that unattached, to the things I thought matter to me? Did I really not want to be who I am? And I found myself wondering, Who do I want to be? What do I want to be?
A true existential dilemma, I thought....
These ideas stayed with me strongly for days afterward, and to be honest they have never really left in the month-plus since that happened. But recently, in a meeting with Barbara, she cast the experience in a new light for me. To her, it seemed like a spontaneous flash of the Zen concept of non-attachment
: a realization that my self is not made up of or defined by the things connected to it. My likes and loves, my desires, my tendencies, the things and people in my life, are not actually me. Some of them are an expression (or merely one potential expression) of me... but my core self is not actually attached to or constrained by any of them. What I had was a moment of experiencing my pure raw self... and she got me to recognize the sense of freedom that came with that. She said that such experiences are kinda common during travel, and she got me to realize they are good and not really threatening to anything at all.
But she did also get me to see it as a call to examine my life. And I became more aware that every moment of my life is chosen by me. I began asking how many of those choices are done on autopilot, and how many are made mindfully... and what are the ramifications of changing how I make these choices.
.... still working on this... but I will come back to it...