Miles, music, and free-form meditation

A few months ago, Tony updated Panrimo’s blog with a post about “Tony time,” when he’s able to pause the hectic pace of life and appreciate some solitude. While obviously specific to his own experiences, the desire to disentangle ourselves from the intertwining threads that hold our lives together is universal. The frequency that we require these moments varies from person to person, and even then will differ during the phases of our lives. However, detaching, digesting, and assessing is inevitable; it happens whether we invite it or not. While Tony had planned (successfully) to find his center in la pampa, I began to glimpse mine in a less orthodox setting: the open road.

During the past weeks, I’ve been traveling around the midwest attending education abroad fairs, finding pleasure in the interactions with both students and university faculty alike. However, these trips entail hundreds of miles to travel, which translates into hours upon hours of driving. Typically on long drives, I find pleasure exploring music that’s piqued my interest at that moment. However, after listening to the same albums a few times on a single journey, I welcome a little silence.

You’d be surprised how quickly your mind expands when there’s nothing to distract it: you can’t browse YouTube or Facebook (safely), and there are only so many people you can call. After a few minutes of silence, the hum of the road and the fluctuating plains cut with roads and the occasional river create a soothing atmosphere (having the ability to control the interior temperature helps too). You’re aware of every moment, yet time still slides through you, and you find yourself thirty miles further than you had been in the blink of an eye. You follow the gentle curves of the road, while your thoughts follow their own course, meandering at points, while other times striking in rapid succession, with each consecutive thought building upon the last until you’ve lost yourself down the rabbit-hole. You end up considering the value of relationships, human interaction, and social theory when you had started with “I wonder how large that field of corn is.”

Each drive has transported me physically, mentally, and, occasionally, emotionally. I end up in a different place every time, sometimes where I’d expected, other times less so. Instead of worrying about how much longer I have left in the car, I’m allowed to examine my emotions, my actions, my relationships, and my life. Conclusions are sometimes reached; other times, I can only marvel at the random string of events that have lead me to where I am. Sometimes I find solace, while other times I’m disquieted, having learned nothing.

But that’s one of the reasons that I value these self-imposed periods of free-style meditation. Rather than being influenced by external sources or lulled into a false sense of comfort and complacency, I’m given time to explore my own psyche, the good, the bad, and the strange. The thoughts and concerns I tuck into the recesses of my brain reintroduce themselves, and I can entertain them at my leisure. Sometimes, they’re present the entire drive; other times only a few minutes. They can be comforting, they can be strange, they can be disconcerting, or even painful. But in the end, these thoughts are inherently mine, and it’s always good to get reacquainted with myself; I’m surprised by the things I learn.

So where do you meet your psyche?

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