Another bit of John O’Donohue’s poem…
“…When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.
A journey can become a sacred thing…”
I think I assumed that by spending most time in the two homestays in Vietnam, I’d be spending quite a lot of time with people I’d never met before. I did spend some time with people, particularly at Mai’s wonderful Homestay in Ninh Binh, but in Hoi An actually apart from the tours I did, I didn’t meet anyone else at the Homestay (to be fair, I spent very little time there though, and most of that asleep, in the shower or talking with Dzung!).
I mention this because I sometimes find it difficult to carry silence with me when I am surrounded by people, much though I love to meet them. So perhaps to my surprise I did find myself carrying “a new silence” with me. And it was new, because of something O’Donohue says earlier in the poem:
“…When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home…”
It feels a bit like when someone is coming to visit your home and suddenly you look at it with the eyes of a stranger, and perhaps it makes you tidy up or have a quick hoover.
When you travel, you begin to wonder how these different people see you? And how do you see them? What is essential? And with all the challenges of language and unknown differing cultural expectations, you may ask how you want them to experience you. So when, as usually happens, people receive you with joy and interest, often ready to help you, and perhaps they say something that shows they also have struggled like you, or found joy like you, it is an almost overwhelmingly beautiful thing. Shared humanity.
I have found so much of this in my encounters with ordinary people everywhere. And I am so grateful for each one.
And this is a thought in process, but I think I can say something similar (though different) about how I’ve encountered animals, plants, trees, hills, sea and other non human beings on my travels. How do these respond and react to me? I find I want to show them respect. I’ve used very simple body prayers in a few places to silently do that. For me, this is not about worshipping the environment. It’s about honouring it, and the One who made us all.
This journey has indeed been a sacred thing. And it’s not over yet!
I have a whole week in Singapore! Imagine that…a whole week in once place (oh the relief)! Then next week I will fly to Switzerland for the last leg of my three month odyssey. Here’s to the sacred journey 🙏 🌍