Musical Pillars at Vitthala Complex, Hampi, India.
In this last year, I have been fortunate to have visited several UNESCO World Heritage sites and other energetically powerful places. These trips are an integral part of my work as an earth sensitive (see Are You An Earth Sensitive And Why You Need to Know). However, apart from the energy work involved, these journeys also enable rest and introspection.
Natural surroundings provide us with a deeply healing respite from the storms of life. Also, as we reconnect with our Self and our environment, the significance and meaning that we attach to our individual challenges undergo a sea-change.
Similarly, historical and heritage sites can also have an interesting effect on our perspectives. Each UNESCO and ASI site I have visited so far has been unique and most clearly deserving of our appreciation and preservation. The symbolism and what the makers attempted to convey highlight diverse human obsessions, from the personal ego of a ruler wanting to leave his mark, to the universal questions around the meaning of life. They indicate what was valued in the collective and was the prevalent culture at that point in time.
What is most striking is that they all remind us that great art and architecture demand immense dedication, skill, thought, unsung effort, co-operation and often, much time. The fruit of such undertakings impacts generations to come. Such projects are living testaments to the fact that man seeks to understand his role in the world; that for generations, people have attempted to do something meaningful with the time and breath gifted to them.
Whether or not we agree with the values(such as personal glorification, or idol worship) embodied here, these impressive, physical forms can easily prod us to to examine our own values – to reassess our individual place in a far broader context, and to reprioritise our relationships with the divine, the planet, and all living beings.
How and why does travel to such sites deepen our self-inquiry?
Well, for one thing, what such structures highlight is that in other times, and in places yet untouched by the global standardisation of modern, urban life – the meaning and use of time, space and other resources can be remarkably different from what we are accustomed to.
Immediate gratification, quick results, individual credit, fame and rich returns(at least for the artisans), all these do not seem to have been prioritised as greatly as they commonly are today. In many cases, one would not even live long enough to have the satisfaction of completion and closure. (Gaudi’s ‘La Sagrada Familia’ at Barcelona is a more recent project that illustrates this. Under construction for over 132 years, it yet has a long way to go.) The focus seems to be more on continual dedication and excellence, rather than on reaping the fruits of labour.
Similarly, as objective viewers of a distant past, the disrespect, violence and destruction that we can cause in the name of our beliefs and allegiances also become clear. Seeing the consequences of the dramatic destruction of a rich city like Hampi (or the careless damage brought about thanks to the abuse/neglect by the victors at sites around the world) force us to face our own inner demons. These locations showcase the atrocities that we as humans may commit when we perceive a threat to our way of being.
As individuals, we are all capable of demonstrating similar levels of creativity and destruction. It is our awareness that determines which potential we draw forth. These places and their historical narrative naturally provoke questions such as:
- Why are we doing what we are doing?
- What are we doing with the time and talents given to us?
- What would we rather be doing instead?
- How well are we using our resources?
- How are we impacting the world?
- Are we leaving it a better place?
- What do we need to stop doing?
- What do we need to start doing now?
- Are we in sync with our natural surroundings, our community, the cycles of life?
I could go on, but then, I am an introspective writer after all.
These days, popular travel tends to be ambitious, micromanaged and super-packed. The emphasis is frequently on quantity rather than quality, with the focus being on visiting the largest number of famous landmarks. Local flavour, ways of being and philosophies are often missed by us choosing to remain with our habits of food, language and people, even in foreign locales.
Such constraints on time, venues and local interaction cost us dearly: For too often, we return having done little more than having ‘checked-in’ at the different locations.
It is no ‘Secret’ that a conscious intent significantly influences what we notice and experience.
My invitation to you is to set out with the resolution to travel with awareness. That instead of being swept off-centre by the sensory overload, to decide to use the sights and impressions to draw out newer aspects of yourself. To open yourself to not just new sights, but new energies and experiences. To deliberately include free time in your schedule, so that when you feel called to linger in a place, you have the bandwidth to do so.
Allow yourself the luxury of contemplation, surfacing thoughts and emotions that you have been repressing or denying. Welcome the opportunities to sit in leisurely silence at sacred places, processing and evolving effortlessly. Let the meaningful questions take precedence for a change.
In my experience, such conscious travel leaves us with a far richer experience than otherwise.
External wanderings can help us discover and express newer parts of our self. I know I return changed by every trip. Perhaps this post will gently remind you to explore newer dimensions in your own travels as well.
Wishing you de-lightful and meaningful journeys!
Stained Glass Windows at La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain.