It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon in Byron and I thought I would respond to the handful of people who have asked about the decision to go to Byron Bay instead of straight on to India.
Often you make a decision to change course in your travel itinerary or in life, not because of any well-reasoned plan, but because it feels right. My decision to come down to Australia felt right. It was not reasoned. There is no grid with pros and cons to help justify the decision. But for whatever reason having been in Australia for three weeks, it was the right decision for me.
When I set out from San Francisco I tried to articulate why I was traveling. I even tried to craft a couple of posts about it, but nothing ever materialized. In short, I hoped that the travel, the yoga, the change would catalyze some great transformation. I would find peace and love in my soul. I would overcome all of those obstacles in my yoga practice. I would drop 15 pounds and I would look 20 years younger… Well just in that list you can see why articulating the reasons for the trip was so hard. Buried in all of those transformations were the knots of problems built up over years of dealing with daily life.
Travel has both a positive and negative side when dealing with these kinds of “knots”. The positive side is that it removes you from the environment that helped form them. It sets you lose to form new habits, create new disciplines, develop new mental and emotional musculature. But travel also creates a whole new set of distractions that hide those areas you were hoping it would transform. In Bali, you take Indonesian lessons, you learn about the current gossip in Mysore, you shop, you always have something to occupy your time. You do not have to look closely at yourself or those tough spots you want transformed. For mental distraction, nothing can beat Sydney. Where all of the illusion creating machinery of the West is in high gear. If you buy these jeans you’ll be sexier, if you eat at this restaurant you’ll be cooler… When I was in Bali, I could easily spend an afternoon planning different excursions around Mysore. The trip to India would have been the ultimate distraction.
So, why Byron? Well, first there’s Dena who knows my practice and has insight into what physically, mentally and emotionally transpires on my mat every morning. That in itself I think was the kernel that posed the question, “why not go to Byron?” In addition, Byron has three layers to it. There is the very rich million dollar home community that you see in town on occasion, but mostly you don’t interact with. There are the surfer/backpacker tourists who you see everyday, but don’t interact with because they are their own isolated subcultures. Finally there is the “original” Byron Bay. There are a lot of ex-hippies, but more frequently there are a lot of escapees from the rat race of corporate Australia and America and Europe. The guy that owns the local vegan restaurant is an ex-sales exec from Melbourne. That is the Byron Bay that I am spending time in.
In the “original” Byron Bay, there are art house movies, but not a lot of TV. There is yoga, but not a lot of glossy magazines. There is time – unstructured and unfilled. Now, in all honesty, the first three days I was here I thought what in the world was I going to do with myself. I will have to go back to Sydney at some point to keep from being bored out of mind. But by the fourth day, I had settled into a bit of a routine. The “original” Byron created enough space to allow the knots that I wanted transformed to re-surface. What was I going to do about these? Was travel going to untangle this mess? It doesn’t take long to start seeing all the knots linked to each other in one big busy ball. But, how do you deal with this? Is this what a shrink would do for me? You quickly realize that they will not untangle themselves no matter how long I am away and how far I travel. They will take some serious work to untangle. Some discipline, some work, some practice.
So, I didn’t plan or understand why Byron first, then Mysore. At the time, it was a feeling and a level of trust and comfort in Dena. After two weeks here, Byron has helped me at least begin to remember what and where the knots are and even in some cases to know how they are inter-related. In the end they may never get untangled. I may just have to recognize that they are there and with discipline, work and practice live around them.
I am not sure that I will post more details about these knots. They are personal and it is uncomfortable to go into in any detail. But I may give a progress report on the untangling before I board the plane to Mysore in a couple of weeks.
If you were looking for more of a travelogue version of this post, i.e. where to stay and what to do in Byron Bay, I will post something more along those lines in a couple of days.