Entering the New Country (change is difficult but sometimes necessary)
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In about a month I will travel with my three small children to Costa Rica. I have never traveled to Costa Rica, nor to anywhere in Central America so I am looking forward to it with both anticipation and a little bit of anxiety (especially with the precious cargo I will be taking along). I have traveled much in my adult life, crossing borders into new countries dozens of times, but never with anything beyond the clothes, laptop and camera in my bag, so this will be a new adventure. My husband and I want to instill a certain virtue in our children. They will be attending a Spanish immersion school and soaking in another culture for almost 6 weeks. Our hope is that this begins a ritual of summer immersions for them that will continue until they take their first plane trip on their own someday to a destination of their choosing. There is something about learning to travel (versus being a tourist) that brings an important skill into our lives. It is about letting go of what you know, embracing what is new/foreign and gaining the perspective of the "other". Mark Twain said it best, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
But there is a principle of travel that we can all embrace whether we get to leave our own borders or not. It is the principle of having the courage to leave things behind that no longer serve us and embracing a new way, a new path to a better life. It is a broadening of our horizons and it takes practice. It is not a change that happens all at once. Henry Nouwen uses this metaphor of crossing borders to describe how we change, how we evolve into the people we are called to become, "It seems that you keep crossing and recrossing the border. For a while you experience real joy in the new country. But then you feel afraid and start longing again for all you left behind, so you go back to the old country. To your dismay, you discover that the old country has lost its charm. Risk a few more steps into the new country, trusting that each time you enter it, you will feel more comfortable and be able to stay longer." As we practice new disciplines on our mat stretching our bodies and minds in new ways, this is very much how this practice works on us. There is a gradual process of acculturation that allows us to see the world with more mindfulness. It allows us to move through our world with less reactivity. We treat ourselves with patience and non-judgment and remain open to the new land we are exploring. This new land, this new way will change us if we allow it to become part of us.