“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” – Virginia Woolf
I returned from Reid’s Flat, NSW at about 2pm today. It was a two-day “social media detox” of sorts, as I wrote about here. As it turned out, I had no choice but to unplug anyway, because Reid’s Flat doesn’t exist on the coverage map for my mobile phone provider.
(That’s why I haven’t published for two days. Sorry about that. If it’s any small consolation, please know that I really missed publishing for you. It was like a nagging itch in the back of my mind that I just couldn’t scratch.)
Reflecting on the weekend, it’s a little confronting. I accepted the challenge of being offline readily, and with open arms. I didn’t, however, fully accept the challenge of being present with my wife and children, and using the time to write. I did take some beautiful photos – which I will feature on my photography website in the next few days – but for the most part, I retreated into a book.
I simply swapped one form of escapism for another. I knew I was being a little anti-social this weekend, but I was using the excuse of “taking the opportunity to slow down”. The truth of the matter didn’t hit me until I started writing twenty minutes ago.
I initially intended to write this post about the way some people use a “sea/tree change” to supposedly find inner peace, but effectively use it as a chance to avoid life, and just run away from everything.
The problem is this: when people are isolated for a long period of time, they start to get very fearful of the outside world, and end up getting stuck in a deep, well-worn rut.
Life starts to look the same today as it did yesterday. Learning stops. Passion dries up. Tasks go unfinished, because “there’s always tomorrow”. Most disconcertingly, people start simply existing, and stop really living.
Any peace that we want to find, we must first find within ourselves, in this very moment.
If we search for peace by avoiding life, we stop living. We don’t learn. We don’t grow. We don’t actually produce any of our body of work. And worst of all, we stagnate and start to decay – mentally at first, and then physically.
Is that peace? I doubt it.
I have realised something important about myself, reflecting back over the weekend.
My initial plans to go around Australia with Bel and the kids were predicated on a need to see the country, and travel, and experience a whole bunch of life.
To be fully truthful, though – and my wife called me on this months ago – there was also a strong component of “running away from everything”, and using the trip as an exit-clause on the challenges of modern life.
“Life got you down? Take a holiday!”
I was planning to simply avoid life, believing that it would bring me peace. I did the exact same thing over the weekend.
I know what it means to stagnate and decay, as I have experienced this myself, first hand. My warning signs are a sudden desire to sleep too much, usually followed by, or in conjunction with, getting a cold or flu. The mental decay is the need to withdraw from life, and the physical systems start to follow suit, almost immediately. It’s actually frightening to observe when it happens to your own body.
NOTE: My trip around Australia now has a much bigger mission, so the trip is no longer an exercise in “running away from everything”. Just so you know ;)
Today I have learned that when I start wanting to withdraw from life, it means that I’m not at peace.
I realise now, that my imbalance is a direct result of too many consecutive nights of poor sleep, a lack of mindfulness and gratitude each day, poor food choices, and not enough exercise. If I do all of those things consistently well, I am 100% at peace, and at my best to create amazing work. If not, I have this desire to run away and avoid life.
I’m re-committing to my daily yoga practice, which doubles as exercise and mindfulness. I will make better food choices starting NOW. And I’m going to write a list of ten things I’m grateful for, before I go to sleep.
Have you been avoiding life? What triggers you to lose your inner peace? What are your plans to make peace with yourself and your life starting NOW?
Leave me a comment, or drop me a line.