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How Travelling can break ‘outdated’ mental beliefs and transcend us to a higher consciousness


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The train of thought behind writing this blog is to identify some of the mind created obstacles or ‘psychological disorders’ per say that doesn’t let us live to the fullest, and deprive us of life changing experiences. There is a constant fear of things, a certain incompleteness within, resulting in pain and worry that fills our psyche most of the time. This maligned state of mind, is a direct result of our outdated beliefs and thinking patterns which have been prevalent since our ancestral time. To put simply, one thing our belief system confidently harps on and that is staying in the ‘comfort zone’. Pursuing a comfortable lifestyle which is associated with money and material wealth, and then which instills fear in us for not taking chances, doing something new or taking risks in life.

We also go a step further to declare such closed mediocre mindset, as the general ‘norm’ and which should be followed by everyone. We take a tough stand on it. We protect it and in the process feel jealous and make enemies with ones who try do something new. The way we have been thinking all these years, or conditioned to think is not taking us towards a happy life. It’s not enriching us, expanding us but on the other hand crippling us, contracting us. It’s making us fearful, as opposed to peaceful.

Well, not intending to make this blog a philosophy class :) I would rather share my experiences as a ‘traveler’ which helped me overcome my psychological limitations so to speak.

Below are some beliefs or if I have to use an apt word then ‘mental obstacles’ in our head, that hinder us from growing and expanding, and then how travelling can be used as a tool to overcome these obstacles, as it helped in my case.

Mind Obstacle 1 – The ‘repetitive and limited’ thought patterns

“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands” – Sir Richard Burton

This mind obstacle simply means, thinking same things again and again, on a daily basis and related repetitive action. Our thinking pattern is same and repetitive. This happens when we fall into a routine and don’t change our habits, we don’t expose ourselves to something new. We remain in the same work profile, talking with same office colleagues, same friend circle, same conversations, same ways of having fun (like partying in a pub or going for a movie), listening to same music, and maintaining a repetitive similar lifestyle for a prolonged period of time. A repetitive lifestyle leads to a limited mindset. We become just like ‘pond water’ which is trapped in one place. No flowing, no moving forward. We start living in a boundary and think this little boundary is our world. Eventually we feel disgusted because in reality we are not like this. Being pond water is not our true nature. We are like ‘flowing water’ just like the river flowing from the mountains and joining vast oceans.

Why a repetitive lifestyle is a ‘problem’?

It makes our minds dull and deprive us of our creative energies. We feel bored and lifeless since there is nothing new we are able to think or experience. Understand this, I am not calling our friend circle, watching a movie or our regular office work as dull or a ‘problem’. It is the repetition of things in a pattern, which is the problem. I am not saying to lose our friends and don’t talk with them. But I am proposing to meet new people and increase our circle. I am saying to engage in some new work. Practice some new interests of ours and bring a deviation in our lifestyle. Doing something different which we haven’t done in a while, eating something new, trying watching a new show in TV, is what I insist. But that push can only happen when we are convinced inside that staying in a ‘comfort zone’ is a trap and if we have to grow in life, we have to come out of this trap.

How travelling helped me get that shift?

I engaged in outdoors and adventure rides from time to time, which broke my routine lifestyle that had cropped in my head while working in a 9-5 day job. It broke my limited mindset and thinking patterns. As I traveled distant locations in India, l encountered something which I hadn’t seen in city life. Different set of people, different culture, fashion, food, complimented with abundance of nature. And experiencing all of this was a eye-opener. My boundaries had fallen, my comfort zone got challenged. A realization came that life is so much more than our limited chores in cities.

Travelling helped me encounter point of views coming from varied cultures of people. For example, I couldn’t keep one mindset any longer that eating only ‘vegetarian food’ should be right. I visited villages in Kerela coastal regions enlightening me with the lifestyle and eating habits there, and I was convinced that how local people could be dependent on fish for their survival. In those instances, I understood that being a non-vegetarian is not wrong per say. It’s a survival game for many, and hence completely justified.

As I travelled, I was also exposed to a different category of accommodation which travelers usually choose for a budget living and that was ‘Backpackers hostels’. I had always thought that accommodation meant having a hotel room all by yourself where you get your privacy to do whatever you want, and call room service at your discretion. Though not bashing this way of accommodation which I am still a fan of, I was hugely amazed equally when I saw bunch of backpackers hoarded in hostels for months, with 8-10 people in one room using bed bunks. They never got privacy, never indulged in alone time but were seen to be having an ecstatic time hanging out with new people. Such living is also prevalent in European cities.

*Look at the below pictures for 15-20 seconds. For next 15-20 seconds, forget who you are and what your lifestyle is. Imagine yourself in those places, as if you are living there……

Photos of How Travelling can break ‘outdated’ mental beliefs and transcend us to a higher consciousness 1/13 by Debashish Baidya
*Giant Houseboats, Backwaters, Kerela
Photos of Sri Virupaksha Temple, Hampi, Karnataka, India 1/1 by Debashish Baidya
Photos of Goa, India 1/1 by Debashish Baidya
Photos of Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India 1/1 by Debashish Baidya
Photos of Bhalukpong 1/1 by Debashish Baidya

Mind Obstacle 2 – The ‘superior and inferior’ labeling

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world”– Gustave Flaubert

This psychological condition is usually overlooked. A growing feeling of superiority and inferiority among people, creating a divide at the ‘mind’ level and falling in an illusion that we all are different and separate. Such mediocre mindset comes from association with things like wealth, position, family values, religion, brand, awards and achievements, owning assets like house, car, etc. A mindset mostly seen in cities because the structures and institutions prevalent there, creates a sense of emptiness and incompleteness in individuals, resulting in a never ending hunger for wealth and material acquisition. It’s a highly corrupt system where businesses try to run down each other, by selling more of their products to a crowd who feel ‘incomplete’ without having them. Also things like inflation and peer comparison, puts a certain pressure on an individual to run after high incomes year on year. More money and wealth you have, better off you are. A cut-throat race starts between people resulting in loss of empathy and love. A gap is created if you don’t match up to your peers, and labeling starts to happen. If someone is poor he is ‘inferior’. If someone has a BMW, he is ‘superior’. Director of a company is ‘superior’. A gardener is ‘inferior’. Here comes another funny part, we discriminate in terms of numbers, for example, a community of 2000 people is superior as against 5 people. I am a ‘majority’, you are a ‘minority’. Labels, more labels.

A deep psychological disorder, a limited mindset, a poor understanding of life. Nothing else!

Why this mindset is a problem?

Such sense of division in our minds, and a comparative mindset on account of wealth, material acquisition or a high position in some company, creates stress, anxiety and restlessness. And it’s well proven reality backed by doctors and scientists, that stress is a big reason for a lot of chronic diseases like Thyroid, heart diseases, high blood pressure, Alzheimer, Parkinsons, Obesity, or even pre-mature death.

Thing which needs to be deeply understood is this, today we have found 10 people who earn less money than us, tomorrow we will come across 100 people who earn 10 times more than us. What will we do then? In this scenario, we will start running again to match with those 100 people. And as I mentioned earlier a ‘rat race’ will start where all our life we will be running to make ourselves superior. Interesting fact however is, that you can never be satisfied with this way of living, because there will always be people having more fortune than you. Race will never end as long as you are alive. It will only end when you are dead.

How travelling helped me overcome this disorder?

It showed me a world other than big buildings, BMWs and club parties. It showed me people sitting in a tiny simple dhaba and chit chatting with smile on their faces. It showed me people working in a vast farm field, and working day in day out to produce food and how content they would feel when the work is done, it showed me kids sitting on a water tank looking at stars and talking practically non-sense with each other and still having a ball of a time. When I experienced such simple lively events happening at distant parts of this country, my idea of happiness that I had attached with material wealth, immediately broke. My false notion of someone being superior or inferior broke. Everyone is equal and what matters is being happy which could come from doing a simple insignificant thing like talking to a friend, or eating an ice-cream. All the hierarchical structures and ranking that I had created in my head dropped as I went on to observe people and understand their way of life.

I saw the enormity of life thrown at me from every direction, and witnessed pure and untainted happiness in the air among people from different walks of life. I ultimately got this sense that everyone is leading their happy lives the way they want, and that I don’t have to acquire huge fortunes as a criteria to be happy.

*Below pictures show people, tribes from different parts of India. Let's observe their innocence, and selfless attitude

Photos of Pushkar, Rajasthan, India 1/1 by Debashish Baidya
Photos of Ziro 1/1 by Debashish Baidya
Photos of Thimphu, Bhutan 1/1 by Debashish Baidya
Photos of Gujarat, India 1/1 by Debashish Baidya
Photos of Anjuna, Goa, India 1/1 by Debashish Baidya

Mind Obstacle 3 – A craving for outcome and ‘not’ enjoying the present moment

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving – Lao Tzu”

Any work or action of ours has an objective or an end goal. We are not doing things random. There is a purpose. If I am buying vegetables, it’s because I have to cook them and eat. If I am driving my car, it’s because I want to reach somewhere maybe office or at a friend’s place. If I buy an Iphone7, maybe it’s because I want to impress my girlfriend.

Haha

No action is random. The problem however is not a ‘goal oriented’ action, but a certain ‘obsession’ with our goals. In other words, a deep attachment to the ‘outcome’. We become future based and miss the present. Consequently, we may have conflicts, frustrations in whatever work we do, because that work becomes just a ‘means to something’. It doesn’t have as great a ‘value’ as the outcome. The moment our minds think like this, we seize to understand the value associated in this step that we take, or work that we do. There is a certain disconnect with the present moment that happens, which pushes us in a highly dysfunction state. We get anger, anxiety, worry and all such negative thoughts resulting in a conflicted situation. People may irritate us, work may depress us. Simply put, try enjoying buying vegetables from market next time and let me know whether you enjoyed that process or not. Doesn’t take that high a value as opposed to when it gets converted to a delicious food, right?

Why ‘seizing to give value to the present’ is a problem?

Because very simply put, we seize to enjoy life. The step that we take now, or the surroundings that we live in loses our attention as we get lost in our thoughts. Due to which we are stuck in a mental drama and nothing else. We don’t see reality, but imagine a lot of things. If we don’t observe the present moment, we may lose ourselves in a mind made movie where the only thing we can see is an image of a trophy that we hold once we have done our job. This results in losing ourselves in a far-fetched ‘future based’ dream at the cost of not appreciating and enjoying this very moment, where we are living right now. The present moment which is filled with so many experiences and learning, that it can give us a sense of satisfaction instantly, instead of ‘postponing’ happiness.

How travelling helped me live in the present?

One thing which has helped me live in the moment is road trips. Especially the ones that I have done on bike, touring long distances. A long distance tour convinces of this idea that the destination is not going to be reached in next 5 mins. It’s probably going to take a day or more. A situation which shakes your mind and forces you to come to the present moment whether you like it or not. When I did my first bike ride from Bangalore to Goa, covering 600 kms in 16 hours encountering heat waves, rains, cold, body aches and multiple bike punctures, I was not left with any choice but to realize that destination is not going to come soon, and I might as well not think about reaching there now. As a result of prolonged time, I started experiencing the world around me, brought all my focus on the bike which I was riding, and a subtle love affair started which grew like a virus in me. The bike ride became so powerfully exciting and intense that I lost this notion of ‘waiting for happiness’ associated with the destination. It was coming to me instantly right now, I just had to put my attention to it. And getting rid of this future based “over-thinking mind” reduced my anxiety and fear.

A very popular saying goes, “There is light at the end of the tunnel”, and in most of the cases the tunnel might even be long and treacherous. But the tunnel can get worrisome only if you don’t drop this notion of, ‘light’ being the only pleasing experience. If you realize deeply that darkness can be enjoyed as well, then the experience of travelling in a tunnel can be fulfilling, and then you would not care whether the light comes or not.

Photos of  1/2 by Debashish Baidya
Photos of  2/2 by Debashish Baidya

Mind Obstacle 4 – Lack of ‘purpose’ or ‘motive’ in anything we do

“Not all those who wander are lost” – JRR Tolkien

This one looks contradictory to the previous point we discussed, where I emphasized on living in the moment, and enjoying the process. To clarify, I did not say you should not have any objectives in your work. In fact without objective, there is no point in doing anything. I said not to get ‘obsessed’ with the objective and end result. That’s an addiction and a disorder so to speak. Coming back to the obstacle in hand now,

Let me elaborate,

As much as focusing on the present is important, having a direction in our lives is very critical as well. We should know where we headed, and why are we doing something.

We all are trained experts in one thing, ‘follow the crowd’. It’s been ingrained in us since childhood days, and whatever phase of life or situation we get into we apply this theory like a boss. Everybody comes down on our heads and start giving advice. It’s always been like this, that’s why we have become conditioned to think like that. To follow others! We are always very curious of what the other person is doing, or thinking. What decisions the person will take. What would be our friends doing? What our family is saying? What our teachers, gurus are telling?

Always looking outside for answers. And that’s why become direction-less. A very clear example which I am sure lot of people will relate to, is hoard of people going for Engineering and Management degrees, and settling for a day job in some corporate firm. Not for once challenging their choices, it could be seen that almost all the people are frustrated with their life. A mindless race is going on everywhere. People are not taking a pause and asking themselves.

“What the hell am I doing?”

“What is my purpose of studying so much?”

“What is my purpose of working day in day out in some firm, what am I getting out of it?”

There is a lack of purpose inside of us. That’s why we don’t love our jobs. That’s why we don’t love anything, in whatever we indulge in. Mindlessly, we have followed people all our lives.

Why ‘not having a purpose’ is a problem?

I always like to put it simple and direct. What is the point in running around the bush? Whatever is the truth, it has to be said the way it is. There shouldn’t be any sugar-coating done, otherwise it can confuse us and not give complete clarity. So the direct answer is,

‘We become a donkey’

If we are following the herd, and mindlessly doing things, we are donkeys. Tell a donkey to move, it will move. Throw him some fodder and tell to stop walking, it will stop. Abuse him, beat him, it will not react. It will accept gracefully. I don’t mean any dis-respect to this delicate animal because it’s also a creation of nature. If we were actual donkeys, it would have been ok. But we are not. We are human beings, and so if we behave like donkeys then that is a bigggg problem.

I can even go on to say ‘dead’. Yes, that word will also fit.

How travelling helped me bring a sense of ‘purpose’ in my life?

I strongly believe that this ‘herd mentality’ mindset is embedded deep within. It is not on the surface level and a simple self-enquiry will not help. Just like any deep wound that is needed to be treated with heavy antibiotics immediately, on the same lines this psychological problem is a deep wound. Damage is already done and now it needs a heavy diagnosis. It needs a heavy dose of antibiotic, and the only way to do that, is to put ourselves in tough situations, which can shake our souls from inside. In other words, we have to strongly confront our own bullshit and only a hard confrontation can break the shackles and give us freedom from this disorder.

A way that helped me come out of this mental condition was ‘solo travelling’. Travelling solo to long distances pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me experience this world from a different perspective; it broke this norm that you have to be with ‘friends or family’ to travel. This is what everyone was doing. Solo travelling on the other hand, bashed me so hard that not only my body was put at test but my mind also came in tremendous pressure. I got drenched in rain, got burnt in sun, got shivers in cold, got lost in remote villages, unknown routes, got stuck in hills when the bike broke down and got stranded in wilderness.

A new dimension got introduced in me, a new thinking about travelling. Travelling was no longer a comfortable journey that needed to be done to reach my destination. It became an adventurous voyage, a mysterious endeavour and a meditative experience. My mind was shaken because of the situations I underwent from, and how I got out of them. It brought a transformation. It broke this notion that I have to ‘follow the norms’ to live. And then I started looking within. I felt my energies. I sensed my desires. And I was mesmerized. A sense of ‘purpose’ started to crop towards solo travelling. Simply, because I was becoming a strong person. I was getting new experiences. That became a very important thing for me.

And I got a direction in my life. I was no more distracted. No more chaotic. No more in pain. I came at peace and it was liberating. I felt free. And I wanted more of this. I had a strong purpose to solo travel now.

My attempt to write this blog is to convey that ultimately ‘Peace of mind’ is what all of us are craving for, and running after. That is our ultimate purpose. I got it from travelling like many others. And there are many others who get it from any work or passion they follow. So let’s understand this, what we do is not important. Yes! That is secondary. What are we trying to achieve from doing something, that is important. For me, it’s ‘peace of mind’. My purpose of living. And once my purpose is clear, I have immediately known what I have to indulge in, and what not to get into. Confusion has ended for me, at this very moment of clarity.

Photos of  1/1 by Debashish Baidya

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