Visiting your favorite places

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Aug. 11, 2005

Dear Julie,

Alvie's is the middle of his chest. Lucy's is her belly. Hank loves to be scratched on his lower back. It makes him dance.

Dogs are hardly the only ones who have a favorite place, but with humans the place can be as much psychological as physical. It's the place where all cares disappear. The place where you just are.

The joy there can be hard to control. It can make your hind leg thump.

The feeling in that place is harmonious. Everything has fallen into place.

One of my favorite places is a dewy fairway just after the sun has risen. DC's favorite place is wherever her walk with the dogs takes them. Time doesn't matter.

Life doesn't feel that way all the time. In fact, most of the time it feels out of balance. Remember the wordless film "Koyaanisqatsi?" The Hopi Indian word means "life out of balance." The filmmaker portrayed an apocalyptic collision between technology and the environment, a world of cars and computers and factories of every kind that is separate from the natural world. Unless we're residents of the Alaskan wilderness, that's the world in which most of us live most of the time.

As TVs chatter the same old news 24 hours a day (some of us are old enough to remember when stations went off the air while we slept), each of us wrestles to locate our real selves.

The Life Management Wheel is one tool counselors use. The wheel looks more like a pie. One slice is labeled relaxation. The rest of the pieces are: nutrition, time management, recreation, social, exercise, expressing emotion and intellectual stimulation. The goal is that no piece of this pie, no part of your life, should be neglected. The goal is living life in balance. Out of balance can create problems, diseases.

But finding balance in our lives has repercussions beyond our own headaches and frustrations. We can't live in harmony with other countries until we learn to live in harmony with our neighbors. We won't live in harmony with our neighbors until we learn how to get along with the other members of our family. We can't live harmoniously with our family until we learn how to live with ourselves.

The peace of favorite places is the bridge to your true self, the you that smiles for no reason whatsoever. "When we enter the present moment deeply, our regrets and sorrows disappear, and we discover life with all its wonders," wrote the Buddhist monk and poet Thich Nhat Hanh.

Alvie didn't always have a favorite place, or if he did he didn't let on. He didn't like to be touched at first. We reckoned the scar that runs the length of his side might explain. But slowly he opened up until now he demands attention from us.

I think that's how it works. Favorite places create an opening, a passageway through our cluttered lives to our own particular Field of Dreams, and our real selves, the ones with no fears and no regrets and sorrows, come out and play.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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