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  • Emily Burfoot

To Infinity and Beyond: Conquering Fear Through External and Internal Exploration

When I got on a one way ticket to India 12 years ago, I packed a large green bedsheet instead of my laptop. This decision set the tone for the whole trip: a journey that prioritised inward connection over outward-facing connection.

The green sheet came most in useful the night I departed Amma’s Ashram in Kerala after a three week stay, and took a taxi to Thiruvananthapuram airport. This was probably the most memorable taxi ride I’ve ever taken in my life: it was notable because the driver appeared to be in the very early stages of learning to drive, as we did not seem to slow down for any sharp corners until the very last minute. This was especially alarming at roundabouts, which were fortunately deserted enough to accommodate for the unusual driving style...

On safe arrival to the airport terminal (phew 😅) it was already dark, and my flight to Chennai wasn’t until the morning. I wasn’t able to find my ticket in my hand luggage (it was a paper ticket back then), and without it I was denied entry to the terminal building.

This is when the green bedsheet came into its own. I was able to wrap myself in it and catch a few winks of sleep while it protected me from the mosquitoes. 🦟

To onlookers, it must have strongly resembled a body bag.

Perhaps Karma had hidden my ticket temporarily to teach me a lesson about being grateful for having a comfortable and safe place to sleep almost every night, because in the morning, I found my plane ticket very easily and boarded my flight.

The reason I’m sharing this story here and now is because I often forget how my life experiences have shaped me in such a different way from those who follow more conventional paths. Sure, exploring the outer world is a fairly standard British pursuit, especially within the confines of pre-planned trips, but open-ended journeys with no plan, and in which we have to face fears, obstacles and the unexpected, take us much further from comforting structures and into our inner resolve.

Exploring our inner world, e.g. our thoughts, desires, fears, behaviour patterns etc. requires even more courage and inner resolve than an open-ended journey in a foreign country. In Britain, inner exploration tends to be done in secret and in private, making the burdens we find in our inner patterning feel personal and like we are the only bearer of them. In my experience, facing things alone makes things infinitely more difficult, so I don't really understand why anybody insists on it.

Why is exploring our outer world done with so much pride and togetherness, while exploration of our inner world is done shamefully and in solitude?

Moving through fear with action in the outer world can take us so far in our personal development journey, but it has its limits.

To fully embrace our growth potential as human beings, our inner space must be explored with just as much curiosity, transparency and shamelessness. Especially I would argue, with respect to the darker aspects of our nature.

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