all aboard!

This weekend I am taking the train to London to see the folks, see some friends, and get outta Dodge Hogtown.

source: wikipedia                                                                         This is, in fact, the London train station. Ooooooooooh!

Although the train ride to London is a fairly short one (about two hours) I actually always really look forward to it.  I kind of grew up taking trains, so I am sure there is some part of my brain that loves the familiarity of zooming along railroad tracks.

Growing up in Belarus my summers would involve many rides on the “elektrichka” (electric train) which can be somewhat compared to the GO Transit here in the GTA.  These were commuter trains that we would take to dachas (I wrote about dachas here), day trips into the woods, or to starting points of multi-day hikes.  I was too young to do any of those while we lived there, but my parents have told me that when they were in university they would take the trains to a pre-determined rural station and begin their hikes from there.  They are very simple trains meant for short distance travel.  I remember oftentimes they would be packed with passengers both seated and standing, which, on hot summer days, could get particularly unpleasant.

source: wikipedia.org                                                                                                              typical interior of an electrichka train

I still have some vague memories of standing on the platform and waiting for the train to pull in.  The noise and power of it was always overwhelming, frightening, and exhilarating to me all at the same time.

When I was around 6 or 7 my mom, sister, my mom’s friend and I all took a weekend trip to Riga, the capital city of Latvia.  I am pretty sure that this was my first time on a “real train”.  We had our own little compartment with four beds (two long benches which were also seats, and two benches above which flipped down from the wall for two more sleeping areas) which I eventually learned to climb on like a master monkey.  This, after my mom’s friend scolded my mom for continuing to help me get up and down from the top bunks over and over and over.

On that trip, after the initial excitement had passed, I settled down on one of the top bunks, stretched out on my belly, hands under my chin, and just looked out at the window at the passing countryside for what felt like an eternity.  I just got into this zone, where I wasn’t really thinking about anything but was just observing what my eyes saw.  This is one of the moments I always think back to in my own life when I am reading about meditation.  I think that without actually trying or knowing it, I was in a meditative state.  There are a few other moments of my life I can recall where I had the same feeling of pure contentment of just being and observing.

I wish I could remember what book I read this in, but an author broke down the goal of meditation into something like this.  You have this brain that is like a monkey that jumps all over the house, you want to first get to a point where the monkey will just sit on the front porch in a chair and look at the night sky and think “wow, those stars are really pretty”, but eventually you want the monkey to just sit in his rocking chair and observe the night sky without passing any judgement.  Just sit.  Observe.  I am pretty sure that in those moments on the train my monkey was indeed just observing.  I have had a few times recently in mediation where that has happened and it is a pretty liberating and incredible feeling.  I can’t help but feel that this has somehow been associated strongly with trains for me ever since that moment and that is why I have such an affinity for them.  My preferred way to pass the time when I am on a long-distance journey by bus or train remains to look out the window and let my thoughts kind of float around without giving them much attention.  I find it incredibly soothing.

source: t_ima on Flickr

source: t_ima on Flickr

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