Vigilance: the action or state of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties. Synonyms: alertness, attentiveness, watchfulness
As a psychologist, my natural tendency is to observe changes in my own and others’ behavior. By living in cities for most of my life, and then moving outside of even the smallest town recently, I have had a marvelous opportunity to observe how my consciousness has changed. One area I find particularly interesting is my level of vigilance.
This is a state which most are not conscious of, because it can often be barely felt on a conscious level. Simple thoughts like “Are my doors locked?” “Do I feel safe now?” and “Am I safe?” can come up constantly. I became much more aware of these feelings after moving away from cities. In this way I discovered that we all experience varying degrees of safety in any environment.
I see now that while living in cities I felt the need to be constantly vigilant. Especially living as a single woman there, I was always quite aware of locking my doors, noticing strange sounds or things going on around my home, etc. Cities offer such a tight concentration of people everywhere, with traffic, lines at the store, etc. They seem to require a heightened level of vigilance at all times.
However, I didn’t become aware of my city-inspired heighten state of vigilance until I tried living away from others. When I first moved out into the country I felt isolated and concerned about that sense of isolation. How would I make new friends? What about emergencies?
But in less than a year or so those fears turned into a new sense of security and safety. We live among others who have three to six acres of land, and most keep completely to themselves. In this new setting I found that I needed to train myself how to mellow out. I was still hyper-vigilant, a trait that no longer served me.
Each year I live here, my level of deep security and relaxation increases along with my level of introversion. Some might see this as a bad thing, but I must say it feels really good to feel truly safe for the first time in decades, both in my home and in my life.
Should a seeker not find a companion who is better or equal, let him resolutely pursue a solitary path. There is no companionship with a fool. – The Dhammapada