The Mindful Adventurer
Each December I reflect on the year that has just passed, and make new goals for the one that is about to begin. As I gain life experience, I’ve begun to notice the cycles that drive the events around me. In 2010 alone I saw the highest highs and the lowest lows, both personally and professionally. After riding the waves and feeling my stomach drop so many times, I began to wonder if maybe there was a better way to live. This year mindfulness made it on my list of resolutions.
To be mindful means to notice your situation, to observe the good and the bad, without evaluation. Being mindful requires living in the moment, and watching as one moment is replaced by the next. All you have is the present, so there is no need to worry about the future or fret about the past. Cultivating this reminds me of Don Miguel Ruiz’s advice in The Four Agreements to never take anything personally. Each person acts from his or her own situation, and so do you. If we are mindful, an ocean of waves can surround us, but we don’t have to be tossed and battered.
For me this somewhat impersonal distance has given me power. Life doesn’t have to control me; I control me. As I watch and listen to my situation I learn more and more about what makes me tick, what I want when the world isn’t yelling at me. That moment of realization can be scary. There may be simple realizations, like how important it is that you get alone time every day, that you really don’t like how coffee affects you, or that the way your coworker talks to you isn’t ok any more. Then there may be questions hiding beneath the surface like, “am I really happy at my job?” or “is this relationship good for me?” or even “is there purpose in life?” The good thing is that now you know, and now you can fix it.
Last spring I realized my inner-nerd’s dream of speaking to a group of science educators at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, published my first book, and won $10,000 to pursue my climbing goals. That prize allowed me to climb Devils Tower last summer and finally start to lead trad in the fall. That’s a far cry from where I was in 2008, an overwhelmed public school teacher living in a coworker’s spare room, eating off the dollar menu and praying my car would hold up so I could go see my family for my birthday. 2008 was a low, for sure, but it came and it went. Life’s pattern of up’s and down’s continued, and I know I can always count on one following the other.
So my next question is this: If we approach life mindfully, knowing that it comes in cycles, and that we have the power to direct ourselves despite it’s ebb and flow, what is stopping you (me, us) from having the life we want? Taking risks and making big changes seem more possible when we are mindful. Life isn’t personal, and that means being secure is less important. Seeing beyond the yell of the world to what you really need means finally finding your passion, and being mindful gives you the power to go get it.
Make being mindful a daily practice. Learn to listen to and take care of yourself. Let courage take root and grow inside you till you have no choice but to act. Dream big, explore all that life washes up in front of you. Who knows what new adventures you will embark on.