The Real Benefits of Travel

                                                                                                                       Doha Qatar skyline

                                                                                                                       Doha Qatar skyline

I have wanted to do a post/video for a while on the important role that travel has played in my life.  So as I prepare for a trip to the UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) and Qatar, I thought this might be an ideal time to invite into your curiosity some reflections.

The obvious benefits of travel are recreative, rejuvenating and restful.  Yes of course all of those.  But I am on a slightly different glide slope for this one

Let me set the stage with a few lines from a book I read in 2004 that has been pulled off the shelf for a read on the plane some 13 yrs later…

“It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.” 
― Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

If you have never read de Botton this is an excellent start.  

                            I.M. Pei Islamic Museum of Art Doha Qatar

                            I.M. Pei Islamic Museum of Art Doha Qatar

I had the opportunity to travel to remote parts of India when I was 17, the first of what would be many trips to that part of the world. I can’t calculate the impact of the trip on my entire life but I can say that even then I knew I would never be quite the same.  

Some 30 countries later, on train, boat, helicopter, plane, horse, rickshaw, and tuktuk my entire interior world has been rearranged, tweaked, enlightened, and infused because of the places, spaces and faces I have had the privilege to encounter.

When we travel we are jolted out of routinized thinking, movement, interaction and eating.  We are arrested by new surroundings, smells, souks and stations.

All of these have a way of getting us out of our little dinky world, but more importantly out of our little dinky thinking that often has us unconsciously assuming my way, my world is surely the way most people live and breathe, right?  It is one of the reasons we made a commitment to give our kids, while they were still young, travel opportunities in different parts of the world: expanding their outer world meant inevitably expanding their inner world. 

You can’t help but think differently in different parts of the country let alone different parts of the world. 

                                                   Taj Mahal Agra

                                                   Taj Mahal Agra

We are told we have between 70,000-90,000 thoughts a day but about 90-95% of them are the same thoughts as yesterday.  Nothing jolts you out of that rut better then a change of scenery. 

de Botton again…

“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships or trains.”

 

So, can I offer a few things I have tried to engage in my travels?

First, GO PLACES!  - there are 196 identified countries in the world.  If you only stay in one or two it is like reading only a page or two of a book.  Places change us, expand us, infuse us. Sure we have to save, plot and plan.  But read de Botton, part of the trip is the planning and anticipation; that alone has a molding force.

Second, SEE SPACES! - architecture posesses one of the most acute powers for arresting our minds.  Whether is it the Taj Mahal in India, the I.M. Pei designed Dallas Symphony Hall or the Islamic Museum of Art in Qatar, be it St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, or the 46m long Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok, the magnitude of these spaces expand what can be, give you a portal into an entirely different world and open you to possibilities you can’t get from a flat page or computer screen. 

                                                                                                                                                                                     Redwoods California

                                                                                                                                                                                     Redwoods California

Third, EXPERIENCE TRACES of the Divine evolving in creation.  The French vineyards of Chateauneuf du Pape, the red dunes in Nambia, the majesty of the Nepalese terrain heading to Namche Bazaar, or the towering Redwoods of northern California. Terrain changes reorient our bodies and spirits in ways nothing else does in the same way. Natural wonders abound in every landscape, mountains, desert, plains and sea.  And when those wonders lodge in us they provoke wonder and curiosity and take us to new creative vistas. I have always returned from a trip more curious, and more creative. And for those of you that gravitate toward water/sea?  There is a reason!

 

                                                Red Dunes Namibia

                                                Red Dunes Namibia

 

 

Last, MEET FACES - My kids have always been half embarrassed because I talk to total strangers a lot.  This is really an important practice in other lands where their world is so vastly different than mine.  Get good at asking questions, peer into their world, their life, their thoughts their routine.  I had an exercise in a class I took where I had to go spend two hours with someone very much UNLIKE me.  It could have been different in any number of ways.  But the idea was I had to get comfortable with "other." This was valuable simply because you can often have that experience near your home.  Even local travel can change, challenge or invade your current worldview. One of the reccurring thoughts that hits me almost every time I get into conversations with people in a different context is “this is their life, this is really who they are, they are not on vacation..how interesting.”  

images.jpg

Traveling helps me remember how ethnocentric I am, how unenlightened and clumsy I am, how narrow and uninformed I am.  I am sure that will happen again as I venture into a totally different world this week.  But a world of unbelievable vision, architecture, cultural uniqueness and beauty.  There is no doubt my next several weeks have #wildlybetter written all over them.  I hope you are thinking about your next trek… that alone heightens our senses!

The Pull of Innovation or the Pain to Shift Paradigms

 

Live Now!

 

“The greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally unsolvable.They can only be outgrown.” 

Carl Jung

Attachments hold us in yesterday and prevent us from experiencing what is happening right here right now. 

Our meaning-maker, called the ego in psychology, is what gives me my me-ness.  My history, geography, genealogy, education, etc… is what funds the narrative I tell myself about who I am. 

What is fascinating about how we story-tell to ourselves is that most of it is tacit…it is happening under the radar of our awareness most of the time. 

The impetus from minus to plus never ends. The urge from below to above never ceases: whatever premises all our philosophers and psychologists dream of—self-preservation, pleasure principle, equalization—all these are but vague representations, attempts to express the great upward drive.
Göethe - Letter to Lavater

Goethe is speaking here of what the Greeks called Eros.  While usually equated with the erotic and sexuality, eros, according to the Greeks, was the human drive to connect to the divine, to truth, beauty and goodness.

What gets attention grows… certainly makes sense doesn’t it.  Whether it is the ache in your neck, your irritation with a colleague, paranoia about tomorrow’s meeting or… that living right now in the moment and experiencing what is around you right this second is really the only place you can really live!  All of these grow with attention.

We skim life…

When we live most of our lives in the top nine inches of our body we often give attention to nothing and live our lives trapped in daydreams.  Such “captured attention” with constantly looping thoughts in our minds gives us little margin to “give attention.”

I am a daydreamer. 

I prefer to frame it as, brilliant thinker, problem solver or creative genius, but when you strip away all the bologna I am a daydreamer.  But here is the problem when we live our life on the inside of our head we automatically become “blind” to what is happening around us. 

You have had it happen.  You are carrying on a conversation…with yourself….and you miss the exit? There it is!  Daydreaming that leads to blindness and it happens everyday for hours and hours.  When we are giving attention to those thoughts our “sight” goes on autopilot.  We are generally safe driving down the road but we miss details, even big ones.

That is a picture of our lives.  We skim through life hypnotized and blind. 

Here are some ways to try and stay awake.

  1. Start the day with some mindfulness practice.  

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present that is arising around you. When you’re mindful, you are able to observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance.  This enables you to be more proactive rather than reactive and to choose your course. There are a number of ways to go here but if you want to get out of the rut of sleepwalking the only way to do it is to cultivate a practice that will assist that goal. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. 

One word about “practice.”  The whole point of mindfulness practice is to enable you to be present in real life.  The practice itself isn’t enlightening, or somehow insightful.  It is a practice because as you leave your time of practice you have gotten under your belt a little more “mindfulness exercise” which will enable you in life to be more present and mindful due to your training.  Practice for the express purpose of accomplishing through training what you simply could not do by trying.

       2. Consciously “Do.” 

The foregoing might come off like daydreaming is bad.  It isn’t, but anything we do unconsciously (eating, web surfing, etc…) is still unconscious. Start noting when you are bored, seem to have nothing to do and when you are susceptible to clicking on to mindless autopilot. Choose to dream, problem solve or nap but in in the absence of that choice choose something else.

       3. Ask yourself how much you really experienced your “yesterday.” 

What was your pace like?  How much did you notice?  Did you feel others' heart? Did you notice your surroundings?  Was your food tasty?  Did you really hear others when they spoke? Often we get our day done but we don’t fully experience what the day actually offered.  That requires attention.


Let’s look for ways to taste life.  Let’s be attentive to where we direct our intention.  And let’s help our kids and families do the same.  Experiences around the holidays get piled up on each other.  One after another after another.  The compaction and compression of events leaves little option but to skim…unless we are aware and attentive.

 

 

 

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Monitoring Intention, Creating our Future

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Meditation and Breath... a way Forward

Meditation and Breath...    a way Forward

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