They say the grass is always greener on the other side, and there is a tendency to believe that the desire to experience the other side is irrational and even irresponsible. You should just be content where you are. Don’t rock the boat.
I’ve never had a desire for contentment. I have grown to love and appreciate my constant awareness and yearning for the extraordinary. It inspires me and reminds me of the vast possibilities of our human existence. I don’t want to diminish that awareness, or my quest to explore uncharted territories and ideas.
I am an explorer, a scientist of sorts. A philosopher and a lifelong student. I am an adventurer, unorthodox and fearless. This is who I am. This is who my wife married and my children know as their father. This will always be.
But I also understand the importance of living in and appreciating the present moment. We don’t hold the past, or the future in our hands today. We only hold, today. This moment is all we have. I intend to experience it fully.
If I only dwell on the future and am not able to appreciate the present moment, I will never fully appreciate the awe and wonder of the adventures I seek when I am amidst them.
Every few years, I have picked up and moved to a different state or a different country. I spent the last nine years living all over East Africa, and prior to that, I toured the United States extensively.
Each time, I’ve taken the opportunity to reinvent myself and become more of the man I want to be. I’ve left things behind that didn’t resonate with my soul, and I’ve embraced the qualities and mindset that I know will make me a better example of love and kindness towards myself and others.
In a new environment, often where I am completely unknown, there are no expectations of me. I am a complete mystery to those around me. This provides me with the opportunity to be more deliberate about whom I am.
Most of us know how we wish we would act or feel, but we don’t because outside influences create an environment where it’s much more difficult to act outside of those expectations. When you transplant yourself into another environment, free of expectations of how you will respond to the world around you, you are liberated to become anything you want to be. Environment matters.
I struggle most with living in the moment when I am not where I want to be, and especially when I am on the cusp of a new adventure. When I am living in one place, but very close to departing for the next adventure, it’s difficult to keep my mind on the present moment. I am a dreamer with a vivid imagination and I have no problem transplanting myself into another place and time.
It’s very easy for me to check out and not be present. But then I miss so much beauty around me in this present moment. I must learn to appreciate where I am, even when I am on my way to somewhere or something else.
I am learning to appreciate the now while courting what could be, simultaneously. It is possible to find a rhythm and dance amidst this juxtaposition. And it is a beautiful dance.
Each time my geographic location or my vocation is in flux, it provides a brilliant opportunity to practice living in the present moment. Rather than viewing this time as merely a countdown to the next thing, I have to learn to value and embrace this time and use it to hone my ability to be present.
Otherwise, this is a missed opportunity.
I believe we are all capable of dreaming of a brighter future while still fully appreciating the present moment. So often I have failed to truly appreciate what is before me simply because my mind was already in the next place, just waiting for the rest of me to catch up.
But I don’t want to miss a single moment. I want to suck the marrow out of life and experience everything fully.
I believe that our failure to appreciate the now is often the most significant inhibitor to our ability to manifest the future we so desire. We will never fully transcend to the next place until we have fully embraced this moment. I believe this is an integral aspect of our journey towards self actualization.
The Tao Te Ching describes a concept called wu wei, which translates literally to, “conscious non-action or non-doing”. It is important to understand that this state of non-action is a conscious decision, for the purpose of aligning with the balance and flow of our human and spiritual existence.
Society’s tendency is to believe that the more effort we put forth, the more likely we are to attain our goals. But there is a time to stop and take in everything around you and appreciate it for what it is. There is a time to stop waiting on a miracle and realize that everything around you is a miracle. From the air you breathe to the magnificence of our solar system.
I imagine myself in a small rowboat out at sea. I can row and row and row, constantly trying to find my way. As I row, I will find elements of my self at different harbors along the way. Some will resonate with my soul, others will not. But there comes a time when I believe my best effort is to stop efforting altogether.
I pick up the anchor and the oars and put them in the boat. It’s time to lay back and gaze into the sky. Time to appreciate the air in my lungs and the stars above. Time to let go of outcomes and the belief that we must always be in control. I am learning to detach myself from outcomes and just appreciate each nuance of the journey.
I want to embrace the spirit of wu wei. I want to experience every moment and every facet of what life has to offer. I want to embrace the mystery and the unknown. I have replaced my desire for outcomes and control with a desire to just be present and connected with the journey.
There is a time to stop fighting, controlling and efforting. A time to allow the universal flow of life to take us where our souls will sing.
* Photo by Jeffrey Vanhoutte and film director André (Nicolas Vantomme)