I don’t explore nearly as much as I should. I’m shy, lazy, or just scared. But lately, I’ve been working on improving this aspect of my life. There are a handful of reasons of which I'll explain, for why I’ve started doing this. My hope is that this post might inspire you to invite more adventure into your own life.
One Thing I Know
It was the classical Greek philosopher, Socrates who said, “There’s one thing I know, and it’s that I know nothing.” What a line. How'd he know? It reminds me of a story in Zen teachings about a wise master and his pupil. The young monk wanted to know all about the secret magic of Zen. After pleading repeatedly, eventually the master agreed to host his student for an educational tea ceremony.
“Give me your cup,” said the master.
When the student presented the cup, the master began pouring. But instead of stopping once the cup was full, the master kept pouring, spilling hot tea everywhere and shocking his student.
“Stop!” cried the student. “No more tea can fit into the cup!”
“Yes, well the cup is like your mind, and before I teach you Zen, you must empty your cup.”
I like this story for several reasons. First it’s about tea, second it’s a beautiful metaphor for the way many people go through life. If you encounter a problem, with expectations and assumptions, you’re not allowing room for discovery.
I often hear complaints about spending too much time online, staring at screens, and subsequent spirit-crushing lower back problems. Conversely, I almost never hear friends complain about having spent too much time outdoors.
Nature is my reset button. When I feel tired, stressed, upset, or all of the above, I go to nature for a healthy dose of beauty and humility. In David Brooks’ book, The Road To Character he talks about the benefits of seeking things “bigger than yourself”. In this particular context, Brooks is referencing finding your vocation, but nature is another obvious way to humble yourself before the wonders of the universe. Just go stand at the ocean’s edge with your toes in the sand and watch the waves crash on the shore. You’ll know the feeling.
On Pushing Yourself
Darwin’s theory of evolution demonstrates the “survival of the fittest”. One of the blessings and curses of modern life, is that we’ve made it so comfortable. All we have to do to get our daily dose of drama is turn on the television and live vicariously through a few highly-paid actors.
I’m no exception to this. I construct my own little “safety zones” where I can retreat in times of duress. But non-scripted, real life, exists on the edge of comfort. If I’m not pushing myself slightly beyond what I feel I’m capable of achieving or learning, then I’m not growing. And, if I’m not growing, I’m metaphorically dying.
When I think about famous explorers of history, they were literally going to places where no man or woman had gone (and returned safely). Some people thought Christopher Columbus was going to sail right off the edge of the “clearly flat” Earth. So you can look at a guy like Elon Musk and laugh at his mission to Mars, but just know that history repeats itself.
For the record, I’m not advocating that in order to enjoy life, you must engage in risky behavior. I’m simply suggesting that you take time to reflect on what you truly consider your life necessities. Could you survive without them? Exploring new places or activities, again helps me reset, and discern man-made constructs from what’s actually of importance and substance. They say, staying in one place is like reading the same page of a book over and over. It’s lovely, but there are so many good books out there.
On Finding Yourself
It’s ironic, but exploring the world is like walking around with a mirror for your soul. You can’t begin to see yourself in context until you’ve discovered new dimensions of life. You might even think you have a solid foundation, but all it takes is one experience to change your perspective forever. And once you see, you can’t unsee.
There’s another saying, “you can never enter the same river twice”. Life, like flowing water is a stream of events, consciousness, and emotions. No two moments are alike. Thus, I find that every attempt to hold on to people, feelings, or things, is entirely futile. Let go. Savor these moments, yes, but clinging to them is not my idea of healthy living. In that sense, I’m like a shark, I must keep moving.
I offer these thoughts to share my own recent discoveries. I'll continue my exploration of life, and its many lessons. I don’t suppose I’ve even come close to scratching the surface of all it has to offer, but I feel it’s not just a pleasure, but my duty, to embrace this attitude of an explorer.
Into the unknown I go. What I’ll find, I cannot say. I seek no answers. My reward is my quest, and my privilege is to share it with you.