Take a moment to reflect on a major journey that you have embarked on. It could be anything at all really; from pursuing a lifelong dream or goal like growing and mowing grass for a living, conquering a fear or barrier, or facing headlong into a major health crisis. You may even be in the midst of the journey at this very moment.
Allow yourself to pause and let the reflection permeate your consciousness… feel it in your bones and sit with it for a spell.
How do you process the idea of the journey? What are your touchpoints when you are smack in the middle of a major trek? How do you relate to yourself when the going inevitably “gets tough”? Is there kindness? Or heaps of judgment while you keep trying to pull up the proverbial bootstraps? What is the quality of your relationships with those who matter most, including yourself?
I am presenting these questions because I have personally been reflecting on them quite a bit lately.
More than three years ago my wife Jill and I were seated at a local coffee shop reflecting and discussing the possibility of us both embarking on what would become a life changing journey. We didn’t know how or why it had to manifest, but we both knew that it simply had to happen. In the end we made a decision, took a great big leap and did what needed to be done for me to undertake the study and practice to become a certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher. This past week the formal part of that journey came to an end with my completion of the program.
As with the very best adventures, this experience has led to far more questions than answers. It challenged my assumptions, tore down my opinions, and changed my perspective. Along the way I have come to a few revelations, as well.
- You are never alone… ever. No journey of worth occurs in a vacuum of individuality. You are supported in so many different ways (even if you don’t always ask for or appreciate it). The sacrifice of and support by those who care for you is a foundational element when navigating your way through any situation. Think about your teachers, mentors, family and friends. You simply wouldn’t be where you are today without their help.
The path is the journey. The end of a journey is really an illusion. It never exists as a point in exclusion from the rest of your life. Think back to when you decided to become a superintendent. You gathered intel, got a turf degree, worked the long hours as an assistant…and then you achieved your goal. But did anything really end when that goal was achieved? Or was it really just the beginning of something larger?
...did anything really end when that goal was achieved? Or was it really just the beginning of something larger?
- It’s always part of something larger. Any passage through something difficult is always about something larger than what you first perceive. Whether dealing with grief when you lose someone close to you or working your way through rehab after an accident, you are part of something larger and more profound than it may appear while mired in the slog of the journey. Building in time to reflect on this regularly is very beneficial.
What you leave behind is just as important as what you pick up along the way. The process of letting go of all that simply does not serve anymore is a critical part of any journey. You are often times so focused on acquiring knowledge or skill when embarking on a new goal that you forget the real wisdom comes from how you deal with unlearning things. Adopting a mentality of flexibility with your opinions and beliefs allows for ease as you move on down the line.
...the real wisdom comes from how you deal with unlearning things.
- You are far more resilient than you think you are. As you proceed through any event in life, rough passage is simply a given. The wise adage oft cited by my mother-in-law (a Franklin Roosevelt quote) comes to mind, “A calm sea never made for a skilled sailor”. How you process the rough patches and respond internally is what builds the strength and courage you need to make your way.
- Rest is key. No journey proceeds in a linear line of constant stress and pushing. Being able to pick your rest stops and give yourself a break allows you space to heal and grow. I always loved the analogy of the kayaker who has to be aware of the “eddies” in the river; those places behind rocks where the water pools and the current bypasses. The eddies provide respite from the torrent of water and constant movement. They allow for space, rest, and recalibration before continuing down the river. Watch for them. Create them, as needed.
- The smallest acts of kindness, to both yourself and others, are what ultimately gets you through. No matter what you are facing; a new job, a change in a relationship, or life during a pandemic, being compassionate and kind makes the journey a more tolerable one.
So whether you are about to embark on, in the midst of, or nearing the end of a major life event, don’t forget to pause often and thank those around you. Remember to give yourself time for rest and rejuvenation. Remind yourself of the bigger picture and don’t be afraid to drop some things along the way. Your life is a constant journey so you might as well be present to it.
Thanks so much for reading.