Today I had one of the best laughs ever with my hair stylist/life coach/friend/big-sister V :) Though I could never adequately describe the moment in words, I felt that it was such a beautiful moment that it needed to be captured on the site…
It all started with me describing the challenges I faced with finding edible foods in China. I’m a pretty picky eater and I like to know what’s in my food. However, I told V that it became about survival at one point. She asked me, “So what did you do?” I told V, “I stopped asking questions…” at which point we both died laughing. Tears, aching stomachs, everything…it took us a while to stop laughing…ha! It was a beautiful moment and a laugh that my spirit really needed.
After reflecting a bit more on that moment, I realized something really important…I stopped asking questions. This is significant because it goes against the grain of who I am. I’m curious, analytical, and thoughtful…I like to know why, how, who, when, and what… As I was reflecting, even the saying, “Curiousity killed the cat” filtered through my consciousness. Maybe there’s more to that saying than meets the eye…
For, you see, I’ve been driving myself a little crazy lately with questions like, “What is my purpose?” and “What am I really supposed to be doing with my life?” and “Is this the job I’m really supposed to have?” and “What am I doing in this smog-filled area of China?” and on and on… On the surface, these aren’t bad questions to ask. However, these questions are distractions and they cause us to miss the point of the present moment.
It is so easy to be pre-occupied with the future. We try to do everything we can today to make sure we have food to eat tomorrow. We have so much concern for the food we will have tomorrow, that we forget to enjoy the food in front of us today. We worry, we stress, and we miss today’s joy because we’re afraid we haven’t set ourselves up properly for tomorrow. The stress and fear can become paralyzing.
However, more and more I’m realizing that tomorrow never comes. We only have the present moment. And I think somehow we are collectively letting corporate machines take over and dictate our time. We aren’t able to unplug from work anymore. After our computers are off, our cell phone still rings and dings with calls and emails of more issues to be resolved. We worry that if we don’t answer them right now, something horrible will happen…or we will forget to do it tomorrow. Therefore, we [those of us in the corporate world] wake up and check our email…and then check our email before going to bed at night to make sure we haven’t missed anything from our colleagues in different time zones. We check our phones when we are with friends so we don’t miss the new issue that came up. And as one of my friends recently shared, we can even be led to the extreme and check our email and lead conference calls from the hospital just so we don’t get behind…and so the business doesn’t lose opportunities we’ve worked so hard to generate. We may not properly enjoy vacation because of our phone reminding us of what we’re missing…and urgent requests that business associates claim can’t wait.
How has this happened? I don’t know. The machines have risen in a way that Terminator 2 could not have envisioned. Children don’t play outside anymore because they want to watch their iPads or play video games; television shows have replaced human interaction with family and friends; mobile devices keep us tied to work at all times.
As I type this, it is after work hours on a week day and I am sitting on a beautiful beach all alone. Perhaps some people are commuting or eating dinner, but I’d wager most are laying on their couches watching television. (That was my plan b! ha) Now, no judgement on those who make other decisions…not everyone loves the beach and it could be too windy for some…but I know that every time I make time to get back to nature, I feel a weight lifted. When I was in China and unable to enjoy nature (I could not properly breathe outside, for I tasted chemicals when I was in Kunshan), I felt immediate depression…I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything, I just wanted to sleep. I think the same thing happens when we’re stuck in offices, or in cubicles and cut off from nature. It’s just not natural.
Ok so I’ve strayed far from my original point haha…but I think step one in solving this whole dilemma of questioning starts with getting fresh air and spending time in nature to gain perspective.
And then the magical thing that happens is that we focus less on the questions when we are in nature (or meditating, exercising, etc.). We start feeling the breeze, seeing the trees, and enjoying the waves. We are pulled into the present and we appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. We are moved to a place of no questions.
And even though I’ve downgraded television, I think the affect is similar. By transporting ourselves into the lives of others, we watch the stories play out and forget our troubles. The difference between television and nature is that nature (often) leads to an appreciation of beauty; while television creates a comparison between yourself and whomever you are watching. It may be a subconscious comparison, but you are likely drawn to shows that have characters who remind you of yourself or who you want to be, or those who represent a life that you’ve never known. If you a drawn to National Geographic, perhaps the programs are showing you places you want to see, or exposing you to concepts that you want to study. I believe these are all cues you can use to help you understand yourself better. Maybe it is time to plan a trip or take a class in an area completely outside of what you’ve done for most of your life.
I think we get trapped in the choices we’ve made in the past and feel there is no room for change. We may think, “I’ve always been an engineer, how could I be an artist?” or “I’ve always been in corporate, how could I be in media?” As difficult as these questions seem, the answer is fairly simple…you become an artist by practicing drawing…and you can be in media by simply having a podcast.
If we use our dreams to propel us make small changes in the present, the big dream we once had all of a sudden seems possible.
The more I write, the more I find I’m figuring things out…ha! But I recognize that it’s probably confusing for anyone else reading this to follow. I’m going to post as-is, so you can see how my brain works haha But I think the core things I’ve taken from this are:
- Stop asking questions
- Break away from machines to be present in nature
- Look at your distractions for clues about what you enjoy doing
- Figure out how to include your hobbies in your daily life
- Practice hobbies to not only improve your craft but to add more beauty in your life (I think this happens when we follow our passion)
- Enjoy moments more…laugh more…sincerely appreciate friendships :)
And in all of this, I’m reminded that we teach what we need to learn! ;)
P.S. If you made it through this entire post, I’m impressed haha And thank you :)
Photo source: Growth by Matthew Hahnel