The Road Less Traveled

It was a cool and cloudy morning as I strolled though downtown Flagstaff. It was about 40 degrees, the air smelled of rain, and the clouds were settling low in such a way that you could not see the Mountain. The traffic was minimal, and it was fairly silent; aside from the occasional train passing and the strange guy standing by the trash cans yelling.  I didn’t plan on taking this morning walk, but it formed out of mere happenstance; and it was good.

I didn’t realize it at first, but I had landed in a serendipitous moment. I had recently read an article by my friend Eric Hanson* about serendipity. Serendipity is kind of like stepping into the unknown and finding unplanned experiences or joy in that space. He shared stories of his own experiences, and challenged the readers to seek serendipitous experiences once in a while to experience the joy that it brings. What I discovered during my walk this morning is that it does not always take grand events to ignite joy.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.  – Robert Frost

The idea of adding some spontaneity to our lives is key to our personal growth. Before I go on, I would to like to give you some context of how I approach life. I am a planner. I wake up on Monday morning thinking about what I can accomplish on Saturday, I keep a detailed ever growing to-do list at work so I don’t drop the ball, I think of Spring Break plans in January, and I can tell you exactly where to find items in my closet. I tell you this to convey that I have a very strong belief in a structured foundation, and that there is great value to setting goals and staying organized.

I love this quote because it is inspires me. I also love this quote because trail running and hiking are an important part of my life, and there have been many times that something as simple as taking the rabbit trail instead of the main trail has brought me to unexpected and unplanned beauty. Not only have there been breathtaking views, but there has also been somewhat eerie places very deep in the woods where I can only assume that each sound I hear belongs to the other creatures who inhabit that area. The feeling of heading out that trail does something special inside.

Stepping into the unknown, no matter how small that step, ignites energy inside of us.

As I walked through downtown in the midst of the calmness and overcast weather, I became energized and inspired. Though my plans had fallen through, that time became sacred to me. I cannot think of a more simple and minimal step into the unknown than taking a walk, and in that simplicity, I have found a vastness of joy.

*Eric Hanson is an author, adventurer, film maker, and all around good guy. Check him out at Erichanson.tv

 

 

 

To Be Yourself

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

The quote above is from Ralph Waldo Emerson; and I often turn to it when I need motivation or need to be reminded that there is a whole world taking place as I walk through my days.

What is it to be yourself? Is this a form of destiny combined with ambition? The truest form of who we are is somewhere in our soul, and that part of our soul speaks to our mind; and in those words, we hear whispers of what we need to do. In our soul, we can feel the rumblings of purpose.

Purpose. Our purpose can be found by asking what does life expect from me? This is a question that I have mentioned before as it comes from one of the most influential books I have read titled Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl. This question was raised as he observed not only himself, but other men who had lost everything as prisoners in concentration camps during the Holocaust; and had been stripped of their very humanity, yet found the strength to rise again each day and believe that there was a reason to persevere in the face of their great suffering.

We can learn from their perseverance, and find strength from their strength. So I ask, what does life expect from you?

Another of my favorite quotes that I have shared before is from Howard Thurman about coming alive:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

What moments in your life did feel truly alive?

To be truly alive is akin to being yourself. When the task at hand can be done with joy amidst struggle, or the process becomes  more enjoyable than the product; perhaps you have glimpsed your purpose. This is found in the space where your skills or talents align with what you enjoy doing. This is a sacred space when you discover that your passions and talents also align with what the world needs.

I ask you these questions as I ask them myself. Perhaps together we can find our true self, our purpose, come alive, and in turn provide the world around us with what it needs.

 

Solitude

Loneliness.

This is a powerful word, because out sparks such strong emotional reaction; and I believe that it is something that all of us can relate to at some point in our lives. If being alone becomes translated as loneliness, then sadness and desperation will begin to take root. Desperation mode is survival mode, and we will find ourselves  reacting to our circumstances instead of creating our circumstances.

Time.

Time gives and takes, it builds and breaks down, and it can be a gift if we choose to see it as so.

I start with these words, loneliness and time, because they are in relation to each other. We all have the same amount of hours in a day, though not the same amount of hours in a life; and we all want to make the most of our life. The feeling of loneliness can cause us to enter a place of circular thinking, which in my case, leads to feeling of self-doubt and regret. This is a downward spiral that I have found can rip the hours and the days, which are a gift, away from us.

Now even the darkest of nights lead to a new dawn, and time is reflected best in the form of a new day; though one day may feel lost, a new day is given.

The best book I’ve read this year is Reaching Out  by Henri Nouwen.

The theme of this book is rooted in a transformation from loneliness to solitude, and that is what we will focus on. Just as time is a gift, our being alone is truly a gift, because it is in those moments that we can dig deep to discover who we truly are and what passions lie inside of us. A simple word swap can change everything, so we translate loneliness  to solitude.

The best thing I can recommend is to go out and get this book, but for the purpose of our time right now; I will share some highlights to inspire you to join me on the path of finding solitude in what has been described as loneliness, starting with probably my favorite excerpt from the book:

“When loneliness is haunting me  with it’s possibility of being a threshold instead of a dead end, a new creation instead of a grave, a meeting place instead of an abyss, then time loses it’s desperate clutch on me. Then I no longer have to live in a frenzy of activity, overwhelmed and afraid for the missed opportunity.”

“The more we come to the painful confession of our loneliness, hostilities, and illusions, the more we are able to see solitude, hospitality, and prayer as part of the vision of our life.”

“Does not all creativity ask for a certain encounter with our loneliness, and does not the fear of this encounter severely limit our possible self expression?”

“Friendship and love cannot develop in the form of  an anxious clinging to each other. They ask for gentle fearless space in which we can move to and from each other.”

“Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into a fruitful solitude.”

“Then our life would indeed be a different life because then fate becomes opportunity, wounds a warning and paralysis an invitation to search for deeper sources of vitality. Then we can look for hope in the middle of crying cities, burning hospitals, and desperate parents and children. Then we can cast off the temptation of despair and speak about the fertile tree while witnessing the dying of the seed. Then indeed we can break out of the prison of an anonymous series of events and listen to the God of history who speaks to us in the center our solitude and respond to his ever new call for conversion.”

I hope these words have brought hope and healing, if not for you, then for someone close to you. Let us make the most of the time we have been given, this beautiful gift that lies in each day; and may the moments that we find ourselves feeling alone be transformed into moments of solitude.