Documenting The Journey Of A Man On A Quest For Mindfulness, Peace, and Joy

Tag: Wisdom

On Sabbatical – Week 14: Safe Space Fosters Deeper Connection

It hit us this week that we are now very likely in the territory of, “we won’t be here this time next year.” Because by this point next year, our plan is to be living in Costa Rica. It helps put things into perspective, to appreciate experiences as they are happening. It’s our last “couple weeks of summer before school starts” in the U.S. Once the leaves start changing, it’ll be the last time I use the leaf blower and rake. Knowing where I am headed in the future helps bring into focus my appreciation for the present. 

The highlight of this week was an evening we spent with friends. We had a magical moment as we sat in a circle in our basement. But first, some context.

We are friends with another couple who live in the same town; close enough we can get to each other’s houses with a long walk. Even though we live so close, life as adults in Western capitalism is so frequently over-busy, and we don’t see each other as often as one might think. So, to combat this, we had started a tradition to make sure that at least one day per summer, we make some time to hang. In the past, we would go out for a day date (while the kids were in school); we called it our “Bougie Day.” Bougie Day to us meant driving to a fancier part of the Twin Cities, near a lake, and hanging out at a park or a beach to picnic and watch the boats. Perhaps we’d venture to a brewery or an ice cream shop if we were feeling especially bougie. 

As our scheduled day approached, though, I was still in decompression mode from our road trip to Canada. Going out and about sounded less like fun and more like work. When Kristyn and I asked ourselves what it was we really wanted, we realized that all we wanted was to have good quality time and conversation with our friends. (When we get into deep, heartfelt conversations about things that matter, Kristyn, sometimes, refers to this as “getting woo.”) So we proposed a flipping of the script, to change our upcoming Bougie Day into a “Woo-ugie Day,” where we’d hang at our friends’ house during the day, pick up our kids, and then spend the evening at our house. They accepted the proposal. 

Now what made this day particularly memorable was the evening portion at our house. After the kids were in bed, the four adults descended to our basement. We had no real agenda, just four friends sipping some tasty beverages and chatting away. At one point, our gal friend had mentioned an experience she’d had where someone had done a sort of cued meditation for her, where the purpose was to listen and connect to her Inner Wisdom. I asked her if she remembered what the cues were, the verbal prompts that the guide had used. She answered, “Well, it was a pretty straightforward process. It started like you would a ‘normal’ meditation, by closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths.” In that moment, I immediately closed my eyes. I sat in a relaxed pose with a half-smile. I focused on my breath. I had no idea what the other two in the room (Kristyn and our other friend) were doing or thinking as they saw me doing this, but despite my faint curiosity, I didn’t peek. I wanted to practice and demonstrate getting comfortable in a group meditation setting – something many might feel is awkward or uncomfortable. I thought it would be fun to play along as if she was my meditation guide, to see if she would be able to lead me to a similar experience she’d had. She continued with the verbal cues, and before long she arrived at, “… and now your inner wisdom is there with you. Notice them. Notice if they have a shape. Notice how they make you feel…” 

What happened in the next moment is what was so great and surprising. Instantly, our guy friend, the one I least expected to be playing along with this exercise, said, “I just got a really clear image of my Inner Wisdom. Whoa!” He didn’t elaborate in the moment, and everyone held safe space for the calm mood to continue. The meditation carried on for a few minutes, and eventually she wrapped it up. As I opened my eyes, I saw the other two do the same. As we shared how that experience had gone for each of us, our guy friend explained that he had never done any sort of guided meditation before and definitely had never seen or connected with his Inner Wisdom before. I can’t say for sure what everyone else was feeling right then, but it seemed to me we were all sharing in a deeper togetherness than when we had first walked down into the basement. 

I love those moments in life where something great happens, where I get some burst of joy, and I can look directly back at the choices I made which led to that moment. It’s also cool to notice how other’s choices and actions are linked with your own. Had my gal friend not chosen to share her guided meditation story, had she not felt comfortable or secure enough in our group relationship to open up about it, then this experience wouldn’t have happened. Had I not responded with immediate compliance and deference to her cues, and instead just listened as if she were telling any old story about what she’d done last week, then again, we would not have had that shared experience and my friend would not have made this deep connection to his voice within. 

It’s easy to be afraid of looking weird, of seeming different, of what others might be thinking. If I can muster the courage to follow my intuition and to be vulnerable regardless of the circumstance, great moments are on the other side. 

We close with my favorite quote of the week, when my family was out in the yard, and Kristyn and I watched as the kids wandered into our garage and out of our sight. Kristyn looked over to me, gave a half shrug, and said, “They’ll find a way to need what they find.” 

 

 



Raising the bar… and then lowering it

Last week I turned 36. One year before that, on my 35th birthday, I started the day with the goal of running ten miles – the farthest I’d ever run. On mile nine of that run I was feeling good; my spirits were up and my body was performing well. Somewhere in the that ninth mile I spontaneously decided to try to go for a half marathon distance, which I successfully completed. Miles 11, 12, and 13 were tough. It was a mental battle. I remember telling myself, “You can do it. Raise the bar. Don’t worry about how slow you’re running. Just don’t quit and eventually you will get there.” I mentally repeated the mantra I learned from Jocko Willink on Tim Ferriss’ blog/podcast: “Not dead. Can’t quit.”

I still remember the feeling immediately after that run; it was a rush, a feeling of pride, excitement, and illumination. Illuminating to me that us humans can push our bodies much farther than we think we can, if only we can muster the mental willpower to push us beyond our preconceived limits. 

In the weeks leading up to my 36th birthday, I had the goal of repeating the “half marathon birthday run” and making a tradition out of it. This year I started running a whole month earlier than 2020 and had clocked about 60 miles more on the road than the same time the previous year; however, I was also taken out by a cold for six days in late April and another six days in early May, causing a large dent in my training plan. 

So when the day came, May 16 2021, I did the opposite of the year before. I didn’t raise my bar. I lowered it. As I got ready for the morning run, I set my goal down from 13.1 miles to 10. In the midst of that run, I lowered the bar again and stopped at 9 miles. And you know what? I couldn’t be happier. 

Why? Because there’s more to last year’s story. After pushing myself to complete that impromptu half marathon, I paid a price. Right away I felt exhilarated, euphoric, alive. But, I couldn’t run for a week after that. I was sore in new places. I needed longer to recover. My body wasn’t sufficiently trained for that distance. 

This year, I ran nine miles (still my longest of the year), didn’t feel much strain, and felt great after. One day later, I was up at 5:45am for an early morning jaunt around the neighborhood lake, breathing in the fresh spring air and waking up to the day with the birds, bunnies, deer, and sun. 

I still believe we are capable of more greatness than we think we are, and it’s usually just our own mental blocks that are in the way. But I now also see the value in knowing your limits, listening to and being in tune with your body, and being in it for the long game. 

Grit gets you places you didn’t think you could reach. 

Wisdom is knowing when to unleash your inner grit. 

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