Stepping outside and getting into nature can create joy and pleasure in our daily lives. We all know the refreshing power in a good dose of clean air, sunshine, trees and grass. We often have familiar spots - known, sure bets for our relaxing and re-energizing to occur.
Yet, the regularity of routine visits to ‘favorite places’ can sometimes dull our senses to the inherent beauty of nature. We may even lose our curiosity, forget to notice what is around us out of boredom, distraction or assumption.
Letting the inner explorer out
My inner explorer led me on just such a diversion the other day. The experience so affected me that I am now sharing some insights. If you were on this walk you may have already been subjected to my child like enthusiastic sharing as I stopped you for conversation. If not then let me explain the source of my joy and bliss in this discovery.
As I said above I love going for walks. Usually I have a few well trodden paths with familiar steps, each tree, shrub, patch of earth a point of reconnecting.
Yet of recent I have turned off the path, gone in new directions. What is amazing is how beautiful it is to discover the unknown.
The rewards are beyond belief. Even if others have gone before you, it is still your unknown.
It was exactly this experience I had on Friday. I had only just the day before flown in from my overseas holiday visiting family in Half Moon Bay, California. While back in my old ‘home town’ it would only take me minutes before I was staring and touching the Pacific Ocean. (See right)
So upon my return to Sydney I craved my ocean connection and ventured out Manly Beach way, the other side of the Pacific. (See below)
I had set my internal GPS to ‘find ocean’ and almost on autopilot my senses took me to the beach. I usually walk along the paved walkway with the 100’s of other locals and tourists admiring the surf line, beach and rocks. This time my curiosity kicked in and I wandered further along to the end of the beach, up so me stairs to the top of the hill where I found by chance a tree covered path along the cliffs looking out over the ocean. The path led me to an oasis of peace.
When I say oasis I mean oasis. Here I was, walking distance to busy Manly Beach, the hustle and bustle of restaurants, lots of people, business and noise. Yet on this path the only noise was that of the ocean. The only hustle and bustle was the pace of my stride. The only people were other fellow admirers of the oasis not disturbing but occasionally joining me in my appreciation of nature.
Seeing the unseen for the first time
Now this location is not an obscure hard to find place. On the contrary it is a path on the edge of a parking lot. In fact I have parked previously to look at the view. Yet I have never paid attention to this path.
I NEVER knew the little oasis existed. I have been living in Sydney for over 17 years. I come to the beach regularly to walk and be by the ocean.
But NEVER did I see the path.
Because I NEVER looked.
Yes I never looked. How did I find it this day?
Well of all things I read a sign that had a map on it.
Yes. Funny that. A sign posted for all to see had marked in big red lines the path I discovered. I have walked up to the sign before I have even sat on the beach just next to the sign. But did I ever read it? Ask? Want to know?
So for all these years I have missed out on this beautiful oasis. Lots of other people have not missed it. As I sat admiring and soaking up the view, many apparent regular visitors walked by. Some stopped, but most kept walking or running by.
To me I discovered an oasis of peace, a refuge from our busy world where I could stop, reflect and commune with nature yet still feel close to the world I know. There were trees all around, fresh air, rocks sculpted by the elements, the sun above and out in the water surfers playing in the waves waiting for the next big one. Most of all my soul had its fill of restorative time with the ocean.
I felt like a tourist in my own town.
I felt like a tourist in my own world.
I realized I am a tourist in my own life.
Join the tour
So this got me thinking. What if we lived our daily lives as if we were tourists in our own life. What would it be like? Our approach to life would be quite different on several levels.
How we view our experience and opportunities might be different. Normally when we perceive to have time available we can leave things to later. This delay can include both what we dislike and like. For example, things to do later might include taking the kids to the movies, seeing a concert, going for a walk, visiting a friend.
If on holiday we make time for such activities. We make the most of our experience because we don’t know if we will ever get to have the same again. We remain focused on the present and less about the future.
So consider the attitude you carry around and whether you have the traveler mindset or not.
Our approach to day to day living might be different. Usually when we go through our daily routine what we do quickly morphs into ‘the daily grind’. We don’t notice or see this happen. Next thing we know we are complaining about Mondays, can’t wait until Friday, hate going to the store for errands etc.
What if we changed the way we approached our day. So for a start we could choose either to have a plan or have no plan or a bit of both. This would mean our diaries for the day no longer represent what we have to do. Instead we have travel itineraries with options all geared towards the experiences, making the most of our time and destination and not missing out on anything happening.
Rest and relaxation
When in our world of home, car, local suburb etc we often fill our days with chores and tasks leaving little room for rest and relaxation.
In holiday mode we take time out to recharge our batteries, get ourselves back in balance. So in our tourist at home mode why not build time in the ‘itinerary’ to allow to look after our self. Small pleasures like reading a book, sitting in the deck chair on the balcony rarely used.
Well there’s the budget. On holidays we always consider the budget whether we are a no frills or five star traveler. The dollars bit does come into the equation.
So I believe our day matches us in this sense. Irrespective of whether we have lots or little money, traveling is about seeing what we would not normally see.
So on our itinerary we can plan to go to places we may not normally go. Let’s say our daily routine says travel to work by a certain route. Well maybe change the route. Better yet get out on our journey as if a tourist.
A little help from the travel agent
The list is endless and the parallel of the tourist in your own town can be explored further. So rather than tell you what to do today I am going to ask you what you want to do? Let me be your travel agent for a moment?
- If you could go anywhere you wanted in your life right now where would it be?
- How do you feel about traveling alone? With companions? In groups?
- Who do you want to have on your journey with you? Who would you be happy sharing close quarters, long drives or difficult situations and challenges with in your day to day exploring?
- What would you do if you encountered unfamiliar territory? People? Languages? Customs?
- How do you approach new situations? What is your attitude towards traveling in your life? Alive and having fun? Bored and grumpy?
- Would others enjoy meeting you in your travels? Or seek out other companions?
- What would you take with you? Pack, not pack, leave behind?
- How would you get around? What ways would you choose to go? Directions you would take? Means of getting there?
- What is important for you to experience along the way? Do you need to have memorable moments, life changing challenges or the calmness and predictability of the expected?
- Who will you listen to for advice? Who will you call upon as your travel guides along the way?
- What will you do if your plans do not go as you envisage?
These are just some of the questions you might ask yourself. Consider anything else that comes up and extend your reflection to your life journey, not just a recent excursion.
What really matters is that you read the signs
It is almost so obvious that there is no need to mention the analogy staring us in the face. Yet I can’t avoid it. I failed to notice the physical sign showing me this real life path to a real world oasis. Going a step beyond the physical I wonder how many non physical signs we all miss in our life, you miss in your life. This is the true tragedy.
To me, living life, not paying attention to the signs means we, I and you are possibly missing out on really living life to the fullest. No one else is stopping us! We stop our selves.
In the above example no one told me not to go there or not to read the sign. I simply did not pay attention.
The obvious analogy ends here for there is more in this message.
If we step back and think of signs generally some we see clearly because we look for them. Others we don’t look for. It is our world view, personal beliefs and other self oriented filters that affect what we see. This means getting our self in the right state of mind will enhance our ability to see the signs.
Signs come in all forms and are not always literal and obvious. There are many ways to get messages that we need to pay attention to. Most are not up in neon. Though some are.
An example of the obvious sign is your body falling apart and collapsing to the point of you ending up in hospital. In this example your body is telling you something – you are not healthy. When you stand back and pay attention you will probably notice the trail of circumstances that led to the dire situation.
Yet other signs are less obvious. You may be in a meeting or getting together with friends. Someone says something that you don’t agree with but don’t say anything.
My suggestion is to simply hold the intention of paying attention. That’s all you need to do to start. Then notice. Really notice. It can almost be a game like the ones you played in the back of the car on long road trips. See what you see along the way.
Let's go there...