My mindful journey around the world has begun. I safely arrived on the ship and settled into my cabin that I will call home for the next 4 months. The ship set sail from Ensenada Mexico after picking up the 550 college students who make up the majority of the population on the ship. As we set sail into the Pacific headed to Hilo, Hawaii, our first stop, we hit some rough waters right from the start. Although our ship is relatively large, holding 1,000 people including students, faculty, staff and crew, the 15-20 foot waves present quite the challenge as one attempts to navigate from one point to the next. Besides that challenge, came the inevitable plague of seasickness for a number of voyagers as we hit rocky seas on the first night. Luckily, genetics has blessed my family and I with rock solid digestive systems. Motions sickness is not a liability for us. However, several people on board have had a much more difficult time adjusting to the motion and our external awareness was heightened as we encountered pale-faced passengers spontaneously losing their dinner in various locations throughout the ship. Although the rocking of the ship does not make me prone to getting sick, I must admit that the mere sound of it happening to someone else immediately throws my gag reflex into high gear. Needless to say, I took cover, retreating to my room until my fellow passengers had a chance to adjust. Eventually it passed and students began emerging from their cabins rosy cheeked and relieved it was over. I was equally relieved, for now… We still have to cross the Pacific to Japan – that’s another 10 days at sea.
This evening we will be crossing the International Date Line. Tonight when I go to bed to it will be the evening of January 20, 2014. When I wake up tomorrow morning, it will be Wednesday January 22, 2014. This is an incredibly difficult concept to grasp! Where did Tuesday go? What happened to it? I know it existed for you back home, but not here. We erased it from the calendar as if it never happened.
In a very real way this is similar to the moments of our lives that we lose when we are not present, when we are stuck ruminating about the past or stressing about the future. We only have moments to live, however, day in and day out, most of us spend our lives, stuck in our heads, attached to thoughts about either the past or the future. We wake up, roll out of bed, eat our breakfast, take a shower and drive off to work without ever taking notice of what is happening in and around those precious moments of our lives. We are in a constant forward motion, doing, thinking and planning for times when our life will be better, when we will feel better, look better, be healthier, become more relaxed and have less stress. We fail to taste our food, enjoy the warm water of the shower on our backs or even remember to look at a beautiful sunrise, breath fresh air or notice the magnificence of the glistening snow. Other times, when we do take notice of something extraordinary, we dive for our cell phones so that we can take a picture, hurried to capture it for a time when we can look at it again and recall the beauty. As a result, we fail to experience the beauty at all. The real beauty exists in the experience of the moment, not in its photocopy. In fact, beauty exists in every moment of our lives, as do the conditions for happiness. But we fail to see and experience them. We forget and fail to acknowledge that we have peace and calm within us all the time. We don’t know how to enjoy our peace. Unfortunately, it’s not until we lose something that we realize how incredibly special it is. We rarely think about the magnificence of our eyes at all. We are constantly looking at things but we see very little. How many times have you driven to work and not remembered the ride at all? Sadly, some of us do this every day and as a result, we lose moments, days, weeks, and sometimes years of our lives, never to get them back again.
It is our sense of sight and all of our other senses that, when we choose to pay attention to them, allow us to experience the beauty of a flower, the gorgeous blue color of the sky or the precious face of a child. Imagine what we wish we could see if we lost our sight or hear if we suddenly became deaf. As we hurry around doing and striving to make something special happen in our lives, we fail to recognize that something special is already and always occurring, every moment of our lives. By making the choice and taking the time to pay attention to what is actually happening, instead of what has, could, should or would happen, we learn to enjoy the peace that exists within every single one of us, in every single moment.
Below is the mindfulness practice exercise for those of you who wish to participate.
Practice enjoying your peace. Investigate your inner peace. Examine times throughout the week when you find yourself searching externally for a solution to your inner turmoil, restlessness, anxiety or just plain boredom. Also, investigate the ways in which you may be doing this. For example, working, eating, drinking alcohol, smoking, shopping, playing on your phone, running around looking for something to do, etc. Each time you become aware that you are doing so, stop, take a breath, bring yourself back to the present moment and name everything that is right and beautiful about your life. We all have inner peace inside of us; we just have to practice enjoying it.
Please come back and share your inner peaceful discoveries in the comment section of this blog. I will be delighted to hear from you.