Adventure – managing the gaps in the action

One of the things about adventure is that while the action, when described, sounds exciting, a lot of the time there’s pretty much nothing going on at all.

Joan of Arc waited around for a year for Robert de Baudricourt, governor of Vaucouleurs, to give her the men-at-arms she was commanded to wait for before presenting herself to the Dauphin, the King – and by any and all standards, hers was a fairly exciting life.

We’re used to our stories being distilled down to their essence – a 22 minute sitcom; a 90 minute movie – that’s the most effective way for us to consider those stories, and integrate their relevance into our lives.

The trouble with that is, we get to thinking that action happens in a continuous stream, one event after another, with no waiting, uncertain, perhaps doubting, in between.

I tend to take my action in the inspired form: I get a clear sense of what is needed, and whether it delights me or fills me with dread, the result is the same – I do it. That’s the easy part. More challenging are those times when the voice inside me, clear as a bell, tells me “there’s nothing to do, do nothing”, or simply goes quiet and I’m left twiddling my thumbs, a menace to myself and others, searching for something to fill the time.

I’m getting better at it. Sometimes, now, I can go easy on myself: stare out the window at the glorious view; listen to music; watch a film. And at other times? Well, let’s just say I’m working on it, masterpiece in progress, hoping the artist, whoever that might be, can repair the chisel damage that happens when I have a go at sculpting life myself.

To generate greatness, significant actions are few and far between – that’s what I’m learning – and the less I keep myself busy, or thinking, or planning, or trying to do it all myself, the clearer the voice inside me, the one that dictates those significant actions, becomes.

(By the way, for inspiration, I recommend Mark Twain’s biography of Joan of Arc – he spent 14 years researching and writing it, and considered it his best work)Product Details

The compelling call of adventure

Forgive me for thinking aloud here, for beginning with no end in view, for making this offering a small adventure in itself, undertaken with the primary motive of just launching into the unknown. Forgive me, because without that outlet, I feel I might burst.

Who else feels the keen need for adventure? Who else closes their eyes against the smell of wind and sea and pictures themselves as Jack Sparrow, departing for an unknown, uncertain destination? Or is it just me?

And I wonder, why should it come so strongly today?

A good friend reminded me of our very human competing needs for certainty and uncertainty, the balance of which possibly influences our lives more than we realise.

“No,” I said, “my actions weren’t driven by the need for uncertainty,” but then I took another honest look, and realised that, just possibly, they might have been; and then I couldn’t help but smile at myself and start looking for another, more constructive avenue to stretch my wings, test my strength, get that need met.

There are various cliched ways we find variety in our safe western lives: we fall in love, we go on holiday, we dabble in legal and illegal drugs. Compare this to the great historic adventures, however, and the contrast is a little sad. So what else can we do? I feel my heart beating against the confines of my chest as I ask this question, impatience at not seeing an immediate answer…

The same friend suggests that if I allow them, answers, fresh thoughts will come, and my response is somewhere between a laugh and a scream: “When? When will they? I want them now!” In my mind’s eye I see him smile, a warm, infuriating smile, laughing in turn at my impatience.

From experience, I know the call to adventure can be a challenge, requiring courage and conviction to follow through. Okay. I’m ready for that. I’m ready to answer the call – just call, adventure. Please come.

Soul of a Nomad

I wonder what it is that makes me happiest when I’m wandering from place to place.

The flow of the road or the waves or the tracks brings a sometimes ecstatic joy to my heart, which rises in a soaring movement in my chest that is an expression of pure joy.

The view through my car window of a familiar and unfamiliar landscape: sunshine on brilliant green foreground hills against a backdrop of thunderous sky; light through autumn leaves in a glowing, glorious display of colour; the sparkle of sunshine off water; the shifting pattern of cloud as the road worships a rising moon; the glimpse of a long snaking train as we round a curving bend, the transient view of the engine like the promise of infinity – all these things combine into one truth: that all that matters is that the view keeps shifting, keeps changing.

It is the constant change, the truth of now and the unknowability of the future that makes me feel so at home in the journey.

This week I’ve stopped and taken rest with some wonderful old friends. This, too, is part of the shifting view. I love to connect and reconnect, to ask the questions that only seem to get asked within a limited time-frame – the bigger questions of health and happiness and life.

The potential frictions of people living together are suspended when the visit is closely finite; an impertinent question brings a moment of surprise, the head of the person questioned pulling back a fraction; then comes the moment of magic: the eyes shift focus to a point not in the room; there is a pause of sacred anticipation, and then the answer comes, fresh, true, honest, enlightening. Reality may change or not from that moment, but somehow, their hearts and mine are touched and altered by the space of honesty and truth that is outside our normal, everyday experience.

For me, the epic journey requires being at the level of land or sea – it cannot be made by air. Perhaps it requires the physical connection the the medium of travel: up and down with waves or landscape. Perhaps it is that our eyes have evolved to make sense through a horizontal view, that looking down on something makes it unreal, unrelated to ourselves and our lives.

I recall the two great Australian train journeys I have made, one with each of my children at the sacred age of twelve: the Indian Pacific with my son, Perth to Sydney and with my daughter, the Ghan, Adelaide to Darwin, with a side trip to the nowhere-ness and everywhere-ness of Uluru.

I still have the sense with me of endless desert, not empty as I expected, but always dotted with scrubby trees, points of curious interest on which to momentarily rest my eyes  before the train whisks me on to the next view; that magical pattern allows me to be in two places, two worlds, on two planes at once, with the rich added dimension of the spirit of my children accompanying me. I am here on earth, and I am floating in the world of my imagination, free and connected simultaneously.

I look at my business card now and see it gives no location: there is no physical address, no country-based phone number; it is a virtual homing beacon, with web address, email address, Skype ID. With this I can be found and not found anywhere in the world. For the person wanting to connect, it doesn’t matter where I am, or rather, there is the illusion I am always in the same place… which I suppose, given that my heart is my home, is the truth.

My heart, in connection with the hearts of others: that’s home.

The Illusion of Control

I had a great conversation with my good friend, Yvette Lamidey, The Business Locksmith, on Monday, one of those conversations where prophetic things get said; we both heard Oracle statements for our futures.

In amongst a wide range of subjects, the idea of control of life came up. It’s an idea we like to cling to, that we can directly manipulate the objects and events in our lives, that things are stable, that the possessions and people we live with now will be with us forever.

But actually, we know that isn’t true. We know that things are temporary, that even the ground beneath our feet is less stable than it seems.

So what is going on here? Why do we ignore the evidence, and keep holding on tightly to what we know? Perhaps it’s the devil we know… that the things we can’t imagine look more frightening than the things we can. Perhaps it’s that we doubt our ability to handle something new. Perhaps it’s just the energy that it takes to run a hundred different scenarios, pre-planning contingencies, exploring the “what-ifs”. For lots of different reasons, it seems simplest to assume what has happened before will happen again, the same action will produce the same result… but we know, deep down, this isn’t always true.

So what then? What’s the alternative?

How about this? What if we were to surf life, moment by moment; watch the waves with a sense of the direction of movement, and trust in the thrill of the ride? What if we were to allow the roller coaster of emotions to freely move through us, bringing vivid experience, a continuous rush of beautiful, wild life, exhilarating?

There’s a lot to let go of to do this. Loosening the grip on possessions is the first, looking at everything we have around us, everything we hold in our hands, as a momentary thing that may or may not continue into our future. It requires letting go of thinking ahead with rigid expectation, of the sense of disappointment when things don’t go as planned, of judgement, comparing this moment to what it might have been; and then, once these are let go, living life this way consists of simply looking around the moment we have with wonder.

It also involves letting go of people: letting go of the picture we have of who they are or ought to be, and letting them be who they actually are, in the moment. None of us stay the same; we change powerfully from moment to moment: sometimes serious, sometimes sad, sometimes playful; but always, deep down, we are always love. We just bring that love in different forms, moment to moment.

It’s that truth that makes it safe to trust life, in the moment, and let go of the illusion of control.

(Thanks to inimitable Thinking Coach Dave Kibby: I can no longer tell which ideas are yours, and which are mine…)

Peaceful ready, versus impatient ready

Sometimes when we have a sense of big changes happening, of huge new things to come for us, we can get furiously impatient waiting for them to happen – this is what goes on for me, at least: I start looking for signs, for evidence of progress, for the next step on the ladder to climb.

I’m beginning to realise this isn’t the way it works. The way life flows now, progress isn’t linear, it doesn’t follow a clear, step-by-step pattern. When things happen, they appear out-of-the-blue, in a way I could never have imagined or planned for – but the fact that they do happen is not a surprise, because I’ve seen them in visions beforehand.

So why the impatience? When I’ve seen so much evidence of life unfolding in this way, why don’t I just trust it, why don’t I have faith? – because patience isn’t impatience’s opposite; the opposite of impatience is faith.

Today I’ve come to see this in a new way, to look back over my life and see that it has often been in the quiet moments that great things have come.

There will be no evidence of progress, and I have to be okay with that.

So today, despite extreme temptation to impatience, I am calm, peaceful, trusting.

Great things are coming, and I’m peacefully ready.

Creativity from uncertainty

Reading Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success this weekend, I was enveloped by the statement that creativity comes in a space of uncertainty.

When we create something entirely new, we can’t know in advance what it will be, or how it will come – by definition, if it’s new, it’s something neither we nor anyone else has ever seen or done before.

And the greater the uncertainty, the greater the possibility, creativity, opportunity.

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