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One Adventure at a Time

food. passion. life.

adventure of the mind

I’m watching the new Netflix series, Anne with an “E”, it is based on some of my favorite childhood books.  Anne is an orphan child with a wild imagination.  I remember identifying with Anne as a child.  As a child I had an over-active imagination and an ever active mouth, much like Anne.  Revisiting this child-hood classic has helped me to realize how important the imagination is.

It is important that we don’t overuse our imagination, but too often as adults we never use it.  It is important to keep our imagination active because without the continual exercise it will atrophy.  Dusting out the cob-webs of our imaginations is difficult.  But without imagination we lose hope.

I hear from so many of my friends as we all grow older that they can’t hope anymore.  Hope becomes a difficult thing as we grow older.  We have had many years of disappointments to get accustom to.  As we learn to deal with disappointment we close off the mind to imagination and with it we close the heart to hope.

We need to allow our heart to hope and our mind to imagine so that we can move toward a better tomorrow.  When we can’t imagine anything but things as the are, we lose the desire to make things better for ourselves and for others.  If you can’t imagine what life would be like without debt, you would never attempt to break free of it.  If you can’t imagine life with love, you will never open yourself up to it.

So much of the risk we take in our lives is directly linked to how much we hope.  And, how much we hope is directly linked to how much we can imagine.  Imagination breeds hope and with it adventure.  Use your imagination today and find something to hope for, then take that hope and turn it into an adventure!

beautiful

You’ve got to get up every morning
With a smile in your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel

~Carol King

Recognizing beauty

Part of living the adventurous life is recognizing beauty in the world. Recognizing beauty in nature, others, and ourselves. This can be particularly difficult for us to do when we don’t feel beautiful. But sometimes we don’t feel beautiful because we are listening to the wrong voices.

I’m not usually one who listens to the “advice” of celebrities because often I feel like they don’t live in our world.  They live in a microcosm of reality and their advice leaves me wanting, however, just today I came across this video on Twitter. Julia Roberts was on Ellen and she had some really down-to-earth things to say about beauty.

I love the realism of this video.  Sure we don’t all look like Julia Roberts, and that’s the genetics part that she was talking about.  But we all can surround ourselves with people whose kindness and love inspires.  We can allow ourselves to feel beautiful by showing the world all the love in our hearts, as the song says.  There are so many times I find myself missing out on adventurous living because I’m too busy in my masochistic self-pity to stop and see all the beauty around me.

I am surrounded by people who love me, care for me, and see the beauty in me.  When I allow myself to see the beauty in my life I become grateful.  As I practice gratitude I become more loving.  And as I  become more loving I not only shine that love outward, but I start to see the beauty within myself.  Being able to recognize my own beauty, I start to recognize the beauty in others.

I don’t mean recognizing beauty in the way that causes us to compare ourselves and want to change things about ourselves.  I mean recognizing beauty in others because you can see them for who they really are.  Recognizing value and worth of every person you encounter.

It has been my experience that you can’t recognize the value and worth of others if we can’t recognize our own value and worth.

When you have a hard time seeing beauty within yourself, you will almost always miss it in the world.

How do we start to recognize that beauty within?

Listen to the right voices.

Listen to the people in your life who know you for who you really are, and love you for you.  Listen to the ones who will not bullshit you.  The problem with bullshitters is that even if they are saying kind and sweet things, those words don’t penetrate our hearts.  We don’t trust their compliments because we don’t believe those people really know us.

Listening to the right voices starts with recognizing who those people are in your life.  Who are the ones who have always been there for you?  Who are the people who would drop everything for you if you needed them?  Who are the people who know you, love you, and actually like being around you?  Listen to those voices.  Then speak your love for them.

When you speak your love into the world, you will become the beauty you wish to see in the world.  Adding to the beauty of the world is the privilege of being human.  Our humanity is fully realized when we add to the beauty.  When we add to the beauty and recognize the beauty all around us, it is then that being fully alive, we can live out the adventure we seek.

 

sweeter days

Have you ever had one of those days?  You know the kind I mean, the ones where you just never want it to end.  I have to be honest I have been privileged to enjoy far more of those blessed days than I should have any right to claim.  When these days happen, most of us have a tendency to hold them too tightly.  I mean that because we want to extract every last ounce of sweet nectar from those short 24 hours, we can at times self-sabotage and miss the pleasure of just being.

I am very guilty of this.  I tend to want to relive that moment again and again so much that I miss out on the beauty of the next moment. Or I entirely miss out on the joy of being in the moment at all, and it is stolen from me by the fear of impending day’s end.

I just had one of these days, and though yes, I didn’t want it to end, one of the things I’ve been working on is mindfulness.  Living in the moment and being mindful go hand in hand with an adventurous life.  We can never fully recognize our adventures without being mindful, and we can never fully enjoy our adventures without living in the moment.  Both are necessary to appreciate and live adventurously.

When we hold onto a moment too tightly, however, we miss something. We miss the beauty of the temporal state we are experiencing.

Just being present with people you love (or even at times alone) can be the difference between a great day and a forgettable one.  The more we learn to stay present in whatever moment we find ourselves in, the more we will see the adventure we seek is right before us.

I have added meditation to my daily routine, and by doing this I’ve been able to practice mindfulness and remain present in each current moment. The beautiful thing is that through this entire day, I didn’t even realize I was being mindful.  It just starts to happen as you practice more, the more naturally you will find yourself enjoying your present hour.

As my day has come to a close, I began my daily ruminations. I became sad, almost morose at the thought that today is over and it would not come again.  I was then reminded that part of being mindful and present in each moment means appreciating the day’s transience.

I was rereading a friend’s postcard that I had read earlier in the day.  In this postcard she lamented that the day on which she wrote to me was gloomy and dark.  She then said, however, “It’s these days that make the sunny ones sweeter.”

It’s these days that make the sunny ones sweeter.

These short words reminded me to appreciate my sweeter day for all it is, including the fact that it is not permanent.  I was sad that my day had to end, but like all things in life we often won’t appreciate what we have if we never know what it is like to go without it.  So my friend’s words stick in my brain as a reminder to remain present.  They teach me to stay present even unto the day’s end.

There is a bitterness to mindfulness because there will never again be a day exactly like this one.  It is easy and even tempting to let that reality make us grow sad or angry when the day closes, but without this day’s end we would never know days that make this one sweeter.   Impermanence is part and parcel of an adventurous life.

being who you are

The adventurous life is one marked by being unafraid.  But of what are we afraid?  So many times it’s not outside sources that we are afraid of, its the personal struggle of who we are and being accepted that way.   I am sitting here watching “Ellen’s 20th anniversary of ‘The Puppy Episode,'” celebrating the day that she came out to the world.  I remember as a young girl what it was like to watch all the controversy around this issue.  I remember how much people disliked Ellen for saying, “I’m gay,” on national television.

I personally am not gay, but I do know what it is like to be a weirdo.  I know what it feels like to be afraid of what people will think about you.  I know how it feels when you are afraid to be you and let others see you for who you are.  But the fact remains that we cannot live fully if we hide who we are from the world.  Living an adventurous life is being who we are and not being afraid of who that is.

Though on a much smaller scale, of course, I know how difficult this is.  I had an experience that pointed out to me just how weird I am.  You can read about that experience here.

The fact of the matter is I am grateful that I am weird and love that I, now, am happy to be who I am and would not change any aspect of my life for anyone or anything.  Living an adventurous life is learning to accept who we are and be that person without fear of acceptance from others.  In fact, I have found that the more I allow others to see exactly who I am, the more they love and accept me.  I have found that being true to yourself, no matter what, is a more joyful and happy experience than being accepted by way of social mores.

Thanks to strong brave people, like Ellen, we have examples and can follow their lead to being ourselves.  The best part of being weird and being yourself is that you learn how to accept others for who they are as well.  We learn to be kind to others and let them be themselves, as we all journey through this adventure called life toghether.

always ready for adventure, start here

My journey to living an adventurous life, has been one with many caveats.  I realize that I’ve not been talking about food or travel nearly as often as you have come to expect.  But part of the reason for this is that I’ve been so distracted that I’ve not really been eating that healthy or taking the time to savor the things that matter.

So, thank you to those of you who prefer my posts about food and travel.  Thank you for coming with my on my journey to refocus and rediscovery.  I promise very soon you’ll start to see those posts again. For now more about my journey into minimalism. I know that I’ve been writing a lot about minimalism, and though I don’t want to bore you, I want to help you understand why I’ve gone this route.

Minimalism for me is not just the idea of getting rid of a bunch of stuff so I can go off and live in a tiny house somewhere.  It’s so much bigger than that. As I said in my post, confessions of a reluctant risk-taker, this journey is about learning how to live an adventurous life and all that entails.

The very first thing I’ve learned on my journey is that living an adventurous life means getting rid of the distractions.  There are so many distractions in life that keep us from pursuing adventure, hell we have distractions that keep us from just recognizing adventures right in front of us.  Deciding to embrace minimalism is my way of getting rid of my distractions.

Today is my first day living in my newly minimized space, and I have to say, what a difference it has already made for my mental health.  Without clutter to deter and distract me at every turn, my morning began with light streaming in my window and birds singing.

These two simplicities immediately put me into the right frame of mind.  I got up, put away my sleeping stuff, pulled out my yoga mat and began meditation.  I need to explain here, that I have not meditated in over four months.  I have been too tired to get up, and too distracted by my cluttered life to take the time to simply breathe.  As I focused on my breath for simply five minutes to start my morning, I then transferred that energy into a simple yoga routine.  Again it’s been four months since I’ve practiced yoga.  A total of fifteen minutes later I was out on the front porch with my coffee and book in hand.

I learned something very important about myself this morning.  Without distraction I’m much more disciplined.  Meditation is all about getting in the right frame of mind.  When you are mentally prepared for your day, and present in the moment you can see the adventure waiting around the corner.  You will find the joy in the little things, and without the clutter of your life or your mind standing in the way, you can truly begin to live your adventurous life.

This morning I realized the joy of drinking a cup of coffee and reading outside with the sun beaming down on me.  It was a joy that I don’t often take the time to savor.  I’ve learned it’s the little things in life that bring us joy but to be able to recognize these things we have to be mentally present.

You don’t have to become a minimalist to start meditating on a daily basis, I just found that until I removed the clutter from my space, I had a hard time removing the clutter form my mind.  Now, that I’ve been able to do both, I can’t wait to see what adventures I find waiting for me.

last night I slept on grass…

As you know I’ve been adopting minimalism.  In fact, the reason I missed my first post this week was because I’ve been so busy getting rid of shit.  Well today was the last stretch in my journey. Well, probably not the last stretch, but at least it’s the last stretch towards getting rid of my shit…

As such, I’ve minimized my sleeping situation.  I ordered a Japanese tatami mat and shikibuton.  Well, the tatami mat arrived first, and still no mattress (aka shikibuton). It was not the most comfortable night sleep I’ve ever had, but I do have to say, it was far better than I thought.

Maybe it was just the high from getting my living situation very nearly where I wanted it or maybe it was actually the firmness of the tatami mat.  Either way I slept far better than I could have imagined.  I will offer more tips later for my process of minimalism, but for now let me just say that if you have back intonate back issues as I do you may want to look into this sleeping situation.  Check out this info I found on Japanese Futons

 

 

little adventures for the winter shut-in

Once Spring arrives, all I want to do is go on adventures.  Yesterday was the perfect day to get outside for a little trek.

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

The bullfrogs were singing their song as the sun came out to warm the earth.  Birds chirped at each other, and dogs said hello to everyone that passed on the trail.  Families, couples, groups of friends, single hikers, everyone decided to come out today.  It seemed as though everyone was in on the secret, Spring is here.  Everyone, that is, except the trees.  Someone forgot to wake them up.

The glen was full of people enjoying the rush of the water.  The sound was wonderful and refreshing.  Lovers just sat to enjoy the background as the talked.  Photographers and artists came to sketch and shoot.  Kids cam to play in the water and enjoy the new breath of life water can give.

This tiny adventure made me realize how much I want to go on a big adventure.  But being out in nature feels wonderful no matter how long. It was a nice respite and a good reminder of the things in life that matter.  Living the adventurous life, doesn’t require all out adventures all the time.  Sometimes these little treks are just enough, find something small that you can do today to increase adventure in your life.

operation read and cede

So each week last month, as promised, I have been picking one thing to change about my life.  I am chronicling this journey and when I am done I will put it all into a book free to the first hundred people to sign up on my email list. (shameless plug alert)

Last month my focus was time.  Every change I decided to make had to do with how I spent my time.  This month in light of the change to spring, I will be focusing on possessions.

Spring cleaning time.

I have been reading a lot from the The Minimalists, they are such an inspiration to me.  And though I am sure my minimized life will look very different from theirs, the basic principles are the same.  Get rid of the shit in your life.

The “shit” as I am fondly calling it is anything you define as a distraction from what really matters in your life.  For me, this sums up about half of my personal possessions if not more.  So in an effort to pare down and reduce clutter in my life, this month each decision/change I make per week will be focused on getting rid of the shit.

This week the decision I’m going to make is to read more.  How do I define “more”? Well you know how I feel about goals, they are just an opportunity for failure.  So rather than setting a goal of how much “more” I will read I am setting an expiration date for each books in my collection.  I have a wide variety of books I have been meaning to read for many years, and never finished, and in some cases never started.  This is after already cutting my collection in half.

How often do you do this?  How often do you hold onto things that you have the best of intentions for and end up never using?  I do it a lot.  I am a criminal procrastinator and books are my most frequently targeted victims.

No more procrastination!

Today, when I decided to go through my entire book collection I started by making two boxes.  One box for donate and another box for sell.  When sifting through my books I looked for the ones that I had previously read. I am not much of a re-reader, I have a fairly decent memory, so aside from a very limited selection of reference books in my library.  If I have read it already, I am not likely to ever pick it up again.  So why keep it?  (This question is likely to become my mantra this month.)  Every time I picked up a book I had already read and asked myself this question I had no answer.

Next I started looking a the slew of books I have owned for a long time but never read.  If it had no use to me anymore, or if I had no desire to read it then into the box it went.  Then I started coming across books that I did actually want to read.  This is where, “So why keep it?” got tough. The answer, of course, for all these books was, “Because I intend to read it.”  So I had to ask myself another question.   “But, truthfully, will I ever read it?”  If the answer was no, it had to go in a box.  If the answer was yes I set it aside, if the answer was maybe, it had to go in a box.  (This was the hardest part because there were books that honestly I do want to read but truthfully I’m not sure I ever will and that saddens me.)

So there I was with a stack of books to which I said, “YES! I will read you.”  I immediately got anxiety looking at that pile of books, it was so overwhelming.  I was overcome with the feeling that I’d be holding onto those books for yet another year (maybe two) of “good intentions.”   I had to find a way to keep paring down this book collection, but truthfully I just didn’t want to get rid of books I really do want to read.  That’s how I finally came up with…

Operation Read and Cede. #readandcede

I knew the most logical way to get rid of more books was to transition them from the unread category into the read category.  My anxiety came back.  But I finally figured out a way to motivate myself to read all these books, and make it driven by fun rather than pressure.

So, here’s how it works. I am going to give each book an expiration date.  And by the end of the expiration date I am going to give it to someone else who wants it.  Every month I’m going to post a picture of books that expire that month, and if you want it just send me a message saying what book you want.  I have always been more motivated by deadlines than goals.  And I have always loved giving stuff away, so giving away the book will be fun for me and hopefully result in my reading much more than I currently do.

IMG_0542Any books in my collection that I have not read by the end of its expiration date, I will simply give away and read at another time, that’s what my library card is for.

Anyhow, this month’s selection is up so please tell me if you want any of these books when I’m done, it’s yours!

(P.S. Please! Don’t judge my taste in literature by these books.  Many of them were gifts and thrift store finds that sounded interesting at the time–not my usual go-tos.)

dream vacations, what no one tells you…

Almost two years ago I was able to fulfill one of my long-awaited dreams, I turned thirty in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  For many years leading up to my thirtieth birthday I was convinced that Italy was my favorite place on earth, if only I could get there.  I knew that was already in love with this place and I knew that was exactly where I wanted to spend the first days of my unfolding third decade.

Realizing this dream was a game changer.  This experience didn’t magically transform my irritatingly mundane life, but her for a moment I experienced the pure joy of life being exactly what you dreamed.  The trouble with moments like this is their brevity.  Eventually we all go back to that same life we left behind for just a week or two.  And its the going back with new vigor or passion that makes the leaving worth it.

I, however, never came back with new vigor or passion for my life here.  I held onto the high for a little while, and tried to recapture the sensation of being in Italy.  But truly the only passion I returned home with was the passion to leave that daily grind for good. But money and debt don’t work like that.  You can’t just pick up and leave, no matter how many times I tried to convince myself that maybe I could.  For me, returning from vacation didn’t feel like coming home, instead it felt like leaving something behind.

I felt like I was leaving behind the life I knew I always wanted to merely survive under the same drudgery I had come to know and despise.  Most of you are probably thinking, what is this girl’s problem?  She was just in friggin’ Italy, that’s an experience of a lifetime, can’t she just appreciate that?

Well, you are right to think and ask this.  But no, I couldn’t just appreciate it.  Oh sure, I told myself I would save up and get back there in a year or two.  But the longing to stay there never went away.  The longing for my life to look like that all the time clung to my soul and didn’t let go.  It’s this longing that becomes the death of real adventure.

It is no secret that I long for my life to look so much different than it does.  I know this is a desire we are all familiar with. We all have things in our lives we want to change, but the ways in which it doesn’t change are testimony to the fact that desire does not produce results.  Just because we want something doesn’t mean it will happen.  I know, I know I’m in my thirties shouldn’t I have already learned this?  Yes, and in many ways I already had learned it.

My problem is that I still haven’t learned to stop looking ahead or behind.  Life is going to happen, time passes whether you are present for it or not.  We can either keep waiting for our life to change, or we can embrace the life we have and live it.

I am not suggesting that it’s easy to do, there is a certain amount of soul realigning that must happen.  Our souls have a nervous system just like our bodies.  Nerves help us to feel, they present sensation based on what our brain tells them.  Nerves have memories and expectations that come from the brain.  Sometimes what our brain expects to feel, the nerves trigger even if the sensation is not happening.

Think of anytime you’ve anticipated receiving a shot.  With your eyes tightly shut, and body tensed you can actually trigger the sensation of pain without the needle being anywhere near your skin.  The brain remembers what that pain felt like last time so triggers the same sensation again in anticipation of it.

Memory and expectation are just as powerful as actual reality.  Experiences are driven by memory and expectation just as much as actual events and can even overshadow the occurrence itself.  This is why after an amputation someone can still feel an itch in their missing limb.  Over time these phantom sensations wear off because the nerves have to realign and learn new sensations. In short, the nerves that are still present learn to be present without the memory or expectation. But this takes a lot of work and reconditioning of the body.

The same is true for our souls.  Learning to embrace the experiences as they happen rather than living in the past or long for the future is hard work. Living the life we have set before us is like the nerves of our souls realigning.  Too often our souls are trained to hope, dream, long.  Or our souls are set to remember, relive, recapture.  Neither of these are healthy on their own.  We need to realign our souls to breathe, enjoy, savor.

When I stop myself from going down the rabbit hole of discontentment, I find there are many adventures just waiting around the corner.  When I accept my life for what it is I learn to appreciate things I didn’t know I liked about my life. I am learning to take each day as it comes and allow the adventure of that day to be its own journey.  I know that if I continue to learn to pause in the present I may just find that my life can be the very thing I’ve always wanted, full of adventure.

Breathe. Enjoy. Savor.

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