The Trip

Let us metaphorize your life as a trip. Everyone who is born gets a trip. Where you start your life is the city you were born in, where you are now is where you currently live, and where you’re going is to the end of your life, which is whatever town you ultimately arrive at. Some of these lives are long—the towns are very far apart. With some lives, you barely leave town and you’re at the end of the road. Children’s hospitals are filled with these short-trippers, and seniors homes are filled with the long-trippers. But everyone gets a trip.

592 Relax and Succeed - Remember happiness isNow of course like the cities and towns of this world, there are all kinds of people on this Earth. And you intersect with all of them just like the routes to these various cities intersect. There’s even some people travelling from very near you to the same place that you’re ultimately going. These people are your friends because their perspective is similar to yours. There’s also people coming from where you’re going and toward where you started. But wait a second. Let’s think about that. Say those towns are where I live: in Edmonton and Calgary, the latter of which is 300km south of me. At 1084 meters above sea level, my cousin in Calgary would start with height. That altititude is like being born into a fortunate, healthy family. Not that Edmonton would be hugely disadvantaged, but at 671 meters my journey in life would mean I would have to climb 413 meters uphill and my cousin in Calgary will walk 413 meters downhill. Of course our journey is not a straight one, and we may go up and down thousands of times as we head toward our final destination, but in the end our lives will total out differently and his will have had more downhill sections. It will have been easier.

The unevenness of the terrain represents the unfairness of life. The world is not flat. Some of us are born in rich countries with good education systems and maybe we get great parents too. We can also get one powerful negative influence and we’ll blow our advantages. Some of us get terrible parents and suffer under poverty and strife, but having to survive through all of that is what gives people the strength to turn into a superstar. And the opposites are obviously both true too. But bottom line, people do not have equal shots at pleasure and leisure and relaxation and happiness. But since that’s a given, you’re far better to learn to appreciate what you do have rather than agonize over what someone else got. Because how much you have isn’t the issue. It’s how much you appreciate.

592 Relax and Succeed - Your journey has moldedIt’s hard to tell when you’re young what altitude you actually started at. Because you’ll compare yourself to those international lives like movie stars or musicians. But remember, to be world famous means that part of their celebrity journey will be by plane. But what goes up must come down, so those are round trips back to altitudes that are ultimately pretty close together. Being lauded on stage feels fantastic when you do it, but not doing it makes being alone a lot worse than it otherwise would be. So they might be at great heights while they are on stage, but then they crash back down to real life to the point where a flight from New York to Sydney isn’t a rise of 36,000 feet, it’s a trip from 25 meters to 200 meters, so in the end it’s more uphill than downhill.

So what’s the point? The point is that the people going uphill will use more energy than the people going downhill. While energy and happiness are connected they are not the same. Because someone can use half as much energy walking downhill as someone going uphill, but if they’re using their thinking to think heavy thoughts, then they are burning even more energy that way than they would by walking uphill with a better attitude.

Do you see? Every life goes up and down. But you don’t stand on your road and vainly complain to your society or some non-existent chess-playing God, begging for a better route—you learn to enjoy the act of walking. Those are the moment to moment steps of your life. You want to slow your trip down to those individual steps. Rather than worry about the end of the road or even where you’re going in general, just focus on the step you’re taking. That’s what it is to live in the moment. And remember: don’t call it a good step if it’s downhill and a bad one if it’s uphill. Your journey is your journey and this is how you get there so there’s no reason in judging it when you have to live it either way.

592 Relax and Succeed - Don't stumble over somethingSure, acknowledge that you occasionally get winded on the hills. But also remember that whether you’re descending a hill or climbing out of a valley you are not prevented from seeing wildlife, or smelling flowers, or feeling the breeze, or seeing some mountains or cloud formations in the distance. Your route does not dictate the mood of your journey. Never lose sight of that fact. Even uphill, it’s still possible to focus on gratitude. But if I’m not mindful my thinking will turn to complaining, which is like having one foot in the ditch, which just makes my trip more difficult and painful. It’s like bringing up painful thoughts of the past. Why add that effort to today’s walk?

You’ll go the distance either way. Why make it worse with bitchy, negative, judgmental, gossipy, vengeful or hateful thinking? That’s like putting vinegar in your water bottle. Blech. There’s no reason to do that when your bottle will hold fresh water just as well. And it is always you that decides what it’s filled it with.

Don’t ruin your own journey by comparing it to others. Yeah, some people will have it easier. But you know what? If you’re reading this blog then you probably live in a 1st World country, and if that’s the case then we can pretty much guarantee that your home town is at a much higher elevation than probably 98% of the towns on this Earth. And if you can’t be grateful for that kind of good fortune then you’re really working hard to be miserable.

Here’s hoping you choose yourself a much more pleasant journey. It’ll be better for you and anyone walking alongside you. Now go have a great day, uphill or downhill. 😉

peace. s

Travelling with the Tribe 1

Just read your essay on Friend-ships. Very good. Your point about the “tribe” versus all your acquaintances is particularly apposite. A key challenge in living a cosmopolitan lifestyle is maintaining meaningful relationships with past friends. With time, former friends lapse into acquaintances. How to maintain the relationship over distance and time? How does one determine whether a person remains an acquaintance or becomes a member of your tribe – random chance, gut feeling, or is this something one should actually think about strategically? And how should we try to “be” so that others decide to include us in their “tribes” rather than leaving us in the generally less-enriching acquaintance zone?

Friendly Challenges

Dear Friendly,

Thank you for the compliment and your question. It’s so good it’s the first one ever that I will answer twice (once today once tomorrow). I too have been a big traveller and I know the verklempt feeling that accompanies moving toward some new and exciting part of life, all while leaving behind strong and meaningful friendships with people who felt as though their philosophical trajectories were moving in similar directions to our own. These people can be fantastic sources of advice, of assistance and they’re great for creating all kinds of joy with. And yet there is the competing pull of the road not travelled….

398 Relax and Succeed - Stress is caused byWhen I started travelling it was stupidly expensive echo-ey long distance calls on a trunk line laid under the ocean and the only people you would incur that expense with was your family. Today we have the significant advantage of email, social media, photo-sharing sights etc. And yet it’s possible that this ability to share with everyone is somehow diluting the sharing we would do if we were more coved off, wherever we are. Part of why we make friends in new places is that friendship is a natural state and because we’re on the road our traditional friends aren’t available, which creates opportunities for new friends—friends we may not have met at home because we would be too busy with the friends we already have.

When we’re little and in school we have new friends delivered to us through each phase of schooling. If our parents move neighbourhoods we’re forced to make new friends. But after high school everyone explodes outward. The school system pretends to keep us aligned for a dozen or so years, but in reality many of our school friends will be like work friends—people we may not have become friends with were it not for circumstance. And as soon as the school process ends, the friendship comfortably goes on hold. But those aren’t the profound relationships I was referring to in Friend-Ships. What you’re talking about are those friends that feel like people you’ve already known on some level—and in a lot of ways that’s actually true. That’s our Tribe and those are the people that make this journey fascinating and worthwhile.

398 Relax and Succeed - A friend is one who knows youSo what is the definition of this Tribe? It is a collection of people with like minds. Meaning they think like us. Meaning we don’t see many barriers between them and ourselves. This is what creates the connection that we do not have with other people, where we have internal arguments about how they are—meaning we disagree with their positions on various subjects. If people think like us it becomes easier to see their spirit. Otherwise our battling, disagreeing tumble of narratives prevents us from experiencing what would otherwise be a strong and immediate connection. This is why people who have traditionally not got along can suddenly get along once they’ve had a profound shared experience. So our friends or acquaintances are people whose company we can enjoy. Our tribe is made of people who actively expand us with their very way of being.

I recently heard a documentary on cetaceans (dolphins and whales) and it noted that these animals have brains that are much larger than our own. And early testing seems to indicate that the extra brain p0wer may very well be used to process a form of information that we do not yet formally recognize—which is shared experience through a connection in consciousness. In short this means that it may be that when a pod of whales swims together, that what one hears they all hear; what one sees they all see; what one feels they all feel.

This is an exciting idea and it hints at our own expanding understanding of consciousness. So when looking for the differences between friends/acquaintances and Tribal Members, the latter is a group which sees the world so much like us that when they share their life experience we can easily amalgamate it into our own. These are the people who we feel know us well enough that we can actually learn lessons from them. We ignore most of the advice we get in life even though almost all of it is helpful in some way. The people we do listen to are the ones who we feel “get” 398 Relax and Succeed - Wherever you gous—they understand our life experience well enough that their observations about it are assimilated fluidly into our experience. So why these people are valuable makes perfect sense. And it strangely points toward why it’s okay to have a fluid, sometimes-on-hold, sometimes-disconnected relationship with our Tribe.

Try not think of the Tribe as a collection of people—instead think of it as a location in consciousness. It is a gathering place where the separations between one and another seem to largely dissolve. That’s why you cannot see a member of your Tribe for some time and yet you can pick up right where you left off as though almost no time has passed. You were together in consciousness even though you weren’t physically near each other. But to think longingly about someone who isn’t present is to engage in want and want is a state of ego that removes us from that shared place in consciousness. So you don’t move away from your Tribe by being in another country, you move away from your Tribe by wanting to be nearer to your close friends.

If this all seems a bit nebulous, let’s see if I can’t cinch it up for you at the end. Yes, social media and telephony etc will enable you to maintain connections over distance that would have been impossible previously. And distance does not matter to a tribe so feel free to use modern technologies to stay in touch with those relationships you find the most enriching in whatever ways. But to lament separation from loved ones is to create a barrier to finding our tribe wherever we currently are. So if you’re so busy on facebook writing to old friends you’ll never be out on the streets meeting new tribal members in Istanbul, or Buenos Aires, or Seattle, or Beijing.

398 Relax and Succeed - Your vision will become clearWe have to shift our consciousness from our attachment to the individual manifestation of the tribe and focus more on the seeing the meaning in the state of mind. So what feels good to us isn’t the person, it’s the state of mind that our consciousness gets to share with. We have to understand that concept as a reality not as an abstract theory. What matters to us are the frequency of the thoughts, not the brain that’s thinking them it into existence.

Simply put: in a way, every time you encounter a new member of your tribe you are in actuality meeting an old friend with a new face. So stay in touch with whoever is convenient. Just don’t sacrifice your days wishing you were somewhere else with someone else, because that’s to misunderstand the value of the present moment because, as the Zen poet Dogen says, “If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” 

peace. s