As we approach Stress Awareness month this April, I am reminded of the importance of finding peace and stillness in my daily life. The truth is, stillness is hard to find in your twenties. I write this as I sit on a plane, cruising above the clouds. It’s one of the few times in life where the only option is to, literally, be. still.
I told myself I was going to watch the plane take off this time. I wanted to be present for the MAGIC that is flight, the magic that we often become numb to because we are adaptable creatures. It’s the same kind of numbness we experience every time there is another mass shooting in America – that is, unless we are directly impacted.
Today is March 23rd. It is the day after the grocery store shooting in Boulder, a tragedy that took the lives of ten human beings. As a Denver resident, this tragedy felt close enough to home that it broke through the numbness. Instead of meditating this morning, I cried over the lives lost. It’s the first time I remember crying in response to any of the mass shootings in our recent history. Perhaps that was my meditation: letting emotions flow through without fighting them.
I felt a new sense of empowerment coming into the day. As a Purpose Coach who helps others lead more fulfilling lives, I knew this was a moment to reach out to my community and remind them of our collective responsibility. I emphasized that we are all here to serve, to lift each other up, and to make the world a better place. It was a “mindful” moment for me.
However, hours later, I didn’t end up watching the plane take off. I was nose-deep in my book, which ironically is about discovering purpose in life. I was too busy trying to learn about the magic in life that I completely forgot to experience the magic right in front of me.
This is what practicing mindfulness can feel like in your twenties. There is a lot of striving, a lot of trying to prove oneself, and a lot of planning for the future. Then there are moments of total clarity, deep connection to others, and complete engagement with the present moment. “Life is a journey, not a destination”. Consciously, we know this is true, but unconsciously, life can still feel like a race to the finish line. How can we win if we are still?
The truth is, mindfulness is a practice that also has no finish line. There will be moments in my life when I fall back asleep, tuning in only to my naïve reality. These moments might include sitting on a plane, like I am right now, complaining about the utter inconvenience of the baby crying behind me and how unfortunate my life is that I “always” end up on flights with crying babies.
Likewise, there will be moments in my life when I wake back up, feeling present to our collective consciousness, while also recognizing that we are all experiencing different realities. These moments might include sitting on a plane, like I am right now, feeling compassion for the father who’s baby hasn’t stopped crying and finding humor in the fact that most people end up on flights with crying babies.
The beauty of the human experience lies in the contrast. We wouldn’t know light without dark or pleasure without pain, and we wouldn’t know awareness without unawareness. We can never be perfect. But we do GET to work towards a better future by leaning into those micro-moments of awakening. I’m confident that the more we lean, the more moments we will have.
As I look to my right, the boy across the aisle is reading “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. Remarkably, I read this book near the beginning of my own awakening and it has been the most important piece of written work in shaping my own purpose and mission in life. Unconsciously, I might label this a coincidence, but my conscious self knows better…