Principles

En route to New Delhi:

The day before we left, my friend Nick friend asked me something like this: “How will you recognize the success of this trip?” I suppose it’s another version of, “What do you want to get out of this?” I appreciated that this was coming from his perspective, and he’s a goal-oriented guy. It made me think.

First, simply going is the success. Things will happen. We’ll encounter destinations we have hoped to see and a great deal more. There will be plenty of difficulties. It’s India.

So many people have said things like, Why go there? This is followed by the stories they’ve heard about sickness, lack of infrastructure, violence, and poverty. They’re recalled all the ways India’s not to be trusted. By going, we’re further upsetting the status quo. It struck me the other day that leaving our home made us more dependent on friends and emotionally vulnerable. In that state, we’re off to the land where every day provides an assault to the senses and a challenge to the status quo assumptions. We’re probably not really prepared for this.

I went on tell Nick that we hoped to encourage each other, and both together, to live by principles we relearned recently through a TED talk. Opportunity takes shape because we invite it. The speaker called it creating luck. Here are the principles:

  • Entertain (even somewhat crazy) ideas. These are the very definition of things you don’t think, experience you reject.
  • Appreciate what you encounter. We’re taught to critique and evaluate, and these habits seal us in conventional thinking.
  • Take risks. Not necessarily big risks, but consider saying yes.

I can see how trying on a crazy idea and appreciating whatever follows reinforce one another. Taking a risk is just putting the first two into action. But it is hard to get started, right? We all start from habits that reinforce themselves and protect this familiar and satisfied self. It will take conscious effort.

These principles echo my own practice, or at least my good intentions. I am my habits – work, love, ease. They create the world I live in. But what if it is not what I make of it? What if I’m missing a great deal in this creation of mine? What if we are create our own world, moment by moment, dominated by our preferences, past experience, and unconscious biases. If you want to entertain a crazy idea, consider that the world you see is a dream you dream, vivid and textured, but not quite as it is. Appreciate that the feeling that follows – whether anxiety or ease – is the experience of letting go of that privileged point of view. 

I’ll let you know about our experiments in inviting opportunity. Feel free to remind me.

Things you do before a long trip

That is, when you’re not in the habit of traveling for six weeks.
Schedule bill payments.

Go to dinners with friends. But you run out of time for as many of these as you’d like.

Pack.

Get vaccinations and prescriptions.

Shovel the long-term parking spot friends lent you.

Get another suitcase.

Gather your electronics and convince yourself that they are useful and not too heavy.

Disagree with your partner about how to prepare for a long trip. You realize you’d do it differently if you could.

Unpack. Do laundry. Repack. How many socks do I need?

Email. Send a last message to many people, but you’re sure you’ve missed some whom you love. You do love them, and you’re also reassuring yourself that the connection will be lively and strong when you return. You notice that you have a habit of thinking that leaving breaks the bond with those you care about. You find that interesting and keep an eye on it.

Pack books. You’re going to be away for a long time. Take books out of bag. Are you thinking you’ll be bored? Do you imagine sitting still for long? You put one more book in the bag. You have a “thing” with books, don’t you?Go to the gym the day you leave. You’re feeling pretty well organized, aren’t you?

Go to the gym the day you leave. You’re feeling pretty well organized, aren’t you?

Staging and paring

Tomorrow, we go to India. That sounds like one adventure. But every minute feels like a threshold.

We have been staying in a generous friend’s spare bedroom since we sold our house.

My mom is fading. She appears to be near the end of her story in this world. At least she is surrounded by my sisters and dad. Of course, just being with her is painful.

Then there are the logistics and the plans. I am not much worried about these. We have time in country to sort a bit and we have a place to land in every destination thanks to L, my wife.

As I get ready to test pack today, I recognize how much I count on having a book laying here and another there. I’m confident that they’ll remind me of some essential message and rescue me from the uncertainty of the moment. I’ll leave nearly all of them behind. They’re bulky and heavy. I’m going to try viewing the idea of relying on others’ wisdom as bulky – an overstuffed bag. What wise words come back to me without anxiously going after them? What notions am I grabbing onto for security?

And, because I’m trying to be honest, I have to add that I’m still sad over leaving our house. It was home. As hard as it was to keep up, and keep off my mind, it was beautiful: in itself, in the neighborhood, because of neighbors and friends.

I’ll aim to open up to this, or at least not resist this. And pack more underwear.

Words have meaning

On the face of our new year’s card, we wrote, “To a year of questions rather than certainties and delight in the discomfort of adventure.”

By saying this, we may be inviting questions and discomfort. Or what we said may be an expression the way things are going. We are asking questions. We are in between things. This wish – easy to say, not easy to live – may be to allow the questions or discomfort to come to a full simmer. We can’t know how it will cook us.