An inspired reflection

This week I came across a raw and honest post from Rob Symington to his team at Escape the City and it occurred to me to share my thoughts with him. After reading my musings, Rob gently convinced me to publish this more widely with the potential for it to open up something for others. And so, the below is that largely unfiltered and undoctored Facebook message that I have transcribed from my iPhone to a Word document and now on to Medium. If there’s something that catches your attention, even just for a moment, I’d love to hear from you.

Hi Rob, I saw your post today and it inspired me to reach out and re-connect. I hope it’s ok if I share some of my own thoughts and experiences after reflecting on yours but I figured that if I was going to write this down I might as well share it with at least one other person as well!

When you wrote about your journey with Escape and how you had learnt to focus on quality of being rather than doing it reminded me of all the times I have found this to be true. For example, earlier this year, whilst I was stood in the middle of a clear blue stream surrounded by the Slovenian Alps fly fishing (yes, it’s a bit of an old man hobby I grant you that) I was enraged with frustration because I kept hooking the trees which really goes to show that you can be doing what you love but showing up in a terrible way. On the other end of the spectrum, when I was in Alaska we had to dig out a 3 tonne boat which had been beached on a gravel bar working into the mosquito infested night but it was one the best days I had out bonding, joking around, singing and horse-playing instead of engaging in the usual snipes and politics that can only exist in the world of fishing guides.

The look of anguish in the most beautiful of places doing one of the things I most love doing

And then the same can be true of my experience of attempting to start a business. When I first had the thought that packing in my career to start something on my own could be the saving grace to what had become a mundane, pointless, automated life, I felt that as long as I was doing something for me that it would hands down be better than working for an amorphous institution. I had well-defined plans at that stage. Keep the job for a while, invest in property to put food on the table and get a start-up under my belt to finally give me a sense of satisfaction. The problem is that these “things”, the “property” and the “start-up” started to define who I was or at least who I was going to be. And that led to the experience of these “things” becoming just as “heavy” as my day job. Everything was about doing stuff to move these “things” forward. To move my life forward.

I’m not sure exactly when but at some point last year my intuition started telling me something was not sitting right. My experience of working on these projects stopped being fun despite the fact that anyone viewing from the outside would say I was making “progress” and “taking a brave step”. And I could see that if I continued down that path I would have found myself trapped in a different kind of disillusion but disillusion all the same.

What I’m pointing to is a fundamental misunderstanding about how life occurs to us. We often attribute circumstances that we experience as the cause of our thoughts and feelings; our boss is a jerk that’s why I’m always feeling stressed, that girl smiled at me therefore I really am a good looking lad (and not just because my mum says so). But the truth is, as far as I can tell, our experience of the world comes from our thoughts and feelings about our circumstances and not the other way around. When we come to appreciate that, we understand that in any moment we have the capacity to have a different experience of that moment and all that is required is fresh thinking.

It sounds deceptively simple but this perspective has been the grounding for my resilience to the types of circumstances and fearful thinking that have traditionally affected me. And so my experience of my career stopped being this thing that I resented and admonished myself for not escaping and turned into a privilege position that I am lucky to have. I came to understand that I was not really interested in my start-up idea or even the title of entrepreneur, I was really interested in exploring and playing from a place of creativity with people I enjoyed and who I called my mates (I’m now working with a good friend of mine from the Jan15 SUP tribe and eagerly pursuing another from the same cohort). What I’ve realised is that when we’re doing life from this space it does not really matter what form our ideas or our energy take, what matters is that we play life full out and at the end of each day come back to home base excited to take on tomorrow’s adventure.

The last thing that I wanted to say because this is becoming ridiculous in length (actually probably have to put this into a word doc now) is that we each walk a path between the spiritual and the material world and there is no right or wrong path to choose. Some say that it is our evolution to come back life after life to become more and more spiritual until we attain true enlightenment. That might be true, I don’t know, but as it appears to me for everyone that I’ve met in my life so far, trying to lead a 100% spiritual life seems to be a pretty flawed approach (and surprisingly no fun at all). So when we feel pain, frustration, anxiety, sadness it’s not because we’re not evolved enough, it’s simply because we’re human and we will never be able to avoid that. To me, being spiritual is looking at these raw human experiences without wanting them to change, to appreciate that all experiences are inherently neutral experiences and exist for us to have a complete human existence. When we wake up to that, periods of suffering become as interesting to our make-up as periods of elation and each in their own way constitute who we are in any moment.