Grand Canyon National Park

It’s been a year since we visited Grand Canyon National Park and I still find myself reflecting on my time there. Every beautiful place or National Park I go to inspires a word. For this park, the word was awe. It is hard to look at the landscape and not feel that sense of awe.

I reflect on my time at the park whenever I think of the power of having a go at a problem over a long period of time (as in this reflection). I also reflect on it when I think of energy associated with a place. Our family reflected on a mystic energy in the place – perhaps borne out of that sense of awe. It touched the spirit.

And perhaps there’s just something special about experiences that remind us of our insignificance. The Grand Canyon has thrived over millions of years – it inspires humility without trying to. And, most of all, it reminds me to do my best with the time I have, and to be kind – the world will roll on just fine without us.

PS: 3 tips if you’re planning a visit –

(1) As a general rule in every National Park, I recommend staying in lodges inside the park. The location is worth it. The lodges in the Grand Canyon are exceptionally good.

(2) If you travel in the summer like we did, it gets very hot in the afternoons. Ideally, you live like the wildlife (and while it isn’t talked about, we had some stunning experiences near Elk in the park) and spend time outdoors during dawn (4am-9am to catch sunrise) and dusk (4pm onward for sunset). It’s great to get indoors and catch a nap in the afternoon.

(3) Every viewpoint on both sides is beautiful – but some are much better than the others. Our favorites were Shoshone point (at the end of a hike – a ~2 mile round trip), Yavapai Point, and Pima Point (sunset). If we weren’t traveling with young kids, we’d have done the hike to Shoshone point for sunrise. Yavapai Point is a great alternative.

The sedimentary rock

I was admiring this sedimentary rock this weekend. The beautiful thing about a sedimentary rock is that you can see its story in its layers. There are thousands of years of stories in those colors – stories that tell us of the changes it has seen.

It occurred to me that we’re not all that different. While the scale of time we experience doesn’t compare with that beautiful rock, we too go through experiences that change us. We carry scar tissue, joy, sadness, and wisdom from these experience.

Except unlike the rock, our stories aren’t on display.

Maybe they should be. Maybe we ought to ditch chronological and professional introductions that speak to a few milestones and instead replace them with the experiences that shaped us.

Perhaps we ought to be more transparent about our story – much like that rock.

The bent tree

Faced with a hard situation outside of its control, this tree chose to adapt to get its share of sunlight.

Bent, but not broken.

Sometimes, it’s best to stop trying to change our circumstances and instead focus our energy on changing ourselves instead.

No guarantees

One of the most fascinating things about planning a trip to see a natural wonder is that there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to see what we want to see.

The day may be too cloudy to see the sun rise.

The conditions may be too cold or too warm for safe passage.

There may have been an unseasonal even that has blocked access.

The trails we hoped to go on may be closed for the season.

Wildlife may not be anywhere in sight.

No amount of planning can help. There’s always an element of chance.

Such experiences are a great reminder of how illusory our feelings of control are. And they also help us appreciate in events when things do go as per plan.

The universe is unfolding as it should. It is on us to make the most of our time in it.

Forming habits – from beginners to experts

Beginners – rely on willpower to get things going everyday.

Pros – create a system that makes the action default behavior.

Experts – change their sense of self/identity so the action becomes part of their new identity.

If we want to exercise more, best to just become the kind of person who exercises everyday. Changing our identity change “how we do things” and thus changes our internal culture.

And cultural change is change that sticks.

The Invitation

I was reminded of a poem called “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer recently.

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

I thought of this poem as there’s so much noise around what we say and what we like to project.

But the essence of who we are doesn’t emerge from our words. It emerges from our trysts with adversity, from the various trials of day-to-day living, and from our ability to take it all in, make our mistakes, and find a way to move forward.

It is that essence that is at the foundation of relationships that matter. Best to get to that foundation rather than muck around talking about trivialities.

Step back to step forward

Sometimes, we have to take a step back on things that matter to create the conditions to move things forward.

Sometimes, that’s just because we care too much. And that care is hindering more than it is helping.

On other occasions, it is because we just need a break.

And on some others, it is because our attempts to hold something that is structurally broken is getting in the way of the systemic change that is required.

Either way, being attuned to when our attempts are counter-productive goes a long way in enabling us to be productive in the long run.

Schedule it or shelve it

I’ve been sitting on a weekend “to do” list for the past 6 months. All of them felt important when I put them in. Since then, however, life got in the way and I’ve made minimal progress on said list.

I finally started at the list this weekend and asked myself a question – would I schedule each of these into the next 3 weekends?

If the answer is no, it is time to shelve/delete.

A good reminder – don’t say yes to something you wouldn’t want to do tomorrow.

Either schedule it or shelve it.