I just spent some time looking over past Kindred Spirits posts, chuckling to myself that so many of them have to do with issues of control, planning, and finding the courage and discipline to keep going. Seems it’s not a matter of “once and done” enlightenment, but rather a question that comes again and again, needing new insight, new courage to remember (going back to September 2010 here) to “stay within the headlights,” to resist the urge to get too far beyond the present.
Just in case you, like I, may be needing a new reminder to stay in the now, I’d like to share a personal story with you.
This January, my son, Ned, took part in the Dakar Rally in South America. Although this extraordinary event is not well known in the United States, it is the premier off-road riding event in the world. It involves covering a distance of 9000 kilometers +/- (think Fairbanks, Alaska, to Miami Florida, plus 500 miles . . .) in 14 days. This took place in South America, running from Mar del Plata, Argentina (near Buenos Aires) to Lima, Peru. The route meandered through Argentina, crossed the Andes, and ran through incredible terrains including the Atacama Desert. Daunting, to say the very least. Ned’s challenges included raising enough money to participate, arranging to have his motorcycle and all necessary equipment shipped to South America, planning all the logistics involved in such a complicated endeavor, as well as physically training to participate. 188 motorcycles started the race; 97 finished. Of the six US competitors, only Ned made it to the finish line. I was on the edge of my seat for two weeks, following him checkpoint by checkpoint on the internet.
You can imagine that it was with some trepidation that I learned of his desire to take on this challenge. However, from the start, he spoke not of “racing,” per se, but of wondering if he had the mental mettle to put this together and carry it out. He “raced” not in competition with other riders, but with himself. His goal was to cross the finish line, to “ride his ride,” and do it safely.
After he finished, he blogged some of his thoughts about the undertaking. I take the liberty of quoting a short portion of his thoughts, because it is another way of reminding us to “stay within the headlights,” to avoid the temptation to get too far ahead of ourselves with trying to solve weeks and months of challenges instead of focusing on NOW: (I added the bold print below.)
“I have been trying to keep my head in a positive place, because on that first night, I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into and how I could possibly make it from here to there. Turns out the answer is one meter at a time, one problem at a time, one day at a time. I always believed I could, but I wasn’t always sure how.”
Different circumstance, same bottom line: Thinking too far ahead paralyzes us, prevents us from giving our best to what is on our plate right now. “The next thing” is the thing to deal with, then – but not before – moving on to the thing after that.
I love that the lessons come from everywhere, if we have our eyes open to see them. I love that the principles that really work, that are true, are basically the same whether we’re trying to ride 9000 kilometers, plan a career move, figure out how to deal with a difficult personal situation, or decide how to plan a garden. Stay present, deal with first things first, trust in how things will evolve – or should I say, trust that we will be able to deal with what evolves.
Thanks, Ned, for taking me along on your journey, and for inspiring me with your tenacity and inner wisdom. A lovely boost in midst of the hunker-down rhythm of winter.
Hoping you are warm, well, and “in the moment.”