“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Do you often try out new activities or ideas? Or do you feel the most content when things remain the same? Have you ever learned anything important from doing something new?
Unlike many people who have one vocation, marriage, or passion in life, I’ve always been interested in many things. During the time I was a dancer, I was also a teacher, receptionist, employment counselor, and lawyer’s assistant, doing whatever I needed to do to pay the rent. Of course, teaching has been my primary profession, but I taught English, dance, drama, and exceptional children.
Curiosity Can Motivate Exploration
After being somewhat of a recluse as a child because of illnesses, as an adult I was always hungry for new experiences. After I started to really explore life, I couldn’t stop. Each experience created a curiosity that motivated me to try something else that was new. At times, I was fearful, but I chose not to let that stop me. As a result, I have had a full and rich life.
When we open our minds, many new opportunities present themselves. We can expand our lives simply by being present in these situations. Do we take the time to listen when someone expresses an idea with which we disagree? It’s possible that understanding that person’s beliefs may expand our thinking so that we are better able to understand people who don’t share our beliefs.
Release Fear of Differences
Many of us are afraid of people who are different from us. This cultural disconnect creates many problems that don’t need to exist. If we could put aside our fear of what is different and embrace what is similar among us, we could create bridges instead of wars.
Experiencing Other Cultures Expands Our Understanding
In 1994, I was privileged to travel and study in West Africa. It was one of the richest experiences of my life because, for a time, I was immersed in a culture very different from the one where I grew up. It touched me deeply because I saw that it was possible to live a life where art and spirituality were integrated into daily life and where family was of supreme importance. I also saw the ways that stereotypes disregarded the depth and beauty of the people whose lives were rich in ways many westerners’ lives were not.
On the daily level, the trip also taught me to appreciate the regularity with which my phone worked, hot water always flowed from the faucet, and a prescription was filled from a pharmacy whenever I needed it. These were not sure things in Africa. But most of all, the trip taught me not to accept others’ concepts of people or ideas without doing my own research.
New Experiences Can Deepen Our Spiritual Lives
Because I lived in New Orleans when I traveled to Africa, learning about the historical origins of the city helped me value aspects of the culture I had not appreciated before, such as the origins of Voodoo as a religion, the call and response aspect of Mardi Gras Indian music, and the source of many New Orleans dishes.
My way of dealing with life changed after this trip. I explored my spiritual beliefs more deeply and worked to integrate them into my daily life, believing that this would be a path to greater wholeness, and it was.
Adventures Broaden Our Understanding
When we see life as an adventure, we welcome what is unknown or unfamiliar. Adventure is about going where we have never gone before. (Yes, I was a “Star Trek” fan.) I loved where I grew up in the hills of Arkansas, but when we moved to Tulsa, I learned about the Cherokee’s Trail of Tears and the plight of Native Americans elsewhere. When we moved to Memphis in the early 1960s, I experienced the civil rights movement. In every place I lived, I learned and grew in significant ways because each place was different.
The Inner Journey Is As Important As the Outer Journey
When I hear people say they’re bored, I’m always puzzled. There are so many things we can do to make life interesting if we are willing to make the effort. Are we willing to take on this responsibility? There are books to read, movies to see, and conversations to initiate. And in this culture, we often think we have to do something all the time. Perhaps we need to learn that just being may be the most interesting thing we can do.
It is not just the outer adventure that can excite us, but the inner one as well. What led me to a point where I felt my life and spirituality were integrated and I felt whole was a spiritual journey where I explored several spiritual practices and stayed open to see whatever showed up as a possible teacher. The journey inward has been as rich and expansive as the outer one.
Adventures Expand Our Human Awareness
Adventures are what we make them. To one person, eating Indian food may be an adventure. To another, living in India is an adventure. But what they all have in common is our willingness to try something new, to open a door that wasn’t open before, and peek in or step into a new experience. Even if it isn’t a particularly pleasant experience, we learn something we didn’t know before and that expands our lives because that’s why we’re here—to learn all we can about being human.
© 2013 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5