Tag Archives: Diversity

AWAKENING TO AN ADVENTUROUS LIFE

“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

English: A group of drummers in Accra, Ghana, ...

English: A group of drummers in Accra, Ghana, wearing dashiki shirts and knitted kufi caps. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

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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

New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian

New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

Related Articles: Re-awakening Joy, Trying New Things, 7 Benefits of Being Open-Minded

AWAKENING TO UNUSUAL DELIGHTS

“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take delight in the essential differences between men and cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, a part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.”  Gene Roddenberry

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A village pushing our truck out of a sand dune in Senegal

Are you generally open to new experiences or do you avoid people and situations that are different from what you are comfortable with?  How do you react to people with a different point of view?

The Delight of A Sacred Toast

When I traveled to Africa on a Fulbright-Hays Travel Abroad Grant in 1994 with 12 other teachers from Louisiana, one of the events that stood out in my mind was drinking a toast with palm wine.  Because it spoils easily, it is rarely exported, but it was a drink that frequently appeared in the African novels we read in a Teaching the African Novel course we had taken the year before. It seemed exotic and rare, and I was very excited to know how it actually tasted. The experience was quite special because we drank it as a good-bye toast as we left a sacred space where we had witnessed a sacred ceremony performed by a water goddess.  It was a toast to the connection and friendship we had experienced that day with the Africans.

The wine tasted like fermented pineapple juice and I never tasted it again, not even at the West African restaurant I frequented in New Orleans where the fried plantains were perfect and the greens hot and spicy compared to the mild ham and greens of my southern childhood. But the wine was merely a symbol for the extraordinary experience of living in a different culture for five weeks.  And yet it wasn’t so different, for much of the New Orleans food had its roots in West African, just as other New Orleans traditions were translations of West African ritual.  The whole experience made the world seem smaller and more connected for me.

Appreciating Nature’s Surprises

When I lived in the middle of Nebraska among the flatlands where trees were scarce, I remembered all the stories I had read about those who settled the west. Actually, living there amid the blizzards of winter and the high winds taught me to appreciate the stoic nature of those who ventured into the unknown.  Seeing the Sandhill Cranes landing by the hundreds on their yearly migration reminded me that nature presents us with unusual delights even where its beauty is usually so subtle we may easily overlook it.

The Beauty of Humility

There was nothing subtle about the beauty I saw in New Mexico where color and art enliven the beige expanses of desert.  I have always been drawn to the Native American culture’s connection with nature, but it was an act of humility that touched me most deeply.  When a Native American child is spoken to by an adult, they gaze downward and do not make eye contact.  After dealing with many “in your face” teenagers over the years, I was deeply touched by this expression of respect and humility.  I was most grateful for this unusual delight.

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Dancing in New Mexico

New Experiences Teach Us Spiritual Lessons

When we avoid anything that is unfamiliar, we miss many of life’s delights.  Each point of view that we encounter is an opportunity to learn about another and to find a place where our beliefs and experiences connect.  We will change our world one person and one encounter at a time.  The time of separation is ending, and to resist it only creates difficulties.  Our greatest lesson is to be who we truly are and to accept others as they truly are.

I’ve learned that when I really resist something, it’s usually a sign I really need to look at it more closely.  There’s a lesson hidden in the issue or in the person I avoid.  Recently, I experimented  by deliberately sitting next to a person who usually irritates me.  My intention was to be at peace no matter what the other person said or did.  Several times I had to remind myself of that intention, but I was able to release my attachment to resistance, and as a result, my experience was pleasant.

Choose Peace Rather Than Judgment

When we cling so desperately to our religious or political dogma that we are unable to see any value in other points of view, we usually do that out of insecurity.  We are afraid of what is different, but the irony is that our only real security in this world is to understand each other and respect different points of view.  This doesn’t mean we have to choose another’s lifestyle as our own; it simply means we respect their right to make different choices, and when our lives intersect, we choose peace rather than judgment.

What is something different that you have learned to respect in another person?  Please comment.

© 2012 Georganne Spruce

Related Articles: Nebraska’s Annual Sandhill Crane MigrationWhy We Fear the UnknownPersonality:  Why We Fear Doing Things Differently