Sunday, August 3, 2014

Lost (My own kind of paradise)


Mind on a permanent vacation
The ocean is my only medication
Wishing my condition ain't ever gonna go away

Cause now I'm knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair
Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise there's a fire in the sky

Never been so happy
Never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise 
Zac Brown band- Knee Deep   

Not until we are lost do we truly begin to find ourselves
Henry David Thoreau

There's always a choice brother
Desmond- Lost

Writing this from the beach in New Zealand.  It sounds nice I know. And it is! When I send people pictures or post them online, I often get remarks like, ‘that looks like paradise' or some variation on that theme. And in a way, it is. From the perspective of physical beauty it’s really hard to find places like this, and this entire country is full of them.

But.. There’s always a but. (I like big buts and I cannot lie)

There’s a thing about living in paradise that nobody tells you. I speak from some experience here having worked in five national parks as a young man in some of the most beautiful places in my own country. And this secret?

You get used to living in paradise after a while. The oceans become less spectacular, the mountains a little less majestic, and the trees a little more mundane. It’s happened to me over and over again in my life. I fall in love with a place, live there for a while, then get adjusted to it. Eventually I leave and go somewhere else.

Then I spend a lot of time dying to go back...

Before you think I’m crazy, I can assure you there is actually a term for such a process called the 'hedonic treadmill'. It describes how people have a kind of set point when it comes to happiness, and how most of us regress back to this set point eventually regardless of a change in place or circumstance. It’s interesting stuff.

In thinking about this idea, I found myself reflecting on the characters from the TV show “Lost” who also woke up to find themselves in paradise. The problem is they couldn’t wait to get out of there, and I think the show highlights a powerful kind of lesson. Damaged people in paradise are still damaged people, and waking up in a new place does little to the deeper circuitry of our wiring. We still are who we are, and although a change in geography can certainly be a wonderful and transformational thing, we are who we are.

Thinking about this as it relates to my own life has been important. Two months here and I’m still at the beach every day, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Little irritations have begun to creep back though as the newness of this world begins to wear off a little. I honk in traffic, get irritated by long lines, and snap at people on the phone sometimes. I forget my newfound sense of awareness and lose my way. Soon enough I'm back spinning on that treadmill like most of us do.

And yet in these moments, I TRY and remember there is an antidote to this problem. Mindfulness. To be aware of life as it’s happening and stay in the moment. Being in a beautiful place is very helpful in this regard. It reminds us that we’re not so important. That there are powerful and mystical places in the world where our litany of silly complaints mean very little. That’s where living in paradise can be nice. It’s a constant reminder to slow down, take stock, and center yourself into the moment. It’s why most people have such powerful moments of awareness and comprehension when they travel.

So for me, I am once again reminded that most of the power to live a happy life is my own, and that I can slip backwards into indulging life’s little irritations, or I can stop and smell the ocean. The battle never ends, regardless of where you are on the map.

Now if you’ll pardon me I’m going to stop whining, slow down, pour another glass of wine and contemplate the ocean.

Nice to be off the treadmill for a while...

No comments: