(Photo taken in Phuket, Karon, Thailand)
Sunday, May 29, 2022
On October 18th, 2018, I’m driving across the Hawthorne bridge, heading to a spa for their flotation tank. A float tank is an enclosed tank of water filled with 800 pounds of Epsom salt. You get in, float on your back, and shut up for ninety minutes—in other words, meditate. While seeking inner guidance, channeling peace, and reminiscing past months when I’d closed several six-figure contracts for an aviation company, I watched thought after thought pass a canvas of black.
Meanwhile wondering, “Was quitting my job the right decision?” And, “Should I have stayed longer to collect more checks before telling them my plan?”
Facing these questions came at a cost. However, their intrusive nature gave me no choice but to accept them—which is the essence of meditation. And floating in an enclosed dark tank full of thick saltwater gave me no choice but to let them run their course.
After watching three movies play out through thought, and my emotions recoil at my breath, the last thirty minutes of floating emerges a string of words. Better put, it’s a voice with instructions. I’d never heard this voice, nor did I seek it in such a deep state of meditation.
That voice brings me to how one drive across the Willamette River differs from the other hundreds of times I’d driven across it before heading to the float tank.
I’m born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and old enough to recall conversations with my grandma’ where she referred to M.L.K. Boulevard as Union Avenue. I even used AOL’s 45 hours of free-trial dial-up to surf the internet. Before that, it was my father’s encyclopedia collection.
Months before leaving my job, the success in my role gave me confidence in doing something alone. Of course, during that time, I had the support and leadership of a corporation; however, the structure of our department operated as though we ran our book of business autonomously. With that, there were three rules, renew contracts, close on new sales, and have fun. I did all that and got to travel. But after a while, the fun went away.
Although work isn’t always supposed to be fun, it’s the one thing you’ll do most of your life.
Since childhood, I’ve dealt with a mind that goes far beyond the moment—where the images passing spin my anxiety and cause my heart to race. Most days, I couldn’t tell what reality was. While lost in thought, my emotions would dominate and take over my mood. This mindful mayhem was the better part of me up until my mid-twenties. These mood swings gave me no choice but to identify with them.
After college, it was a job that gave me an identity. But that didn’t change how my brain works.
As my mind wondered through hours of conference calls, journeyed far beyond business travel, and suppressed the anxiety of having to do work that drained me, I accepted it. Acceptance brought me to understand my intuition. From there, I built the confidence to act on my best thoughts.
And there were a lot. So I had to be organized.
My decision to leave comfort and stability was contemplated alone—which gave me clarity. I found it empowering to understand when and how to shut off the outside noise and follow my intuition until it tells me to seek help.
If you’ve been there, you understand that living alone, working alone, and journeying alone, come with tears in solitude. What trumps these moments is a burning desire to pursue a higher purpose. Pain and uncertainty are some of the many bridges to compassion. If you’re experiencing that today, it may feel like you’re crossing the same bridge every day in your journey. Instead, think of it as a small ax cutting down a large tree. Every day you cross can be painful, repetitive, and stagnant, but each crossing is like a strike to the tree’s trunk.
Soon the tree will fall over to create a new bridge over the rivers you cried.
When thinking back to my final drive over the Hawthorne Bridge, it wasn’t the same bridge I’d been crossing since 2011. After the float tank, it wouldn’t be the same morning cup of green tea before prospecting freelance jobs and contracts. And after the first flight that I booked, just to travel and write about it, it wouldn’t be the same expense report, travel assistant, or report on returns.
However, what remains the same is the question, “Why does my mind still wonder?”
My best answer is that the mind is built to shut up—so it can listen in on where to wander next…