Written as a result of conversation between Soren and Gary, after being asked the question:
“Soren, what were the conditions that made you decide that you would live your life according to that which would make your heart sing.?
Ever since I was a young boy, I was much more attracted to the idea of living life as if it were an adventure. I would often find myself scribbling the same kinds of images over and over in my notebook, often depicting someone wearing a backpack, carrying a walking stick, and inevitably being in the midst of a journey to mysterious lands and cultures. As I was drawing, I always felt that this mythical fellow was infused with courage, with an aliveness and passion for life. I imagined that he was fully living his life, available to face everything that unfolded before him with an open and fresh perspective.
This idea defined my internal life as a boy – the vision of an adventure that would allow me to experience life in the fullest way possible without encumbering me in any way. This hunger to see what life was like with my own eyes never left me . Sooner or later, I dreamed, I hoped and even sensed that this dream would become real, somehow.
I suppose this attraction to living life with this ever-fresh perspective came from my childhood experiences. I grew up in Lubbock, a small college town in West Texas. My father taught at the local university there. I remember feeling pretty disenchanted with the endless intellectual conversations that went on in our living room between the students, professors, and community members. More often than not, I noticed that these conversations went around and around in circles, attempting to assess what was wrong with our country, trying to predict where our country was headed.
So, when I was only fifteen years old, I mustered up the courage to request permission from my Dad to trek from Texas to California. Not surprisingly, he talked me out of it. But this insatiable hunger to embark towards the “Great Unknown” and see what life was like with my own eyes never left me. It just felt like sooner or later, this dream would become real, somehow. It was just a matter of time.
When I hit my early 20’s, I finally acted on this dream of mine by joining a three and a half year global environmental walk that took me through the American states, throughout Asia, and finally finishing in Japan. I walked with this remarkable group of kindred spirits for about six months across the United States. In the following year, 80 of us had support vehicles. We had a kitchen truck, a supply van and other things that allowed us to live within a mobile, nomadic community, helping people wherever we travelled.
It was called “A Global Walk for a Livable World” and it changed my life.
I’ll never forget the group I joined in Delhi. I was amazed at how they lived! They didn’t carry any food or provisions. Believe it or not, only one of them carried a tent. They traveled extremely light.
At the time, I remember that this light bulb went off in my mind about what it was like to live life with an intrinsic trust, knowing in my bones that whatever was needed would inevitably show up in our path. Every day my fellow travelers trusted that some kind of shelter or food would manifest somehow, and that trust was contagious. We never knew where or how we would be able to receive food or housing but we made the assumption that it was already in front of us, but we just couldn’t see it yet. Of course, we did buy food at times, but we still never knew where or when the opportunity would arise to buy it. Similarly, we never knew where we would sleep at any given night!
We’d be out walking throughout Pakistan and it often looked like there was no food to be had, anywhere. Then we’d say to ourselves, “What if there is food here, but we just couldn’t see it? What if there is housing available to us, and we just don’t see it?”
These experiences revealed to my young mind that there was another way of being with the unknown that was completely counter to everything I’d been taught growing up in America. When I’m around people who are worried about money, living their lives in constant fear of the uncertainties facing them, there’s a completely different energy that enters the field. But being around people who lived with a core belief that we could engage ourselves in a kind of partnership with life was that presented a completely different map than the linear, strategic, organized, and planned routine that most of us had been trained to plan our days, or for that matter, our lives. I remembered how thrilling it was to be around people with a core belief that we were engaged in a kind of “partnership” with life that presented a completely different map than the linear, strategic, organized, and planned routine that most of us had been trained to plan our days, or for that matter, our lives.
Most of us are well aware of the well-travelled path most upwardly aspiring young people engage in: College, internships, business school (which I was most assuredly going to do), then that first job, then moving up the ladder to a more senior position, then again to increasingly senior positions, and then, ultimately, retirement. Thankfully, these days, with life-expectancy dramatically extending, we are coming to the realization that age 65 represents a new opportunity in life, an invitation into a whole new phase that’s about anything but retiring, if you’re lucky enough to have your health.
On the Global Walk, I was fortunate enough to be introduced at a very early age to a completely different approach to envisioning my future that really intrigued me. I came to realize that there was another way to engage in life that I’d be missing out on if I followed the traditional path. I should also mention that there was another component to this alternative approach that added considerable life to the whole equation, and that was the integration of volunteering. During the Global Trek, we were constantly offering ourselves in service to others in need. These early experiences directly showed me how rewarding it was to give my time and energy to others, a practice that is often misperceived as cumbersome, draining and a waste of one’s time. In actuality, this misperception couldn’t have been further from the truth.
When we stayed open to serving others, we had more access to “flow”, able to embrace the unknown with excitement, curiosity, and trust. As time passed, I became fascinated with what it would be like to integrate the essence of what I’ve learned on this walking journey into all aspects of my life. What could make it possible for me to feel so empowered from within that I could dare to live radically in the present moment? What would that look and feel like?
What I consistently noticed is that wherever I went, people were attracted to this spark, this energy, even if they didn’t know exactly why. When I’m embracing the unknown with excitement and trust, I find that I can tap into something that is constantly alive and brimming with energy, a connection to an energy field that in and of itself, makes my heart sing.
Deep down, human beings can’t help but want to be to be part of that energy. Most of us yearn to feel an inner knowing that there’s a deeper purpose operating throughout our lives, some core awareness that we’re connected to something bigger in an inexplicable way.
As I earnestly integrated this approach into my life, I was led down a path that resulted in the creation of the Wisdom 2.0 Conferences, which explores the intersection between mindfulness and business, all over the world. Looking back, there’s this sense that I didn’t really come up with the idea; it organically emerged as a result living in this world view of trust. I didn’t unearth the research or try to find out how mindfulness might be “trending” in the culture. The idea for Wisdom 2.0 came more out of place of being, than from doing.
However, it’s useful to note that it came to me after a divorce and the loss of a job, when I took a year off to live in a trailer in New Mexico. With very little money saved, I retreated from the world to slow down, listen, share, and connect to the stillness within me. And then, at some point, I remember just receiving the idea. It was like, “Oh, this is what I’m supposed to do now.” I got quiet, paid attention, and suddenly noticed that an insight had shown up in my awareness.
Since that time, I’ve learned that things of value do not arise when trying to force them into existence. They come when I feel what’s present in my heart and mind. Most of the people I know who are active and successful are alot better off because they maintain a vibrant relationship with their inner world. Keeping a connection to my inner world is as essential now as it was when I was walking those trails long ago. Every day, things reveal themselves when I’m nurturing that essential connection. I’ve learned that this is what mindfulness is all about.
So what makes my heart sing? Nothing brings me greater joy than facing the transparent truth of the present moment. I’m increasingly passionate about how I can support other people in connecting to whatever it is in their lives that calls them to live the fullest expression of their lives.
If we can face our journey with an acceptance of the mystery, the adventures facing us will provide a way of experiencing life with a sense of trust and a connection to all of life, if you can take the time to listen and notice it. If we can provide spaciousness for the answers to reveal themselves rather than pushing things towards the outcomes we seek, life tends to reveal itself as a gift, a “present” that will always makes my heart sing.