In honor of Columbus Day, I decided to look at exploration and its role today. First a definition: “Explore – [ik-splawr, -splohr] 1) to traverse or range over for the purpose of discovery; 2) to look into closely; 3) to investigate into, esp. mechanically, as with a probe; and 4) to search for, search out.” Though the age of the Great Explorers is generally over, I think that it actually continues to this very day – every day. For aren’t we all, in our own way, explorers?
Let me explain. If, in fact, exploring means to look into something closely, or to go over or across something for the purpose of discovery – then I maintain that we are all explorers every day that we wake up. Think about it: at your job and in your relationships, you spend time looking at things quite closely, searching for things: answers, solutions, ideas. We spend most of every day doing our best to improve something. That, in itself, is the essence of exploration. When we try to improve the productivity at our work, or when we attempt to improve our relationships with loved ones, we are exploring new ground with each thought, emotion and feeling we address. We pioneer new ways of thinking, acting and relating to one another. We do things differently than we did the day before, or month before, or year before. And we do this all because we are searching for something more, something better. We know it’s out there – we don’t always know how to get to it, but we keep on exploring and pushing forward.
As someone who has surrendered to a life of active exploration, I know firsthand the challenges and rewards that come with this kind of pioneering. It is one of the most difficult and wonderful things I have ever done. I am a student of the world and everything it has to offer, both the beautiful and the less-than-beautiful. I experience things with new eyes every day, and I can experience the same things with jaded eyes a short while later. I have been hurt, and I have hurt others. I have felt love, joy and peace – and (I hope) I have shared those same gifts with the world. Exploring means not only being open to the many wonders and treasures of the Universe, but also being open to the darker side of things, and accepting its role. For without the darkness, there can be no light. Every good thing needs its opposite to reinforce its existence. Just as day has night, and dark has light – so, too, does exploration include wondrous discovery and seemingly unbearable hardship. Sacrifice seems to be an integral part of exploration.
But what are we sacrificing when we explore better ways of being in a relationship with someone we love? For some, they sacrifice the comfort of being able to choose what to do, whenever they want to do it: total independence. For others, they may be sacrificing having the cap put back on the toothpaste, or the dishes cleaned every night. The size of the sacrifice is entirely subjective. It may not bother me that the towels aren’t hung on the rack properly, but it may bother you. We each sacrifice things in our own way, in order to reap the rewards of something greater. And every day we create new ways to enhance and improve what we already have, we become explorers. That’s what the Great Discoverers knew. They had no idea what was out there – they just “knew” there was something more, perhaps something better, something that would enhance their lives and the lives of their people. It was this kind of knowing that propelled them forward, as it does for us. We may not be aware of what lies ahead for us in our jobs or relationships, but we do know that in exploring growth and change, we become open to the possibility of something better.
It is an understatement to say that many in today’s world are searching for answers to tough questions. As an example, many people want or wonder about “enlightenment” and “inner peace.” Collectively, we are beginning to become a society of explorers once more. This exploration is an inner journey – far more profound than trips around a once flat world, though equally as important in setting aside old belief systems and thought patterns. As you go about your day, what beliefs or habits are you willing to challenge and explore? Are there alternatives to your established mode of doing things? Just as the Great Explorers helped to discover an alternative route to the Orient what new routes to peace, love, happiness and wellness in your relationships are you willing to create? What new paths of productivity are you willing to pave at work? Something to think about.
Body – If you’ve always done the same exercise; what would happen if you changed it up once or twice a week? If you’re a runner, what would tai chi do for you? If you practice yoga, how about trying spinning?
Mind – There are so many wonderful opportunities to learn on our planet. If you have always been a sports fan – have you ever tried opera? Or if you love classical music, have you also been open-minded enough to hear the artistry in the rhyme of rap? Other cultures, languages, food, art, history, religion – there’s so much out there waiting for you. What would you do, if you had three extra hours today to learn something new?
Spirit – As always, the Spirit is the door through which all internal exploration begins. What have you always wondered about, deep inside? If you have a burning question that has slowly fizzled into a glowing ember, but remains lit inside your core – perhaps it’s time to pick up a book, or find a lecture, or talk to a teacher. Perhaps it’s time to fan that flame a little and awaken your Spirit on this path of exploration. What do you think? Aren’t you just a little curious?
In love and light,