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When I was a child, I used to lie on the living room rug and gaze up at the ceiling, imagining it as the floor. I pictured how it would be to live in an upside down house and walk from room to room stepping over the doorway arches. My partner Anne used to do the same thing when she was little, even though she grew up in an entirely different part of the U.S. Is this something that all kids do, or just a coincidence? I found myself wondering if it is a genetic code within us for novelty and reinvention, which somehow gets lost as we grow older. How do we keep our vision of the world fresh in an adult world that teaches us that physical reality is solid, unchanging, and that facts and predictability are the basis for living a safe and orderly life?
At an early age, children often aren’t interested in order and rigid perceptual rules, unless they have had it already instilled in them via parental fears. What if, at heart, we aren’t either? What if our souls really want imagination, improvisation, and exploration? The element of surprise. After all, we came to this extraordinarily diverse and beautiful planet to live our human lives fully and completely. Who wants to live it in a box of repetitive, expected events and experiences? I’ve always intuitively felt this way. That’s why I’ve moved and traveled so much in my life, from coast to coast and continent to continent. Every time I went somewhere else, I saw the world with fresh eyes. I loved it. I still do.
This move to Florida has been particularly powerful. Literally everything has been tossed up into the air. Anne and I are beginning anew in a different state, a different home, and a different climate. North to South: upside down. I continually feel as if we have crossed into another dimension. Everything unknown. Each day I see something new. The flowers and birds are unique. Even the sky is different—dramatic and ever-changing weather patterns and clouds in an infinite number of shapes, sizes, and colors. We are acutely aware of the new world we are experiencing and what a gift it is to see every detail of life as if for the very first time.
I don’t want to lose that feeling. Last evening she and I reversed the direction of our walk on the nature trail around our community. We did it “backward,” and it felt like a completely different experience. Even in a month, our eyes and brains had acclimated to our surroundings. By changing direction, we flipped the “predictable” switch in favor of “unplanned.” It was exciting to spontaneously and consciously choose the new in a relatively familiar situation. I realized that I can do that at any given moment. A small shift in your inner vision can have a huge impact on your outer experience. Life is, after all, a reflection of your inner state of being.
This morning as I walked the trail by myself, I was very conscious of all that was new to me: the butterflies, lizards, dragonflies, purple beautyberries, orange canna lilies. It was thrilling just to be outdoors on this bright sunny morning. Halfway through my walk, I heard thunder in the distance and realized there might soon be another sudden Florida rainstorm. I watched one half of the skies darken and the other half stay sunny, as the thunder rumbled closer. Then, as I walked in the sparkling sunshine, it began to rain lightly. I stopped and stood there smiling, enjoying the experience of simultaneous rain and sun, the sky divided like a huge yin-yang circle of dark and light. Opposites and oneness at the same time. All my senses were awakened by that juxtaposition.
The exhilaration of opposites is available to us at all times, and we can hold them in our awareness—an inner yin-yang—in order to immerse ourselves in the full spectrum of life’s experiences. Upside down, backward, forward, inside out. Choose the opposite path, the new activity, the unheard-of option. Every single one is an easy-access restart button for your consciousness to keep you open and expansive, mindful and soulful. A fully alive human be-ing having an absolutely amazing experience here on planet Earth. Perhaps that’s the most wonder-full thing you could possibly do with what poet Mary Oliver has called “your one wild and precious life.”