Positively Speaking Blog

The Adventures in Gratitude Challenge

For anywhere from three to six months every year my husband and I take an intentional departure from land-based living. We call it our slocation, or at least that’s how I think of our time. Okay, yes, you could think of it as a really lengthy a vacation, but it’s also much more than that. We have chosen intentionally to slow life down by conducting our work and lives on a sail boat in a foreign country.  The slow part of slocation obviously refers to the leisurely pace associated with boating life and bobbing up and down on the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean (hence the location, location, location part of the word). 

Now before you get caught up in the romanticism associated with boating life, please know that it is a lifestyle that requires a complete alteration of one’s land-based mindset. Conducting one’s life from a sailing yacht means that you consciously and constantly forego a sense of stability, predictability and security. For example, on a daily basis I get reminded that modern conveniences I take for granted on land are not givens. Having seen bigger boats than ours washed up on rocky coastlines, I also know now that even arrival at one’s destination is not a foregone conclusion.

One of the Dalai Lama’s tips for successful living is to go someplace new once a year. Among the reasons why the Dalai Lama makes this suggestion is that taking a trip somewhere new helps you to appreciate where you have been and perhaps, more importantly, where you are. Being in unfamiliar places takes you out of your comfort zone, which stretches you as a human being—it expands your awareness, if you will. Neuroscientists refer to this as mental plasticity. Travel—the kind that takes you well and truly beyond the familiar—is good for your brain. Like learning a new language, it forces you to think in new ways, which creates fresh neuropathways. When this happens, your mind literally expands. Think of it as a collagen injection for your brain. And a juicy brain is a healthy brain. 

Although living outside your comfort zone is not without disappointments and frustrations, it is good for you. By slowing life down and living simply, you learn to return to your senses, remembering what it is your intuition is for, why you need it, and how to listen to and follow it. After numerous years of living this way, I have come to realize that when we live by clocks that run counter to our own personal rhythms, we lose the ability to feel and exert the power of our inner wisdom. In the process, we also lose a part of ourselves. 

slocation is also the antidote to being lulled into the false sense of security that comes with modern Western living. It is human nature to feel that we are in complete control of our lives and that we are masters of our own destiny. Living close to the elements, however, quickly provides you with a more accurate picture of your place in the Universal scheme of planetary life. Trust me, there’s nothing like the potency of the ocean in hurricane force winds to remind you of how insignificant you really are and what really, really matters in life. Although I’ve not been, many people tell me they feel the same way after going on safari.

This brings me to perhaps the most significant outcome of our yearly slocation lifestyle: Gratitude. When daily living reminds you that nothing (and I mean nothing) is guaranteed, you get really thankful for the basics—a good night sleep, a hot shower and clean drinking water, for example. Sailing has brought me face to face with enough severe storms that I am reminded to be thankful each and every day for the gift of just being alive

Gratitude is really the heart of mindfulness: To remember that we live one moment at a time, and that each one is the most important instant we are alive. We really do live from breath to breath. Gratitude makes life simple. It’s hard to focus on a bad hair day when you are in gratitude. I now find that the nonsensical temper tantrums I may have on occasion are associated with life’s complexities and conveniences, such as computers, internet, hair dryers and washing machines that don’t function where or when I want them to. Of course, my perspective on my absurd dependence on electronics and telecommunications shifts when I am sitting in gratitude for clean water, a hot meal and for having survived the night in a storm with the person I love while watching the majesty of the orange sun rise once more over a serenely calm sea. 

So, as summer and vacation season approaches, I offer up a gratitude adventure to challenge you. In the next 30 days, do one or more of the following: Go someplace entirely new (even if only to a completely new restaurant or picnic) or do something you have never done before. Better still, do both. 

Travel boldly. Make a new friend. Learn 10 words in a different language. Talk to strangers. Discover what is foreign in you by going someplace that makes you say, ‘whoa.’ Get back to basics: Wash something by hand. Unplug. Unplan. Unwind. Pick wildflowers…or weeds. Let go of what you know is certain. Sip slowly. Open your whole being to something new. Get out of your car. Breathe deeply. Eat with gusto. Let yourself wander down a path you’ve never been. Take public transportation. Talk to nature. Turn off your phone. Make room for surprises. Watch birds. Be silent. Be thankful for water and use it wisely. Expect the unexpected. Find your happy place and stay there for one whole day. Laugh more. Stretch into life. Read. Open your heart to gratitude and get lost in it. Share your favorite thing with others. Grow. Be thankful for even the smallest of things.

Where will your adventure take you? Enjoy your summer and be sure to leave us a comment about your adventures in gratitude.

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