I imagine it’s different for everyone but if you gave me the choice between traversing up a steep mountain or wobbling back down, I’d take the ascent any day simply to avoid unpredictable rock and dirt or a rapid unexpected butt tumble. I may be digging a bit deep, but as I walked around Pai Canyon in Thailand I wondered if my hiking preferences in any way correlated to my approach in life. Does my eagerness to climb and effort and my corresponding hesitation to let go and put it on cruise control manifest off the mountain?
Associated or not, my answer is yes. Yes. And yes.
I’ve noticed this before and even joked about quite recently. The path of least resistance? I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Don’t get me wrong. My work ethic and discipline have served me well over the past three decades or so. But the toil and trouble philosophy I’ve become used to is a hard habit to break, even when it’s not welcome. My attraction to effort seems to unconsciously dictate my choices and often prevents me from enjoying the art of doing nothing.
On that mountain, it became very clear that it comes down to one thing plain and simple – fear.
Fear if I just relax things won’t get done. Fear if I don’t go sightseeing I’ll regret missing something. (I believe the kids these days call that “FOMO” or fear of missing out.) Fear if I don’t write today I’ll forget about the profound realizations or blog that so eloquently flashed across the screen of my mind. Fear if I don’t get a quieter room I won’t sleep well and be cranky. Fear if I eat one more piece of bread, my tummy will lose its flat physique uncovered during my Ayurvedic cleanse. Yup. That fear still has its grimy grip on my consciousness. And, last but not least, that indomitable fear that resides deep inside each and every one of us whether we’re conscious of it or not – the fear of dying. Trust me, it’s there.
I do not advocate being fearless altogether. That’s just dumb. Fear has a purpose. It warned me not to take the unchartered descent down the canyon with bad knees. The scar on my right leg served as a fresh reminder of the consequences of being fearless. Fear also cautions you not to go down a dark alley in India alone. It warns you to leave an abusive relationship.
But when fear begins to involuntarily dictate life decisions, quite frankly, it sucks.
There’s a title reserved for those who are so fearful they dominate every situation in an attempt to ensure things go their way. They are stubborn and unable to understand other points of view or respect differing opinions. They’re called control freaks. You may know one.
My freak flag flies high as I approach the end of my travel journey. I am clear on the force pulling on the cords, raising the flag. It’s my fear of the unknown – the road that lies ahead of me when I return. I’m not sure what it looks like. Or how I’ll manage it. Even before I get home I am on the computer scheduling, contacting, and creating work for myself. If I don’t, what will I do? I can’t just return home and laze around, idyllically dreaming my days away. Or can I? Maybe, just maybe, my days will look completely different than they used to.
To combat control, I’ve been calling up surrender and faith in my morning meditations. Yesterday I attended a yoga class here in Chiang Mai whose focus was 2nd chakra – the energetic center that rules fluidity, adaptability as well as joy and pleasure. It is represented by the element of water. A smile crawled across my face knowing this was not a coincidence. As if I needed a reminder, I was reassured I will always find what I need on my mat.