Look around. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Stop thinking about where you came from or where you’re going for a moment. Take a moment to be right where you are. This is the most important moment of your life. Right now. Here. Wherever you are. Do you believe that? Maybe you should try.
Drinks After Work
I’m not going to sugar-coat it; I forced my way in. I found out that a few workmates were going out for some appetizers and drinks after work and I invited myself. Don’t worry, I picked up the first round to make up for my intrusion. They didn’t seem to mind.
This group goes out together often, but I’m never invited. I suppose that being their manager adds a level of weirdness to my presence. But, they seemed genuinely excited and a little surprised when I said that I would join them. We closed up and I met them at a bar across the street. We got a table and ordered drinks. Now, I didn’t expect much from the night, except maybe a few laughs, but over the next hour we all poured our hearts out to each other. I gained so much perspective on all of them and they asked me some really tough questions. I had a blast! It has been months since I have had any real conversation with people and it was both refreshing and rejuvenating to see that there is still a lot that I don’t know about them.
There were so many reasons to go home instead of stopping at the bar with them. It was snowing. The roads were bad. It was late. I needed to keep things professional. Blah blah blah. Still, something made me take the leap. Something pushed me toward the bar, rather than toward the house. I like to think that the Universe knew I needed to go out tonight and it forced my hand. I’m just glad that tonight, I had the presence to listen and follow the nudge.
It’s so easy to get bogged down with all we have to do. It’s normal to obsess about where we’re going, or where we “should be.” The truth however, is that we are always exactly where we should be.of who we should be. When we’re not fully present, we often miss the importance of the moment.
During our conversation, we stumbled into a discussion on religion and how we were all raised. At one point, one of the women turned to me and asked, “What are you?”
I was stunned at her question and I didn’t know how to answer. “I guess I consider myself spiritual, but not religious.” It was a cop out.
“No, I mean what ethnicity are you?”
I laughed at the irony of the moment. I had failed to hear her question. Instead I answered the one I was contemplating. The realization didn’t sink in until several hours later; I was not present. I was having a different conversation than the one she was having.
A lot of my life is like that. I imagine that yours is like that too.
What Does This Have to Do With Wandering?
Presence is what sets the wanderer apart from the tourist. Like I have said before: tourists go to see what they plan to see, wanderers go to see what’s there. Often, what’s there are people.
When we travel abroad, it is so easy to forget that we bring our perspective with us. To really experience a place, you have to gain the perspective of the people that live there. This can be an interesting undertaking, especially when language barriers exist. Still, I have never found it to be difficult.
People love to share who they are, where they live, what a place means. But, they can only do so when we are listening and actually hearing what they are saying. If we’re too busy contemplating our next question or comment, we can often miss the opportunity to learn something really interesting.
The Art of Listening
For all of the content we consume these days, the fact remains that very few of us listen very well. Perhaps the speed at which we digest information hinders or numbs our ability to do so. Listening is a skill that requires practice.
How does one practice listening? Well, that is a great question. Here are a few ideas:
- Learn to Meditate Meditation is the ultimate act of listening to ourselves. It is a challenging practice for many, but very rewarding. Learning to meditate takes some guidance. I have found the Headspace app to be very helpful.
- Ask Better Questions Be honest. How often, in a conversation, are you asking questions? If you’re anything like me, you’re more likely thinking about the next point you want to make. Be mind fun of that and come up with better questions. Listen to the answers.
- Repeat after me: “What I hear you saying is…” Check in on your conversations by clarifying what people are saying. This is a great way to assure that you are hearing them accurately while simultaneously proving to them that you are listening.
These are just a few ways to practice hearing, but they can seriously amp up your wandering experience.
The most beautiful thing about that night was the fact that we all felt heard. We all connected and became better friends because we all took time to listen. In so many of our relationships, all we do is wait to talk. What might happen if we decided to be right here, right now and really learned to listen?
The thing about presence, is that it allows us to see the big moments, in the moment. How many times have you come to the realization that something big happened and you missed it? Maybe someone was trying to ask you out and you didn’t realize it until your friend pointed it out. Or maybe you didn’t hear the customer tell you what it would take for them to buy because your were waist-deep in your pitch–but your boss let you know about it later.
If we treat every moment like the most important moment of our lives, this will happen less and less. This is true in many areas of our life, but it is infinitely important when wandering.
“Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.”
― Mandy Hale
When we wander, getting lost happens. This can be a troubling experience or an amazing one, depending on your perspective. If you choose to let it worry you, you will look at it as a negative. But, if you can approach the situation with presence, you may just find something or someone amazing. Just like my chance encounter at a bar with friends, you might stumble into exactly the experience you need.