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The Lake, the Baby, the Smartphone, and the Mindful Path

Note: I sent the message below to the Value of Simple newsletter subscribers on September 1, 2014. The responses I received were touching and overwhelmingly positive.

Actually, the feedback was so wonderful that I wanted you to know about the type of notes that my newsletter pals see. Not getting the newsletter yet? You can fix that in fifteen seconds by clicking here.

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Feelin' mindful and groovy today? Use that mind to imagine this (por favor).

It was mid-afternoon on Sunday, July 27. Stretched out on the dock of our family's cabin, 185 peaceful miles outside my typical city life, Clark was quietly taking in the scene in front of me.

The day had so far been focused on catering to small children's random whims and loud, loud, loud. If ever there was a moment to soak in this refuge of simplicity, it was now.

But why, oh why, should I want to check my email right now when I've structured my weekend around nature and people, not a freakin' glowing screen?! As I grabbed my smartphone, I resolved to at least re-purpose the impulse's original intention and take this picture:

Clark and Joel at Twin Lakes

Ahhhhh. Lizard brain: overcome. At least … for the moment.

Mere minutes later, I was opening my email app. There were no major business deals pending. No expected birth announcements from a best friend.

Yet there I was (again), mindlessly acting among the rustling trees, the rare soaring bald eagle, and the jumping fish … all begging me to be present with them.

Where, oh where, can I possibly be mindful if I can't be mindful here and now?

That, however, was the wrong question. So I asked myself a better one: “Do you like the pace and direction of your growth?”

I instantly imagined myself in this same scenario pre-personal renaissance.

First of all, I wouldn't be down at the dock. I'd be up in the cabin, seated nanometers from the Verizon hot spot (for maximum Internet speed, of course) and trying to keep Clark from distracting me (a.k.a. bonding with his papa).

I'd be aimlessly scrolling through a World of Warcraft forum while I willingly traded away connecting with my baby for the growth of a meaningless digital avatar. Oh, and that Snickers bar I was looking for? Yeah … about that. I ate it ten minutes earlier in a zombiefied state.

Here's my reality, and maybe yours too: I will never be as simple and intentional as I dream I might be “someday.” There will be no shortage of chances to abandon my values and ethics.

The good news though … for you too, I hope? The quest for perfection has ended. Unreachable goals to eliminate negative emotions or unintentional behaviors have been swept away.

And in their wake, my tiny ripple of awakening in April 2010 now spreads across the water to the lake's shores. Yeah, that ripple didn't reach Twin Lakes in northern Minnesota at 2:44 p.m. on Sunday, July 27. Yet, I love myself more today than yesterday. But not as much as to-morrrrr-row (hat tip Spiral Staircase, 1969).

My growth pace and direction are just fine, thanks. And I think Clark would agree.

So how about you, my friend? What brings you positive perspective instead of putting the negative self-talk on repeat?

Your partner in simplifying,

Joel

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