Photo credit: Me. Bear tracks on the trail in Alaska.

Like many words in the too-much-information age, we often reduce the meaning and power of words. Adventure is one such word. “Adventure” too often means a planned experience. Activities marketed as “adventurous” have agendas, itineraries, safety rules, insurance waivers, name tags. Of course, there are gradients of danger and risk that require these things. And there many experiences that could cause injury or death from poor preparation and planning and brash behavior. But most of the things that we’re calling adventurous are really just scheduled activities that provide a temporary jolt; a respite from boredom.

So what is an actual adventure?

I think an adventure is any experience where you can say “And then …” and have no idea or clue of what’s next.

There is a myriad of options to find these kinds of experiences in the world. The kinds of things that end up on bucket lists. And I want to do many of them! But most of the “and then …” adventures are right in front of us or within us.

Art is like this. You can have all the supplies and knowledge, but every artist knows that what actually becomes art is an enormous mystery. This is why most great art is made in experimentation, failure, iteration. Each piece of output is a blend of the mystical and the material. A real-time example: when I started this essay, I had no idea what would come out. And here it is!

Soulful connections are like this. You can have your preferences and interests and plans. Then someone can enter your life and completely change your trajectory or transform your perspective. Or you can feel a soul connection with someone and begin to craft some assumptions about it or plans for it — only to discover that the “and then …” is that they are experiencing the connection in a different way than you. I am certain most heartache comes from the creating of expectations that disintegrate on impact with mystery and timing.

Entrepreneurism is like this. Too often we use data and systems and plans to remove all the mystery from business. We are told that the unknown is a threat. Yet almost every great invention or lasting business was born in failure or struggle. I’ve been calling this ability to live in the known and unknown at the same time “mystical leadership”. I will be sharing much more on this idea in the next few weeks but here is a summation:

Mystical leadership is a philosophy that holds logic and faith as equally essential traits of a leader. It recognizes humility, compassion, moderation, intuition and wisdom as necessary leadership qualities. Mystical leadership embraces all the dichotomies and paradoxes of being a human — the divide between ego and soul. It acknowledges and accepts the natural volatility and uncertainty of life and leaves room for mystery and possibility.

Inner work is certainly like this. Someone that I was mentoring earlier this year expressed that he was terrified to do inner work because “of what I might find in there.” Here’s the irony … if we don’t do the inner work, life will appear only as fate or luck. When we go on the grand adventure of exploring our inner world, we find the parts of ourselves (the soul) that loves the mystery, that relishes the void. Inner work involves going on an expedition to find your soul and discover its pricelessness. Inner work involves understanding your mind and beginning to master it. Both of these are adventures unto themselves, but nothing may be more dangerous and riskier than going into the heart.

Here’s why: the heart feels what it feels and wants what it wants. And the mind (the keeper of order) has no control over that. When we begin to expand your heart, to operate from your heart center, you begin to see just how much we don’t have control over. That much of what we think is real and solid is, in fact, an illusion created by the mind to make us feel comforted and comfortable. Heart work strips everything down to what it is. It eliminates both wishful thinking and wishful feeling.

I believe it requires a certain level of mysticism to navigate life in a way that produces meaning and joy and growth. A mystic is someone that is in touch with Reality (the spiritual realm) and reality (the material realm) and knows how to create moderation and harmony between those two realms. This balance lets each part do the thing it was designed to do. The body is designed for sensation. The soul is designed to experience. The heart is designed to feel everything. The mind is designed to think and plan. When these four elements are working in equanimity, then mystery arrives as lessons and opportunities. “And then …” shifts from the mundanity of tasks to the magic of the ever-unfolding present moment.

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