Change Your Water, Extend Your Life

Rebecca and I just returned from a backpacking trip in the Red River Gorge. While I’ve spent a great deal of time in the back country, it was her first trip. I wanted it to be a positive experience for her and spent a lot of time planning the trip. One of the things I love most about backpacking is you carry everything you need on your back.

Well sort of…I might have told Rebecca once or twice that water is heavy and it’s a lot easier to carry it inside of our bodies, than on our backs. Essentially, we are water bottles. The average adult is 65% water and staying hydrated is critical in the back country to avoid the ill effects of dehydration, such as, headaches, confusion, irritability, and fainting.

It just so happened to be the hottest weekend of the summer. We were tempted to postpone the trip, but we were excited and not sure when we’d get to reschedule. The heat concerned us, so on the drive to the mountains we drank lots of water.

I don’t know about you, but when I drink a lot of water, I feel better. I like to imagine it’s an internal shower washing away all of the grime from my insides. Another analogy I like to use is changing the oil in a car. If you’ve ever done it yourself, then the sludge that pours from the oil pan is much different than the fresh oil used to replace it. The owner’s manual that comes with your car urges you to change the oil on a regular basis to add life to your vehicle.

Water is freshest when it is moving. Like the mountain stream we camped near, it flows down and around obstacles. Think of a stagnant pool. It is not very attractive. Likewise, ask yourself if there are areas of your life that look and feel more like a stagnant pool than lively mountain stream. Sometimes we make the mistake of trying to move that obstacle out of our way, rather than flow around it. Flow like water and change your life.

Expiration Date

Life is resilient but comes with an expiration date. We enter this world supple and flexible, but leave it dried-up and stiff. If you’ve ever witnessed the birth of a child, as I have, then you know about flexibility. As we move through the stages of life, we tend to become rigid in body, thought, and spirit. If we aren’t careful, aspects of our lives become fossilized. This growing rigidity can move our expiration dates up. Of course, none of us want that.

Louisville was founded along the Ohio River at a series of rapids because the white water presented a navigational hazard for early explorers heading west. The Army Corps of Engineers later constructed a dam and locks to improve navigation on the river.

The Falls of the Ohio State Park was created to preserve a 390-million-year-old Devonian fossil bed. On a recent visit to the park, I was amazed by the fossil detail, but wondered what they really tell us about the lives those creatures lived. There are remnants of dinosaurs among us, and some are as common as a sparrow. As interesting as fossils may be, I prefer to observe life rather than an image impressed in stone.

The older I get, the more fascinating birds become. They remind me to remain light as the air I breathe and to adjust as necessary in mid-flight. I choose supple…flexible. I choose an open-mind. I choose life rather than death.

A New Journey

It is a well know Taoist proverb that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I don’t know about you, but such a long journey is not something I would undertake lightly. Before I take that first step, I want to be certain that the destination is worth it. Don’t you? So how do we do know our goal is a worthy one?

There was a time when you were fresh. The old masters call this the state of the “uncarved block”. What we have become was shaped by forces outside of ourselves. If we can remember who we were before we changed, then we may discover our true purpose in life. I don’t know about you but that is a goal I can get excited about.

So, how do we remember who we were before outside forces carved us into our present form? My favorite method is meditation. Fortunately, it’s very easy to learn

Choose a quiet comfortable place. Sit with your back straight. Drop your chin slightly. Stretch your spine by lifting the crown and simultaneously sinking your tail bone. Take long deep breaths, in your nose and out your mouth. Release your tension. Continue until your breath settles into its natural state. You will know when it happens. Trust yourself. Now, let your mind begin to wander through your unfulfilled desires, hopes, and dreams. Don’t judge yourself. Just remember.

Pay attention to anything you keep returning to. How would it feel to fulfill this dream? What would it take to realize it? Is it worth the effort? You will know when you have found a goal that is worthy of a thousand mile journey. Congratulations! Now take that first step.