Saturday, December 28, 2013

The connected life

The feeling of connection presents itself at this time of year in the form of holiday greetings from long-time friends.  For example, a former Outward Bound student of mine recently got in touch announcing his retirement from medicine, based in part on his own health challenges.  These voices from the distant past connect us across vast spans of time to unite the people were then with who we've become now.  I don't mind that holiday greetings are shifting from paper to on-line variations.  As they say, 'it's the thought that counts.'  You are thinking of me and I am thinking of you as we move into another year.  Thinking of others connects us to our past.

We connect with our present through the daily practices that put our minds back into our bodies, be it in the garden, on a run or walking the dogs.  Our wilderness work days are long behind us, but running the trails near Bethells Beach and looking forward to skiing in Utah in a few weeks keep that spirit of the mountains alive deep within us.  As we lose dear friends, we redouble our commitment to live 'on the loose' at least some of the time we have left.

This year I thought of buying an iPhone for my mom.  It was a good idea from a safety point of view with the added benefit that she might vicariously learn how to navigate my dad's iPad.  A better idea, however, was to buy her a yoga mat and take her to her first yoga lesson on her 80th birthday.  Not many people in my home town are yoga people, but the seniors at yoga are fantastic.  They instantly offered a connection to my mother beyond her normal family and church life, just as yoga connects spirit to mind and body. But, the best upshot of this story was that Mom is now teaching her great grand-daughters yoga.  Having made the trip half way around the world to be there for the birthday celebration, I was delighted to hear of this new connection between generations.

There were also some profound professional connections this year.  My new title has meant an opportunity to meet with senior executives at telcos and broadband providers.  A chance meeting at Cambridge last year resulted in high-level meetings within the US military that I could never have imagined.  What I also could not have imagined was the warm welcome and friendship afforded me after overnight flights and sharing a basement bedroom in Arlington with a golden retriever named Hudson.

The connected life doesn't begin with an iPhone. It begins with living in communities, inviting and being invited into networks and relationships. It begins by reaching out across generations and time and staying connected to our bodies and the natural environment.

The connected life starts with well-lived moments coupled with reflection on action.  Events--like a promotion, an Outward Bound course, the death of a loved one or cherished pet--do not constitute our experience, they merely provoke and evoke our interpretation of the event.   Our pattern of sense-making over time makes up what might be called perspective, or even 'wisdom.'  I don't know that I am particularly 'wise' as events and memories appear and re-appear in my life, but when they do--and I pay attention to them--I feel I am living a connected life.