This past weekend my wife and I took a day trip to Yosemite National Park.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that having lived my entire life no more than 4 hours away, I’d never been (aside from a trip when I was 3 that I have no memory of).
It’s quite amazing to think how many things there are in such close proximity to me which people come from around the world to experience — yet I’ve never bothered to go visit them.
I’m sure this is true for a lot of us.
There’s so much opportunity to embrace all that’s been given, yet more often then not, it goes unnoticed — forgotten — filed away on some bucket list we never look at.
Yosemite is a perfect example of my complacency towards all the possibility that surrounds me.
Thinking of how long I’ve left Yosemite’s indescribable beauty waiting patiently all these years, decades, for me to “pencil in” a day to go makes me wonder how many other experiences, careers, friends, memories, opportunities, I go through life completely oblivious to. Things I haven’t bothered to acknowledge, see, embrace, notice.
Thinking about how much of life I choose to leave at arms reach because I’m too ignorant, lazy, blind, lost, or absent minded, saddens me.
I can’t help but feel like, despite all that my life is, there could be so much more.
So much more joy.
So much more fulfillment.
So much more love.
So much more light.
So much more laughter.
So much more serendipity.
So much more exhilaration.
So much more risk.
So much more reward.
If only I was more aware of the incredible opportunity for life I’m continually surrounded by.
I feel as though I have cataracts.
I live a life determined by the assumptions, beliefs, dogma, self-imposed limitations, barriers, borders I’ve decided to draw around myself.
It’s scary to think of how much of the lens I’ve chosen to black out with a sharpie.
How do I wipe it away?
How do I let the light back in?
Yosemite taught me something this weekend. Or maybe “reminded” is a better word. The lesson is so important, so obvious, it’s effortless to forget:
The only way to open ourselves to the fuller life that’s always beckoning us is to make a deliberate and constant effort to seek out new perspectives and experiences.
We can’t get comfortable with our lives, with our routines.
We have to seek out ways to change our point of view. Else we risk trapping ourselves in our own, self-imposed prisons. And I mean this in a physical sense as much as I do a figurative one.
For example, there’s few experiences more spiritually freeing for me than staring down at the world from a plane that’s 35,000 feet off the ground.
Altitude has a powerful way of reminding me how grounded and confined my life, my perspective, has become.
It has a way of reminding me just how trivial much of what I attribute value to in life actual is. And it reminds me of all the things that are truly deserving of that ill-placed value.
This is why I make an effort to get on a plane and go somewhere as regularly as possible.
Our trip to Yosemite impacted me in a similar way.
It’s hard not to appreciate your smallness when you spend an entire day walking and hiking in the shadows of sheer, granite cliffs thousands of feet tall as you’re showered in the mists of thundering waterfalls.
A day spent in the Yosemite Valley is a day spent in the reality of how minuscule we are in stature in the face of the universe’s scale and power — in the face of life itself.
The experience also made me realize just how unimportant many of the pursuits I spend much of my life chasing really are. At the end of the day, life doesn’t get any better than spending an afternoon with my wife in the summer sun in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Everything else, all the jobs, projects, belongings, achievements, money, all melts away in the face of real life. In the face of the moments where you truly feel alive.
Yet, as amazing as the view from Yosemite’s valley floor is, we decided to do something quite different at the end of the day. As beautiful as the view, perspective, was from below, we learned there was an entirely different way to view Yosemite:
In the late afternoon, we drove out of the valley and around the south side of the park for nearly an hour. The road seem to curve and climb without end, until finally we reached Glacier Point — a look out point that sits atop one of the highest of the cliffs that surround the valley like a crown.
If you walk up to the railing of the lookout you can literally peer straight down the 1000 feet or so it is to the valley floor. The decent is so dramatic, so close, so raw, it makes your stomach turn.
And as you look at Half Dome, all the water falls and the valley below, strangely, the only thought I had about everything (which seemed so huge an hour before), was how it instantly had become so small.
From that perspective, you realize that the Yosemite Valley is quite small in context of the commanding and expansive granite mountains that cradle it.
We wondered all day whether it would be worth the drive to get there. But it turned out to be the experience that impacted me the most. Not necessarily for the view itself, but for the sense of contrast, of perspective, it gave me.
The experience turned everything upside down for me. It was a stark reminder that often what we see is a small fraction of all there really is.
That reminder has impacted me deeply, and left me wondering, searching, longing, for ways to turn all the other areas of my life upside down. In hopes of discovering all there is that I’m not allowing myself to see and experience.
I don’t want to look at life from one angle, from one side, anymore. Because I can’t afford to.
Life is too precious; life is too finite; our souls too important; the opportunities too great— to miss that much of it.
We can’t live our lives confined to the valley.
We have to reach.
We have to try.
We have to fail.
We have to explore.
We have to seek.
We have to climb.
We have to be curious.
We have to take the long way just for the sake of discovering where it leads. All for nothing more than a chance to see, live, experience, this crazy, miraculous story we’ve been cast into in a new way.
Because it’s only when we have the courage to abandon our old and tired routines and deliberately seek out ways to turn our worlds upside down, that we can begin to discover the life that’s been waiting for us all along.