Carlyle Coash, MA, BCC Mind and Spirit By Carlyle Coash “Don’t get out of the vehicle.” “Getting out the vehicle would be…bad.” My wife and I travelled to Kenya a few years ago. For part of the trip we went to Amboseli National Park and Tsavo National Park. Located on the southern edge of Kenya near the border of Tanzania, it’s common to see Mt. Kiliminjaro in the distance, a whisp of snow on its peak. Amazing. Since the terrain in the main part of Amboseli is relatively flat, it’s also common to see hundreds of animals. I mean hundreds – and to see them close up. Very close up. Like this. That’s close. After a few hours it became hard to believe so many animals could be right there. At one point we watched a watering hole where all the animals – except the lions – hung out to get a drink. A melting pot of the animal world. I guess when you’re thirsty everything becomes relative. With all the vehicles driving through the park everyday, it confused me why the animals did not run away. How could we get so close to wild animals without those animals freaking out or attacking us? So I asked our driver. He said, “They’re accustomed to the vehicles. There is no hunting allowed in the park. So many vehicles come through here – that aren’t trying to kill them – they consider them a non-threat. After awhile all the vehicles became like the background – they blend in. ” I found that amazing. Then he said… “However, what ever you do – do NOT get out of the vehicle. Then you become a threat. You become visible to them. I’ve seen people get very hurt when they do this. It’s like you appear out of nowhere. You stand out and no longer are part of the vehicle. So don’t get out of the vehicle. Getting out the vehicle would be…bad.” Like crossing the streams kind of bad. Very amazing. Something about that stunned me. Still does. The elephant in the photo above appears relaxed with us being so close, especially with a baby so close. We constituted a certain level of white noise. If our awe and gooey “we’re seeing them live and for real” feelings drew us to leave the vehicle – the end result could be being stepped on. We would be like Harry Potter leaping out from his invisible cloak right next to us. Generally not a good idea. The other being, with no preparation, freaks out. And then eats us. Or vaporizes us with their wand. Definitely not good. It made me realize something though. We do this too. We become accustomed to our lives. Our habitual patterns lull us into routine. We go about our day in a way where we face little challenge. Then something unexpected arises, like illness or hardship, and we explode. Everything is together, going our way, and then this obstacle appears throwing everything off. The reactions vary – anger, distain, fear, ignore. Overall our reaction pushes away. We attack the surprise – rather than deal with it. “How dare this issue appear to ruin my well constructed life? I decide when to deal with this issue – not the other way around!.” A 65 year old man retires. The plan for the last ten years involves retiring, getting in the RV and touring the country with his wife. All focus aims toward this goal. 6 months after retiring the man is diagnosed with end stage cancer. Options for treatment are few and now time seems in short supply. Overwhelmed, he scrambles to make plans and get things in order while his wits are about him. The only story he rehearsed and memorized became the one where he travels in the RV for the rest of his days. It’s a good story. A good ending – and I believe in the power of mind. I also believe in the power of change. Change occurs all the time. Every second. So much that we become accustomed to much of it. The change blends into the scenery. The trees change, the seasons pass and we adjust. Church on Sunday. Meatloaf on Tuesday. However, at times – seemingly without warning – change hands our ass to us. We look in the mirror and see a different shape. We walk up the stairs and struggle for breath. Our car breaks down. Our routine step trips and stumbles. In that moment we have a choice. In that moment there is a chance for freedom. Change reminds us that staying on autopilot may get us into trouble. I’m not saying we need to remain in panic mode – tense with our life. Instead we switch to manual and steer the ship ourselves. This helps to build our attention. We engage. Things still pop up, but this time we’ll be ready to welcome them. We say “hello”. We don’t panic. How do we do this? Well…small steps. The first begins here. Action Time! Get a blank sheet of paper Write down 15 activities that are routine for you. Things you do automatically. Now write 15 ways to shake those routines up. What can you do to surprise yourself? Make sure to leave a comment below and tell me something unexpected from the exercise. Next time I will explore this notion a little further. Until then – Change On!