Each spring, as high school seniors await their college responses, I always remember when our own children applied to college. I recall our son’s essay, which centered on an experience playing baseball. Since then, I’ve learned that college admissions officers groan whenever they have to read yet another essay explaining how sports is a metaphor for life. Fortunately, our son was accepted to a school he loved. And actually, sports is an excellent metaphor for life.
Take, for example, the story of Bill Bradley – standout basketball player for Princeton, Olympic gold medalist, NBA champion. While speaking to the writer John McPhee, Bradley shot a basketball through the hoop, his eyes never turning away from McPhee’s face. As Bradley explained, in basketball as well as in life, it’s important to have “a sense of where you are.”
I recently attended a meeting where I suffered from having lost that sense. In the preceeding weeks, my schedule was so overfilled that adequate sleep, mindfulness practice and time with supportive friends fell by the wayside. Finishing work and outside projects seemed much more important, especially since I would be away for nearly a week. Several days before leaving, I received troubling news that occupied more time and added additional worry. At the meeting, I was quiet and withdrawn. I felt estranged from myself and unable to access the ideas I could have contributed to the discussions. What might have been a stimulating and collegial meeting was lost on me, as I had lost a sense of myself and where I was.
We all have practices in our lives that give us a solid feeling of who and where we are. Mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga are powerful ways of connecting with ourselves. Many people comment that regular exercise “clears my head.” Sleep is under-rated in our competitive society, where working harder and longer are touted as badges of honor. In fact, adequate sleep allows us to think more clearly and respond more appropriately to whatever the following day brings. After we “sleep on it,” we often awake with the solution to a problem that’s been troubling us. Connecting with supportive friends or family can help us find our way back to ourselves, as we feel accepted and appreciated for who we are. And then there are those activities – spending time in nature, creating art, playing a musical instrument, being with family – that remind us of what’s important and meaningful in our lives, what makes our life worth living.
Once I returned home, it didn’t take much time or effort to restart my own practices and regain the confidence and clarity that comes with a sense of where I am.
As a new group of students sets their sights on college, we’re aware of the rapid passage of time. Life is short and each day is precious. While our work is important, those parts of our lives that give us a sense of who and where we are make all the rest of our experiences more vibrant, authentic, and meaningful.
What do you need to maintain a sense of where you are, so you can be present in each moment of your life with the fullness of who you are?