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presence — The Meaningful Traveler


25 things I would do if I didn’t live by fear

by Steve Brock on January 1, 2016

Running with no fearI was going through a few old journals and found some notes I wrote several years ago that seem just as relevant to so many of us today. What follows is not exhaustive nor necessarily applicable to you in all its points. But as we enter a new year, I invite you to read through the list and even add your own items. Most of all, I entreat you to take this seriously and ask yourself each day of this new year how might you live differently, in your travels and your daily routine, if you removed fear from the equation.

If I didn’t live by fear, I would:

  1. Worry less
  2. Tell those I care for how much they mean to me
  3. Serve without expecting acknowledgement or gratitude
  4. Journey by being prepared for but not always ruminating on the worst case scenario
  5. Say “I love you” to those who expect such words from me and those who don’t
  6. Live more in the present
  7. Focus on what matters most in life and share that with far more people
  8. Stand up for and with others
  9. Live in the freedom of not caring what people think but be sensitive not to abuse that freedom
  10. Pray with and for everyone whom I sense needs it
  11. Respect and be more concerned about the feelings of others
  12. Speak the truth in love (and do so out of genuine concern for others and not as an excuse to gossip or vent)
  13. Raise my hands in churches where no one else does and sit quietly in ones where everyone else is shouting on their feet
  14. Travel to more places that make me nervous
  15. Sleep better
  16. Pay attention and listen more
  17. Cry at sad movies and laugh in others even when no one else finds something funny
  18. Let fewer trivial things upset me and be more outraged by real injustice
  19. Give more hugs
  20. Take more risks
  21. Push my limits
  22. Have much larger comfort zones and routinely step outside of them
  23. Celebrate the success of others and be less concerned about my own
  24. Fear only God and trust him to complete what I cannot
  25. Trust God. Period.

If I could nail that last one, I think all the others would take care of themselves. But how about you? What would you add or change on this list?


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Pastpresentfuture travel

by Steve Brock on January 2, 2014

Getty PatioI typically try to avoid going back to places I’ve been to before. Doing so tends to be like eating the same meal for a week. After several rounds of leftovers, that once favorite dish is well…you know what it’s like.

In some ways, I wish I could be more like my dog. She eats the exact same dog food morning and evening and has done so for years. Years. And yet each time, she does her own happy dance, skipping and leaping around the kitchen as if she’s not eaten for weeks and I’m serving up filet mignon. Oh to be that excited by the same old thing.

One place that I do return to with my own happy dance, however, is the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I get down there probably once a year when I’m visiting my in-laws as I was a week ago for Christmas.

Museums tend to be exceptions to the “don’t go back” rule because, like movie theaters, what is showing usually changes on a regular basis. The building may be old, but what’s inside is new.

On this trip, however, I had the curious experience of appreciating both the old and the new at the same time. Or more precisely, in my short visit there, past, present and future all combined to make for a remarkable trip.

The past: One of the main exhibits there “celebrates two rare masterpieces of English medieval art: stained glass from Canterbury Cathedral and pages from the St. Albans Psalter, an illuminated book of psalms.” Old windows and old books, all for 21st century visitors to see. It was beautiful.

The present: There’s something about seeing the same thing in a new way. The scene above is looking down on the Getty’s outdoor café. We arrived in the late afternoon, so the café itself was closed and only a single couple lingered. But this scene of tables and chairs, one I’ve witnessed a dozen times in the past, still fascinates me. Simple changes in timing, light and activity make this place I know well fresh each time I’m here. Same with the photos below of the fountain or, further down, the special holiday lighting.

Getty Fountain at Dusk

The future: Here’s where it gets hard to explain. We visited the exhibit of Abelardo Morell and his exquisite photography. I had not seen his work before, but now I want to find out as much as I can about it and him.

What happened is something that occurs on the best of trips. I was totally present to – engrossed in – his photographs. But even as I’m viewing them, I’m reminded of past images and at the same time, I’m inspired to think about my own photography and future ways of making better photos. Past, present, future all at once.

Getty holiday lightingHave you ever had that experience? I think it occurs when we encounter places, events, people, art or just something of beauty that deeply touches us. It moves us because it resonates with some past memory, often available only to our subconscious. It makes us pay such attention that we’re lost to anything but that present moment and place. And it leads us to dream of what might be even as we’re engrossed in what is.

It’s a wonderful place to be but a rare one to find. I doubt that the next time I return to the J. Paul Getty Museum I will have the same experience.

But it won’t keep me from trying…

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There is room

by Steve Brock on December 27, 2013

Christmas Eve Candle

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m standing in a darkened church a thousand miles from home, or at least the place I currently call home. I stand here in silence with a few hundred others, each of us holding a solitary candle, this sanctuary a flickering contrast of light and shadow.

Our final verse of “Silent Night” hangs in the air as the pastor tells us to be still and do something so few of us these days do: embrace the silence and the presence of the One whose birth we celebrate this evening.

I think on the short meditation the pastor has just spoken. He tells us of that night two thousand years ago when Mary and Joseph traveled under much different circumstances to a small town that had no room for them. The story is familiar, perhaps too much so, until he makes this point.

The place where Mary and Joseph end up, where she delivers a most remarkable child into this world, is a place that seems to have room. Plenty of it. Room enough for the weary couple. Room for the animals likely unaccustomed to the company. Room for the shepherds who come to behold the child declared to them in the most wondrous of ways. And most of all, in that stable, room for the very Son of God.

The pastor goes on to tell of a tradition in Ireland and other countries where on Christmas Eve, people leave a candle burning in their window. They declare with a single flame of light that Mary and Joseph would be welcome there, that there is room in their house for God. There is room for the One who grew from that tiny baby into a man who made room in his life for others. For the broken, the outcast, the lost and the hurting. People like you and me.

And so, as I look at my own and the candles held by others around me on this Christmas Eve, I marvel at the light and silence and how all of us who have come here as distant strangers can feel so close in this half-light. I think of the words spoken as we passed our flame to the next waiting candle: “Jesus Christ. The Light of the World.” And I wonder.

I wonder how long this moment will last. I wonder if in the coming New Year, I will go my usual ways and let the cares and stresses and yes, even the travel, cause me to forget what has been revealed this special evening. I wonder if there will be room in my life for what matters.

And then I realize that I have a choice. I cannot always choose my circumstances, but I can choose how I react to them. I can’t control what comes my way, but I can decide to some degree how I will spend my time. Most of all, I can trust that the One who made room for others two millennia ago is doing the same thing for each of us today. Emmanuel – God with us – today.

There is room.

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The lost art of noticing – Part 2

by Steve Brock December 13, 2013

Want to actively participate in life and stop missing the wonder all around you? Learn how to pay attention…with love.

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The lost art of noticing – Part 1

by Steve Brock November 29, 2013

How could I have missed the woman in the orange jumpsuit in handcuffs? Noticing and paying attention aren’t that easy…

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The best trip

by Steve Brock October 16, 2013

The best trip may not be the most exotic, the longest or the most anticipated. It may, in fact, be much closer than any of those.

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Judging ourselves

by Steve Brock March 7, 2013

“We judge ourselves by our intentions. We judge others by their actions.” Great reminder on why things don’t always go as we think they should on trips or at home.

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