For the next six weeks you can follow along on my second Bhutan venture on my business blog! I won’t be posting on this blog for this trip so sign up for the feed on my blog…
I’m off to Bhutan again in a few days with a FIRST travel experience in place. After spending a good portion of my life traveling abroad and to over 70 countries, this will be the FIRST time I’ll be basically staying put in one place for most of the trip. It feels mostly natural, with Bhutan as the destination.
Though all you twitter users out there have proven me wrong, I’ve never been one to think that others are really that interested in reading about the minutia of someone else’s day to day life (how/why do people find time for such things?). But I’m going to break that view I’ve set and blog about my experience as much as possible (sorry no Twitter). I am as intrigued as you might be about what it will be like living and working in the Bhutanese culture and I’m psyched to share that with you all.
I’ll be living in the capital, Thimphu, for 6 weeks volunteering with the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) part time while continuing to run my own business. The basically-staying-put part means that I’m certain that at least several significant physical excursions will arise once I get my bearings—the mountains are too alluring there—but I’m just not planning anything on the front end. Some gear will be in hand, some aspirations in place…and we’ll see how it goes. Being someone who will read a Lonely Planet country guide cover to cover and then lovingly enjoy planning the details of a trip, I’ve left this one to play out as it will and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Its been heartwarming and inspiring sharing interviews on my blog about What Matters to people I know and love and who truly make a difference, not only in our community, but in the world. I’m carrying that inspiration with me as I head back to Bhutan. My aim is to support the BOC in developing and executing events that will showcase their gorgeous country and raise money for their Olympic programs. I’ll also be evaluating and offering support in developing sport in their schools and communities.
One of the challenges the BOC faces is that Bhutan is not an inherently competitive or individualistic nation. They are in a position of selling competitive sports to Buddhists. Thats kind of like trying to sell even range fed, organically grown chicken—to a vegan. Competitive sport, as WE know it, is not a part of their culture. And hard physical labor tends to happen in the rice fields, and not on a playing field. These realities are unique challenges to developing Olympic teams. But both the BOC and I believe that what they do embody—obvious physical talent and a significant connection to their country and cultural tradition—are ingredients to huge potential within several Olympic sports. All Bhutanese love their country. A Bhutanese athlete would train and dedicate themselves to their sport to go to the Olympics for the sole reason of representing Bhutan in the Olympics—with any personal gain as a secondary priority.
All that said, its easy to ask—why do they want to create an Olympic Program in a country with such a traditional culture? Their motive is authentic. The BOC believes that heath and well being are important means to happiness, and that a big part of that is having a healthier and fit body (and therefore mind). Creating sporting programs in schools to educate the young people puts in place a desire for and a message that the overall well being of the people is important. Sport is a means to that objective.
Its distinctly clear for all of us long time athletes, that we can indefinitely experience the virtue that sport and fitness shines in all aspects of our lives. I have been pleased to see the meaning of competition evolve and mature as I’ve gotten older. Joining the BOC in this process of developing sport in a manner that is in closest alignment with their culture and beliefs is a phenomenal opportunity to expand my own view and the view of my clients as we continue to assess what sport brings, not just to our racing, but to our lives and our communities.
I want to give a heartfelt shout out to Melina Lillios with Live, Laugh, Love Tours who has generously sponsored the initial part of my journey through Bangkok. If you want to be FULLY taken care of on an amazing trip—Melina is the woman to talk with.
Back at you very soon from Thailand, while en route.
The first Expedition Bhutan: Experience ‘What Matters’ presentation is on, April 27, 6:30 PM, 1818 Felt Street in Santa Cruz. This wine social and silent auction will be inclusive of presentations by me and the founders of the Music of Bhutan Research Center. Come and meet the Expedition Team as well as the director of our expedition film and see a teaser of the film! Our hosts will be the Santa Cruz Triathlon Association (SCTA)—and our efforts are about raising funds for people in Bhutan and in our own community to help them participate in sport. You can get tickets to this exciting evening on active.com. See the below info poster for more details.
For the weeks leading into this local community gathering, and during my time in Bhutan this summer, I’m going to be dedicating a large portion of my Blog and our Expedition Blog to looking at What Matters. I’ll be doing short interviews with athletes, entrepreneurs, students, teachers, monks and more, delving into the heart of What Matters to them and why they do what they do. My first interview will be with Mark Allen, who just got inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame. Look for that post soon.
Interested in hosting an Expedition Bhutan slide show presentation at your company or for your group or team – contact me about possibilities. I’d love to support what your community is up to through one of my presentations.
Check out my new website—I’m psyched that its open and bright and expansive as thats now I’m feeling these days.
Stay tuned for what matters to Mark Allen!
Jane Hancock is an educator, photographer and woman who has sought and embraced a path of compassion and courage. I approached Jane briefly at Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel a couple of years before Expedition Bhutan even existed and when I heard she frequented Bhutan. But we finally sat and bonded over a latte while in Thimphu, Bhutan at the tail end of our expedition. It was then, amidst our mutual love for the country, that she finally shared the story of her work in this unique place. I totally got why she had changed and shaped her life to help such a remote cause. Bhutan kinda causes that to happen to people.
Jane taught in the Scotts Valley School District for 22 years, is the cofounder and director of the Aloha World Music Camp for Children in Santa Cruz, CA and is the photographer on two acclaimed early American Music research/recording projects. She has co-produced many recordings for Music of Bhutan Research Center (MBRC), and when in Bhutan—which is as frequently as is able—she has a weekly radio show devoted to classical music and volunteers in Bhutanese schools to teach classical music history. Jane has stated here that What Matters to her is COURAGE. I’d say her life’s work is an embodiment of courage. Living courage.
Terri: Jane, from a general long time interest in Bhutan, you decided to help form an organization preserving the important and traditional music of that country. What matters the most to you in your life right now that caused this chain of events that altered the direction of your life? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that word be?
Jane: I have always had an interest in Buddhism since my early twenties, mainly because of the emphasis on compassion. In 2006, I decided to seriously study Buddhism and began to have the yearning to travel to India to the sacred sites where Buddha lived.
A friend of mine mentioned that Bhutan was a country where Buddhism was practiced by most of it’s citizens unlike India. I thought perhaps an immersion in living Buddhism may be a better way to go.
I told my friend, Janet Herman, an ethnomusicologist, of my intention to go to Bhutan. She responded that she had always wanted to go to Bhutan because their traditional music was exquisite. Within that moment a vision was created to archive the music of Bhutan. However, we knew next to nothing about Bhutan.
It just so happened that in the summer of 2008, the Smithsonian was featuring the country of Bhutan in their summer folk life festival. Many Bhutanese musicians and artists would be there. Janet and I went to DC., met the premier traditional musician, Kheng Sonam Dorji, and were invited to help him archive a legendary singer. That October, we were on our first expedition in a rural village in central Bhutan.
Mr. Dorji then founded the Music of Bhutan Research Center and we were asked to be on his advisory board. In the few short years of the organization, we have published three CD’s and the first book on Bhutanese music, archived over 60 elder master musicians, established the Annual Druk Norbu National Award for excellence in traditional music, created the first Bhutanese folk music festival, and have video footage for 10 documentaries in the making. To be a part of preserving a culture’s music, music which embodies rich Buddhist themes of compassion and loving kindness, has been an honor. Stepping into this vision has been a life altering adventure.
One word that suns up what matters for me is courage—the courage to evolve, the courage to be compassionate no matter what occurs in one’s life, the courage to be patient (which has proved to be immensely valuable) and the courage to be open and nonattached. This is a great path, however, quite a challenging one as well.
Terri: The story of how you came to work in Bhutan is so inspiring! But what do you do on a regular, day to day, basis to keep you focused on ‘being in courage’? What would you recommend to people who might struggle with finding courage in their own lives?
Jane: Without a doubt my Buddhist meditation is the main avenue for me to daily bring a consciousness of courage into my life as well as patience, compassion, and loving kindness. That is the inner courage dealing with the mental and emotional reactions to the vicissitudes of life. Also talking with good friends about challenges seems to call forth courage as well.
Then there is the outer courage, say traveling to other countries and embracing cultures. I was born with a fearless sense of adventure. Whether traveling with friends or by myself, I feel at home anywhere in the world. As the Dalai Lama says, “Our shared humanity makes us all brothers and sisters.”
It terms of how others can bring more courage to their lives, I truly feel each person is on their own path and through life experience, only they can decide how to bring more courage into their lives.
Captain Jim “Homer” Holm knows the ocean so thoroughly that he has devoted his life’s work to saving it. For over 30 years he’s worked in maritime trades on various sail and motor craft from grand prix racing sailboats to marine research vessels and every configuration in between. Through the years he developed marine education programs while crossing the Atlantic, numerous times the Pacific from CA to Hawaii and cruising in many other seas worldwide—all the while noting the growing problem with maritime pollution. What makes Homer a true visionary is taking his love of the ocean combined with his observations over the years and creating a project that stands to change the face of our planet-wide marine waste problem.
As Co-founder and Director of Operations for The Clean Oceans Project, Captain Holm is honing in on identifying and developing specific technologies that will play a key role in removing destructive plastic marine debris from the worlds oceans—and recycle it. Based in Santa Cruz, Homer is eager and passionate in chatting about the latest efforts at The Clean Oceans Project, but what you really get clear on in this interaction is that cleaning up our oceans WILL happen. Even with funding still needing to be in place to execute their mission, Homer is already there. After experiencing his warmth and easily likable yet articulate manner, you walk away at best knowing that he will eliminate the Garbage Patches of the planet, and at worst, taking careful inventory of you and your families personal plastic use.
While studying and sailing the oceans of the world, What has Mattered the most to Captain Holm?
LOVE AND GRATITUDE
Terri: Homer, from roaming the world’s seas as the captain of various vessels, you decided to start an organization here in Santa Cruz, CA with the significant undertaking of cleaning up the marine garbage patch. What matters the most to you in your life right now that caused this chain of events that altered the direction of your life? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that word be?
Homer: If I can use two words, they would be Love and Gratitude. I have had great fortune in my life. Not money but incredible adventure and experience, good friends and loving family. I have food and shelter. And I am in a bit of a unique position.
I have been at sea working with very smart people and have a few years experience myself. What I’ve come to is that the problem of floating plastic trash is enormous, but if we identify the individual challenges and address them one at a time they become manageable and then we can slowly achieve our goals. That is how we went to the moon and built pyramids [and that is how we’ll clean up the ocean].
The ocean has been my playground and workplace for all of my life. The Ocean needs help with many problems right now and it is a problem I thought I could do something about. The Clean OceansProject is what we have decided to do. It is an amazing opportunity to get involved [with restoring the majority of our planet].
Terri: You are in a challenging position of “building pyramids” with the Clean Oceans Project—starting from nothing and changing up the way the ocean exists on our planet. How do you stay in Gratitude each day? What would you say to someone who may struggle with being in Gratitude?
Homer: Remaining grateful for the opportunities that come my way is easy. Traveling for work introduced me to numerous cultures and variations in life's stations.
My little girl taught me much at 14 when she observed that the Fijian children she had met in the villages had nothing compared to her, and they were happy. That is an important revelation for a teen.
Things do not produce happiness, there are many wealthy people searching desperately for happiness. Triumph over adversity, compassion for others, achieving a lofty goal and maintaining integrity can all result in happiness, but it is the act of earning it that produces it.
There is love in my life and family and friends, I am truly blessed, and for that I am grateful. My background and situation are unique and it feels imperative that I investigate the limits of my capabilities to the benefit of what and who I love, my family, friends and the ocean.
The challenge has been very tangible for my partner and me and the ability to keep gaining ground for four straight years has been an incredible reward in itself. We have evolved from passionate to informed and managed to attract some remarkable talent and wisdom along the way by embracing integrity and responsibility. Working with these personalities has also been a reward, so you see, there is much to be grateful for.
If someone should find themselves struggling with maintaining gratitude for the wonderful things in life, become a volunteer. Give of yourself with no expectation of return or thanks. There are causes that are important, and people who really need help. When you give of yourself you can more easily recognize your good fortune and opportunities. If you do this honestly it can not fail to teach you gratitude.
This is the third in a series of brief conversations looking at What Matters to people who are really taking on their lives. My aim is to uncover what matters to them deeply. To expose their foundational passion. If this conversation interests you too, let me know and share it with others who matter to you. Today we’re looking at…
What Matters to BRIAN POWELL
In 2009, Bryon abandoned a promising career practicing law in Washington DC and moved cross country to live in the Sierra near Yosemite. His aim was iconic—to devote himself full time to iRunFar.com, a trail running and ultra running website.
Ultra running is a niche community that, with some exception, has happily remained obscure to the general public. Yet ultra running’s intelligent, eclectic and ofttimes eccentric devotees embrace trail running as a serious lifestyle. Their connection to the sublime value and camaraderie gained by spending hours running in the woods, is palpable
With ‘The Suit’ left far behind and as a trail runner for two decades, Bryon now offers trail fans of all distances extensive event coverage worldwide, gear reviews, and cutting edge viewpoint from a variety of experienced contributors. Through Bryon’s bold efforts, the diverse ultra running community now has an information force to be reckoned with.
A true pioneer in the ultra running world, Bryon also frequently writes about trail running for other media outlets including Trail Runner magazine, and is the author of Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons.
But WHAT really MATTERS to this accomplished ultra runner, trail lover and visionary entrepreneur?
Terri: Bryon, you left a career as an attorney and moved across the country to live in the mountains and start a business covering and promoting one of the least understood endurance sports in America—ultra running. What matters the most to you in your life right now that caused this chain of events that altered the direction of your life? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that word be?
Bryon: Peace. That’s what I was in search of when I set forth from DC. I’d just spent four years working full-time while attending law school at night and then two and a half more years as an associate at a boutique law firm. For six and a half years, I had few moments when I wasn’t doing something that needed doing. On top of that, my job was remarkably stressful and anxiety inducing. As a result, even in my few down moments, I couldn’t find peace.
I thought that quitting the law gig, moving west, and working for myself would give me more time and more peace. I was only half right. I probably work more now than when I was an attorney. However, I do that work with a great deal more peace. Sure, there are plenty of frantic moments and, occasionally, stress and anxiety, but those are now the exception rather than the rule.
What matters to me most at the moment? Community. Periods of injury during my time as iRunFar‘s editor have shown me that the trail running and ultrarunning communities mean as much to me as the running itself. While community gives me an inward satisfaction, I also see it as my primary job. Everyday, I’m driven to help build the trail and ultra communities by curating content that inspires and educates people about these pursuits. In trying to assist the community, I see myself more as a community hub than anything else. I provide a place for both iRunFar’s contributors and readers to come together to share their thoughts. That is where the magic happens.
Terri: What does that sense of peace offer you mentally, and what do you do daily to generate it? What would you recommend to someone who struggles with grasping peace in their lives?
Peace allows me to relax and regenerate, two things I’m awful at doing. In fact, I’m dreadful at creating peace in my world on a daily basis. That’s why it’s been so important to create a superstructure for my life that eliminated factors that detracted from my peace. I may not be able to step out of a moment (or, perhaps, be in the moment) enough to create peace on the fly, but I can shape my world to be more peaceful in general.
I think people often lack the desired level of peace in their lives, but feel helpless to change things. They’re not. You’re not. Whether on a grand or minuscule scale, it IS possible to create a more peaceful life. Look to see what elements of your life are unrewarding, stressful, anxiety-inducing, or simply a waste of time. Immediately make the small, no-brainer changes. You will quickly be rewarded with more peace. If there are huge issues (jobs, relationships, finances), know that you can always change your situation… even if it takes time.
My job and life in the Washington, DC area were killing me. To many, it appears that I went the desert (to run the Marathon des Sables), decided to U-turn my life while out there, and did so when I returned. That’s true, but it’s not the full story. For a number of years, I’d known that the attorney life, as I lived it, wasn’t necessarily for me. At least a year before I quit my job, I recognized that my then blog, iRunFar, was a means to building relationships with the outdoor industry and, therefore, a possible means of starting a new life in a new community. I was far from certain that I would take that option, but I worked even harder than before on the website so I’d have the option. When, a year later amongst Morocco’s Merzouga Dunes, I decided I needed that more peaceful life, the preceding year of countless late nights gave me the means to improve my life. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
This is the second in a series of brief conversations looking at What Matters to people who are really taking on their lives. My aim is to uncover what matters to them deeply. To expose their foundational passion.
If this conversation interests you too, let me know and share it with others who matter to you…
Some of my words about Tom:
As the past (and beloved) owner of Fleet Feet, Aptos, an accomplished
businessperson, deep thinker, artist and ultra runner, I asked Tom to give me a bio he’s used in the past to highlight his accomplishments. He sent me this…:
“You asked for my bio and my inclination is to look at all the bios I’ve written over the past few years for various folks and then consolidate all the cool nuggets into one impressive conglomeration. That would be my ego’s response for an opportunity to sell myself and maybe even impress people. But I’m not going to do that today. I’m trying not to do that anymore at all.”
Since largely accomplished Tom Griffen wouldn’t give me his stats, I can only share with you who he is through our friendship. Because despite our extended sharing time together I don’t know much about Tom’s background. Which itself is a statement as to what matters to both of us.
I met Tom over coffee when he first came to Santa Cruz in 2008. As the new owner of Fleet Feet, Aptos, he contacted me to connect and discuss ways that we could support each other through our businesses. Coffee turned into a 2+ hour conversation that mostly had nothing to do with business. I knew then, he was a keeper. This type of insta-connection will surface with Tom intermittently, and when it does it will sync like puzzle pieces. Since he left Fleet Feet, Aptos to work for their corporate office in North Carolina, Tom will roll into town now and then on business and we’ll get together for dinner. We always close the place down.
Tom is thoughtful and observant, hard driving (sometimes to his demise) and nurturing. A sometimes sleeper of a hugely talented being, amidst a palpable sensitivity. A perfectly articulate, visionary. Tom has a knowing that doesn’t require me to explain my regular deep esoteric thoughts. He gets it. He gets a lot because he’s paying attention. To our mutual amazement our life processes seem to consistently be in sync.
Tom makes decisions about his life that are mind bending for some because he gets that life is now. What matters to Tom needs to happen now—not when the planets happen to align, or when he ‘retires’
If you have an opportunity to have coffee with him, take him up on it. You’ll notice that he authentically rides on your every word. And if you matter to him, he may even share with you that what matters to him most is…
Terri: Tom, people in Santa Cruz County may know you as an accomplished and beloved past Fleet Feet owner and ultra runner who moved back east to work for Fleet Feet Corporate. Currently you are looking at taking a few months leave of absence from your job to tend to some things that really matter to you. What would you say matters the most to you in your life right now? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that be?
Tom: I’ve lived a life full of amazing experiences ranging from fascinating to dysfunctional. I’d change nothing if given a chance. I may come across as a guy with his shit together but I have the amazing people of my past to thank for this mirage. I channel them constantly as I make decisions that move me through life. They are full of good advice, laughter and answers to hard questions.
You ask what matters most? That’s an easy one. At this point in my life I truly and whole-heartedly believe that the only thing that matters is happiness. Not simply mine or yours, but everything’s happiness. As I’ve started focusing on this I am realizing that everyone gets the idea of happiness, but not everyone makes effort to “do happiness”.
Happiness. It’s not necessarily easy but it’s what it’s all about.
For many years I battled the real me without even realizing it. I became what I thought others would want me to be and I was wildly successful. But there was always something missing and I grew increasingly angry with life. When this anger became self-destructive I started noticing the importance of change. But it took years to do anything except beat myself up about this new-found insight.
Luckily, things eventually started to converge. The people I met, experiences I had, and intuition I began listening to merged my confusion into solid thoughts and beliefs. I was introduced to the real me and continue to learn from this fortunate culmination of life “happening”. So sure I could go on and on about the myriad things that led me to this point, things like travel, academics, athletic competition, women, friends, food, sex, money, drugs, professions and other random and common life experiences. But I won’t. These things got me here now but they no longer matter.
I still have tendencies to fall into what my body and brain recall from my past. But I’m using my awareness of the moment to honor this “muscle memory” and move beyond it.
Terri: What things do you do regularly or are you changing in your life currently to generate that sense of happiness? What do you recommend for those for whom happiness seems to elude?
Tom: After truly coming to terms with what matters most I knew that I needed to make some changes. I envisioned these changes to mainly revolve around how I was spending the majority of my time. Certain things in my life had become hobbies that probably deserved more attention than an hour here and there. After spending a year literally writing thoughts and comments on a 6”x7” canvas hanging in my bedroom it was obvious what preoccupies me – and it wasn’t my job. Not at all. Lumping the ideas from the canvas together left me with a few main categories of interest. These are the things that make me truly happy. The five I came up with are art, animals, friends, philosophy and activism. Had you asked me a year ago to come up with a list of things that created happiness I assure you I’d not have included all of these five things. My notes over time painted an honest picture of what my belly desired – so rather than regret things when I am old I decided to take action. I requested and was granted a 5-month leave of absence from my job. That was step one.
Step two was examining the list to determine how I could stoke these hot fires in my belly. I meditated on each one and what it meant to me. What did I want from art? What was this interest in animals about? Why did I have friends on my list? What the heck did I mean by philosophy? And finally, why was activism so appealing? I once was told by a fellow educator that one needs to determine what drives them and then hit the gas pedal. At this juncture I’d barely gotten in the car. But finally, after nearly 40 years, I was in it. That is exciting.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like my job. I enjoy helping folks develop successful businesses. But for the next five months I plan to tap into that which I am passionate about – something that would have been otherwise unavailable to me because of my job and busy lifestyle. Life’s too short to not follow that voice inside. Right now it’s loud and clear.
I believe we all enjoy the idea of happiness but we don’t all do much about it. Or we somehow have come to confuse happiness with social or familial expectations commonly associated with so-called happiness. It’s high time we collectively ask ourselves what truly makes us happy and then give it the credit it’s due. Fact is, if I am happy, odds are I will exude it. Someone will, in turn, catch it and maybe pass it on. In a crazy world that seems so stuck in its ways and unchangeable, we still have complete control over how we accept what’s in front of us. If you are unhappy or angry or frustrated, there comes a point when nobody’s to blame but you. Define what makes you happy and put your energy there. That’s being a responsible human being.
To contact Tom or follow along on his 5-month leave from work go to:
This is the first in a series of brief conversations looking at What Matters to YOU. While I’ll be highlighting people who are really taking on what matters in their lives professionally, my aim is to uncover what matters to them deeply. To expose their foundational passion. Because one thing that matters to me is getting to know what makes the really big doers tick. Thats exciting. Perhaps it will stir you as well—or maybe even cause you to revisit or define—What Matters to YOU.
If this conversation interests you too, let me know and share it with others who matter to you…
What Matters to MARK ALLEN
Some of my words about Mark and some background info:
Back in the ’80’s and ’90’s if you were a professional triathlete specializing in 70.3 and Ironman races it was common to run into a similar crowd at various events around the world. Days leading into an event in say, Japan, we’d all train together, eat together, chat together and then go out on race day and try and beat each other—the perfect combo to generating intimate and respectful camaraderie. Mark Allen was one of the ‘similar’ folks I’d encounter world-wide—yet he wasn’t.
Mark has a distinct dichotomous personality—one part fueled by his public persona. You may ‘know’ him via the media as the laser-focused, intense, articulate, triathlon champion and coach. Which he is. Yet, if you’ve had the pleasure to get to know him one-on-one, you’ll also see that he’s a deep curious seeker. Calm demeanor, honed listening skills, sharp wit, a thinker, and an old soul with a deep knowing that authentic life no way resembles what is on the surface.
Even though these chronicles on what matters aren’t about the resume—I’ll throw out some stats in case you aren’t familiar with Mark: Six-time Hawaii Ironman World Champion; been featured numerous times on major network television and in national publications; has appeared on more than 100 popular covers worldwide, sports commentator, motivational speaker, author and triathlon coach. Lets face it, the guy is a big player in all he takes on.
But what REALLY matters to Mark Allen…
Terri: Mark, you have accomplished to unique degrees in your athletic and professional lives and don’t seem to be slowing down as you recently co-authored Fit Soul, Fit Body and got inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame. What would you say matters the most to you in your life right now? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that be?
Mark: That word would be Gratitude. There is always so much going on in the modern world that can weigh a person down or that can put immense demands and pressure on them to put huge amounts of effort into endeavors that are not really feeding their soul but that are important say for basic survival. Maybe it’s a job that you just don’t gel with, or it could even be one that you love but that is going through a period of extreme pull on your energy and attitude. In those moments I find it personally encouraging to just stop and ask myself to find at least one thing that I AM grateful for in my life that brings me solace or a feeling that even in the midst of all my challenges there are still positives around me. With gratitude, we get energized and feel a certain peace that takes the edges off of the rough times in life. It can also become a reminder to pursue the things that do bring you a feeling of being grateful.
The thing that matters most for me is to just keep learning about life and to stay connected to family and friends. How you go about those two pursuits depends on the individual. For some learning about themselves comes through sports, others through spiritual endeavors, and for all of us from our relationships with other people.
It all gets wrapped together for me in the spiritual path I have been studying for over 20 years with Brant Secunda. It the tradition of Huichol Indian Shamanism. Brant is a shaman and healer in that tradition, one that is very simple in its practice, but very deep and complex in its positive effect on both people and all of life. He was the driving force that built my inner character in a way that enabled me to win my six Ironman titles in Hawaii. It’s a way for me to keep life in a broader perspective and to hopefully put my energies into endeavors in the modern world that help bring about positive change not only in my life but in others as well.
Terri: It sounds like your work over the years with Brant has helped you keep your eye on being grateful. What does your practice look like daily or weekly, that helps you keep this in clear focus? Do you have any recommendations for others who are seeking a way to get to ‘Grateful’ each day?
Mark: There are many, many tools that he teaches to help a person find that place of being grateful rather than dwelling in a negative space. One simple one is to just go for a walk. Whether if it’s in your neighborhood or out in the wilderness somewhere the simple act of walking helps cleanse your mind and set up the possibility of being grateful. Another tool that Brant emphasizes is to go to the ocean or a river and breathe in the sound of the water as a way to let go of stress and to just feel good again. And feeling good is a form of being grateful isn’t it! A third thing that Brant emphasizes is the importance of community, of making time to connect with friends and family and to just laugh together. It’s a way to, as he says, change the channel, and to become more grateful for your life and for the life of others. Then something he says in many of his workshops is that if you are alive then you have at least one thing to be grateful for!
Note from Terri:
This year is already shaping up to be just as enriching as last—is that possible!? I’ve got a fresh view, new clients, a new website, am diving into a couple new classes and seminars and several new projects—including organizing how I’ll be sharing my amazing journey in Bhutan via slide shows and in my writing. And I’ll be returning to Bhutan to volunteer to help out the Bhutan Olympic Committee!
My multi-media presentation of Expedition Bhutan will peruse ‘What Matters’, as per our inquiry in Bhutan. And in addition to presenting to your company or work team, I’ll be offering it as a fundraiser for schools and non-profits for something that matters to me in our communities—helping schools, teams and non-profits raise money to support participation in sport for folks who can’t afford it.
When showcasing my presentation as a fundraiser, the teams, non-profits, clubs and kids in these groups will be involved in organizing each event with me—a Team effort—just like Expedition Bhutan! And it just so happens this thread parallels the work I’ll be doing with the Bhutan Olympic Committee as well.
The first Expedition Bhutan presentation is already in the works and will be a full ‘Evening in Bhutan’ inclusive of a presentation by the founders of the Music of Bhutan Research Center. Our hosts will be the Santa Cruz Triathlon Association (SCTA)—which is so perfect because this is their club mission statement!:
“We are dedicated to supporting the Triathlon community by providing a fun and friendly environment for learning and experiencing the sport of triathlon.”
Because it matters to a large committee of SCTA members, they are expanding their already extensive repertoire to reach out to those who would love to do triathlon but can’t afford it by developing a scholarship program through our evening fundraiser. This is a club that owns an event that raises over $50,000 each year for sport teams in Santa Cruz County. Big people doing big things in our community. I’m in awe.
Remember how incredible it felt to cross your first finish line? I do, and I want to support others who don’t have the funds currently to participate. Remember how much confidence that first event gave you to take on the next one, to take on your day to day life and to take on inspiring others with your experience? In our supporting one athlete to get to the start line of their dream race, we’re spreading a trickle down of good-will, confidence and a never-say-never attitude throughout our entire community. That’s huge stuff. That matters.
I’d love to support what your community is up to. Interested in hosting a slide show presentation at your company or for your group or team – contact me about possibilities.
In the meantime, make sure you are taking care of you in this fresh year. I’ve got a couple of specials that will help inspire your goal setting—$50 off of a 3-month Coaching Program and $30 off of 3-Sport Psychology Consulting sessions. What matters to you is hitting your goals in a big way and I’d be honored to help you out with that.
Whats matters to you? Lets talk.
While meeting with His Royal Highness, Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, prior to leaving Bhutan, I shared that we came to his country with a naive and vague concept of documented Gross National Happiness. And that what I now peruse after 7 weeks of immersion, is a vastly-layered, multi-colored view of happiness. Bhutan showed me that the qualities of contented societies and the nebulous concept of happiness can not be found on paper or in anything material or man made. They are felt when experienced. Happiness foundationally lies in just being in what is. It seeps into whichever space we hold, at any time, with any emotion—right now—if we allow it. It doesn’t hold tight with us if we acquire more stuff or become more beautiful or more comfortable. Comfort may offer a glimmer of contentment—for a moment. But we can not will, eat or buy, long term, deep rooted happiness. It comes to us when we are using our senses to experience the world around us and while we are choosing the right intension when interacting with others. Happiness comes to us when we create an authentic space for it to enter.
I shared with His Royal Highness that I was taking home from Bhutan a ripe opportunity to reflect on the strengths of our country as well as its continued challenges and pitfalls—another chance to view my own little world through a different lens. Another perfect opening for expansion. In part, because the people of Bhutan shrouded us with a reflection of what really matters in organized communities—humble people, respect, kindness, and the innate ability to adapt. Bhutanese don’t embody these qualities because they read a document—most of them seem to have never studied anything written on Gross National Happiness. They are adaptable, accepting and respectful because its how they raise their children and because adapting makes the most sense in their communities. Bhutanese are sensible Buddhists. They know that everything is impermanent and that embracing impermanence can help their lives be easy and freeing.
We were asked why we had come to Bhutan to trek and bike when our own country was so physically beautiful. Why would we not just stay and enjoy our own geography? My response involved the resultant experience gained, when one marries land and people. That any place—America, Bhutan or other—are all majestic on the crust in their own ways. But to truly feel a country’s soul is to immerse oneself in its unique culture and its beautiful landscape, and by our preference—one step and one pedal stroke at a time.
Bhutan’s rugged landscape is the untouched, maverick, unwieldy man who presents himself with no glitz or puts on no facade. To get to know him you take some time, ease into the inner workings, respect his way of being and flow with it without expectation. If he lets you in, as Bhutan’s culture does fully and in good time, you will see clearly that you have uncovered a kind, soft, rare jewel indeed. You’ll see that he’s a keeper.
What I brought home:
- A re-knowing that 4 intelligent, strong, open minded people can create anything they set their minds to—with life altering results
- A continued love affair with my 3 Expedition teammates
- Realization that in Bhutan one moves in only two-degrees-of-separation
- That in the striving to keep in tact a traditional culture, the soul of a nation can be nurtured
- A clear view of what we sometimes forget to value in America
- A clear view of the sheer magnitude of what we have access to in America and so often take for granted
- A clear view of how much we regularly complain about the things we forget to value and have access to in America
- A renewed love and appreciation for my country’s strengths
- That kindness and civility can bond a nation
- A refreshing view that a sustainable life can bring the purest kind of pride and happiness
- Four love notes
- A marriage proposal
- An example of how integration of religion and state can work
- The powerful feeling when a country loves its leader
- The yummy warmth that lingers from a shared arduous adventure with coveted old friends
- Lots of new friends including a healthy budding relationship with the Bhutan Olympic Committee
- A reminder that laughter, smiles, a warm fire, games and song and dance will always break down language barriers and cement friendships
- Awe for a country who treats all its guests as royalty
- A strong appreciation for the geographical diversity of America
- How easy it can be to support your neighbor when you are conscious of how important that is
- A re-reflection of how self-ful and individualistic we are in America—the huge virtue that offers us and how strongly it can limit our communities
- A re-view of the value of money and “stuff” in America—mostly how we naively believe that our stuff ultimately defines us or makes us happy
- A new love and huge respect for our film team—Ben, LD, Peter—my yak- haired-dred-hat is off to you all
- That Ben Henretig is a rock-star director and human being
- A new love and huge appreciation for all those who trekked with us on the front end of our Expedition, believed in our inquiry, and supported us wholly. They launched us into this incredible journey with their deep sharing and we were so touched and moved.
- A new love affair with Bhutan
- A lack of desire to eat rice for a long while
- A strong desire to keep traveling because it seems to make the most sense
- A stronger body
- Yet another renewed love of pushing my body day after day through tough country and a re-appreciation for my ability to do so
- The ability to drop into each moment without “trying”
- A few rocks
- Cow skin mask found in an abandoned herders hut in the mountains
- Crude hand carved wooden bowl found in an abandoned herders hut in the mountains
- Bhutanese stamps (wow)
- Antique silver and copper coins
- A drum that is used in a Buddhist Festival Mask Dance
- A yak vertebra
- Prayer flags that have been blessed at a Monastery in Thimphu
- An ancient wood carving with the 8 auspicious symbols and Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion
- A traditional yak hair hat worn by the women of Sakteng
- A definitive knowing that I will be back in Bhutan soon
- A gorgeous set of Athleta clothing that got the crap beat of out it for 45 days and that still looks gorgeous!
I want to send out a heart felt thank you to Athleta and Discovery Adventure for hosting our journey. They have both been a lovely pleasure to work with. Thanks to all who shared your thoughts along the way. Though we have not responded to them all, we have read each one and appreciate each thought provoking comment.
For the holidays I wish for you all; a clear authentic space for happiness to enter.
Steve Jobs offered these final words of enlightenment at his commencement speech to the Stanford class of 2005—“Stay hungry and stay foolish”. Thanks for the poignant words to live (and die) by, Steve. And thanks for my gorgeous MacBook Air we’ll be using in remote Bhutan to upload satellite feeds of our journey. We’re on it.
Logistics are in place with our gracious hosts the Bhutan Olympic Committee, our 4-person Film Team is finalizing gear, TEDxThimphu is set for November 14, and we have a full contingent of guest Trekkers who will be joining us for “the inquiry” on the first leg of our journey through the northwest—including Emmy Award winning Imogen Heap. ‘The Lovely Hunger’ has been our driving force for this massive project—let the foolishness begin!
Both the Expedition Team and the Film Team will be heading out the last week in October. En route and via our 4 flight traveling extravaganza into Paro, Bhutan we’ll do a stop over in Kathmandu, Nepal for a few days. Hanging at a clubhouse sponsored by the American Alpine Club and run by The Mountain Fund—we’ll have just enough time to take in a bit of the excellent frenzy of that city and chill at the Kopan monastery, while letting all our gear catch up with us.
On November 1 in a once-a-day-weather-permitting, Druk Air flight we’ll head east along the southern edge of the Himalaya range before dropping into Bhutan—literally (it is a notorious landing). This passionate dream turned into 14 months of creation while my team of one grew to 10+ phenomenally talented people with a clear vision and driving inquiry. As Jobs can attest, being unrelentingly hungry gets results. Its refreshing to gather a bright crowd and head off to such a beautiful and remote part of the world. I couldn’t be more pleased with the possibilities of sharing our journey with you all.
Expedition Bhutan and our subsequent film is a marriage of high adventure and cultural inquiry. While the Bhutanese speakers at TEDxThimphu will be preparing and presenting on “What Matters”, we’ll take that inquiry into remote parts of Bhutan on a shared adventure with the geography and people of Bhutan. Shared with each other, with the camera, our 9 guest trekkers, and shared with you via satellite fed blog posts from the field.
In addition to last minute gear prep we are in the final stages of partnering with the companies that will be hosting our posts. We’ll get you their info prior to our departure so you can join us in Bhutan.
I’d like to toss in another thanks to James Fitzgerald, Candra Canning, Sonam Tshering and The Bhutan Olympic Committee, Yangki Tshering of Glimpses of Bhutan, Kinlei Wangchuk at Cafe Bhutan, and the hugely bright and hungry collective of our Film and Expedition Teams. Big power comes in a small group with unrelenting tenacity and a passionate collective vision. You’ve all rocked it huge!
I’ll check back in a week with info on where we’ll be blogging while in Bhutan…