Even in the middle of a dream-come-true things can get dicey.

The trip to Peru with my cousin had been in the works for five years. We had a big-ish birthday coming up and we wanted to celebrate with something memorable. The last time we were together her daughter was hiking the Inca Trail. That dream caught our imaginations and trekking through the Andes became the goal.

And what a dream it was. If Peru isn’t on your bucket list I’d suggest that you seriously consider putting it there. The people are warm and friendly (perhaps not taxi drivers), the scenery is breathtaking, the food is world-class and the whole country has a vibe of being fully and completely ALIVE.

Much like life, even within the wonderfulness there were a few times where things went “sideways” or fell into the “not so much” camp. In those moments my days and years of practicing mindfulness made all the difference in living peacefully through moments (rather than hours) of discomfort.

Really Living the Dream

One of the secret superpowers of mindfulness is that it delivers “emotional control” when you practice on a regular basis. Now that’s not a very sexy term. And it certainly isn’t going to stop you in your tracks to say “I need to get me some of that.” But in the face of unexpected difficulties it’s the difference between living the dream or creating a nightmare.

The best part is that it shows up without even really trying. It’s just part of the package. A fancier term for it is mindful acceptance. Instead of whipping up a storm of drama in our minds based on what we “deserve” we can drop the drama and deal with the reality of the situation.

How Awful Could It Be?

There were a couple of times when this feeling of acceptance made all the difference. First up was camping. Now, I don’t like camping at all. But there was really no way around it on the trek. How awful could it be?

Well, there was a splendour of shades of awful. Cold awful. Ice on the tent awful. Hard to breathe at the altitude awful. Awake all night listening to the dogs and pigs fight outside the tent awful. But, you know what? Time passes a lot more quickly when you let it float by. Morning seemed to come quicker and the night was forgotten at the first sight of the truly gorgeous day that was ahead of us.

 

Lesson learned:

Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you have to be awful.

There was an easy opportunity to spin into a nightmare during our trip home. Our flight in Cusco was cancelled and that cascaded into a whole stinking mess since there were shutdowns at O’Hare and backlog through the system. Oh, and the earthquake. We were looking at a 24 – 36 delay on top of the 18 hour trip home.

There were a lot of people on the flight who were threatening and melting down right from the beginning. 12 hours in most of them looked like they’d been on a bad bender. Hunched over – big dark circles – embattled. Their being upset was exhausting for everyone.

 As I stood in line for the sixth hour, trying to get a boarding pass (not consecutive, thank heavens), my route appeared — 16 hours in Lima, then a 5-hour flight; 8 hours in Miami and then a 3-hour flight. And that was a good deal! I started practicing my breathing, calling for acceptance and generally trying not to tear up. I wouldn’t have been able to keep my cool with the same degree of sleep deprivation and turmoil before starting mindfulness.

 

Lesson learned – part two:

Being awful is as hard on you as it is on everyone around you.

Mindfulness is a skill and a tool that can help you lower the impact of “awful” on you. You have stronger relationships by letting the “awful” float by. You stop letting your discomfort and pain spill out on top of everyone else. You laugh off the challenges. Or, at least, you just feel better after a challenging time — you look better and you get back to the fun stuff a lot quicker.

Posted by Deirdre Walsh

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