Our Self-Awareness Blind Spot

by Kenneth Rayman on November 26, 2018
Embodied Enlightenment - Break Free From Your NLP Environment with Eric T. Strauss When it comes to why I decided to travel, for a simple explanation, I wanted to see the country I’d seen for years on the tv, Russia. I’d researched the country since I was a child, captivated by the story tale nature of its history and intrigued by the events of the current era. But once I got to Europe, I noticed something else. While I was learning about the country from the source and even more captivated by it, I noticed I wasn’t worried at all about my problems or the issues back home, outside of one instance when I first arrived in Finland, on the way to Russia, while settling in. I started worrying about my boss, whom I had a good relationship with, and the stressful nature of our work and being without me for two weeks. I then reminded myself, “You’re in Finland! You’re outside of the US for the first time! Realize how special this is.” From that point on, I never thought of work.

Strangely, work or home never did cross my mind after that until the last few days of the Russia trip. I didn’t want to go back and was angry at having to return, realizing on the flight back that I felt alive for the first time since first visiting my home in Seattle 4 years prior. Travel had, as well, made Seattle that perfect place for me where worries never crossed my mind and I felt alive. Was it the rose-colored glasses or something else? In Russia, as with the trip to Seattle, I was totally removed from what plagued me mentally at home and could clearly focus on what I desired in front of me. I felt a peace I never before had, of total inner calm where nothing could disturb it except maybe tears of love and astonishment for achievement of such a dream; therefore, like Seattle in 2014, found myself not wanting to leave or immediately wanting to return, therefore uprooting my life in the process.

I stumbled across a podcast of someone I met briefly in Tallinn at Mindvalley U, Eric Strauss (then the COO of Mindvalley), yesterday where he spoke of the effect that remaining still in our lives has on us. He spoke of constantly changing his environment to not grow too comfortable and to keep his mental acuity sharp. He stated that after a while your actions in a familiar environment become habitual and automatic and therefore you don’t realize that you’re not pushing your comfort zones adequately. He proved this by saying that when you return from being away you often will see, hear, and smell things that trigger that comfort of the norm for you, which lull you back into your familiar habits and comfort zones where your mental processes again go on autopilot.

He said travel, in his and my case, solo travel, takes us out of our habits and forces us to be present. We see our problems and worries more objectively, when/if they cross our mind, through critical thinking about the perspective they have in the bigger picture. When I made my first walk along the cobblestone streets of Helsinki, I no longer felt tied to “my world”; I was fully present of the feeling of walking on cobblestones for the first time, carefully trying not to roll my ankle and then taking in the old-world Nordic architecture that made use of every square inch of space. In Tallinn, I again felt the old-world charm of the buildings in the Old Town. romantically singing the song “Belle” from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” as I walked to Kultuurikatel every day, half expecting people to open windows, pop out of the chimneys and sing back at me like in the cartoon. In St. Petersburg, I forcibly tried to think of my “problems back home” but was unable to, being forever in the moment and felt the personal peace within it.

Being unable to think about the issues plaguing me, Eric said, was the presence of the moment forcing us to reflect on our life’s progression, desires, and achievements without any possibility of bias in the environment around us. He illustrated this by saying that being in a different time zone, weather pattern, or geographic hemisphere detaches us spatially from our worries and our mind can see that they are literally “over there” in relation to your physical location. His argument was that if you just went away from the location by an hour instead, your mind would still be preoccupied with responsibilities, making you feel guilty because of your environment’s proximity trying to force you back into its biased routine. This rang true from my teenage years when my father built our house 10 minutes from his work. He was senior ops management, so decisions had to always be forefront and he decided proximity was best, but on his “vacations” he would just stay home, sometimes go to work to “check in,” and when he would allow himself true time off, he would just stay in, check reports the first few days and then veg out, remarking to me a few times that he didn’t want to go back and dreaded it.

Eric said that his travel aims have never been about the number of countries but the challenge of new thinking and constant re-evaluation of his goals and progress he’s made. I, myself, started out saying that Russia was a one and done lifetime trip, but the experience changed me through those exact same principles; I was able to see that my passion was for learning first hand and self-awareness of what was truly important to that passion, and myself. By removing the bias of the comfortable environment, I could truly think outside the box and eventually connect with people all throughout the world through what my bias would have called a gamble, which has now morphed into an obsession to learn, experience, and tell what’s behind the book jacket that covers the real story.

Given the episode, I wish I’d had the opportunity to actually talk with him beyond those few interactions we had because of how similar our views ended up being regarding self-awareness, travel, life reflection, and goal structuring. But for him at the time, Mindvalley was the operation and he had to be sure the company, much less the event, was running smoothly. For the attendees, it was never a thought about the business of the event but I would remind myself that for the staff I talked to, Mindvalley U, between their pockets of free time where they chose to participate, was a real-time logistics exercise.
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