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Explore Life Coaching, Patti Phillips

Living Vertically in A horizontal World

I had a great vacation at the beginning of the summer, doing a road trip with a friend to Utah. It is an area that I have travelled to many times over the last twenty years. I am in love with the red rock, the blue sky, and the contrast between the two. For some reason, this trip (my seventh) was different and somehow more fulfilling. It took me a while to figure out the difference and now I think I know.

In each of my previous road trips, the focus was on seeing and doing as much as possible. It’s a long drive of twenty-four hours to get to the area, so my thinking had been to fit it all in. Mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, rafting, sight-seeing, museums, souvenir shopping, historical sites, cultural experiences, concerts, gambling in Vegas. It ended up that I never stayed in one place for more than three nights. It was invigorating, exciting, and “productive”. I couldn’t get enough and wanted more.

On this most recent trip, we arrived in Moab, Utah, and stayed in Moab for our entire time down there, which was a very different experience. Although it was really only ten days in the same place, it seemed like I got to know the place with some depth and I didn’t feel the pressure to have to move on. Instead of looking forward all the time and wondering what was around the next corner, I was in one place long enough to look up at the sandstone towers, the stars, and the trees and look down at the wildflowers, insects, and the patterns in the rock.

What I figured out about this particular road trip was that I was able to be vertical in a horizontal world.

What do I mean by a horizontal world? From my perspective, we live in a time that almost every possibility is available to us. We can travel thousands of miles from our home to experience other cultures and environments. We can change jobs several times throughout our employment years (and most of us do). We can eat exotic foods that come to us from foreign climates. We can seek information on any topic with a quick Google search and we have millions of answers from millions of people. We have access to an endless supply of self-help resources, all in the pursuit of an answer from someone else to tell us how to find happiness and fulfillment.  We can have hundreds of friends on Facebook from every corner of the world. Everything in the horizontal world exists in the “out there” and we have to constantly be moving forward in order to make contact.

To live horizontally means living in a way that connects us to external objects and desires. It is accomplishing a goal, checking things off the bucket list, completing “to do list” tasks. The benefit of  living horizontally is that we achieve the things in life that we may desire.

But, sometimes when we just live horizontally, we can begin to feel that there is something missing, even after we achieve all of our goals. So much is pulling our energy in a horizontal direction, spreading our time and focus out in a thin layer across a vast area, that we become disconnected to what is in our immediate area; to that which is present and true. It’s easy to get into a pattern of constant motion trying to cover as much ground as possible (both literally and figuratively). It may seem like there is just never enough.

Information and expectations from “out there” tend to influence how we make decisions based on the collective values, beliefs, and attitudes of society. So, instead of making conscious choices based on our own personal values, beliefs, and attitudes, we act unconsciously, reaching towards someone else’s ideals that may have nothing to do with our own personal needs.

Living vertically really means becoming centred, having a strong base, setting roots, and getting to know something in depth. It’s about digging deep for hidden treasures of knowledge and discovery and looking up in gratitude and appreciation of what we have in the here and now. Living vertically is connecting to our spirit, uncovering our passions, establishing our values, and creating a vertical flow between our heart and our head. Once we embrace an attitude of living vertically, we are better equipped to respond to this horizontal world in a conscious manner that honours our true self. Making this attitude shift moves us from;

  • Confused to clear
  • Imbalanced to balanced
  • Stressed to calm
  • Fearful to adventurous
  • Bored to curious
  • Disempowered to empowered

Some great exercises in living vertically are;

  • Walking very slowly in nature
  • Riding a bike on a long, smooth path, or paddling on a flat, calm lake, taking in the sights, smells, sounds, and touches
  • Meditation
  • Tai Chi
  • Personal values clarification activities
  • Being a tourist in your own town
  • Gardening and feeling connected with the food you consume
  • Cooking meals from scratch
  • Coaching/teaching/ mentoring someone

Send me any thoughts you may have about this blog. Do you agree or disagree? What do you do vertically?

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