I recently spent one whole month in Nepal. One month away from building my business. One month away from reliable internet connection. One month away from my entire life.
I volunteered on a tea farm for half the time and the other half was spent trekking up and up and up to the highest elevation point I’ve ever been, Annapurna Base Camp 13,550 feet.
I’m going to be honest here, I didn’t think a lot about my business, or the lack of internet connection or my life back home. I spent it being present, appreciating the moment and fighting a few mental blocks that needed to be broken.
My second day back home I woke up at 3:30am, wide awake and ready for the day. That’s 5:15pm Nepal time. I started checking my Instagram right away, a habit that began the instant I got home but one that I promised myself I would break. One of the guides on my trip started following me two minutes in my eyes-glazed-over up swiping zone I was in. That snapped me right back to the mountains, the fresh air and a hot cup of black tea.
I put the phone down and reflected on my adventure. The one I claimed was “life changing” and “humbling” to all my social media followers. What had I learned? Clearly not the lesson of staying off my phone more. But I did learn. I learned a fuck ton! Buy me a cup of coffee and I can talk about it all day with great enthusiasm.
But here’s my Top 3… for now.
Number One: Slow… down… unfinished task can wait
On the tea farm we were given tasks. Period. I ended the sentence there. I could have said “We were given tasks to complete” but it’s not the truth. We were given tasks. One’s like picking tea or smashing cinnamon bark until it’s a fine powder. But guess what, if it was quitting time or break time that row of tea where we had two bushes left to pick… so what, leave it for tomorrow, it’s breakfast time, family time. But there’s still more cinnamon bark to smash…eh, it’s okay. Lunch is ready and the tea is hot, leave it for later.
I’m a HUGE list maker and I love crossing things off my list or completing a task. Leaving two bushes unpicked was THE WORST! But that bush wasn’t hoisting up it’s branches, pulling its roots out of the ground and walking off the tea farm. It was there for me the next day, waiting to be picked with even more fresh growth to offer up.
I began to see the lack of stress on our hosts face, the lack of rushing to complete tasks. He moved through life at a steady pace, got done what he could and if it wasn’t finished, tomorrow is another day. He took time to eat with his family, drink tea when a neighbor stopped by and had the patience of a saint when showing me how to do things.
This is a big challenge that I am practicing everyday:
- Work at a manageable steady pace, rushing causes problems
- Take time for breaks and make non-work related connections
- If I didn’t complete it today, there’s always tomorrow
- Breath Kristina, relax
Number Two: Lead with an Open Heart
The Nepali people walk around with their hands clasped behind their backs. They move slow, steady and seem to just glide through their space. The grandma on the farm was wonderful at this. She would stroll around the garden with her hands behind her, gazing on the flowers around her and occasionally pick dead leaves as to allow new growth. This way of moving through life was curious to me. Westerners have our hands in our pockets, crossed over our chests or clasping our phones two inches in front of our faces with our gaze looking down and determined.
So I watched them, trying not to stare and realized something. They were opening themselves up, leading with their hearts and presenting a certain vulnerability to the world right away. It pulled their body up and brought their gaze forward. They smiled at strangers and engaged with them. Well, honestly they might have known those strangers. The village was small and I didn’t speak the language so it was probably their cousin or friend but still…
Try it out sometime as you’re strolling around. It feels so HARD! You literally feel exposed, uncomfortable and vulnerable. But it’s through the uncomfortable that growth can happen, that change has a chance and that life can give you the gifts that it has.
The challenge for me:
- Get my hands out of my pockets, walk into a room with an open heart
- Uncross my arms, smile at strangers and chat
- No phone as I walk, look up, gaze out at the flowers and beyond… where life lies
Number Three: The “Nepali Flat”
On the trek, as I mentioned, we went up and up and up. But there were also downs and downs and downs. Then mixed in were Nepali Flat’s as our guide told us.
Nepali Flats are a little up and a little down. He was totally right. We’d head down a little and then we would head up a little and then down a little again. I think our group came to love the Nepali Flats because too much of ups and too much of downs was HARD.
I came to love them because the ups were hard for me, hours of climbing stone and dirt steps up would cause me to go inward mentally as I kept repeating the mantra “one step at a time” just to make it through. Yes, this was a great challenge for me but it also made my focus so narrow I didn’t enjoy the beauty around me because I was screaming in my head “this fucking sucks! My legs are burning! My muscles are shaking! Is this what dying feels like?!”
The downs were easier on my body physically but going down for hours is still really rough AND you have to watch every step you’re taking or you might slip and fall… which I did, twice.
During the Nepali Flats, things weren’t super hard or super easy. It was these times that I my brain stopped yelling at me and I was able to look up and I saw some of the most beautiful things. Honestly, I cried a few times at what I was looking at, I was overcome with emotion of how lucky I was to be able to see what I was seeing.
It made me realize that in life we have downs, we have ups and we have Nepali Flats.
Life has a way of really sticking it to us and then kicking us while we’re down, then it will turn around and we can feel like we won the lottery. Then there is the in-betweens, the Nepali Flats. I don’t think it gets enough recognition or credit. We are always focused on the highlight reels of the good and bad. The Nepali Flats are also moving us forward, they are also providing growth and opportunities to see things we might otherwise miss.
The challenge that I am pushing myself to do:
- Journal everyday, not just the highlight reels
- Recognize when I’m in a Nepali Flat and look up, look out, look around and appreciate
- The really hard times and the really good times are important, but the Nepali Flats need reflection and attention too