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Reflections on Being an Adventurer
by Stewart Blackburn

In this glorious community of ours we are all familiar with the notion that we are adventurer shamans as opposed to warrior shamans. We recognize that rather than personifying problems to defeat them in battle, we intentionally depersonify problems in order to treat them as problems that merely need to be solved in whatever expedient way seems appropriate. We look at the world as a beautiful place that is basically good and safe rather than an evil and dangerous place. And we look at our futures in terms of maximizing joy as opposed to minimizing suffering.

I think, however, that there is much more to being an adventurer, shaman or not. In fact, I think that adopting the attitude of adventurer is essential to leading a joyful, successful life. And to me, it is the way of life that falls out of the Seven Principles automatically.

There are several things that most other attitudes, or styles of life, do not adequately address. One is change. An adventurer, whether climbing a mountain or driving a new road, has to remain aware that he/she is never sure what happens next. Conditions under foot or under tire may change. The weather is always in flux, as is lighting, one's own level of energy, focus and motivation. Being comfortable in ever-changing conditions removes the anxiety of trying to hold on to the un-hold-able. Relaxing and being flexible while maintaining focus on one's intention is, I think, a hallmark of a good adventurer.

Managing risk well is another hallmark. Life is risky. We are constantly in danger of loosing what we most dearly hold onto. That danger may not be large but it is always there. We risk our reputations every time we try something new in public. We risk love whenever we express our emotions to someone we care about, whether they be positive or negative emotions. We risk our lives every time we get into a car, cross the street or eat at a fast-food restaurant. We risk humiliation when we tell a joke, wear a new bathing suit or try something new in public like dancing or bowling. Love reduces that risk by helping us feel better about ourselves and others, and by increasing the positive energy around us. But we are always in the position of taking risks. Accepting that risks are involved as opposed to avoiding risks whenever possible distinguishes the adventurer from many other people.

Another characteristic of an adventurer, in my opinion, is that he/she is able to handle intensity. When fully embraced life is very intense. Falling in love is very, very intense. So is the first day of school, a new job or incarceration, be it in a hospital or prison. Sex is intense; in fact it is often regarded as being the best when it is the most intense. But we often try to mitigate intensity. Most of us have limits on how much pleasure we are willing to accept, either because of beliefs about what we deserve or how "out of control" we feel we can be. In fact, intensity is often regarded as pain. While intense sounds can be experienced as painful noise, intense sensations are prized by some while others might well call them painful. Extreme sports athletes and fiery food lovers understand this well. Exploring new things, physically, emotionally or mentally can be very intense and to an adventurer that intensity is something to be enjoyed, even cherished. The intensity on all levels of activities like skiing, skydiving or even public speaking can bring on wondrous joy and exhilaration. It is that intensity that stimulates the feeling of being alive. It is embracing the unrestrained fullness of life that started at birth and will continue into the death adventure.

Power, also, can be intense. Many people find that accepting the responsibilities of power to be quite scary. The internal sensations of power can seem overwhelming and the effects of one's use of power can be intensely dramatic. Feeling the moment of power, that place where the past and the future are right there in the present, I find to be very intense. I think it takes a great deal of focus and a big willingness to be in intensity to hang out there. Thus, the adventurer needs to be able to hold onto him/herself in the face of his/her own hugeness, strength and brightness.

Another feature of the adventurer is his/her management of expectations. I find that the adventurers I know have both great expectations for every moment of their lives and a willingness to not be undone by expectations unfulfilled. This optimistic flexibility keeps them emotionally supple as well as strong. As such they take responsibility for their expectations, realizing that they are not realities, they are only very strong desires.

And I think adventures understand that their motivations are about pleasure and fun. Adventurers are not usually motivated by dogmas, lofty ideals or the afterlife. They seem to have a penchant more for variety, contrast and novelty, all elements of pleasure. But more than just the excitement and savoring of sensations, pleasures of the heart, mind and spirit are there to be experienced as well. These lead to the most obvious of characteristics of an adventurer, that of the love of exploration, the joys of discovery and new understandings. Honoring and nurturing a sense of wonder, I think they look to see what other experiences are available and they allow their curiosity and imaginations to be fully engaged. It is the desire for the joys of life and the fullness of embodiment, for themselves as well as for others, that stimulates and excites them and takes them to new and deeper connections with themselves and the universe.

So here's to the adventurer and to the intensity, change, risk, power, and fun of living on Earth!

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