Business wisdom from the Grand Canyon: widen your radar screen

“Wow, this isn’t what I expected!” I lamented to myself as the reality sank in of how much hard work was involved in this Grand Canyon river trip each day.

Never mind actually rowing the raft through the rapids, which was easy by comparison, and a joy. It was setting up and breaking down camp each day that was so bloody labor intensive.

Several folding metal tables; a giant 6-burner stove; a firepan and grill, plus bags of firewood; a couple of large propane canisters; a heavy commissary box filled with pots, cast-iron pans, dishes, and more; another box with utensils; a spice box; several 8-gallon water jugs; a handwash system; a dishwash system; food for the meals; the river toilet; folding chairs; and everyone’s personal stuff – all needing to be hauled up the beach and set up each afternoon and schlepped back to the boats and tied in securely each morning.

Add in the considerable time spent cooking robust meals and cleaning up afterwards and it took several hours each day, meaning that there was precious little time left over for basking quietly in the glory of each river camp, marveling at the shifting play of light on the red walls, or wandering leisurely up the local side canyon.

It was only the second day of a 3-week trip and already my whole body ached from becoming a Sherpa overnight. My legs sported several purple bruises the size of flank steaks from bashing into these many hard objects in the close quarters of the raft, and each day brought new additions. My younger self definitely didn’t remember it this way!

susan-gc-2-newsletter.jpgIt’s hard not to have expectations when you’ve waited seemingly forever for something, and especially when it’s something you’ve experienced previously, so you think you know more-or-less what it will be this time around.

Having done this trip three times already, I had drunk deeply of its astonishing beauty and I knew in my bones what an extraordinary experience it is. I was eager to immerse myself in that sweetness again.

Having waited 19 years for National Park Service to grant us this most recent private permit, there was plenty of time for anticipation to build, and expectations to take shape, even without my awareness.

Yet there’s a subtle distinction between anticipation and expectation. Anticipation is a delicious tingly yearning for an experience that leaves open the actual expression of the experience. It stirs our energy toward a future event, yet keeps us available to any number of possibilities.

Expectation is tinged with entitlement. It collapses in on a certain way we want an experience to be and sets us up for disappointment when the reality of what we actually encounter doesn’t line up with what we thought it would or should be.

Sometimes I don’t think I have expectations only to realize that I do when things go very differently from how I was imagining them. Like “that wasn’t what I expected in my non-expectation”! Turns out that anticipation can slide into expectation if we’re not really mindful.

So how was my experience?

susan-gc-3-newsletter.jpgBeautiful, sublime, and grace-filled, it was beyond glorious to be back in the place that feels like the home of my heart and soul – the Colorado River running through the Grand Canyon, a place of astonishing magic and magnificence. If you have a particular place on this planet where you feel most alive, you know what I’m talking about.

One of the things I most love to do is row a raft down the river, allowing myself to engage moment-to-moment in a graceful and intimate dance with the flowing currents.

I know this dance well. It’s in my bones and being back in communion with the river, with this particular river in this particular place, nourished my soul deeply.

And the trip was also very challenging, both physically and energetically, far more so than I’ve ever experienced it to be, perhaps because last time I did this trip I was 15 years younger and not a desk jockey.

Going into it I knew the trip would be something of an energetic reset for me. I was anticipating this, even looking forward to it.  But how this reset unfolded was not at all what I expected!

Several unexpected yet intense events in the winter and spring had begun to stir things up in my world and I was imagining that this trip would neatly complete that process.

susan-gc-4-newsletter.jpgMy radar screen was too small and I naively imaged that all the resetting would happen during several blissed-out weeks on the river, like I’ve pretty much always experienced.

And that I’d come out the other end reset, revitalized, and ready for new possibilities – i.e. all “cooked” and poised to spring into new adventures, like some sort of supercharged, Wild Woman action figure!

Instead, the river had its way with me and the trip was infused with the energy of surfacing and offering up the old to be burned away – illusions as well as what has completed its life cycle, served its purpose, and is ready to be released.

Some wonderful new possibilities are indeed emerging although the subsequent resetting is happening in a much bigger picture and over a longer timeframe, with the three weeks of the trip having helped prepare the field for a deeper and wider, mystery-infused unfolding.

I offer this little bit of my story as it’s a great reminder to perpetually release expectations so as to be present and available to the gift of what actually is, which is challenging when you think you know what you’ve signed up for, like I did. Ha!

Also important is to widen your radar screen because when it’s too narrow, like I was holding it going into the trip, meaning can be skewed and important value can be missed.

Often we think of this in terms of holding a bigger picture, and while I like that metaphor, there’s something potent with the idea of it being a radar screen.

A picture is something you often gaze at and delight in. It can become a static thing that you soon tune out. A radar screen is something you scan for new things showing up. It’s dynamic and ever-changing and requires your ongoing attention.

Of course, an actual radar screen is flat whereas reality is multi-dimensional, so perhaps it’s even better to imagine that your awareness is the radar itself and you’re perpetually scanning the field of reality to notice what’s already there, what’s changing, what’s arriving, what’s departing.

For example, if I kept my focus just on the trip itself, I could have made up something about myself regarding the unexpected physical challenges I experienced that I wasn’t as prepared for as I had imagined I was.

And within that smaller frame, I could have easily lamented that the trip wasn’t the easy blissful perfection that I had expected it would be and how sad for me! Or that I’m not as strong or capable as I hoped I was and therefore I’m not cut out for this kind of adventure any more.

While I won’t pretend those thoughts didn’t cross my mind, instead, in widening my radar screen, I’m seeing what a gift this whole experience was, even with its challenges. I’m appreciating how there are ways I can more artfully respond to unexpected challenges going forward.

And that the “unraveling” brought about by the challenges I experienced is actually a necessary part of a bigger reset that’s happening this year in my life and business, an expansive reset into new territory that I’ve actually been hungering for but didn’t really know how to initiate. The river took care of that for me!

susan-gc-5-newsletter.jpgWithin that bigger frame, I can honestly feel how cool it is that I got to dance with Kali in a place of such astonishing beauty, where the solid rock of what has been is perpetually being eroded away and shaped into an unrivaled magnificent new expression.

This “widening your radar screen” is so relevant to growing a business doing your great work because some of the most incredible opportunities available to you lay beyond the scope of your current radar screen.

When you dare to widen your radar screen, instead of missing these miracles, you come to expect them and you’re always on the lookout for them. That’s when magic can happen in your business!

So if you take a moment and widen your own radar screen right now – as wide as you can make it – what do you notice?

What possibilities become available to you that weren’t before?

And how do you want to respond to them right now?

(Stay tuned for more practical wisdom and insight relevant to life and business to come forth over the coming weeks, a gift from the cathedral of the Grand Canyon!)

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