Cruising Musing: A Mindful Perspective
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
–Henry David Thoreau
Like many people our age, Jim and I enjoy taking cruises. We’ve only been on a few but we’re experienced enough now to know what we enjoy and what we don’t enjoy from our cruise experience.
Having just returned from a cruise to maritime Canada, our cruise experience is top of mind. I’d like to devote this post to my reflections, particularly from the perspective of someone striving to live a mindful retirement lifestyle.
Lost and Found
While our cruise ship was docked in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I decided to take a walk to find a drugstore. Never mind that I promised Jim that I wouldn’t leave the ship terminal. Never mind that I’ve never been to Halifax before. Never mind that I’m not known for following directions very well. I left Jim behind on the ship deck, wringing his hands and I headed down the gangway. The friendly Canadian woman (all Canadians are friendly, btw!) at the Terminal Information Desk gave me simple directions or so I thought. “Turn right and follow the boardwalk until you reach a side street.” What side street? I never saw one but I did find a museum warehouse. My arthritic knees were already sore but I retraced my steps and tried the opposite direction. This time, I stopped another friendly Canadian woman who advised me to walk through a pedestrian tunnel off in the distance. I asked her if it was safe and she just looked at me and laughed. Halifax isn’t New York City, I guess.
On the other side of the tunnel, I found myself in a quaint, residential neighborhood. No drugstore in sight. Lots of yellow and blue Victorian homes. I kept walking, determined to walk through my knee pain and beginning to enjoy my adventure! I asked a group of workmen for advice and they gave me polite and precise directions to a nearby grocery store. Phew! The grocery store was like any U.S. grocery store with the exception of my checkout line. A middle-aged man with a foreign accent, two people ahead of me, didn’t have enough money to pay for his groceries. Without hesitating, the woman ahead of me spoke up, saying, “I’ll pay for it.” When it was my turn to pay, I commented on the generosity of the woman to the checkout employee. She replied, “Yes, it was. But that’s not unusual here. Hope you enjoy your visit.”
Five blocks later, I found the side street I couldn’t locate earlier and made my way back to the ship. Jim was frantic but I was elated. I had experienced more of Halifax and more of myself than any shore excursion tour bus could have provided for me.
- Get off the beaten path and discoveries abound. Just don’t overdo it or take unnecessary risks, especially when you’re over 60! Canadians are welcoming, friendly, and generous. What a joy it was for me to have this experience, especially after months of disappointment (to say the least!) since the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
- Walk and be present for sights, sounds, and feelings along the way. I wrote a blog post a few months ago on mindful walking. On my Halifax walk, I consciously shifted my focus away from the anxiety of being ‘lost’ to being present for all that I experienced. I felt my arthritic knees and was challenged to overcome the pain. I observed the colors and shapes of the Halifax homes and appreciated them. I witnessed humanity at its best and felt gratitude. I felt my independence and it was exhilarating!
Our cruise was full of memorable experiences but my walk in Halifax was at the top of the list. As an American, I am conditioned to “strive,” to have a goal, and to judge myself for inadequacies. Mindfulness means to experience happiness in each moment and to acknowledge that joy and freedom are at the heart of our true nature.
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost