As I write this it’s around 7am on a beautiful summer morning. I’m sitting about 20 metres from the shore of Cedar Lake, which is located on the north side of Algonquin Park (in Ontario). Let me see if I can describe what it’s like to be here right now in this moment.

The lake is relatively calm, with just some small ripples moving up the lake. The air is perfectly still as there is no breeze blowing right now. I can hear the roar of the rapids of the Petawawa River entering the lake about 3 kilometres from here. There’s a crow calling out from a tree top, which seems to be right behind the trailer. Off in the distance, I can hear another crow which seems to be calling back to this one. Two chipmunks just went racing by (I think one was chasing the other away). There are countless small birds I can hear chirping away in the woods just a few feet from me.

The sun is on the rise into a sky filled with light clouds which seem to be filtering out some of the warmth of the morning. It’s making the morning just a little cool, which I don’t mind as I just love being a part of this scene.

My first cup of coffee for the day is steaming from the cup holder of my chair. lf you love your morning coffee you’ll know when I say there’s something about having that first cup every day. It’s definitely a nice way to start such a beautiful looking day.

What is real?

In less than a week we’re going to be returning home from this place. While I love going back home, I was just thinking though about how it will be returning to the real world with bills to pay, emails to follow up on, social media to get back into, friends to talk to, and so much more. This got me thinking … is that all real?

I’ve been sitting here reflecting on what is truly real? In talking about returning to that real world it feels like I am talking about returning to all of my obligations in life, and doing all the things people are expecting of me.

Through my work with Christopher Avery, I have come to learn obligations are those places in our lives we don’t believe we have any choice except to do something. The meeting which you don’t see as useful yet have to attend, the social event you hate going to but you don’t feel you have a choice, the things you feel you need to do rather than something you want to do.

Although society teaches us otherwise, doing something out of obligation is not being responsible. It is in fact about control and compliance. Obligation is not a mindset in which we see our best results or live our most fulfilling life from.

Now let’s apply this understanding of obligation back to talking about returning to the real world. What does it mean to get to the end of a vacation and to have to talk about returning to the real world? If you are like me returning to the real world is definitely all about going back to all of my obligations. Here’s the key though … not one of those obligations was created by someone else. Ever one of them was created by me, often as a result of some perspective or nice little story I’m telling myself.

This is real!

The truth is the real world is none of those things I’ve created for myself. The real world is not defined by the things I do day to day. The real world is who I’m choosing to be. My real world is defined by how I am choosing to show up in this world, and how I am responding to my world. I am defined by my past and at the same time I do not need to constrained by it. I am excited about my future and at the same time I cannot control it or make it happen sooner. I will be present and live fully in this real world I am standing in right now.

If today was cold and rainy would it make this world any less real or change who I am in this world? We might not go swimming, get out fishing or do some things we wanted to do. However, I know I would still be madly in love with Rosie and want more of this time with her. I know I would still love having Bree (our Golden Retriever) with us on this trip. The three of us might go for a walk in the rain, or a drive to explore different parts of this wilderness in a different way. We might sit inside for a while sipping on a hot tea while I beat Rosie at some game we have along with us.

Today I am choosing to show up relaxed and in a loving relationship with Rosie. No big plans, no hurry to have breakfast, nowhere I need to be. I am choosing to show up in love and ready to have fun, to go exploring, to find something new to do which we have never done before. To do things we do every day. To sit by a fire tonight in hopes of seeing some shooting stars.

What will we do tomorrow? I don’t want to worry about that today. I just know tomorrow will be as real as today.

Find your real world

If you feel like you’re rushing through life, barely finding time for downtime let alone a vacation, I encourage you to take inventory of the obligations you’re creating for yourself that you’re now convincing yourself is your real world. What are the things or stories you can let go of that would change how you show up in this world?

For me I when I find myself in a mindset of obligation these days I choose one of these tactics to shift my mindset to one of taking responsibility for how I am in this world:

  • Can I shift my perspective from something I should or have to do, to something I want in my life
    • Example: I shifted “I have to pay all those property taxes” to “I want to have my own home and am happy to pay taxes so I can have all the conveniences that come with living in this city I choose to live in”
    • Example: I shifted “I should loose weight” to “I want to live a full life for as long as possible and I know losing weight will help make that more possible?
  • Is this something I really want in my life anymore?
    • Example: I dreaded attending events related to one of my past volunteer positions and they definitely felt like an obligation to do so. I came to realise giving my time in this way really was not aligned with how I want to show up in this world anymore. So I left that volunteer organisation and go figure … they’re still doing well.

Regardless of how I do it, I just no longer allow myself to stay in a mindset of obligation about something any longer.

This is the real world

As I’m finishing up this post, I am realising the breeze has come and gone. I can now hear the rapids of the Petawawa River again. There’s a haze over the hills beyond the lake, and the sun is up higher in the sky beaming it’s warmth to us. Bree is sprawled out soaking in the warmth of the morning sun. The chipmunks are still running around, and there’s a group of merganser ducks floating around the water not far off shore.

This is the real world. Right here where I am right now. No obligations waiting for me, nothing to control, nothing to figure out, nothing to get all tied up in a knot over. Just a world to live fully in enjoying every moment. When I return home next week I’m going to take this real world with me.

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