My most vivid memories are of junior high. In those days, parents would turn their children out and let them play for most of the day in the Summer. When dinner was ready, they would find us and call us home. Video games were rudimentary then, and we only had a few TV stations, so the best thing to do was go outside and discover the great outdoors.
For my friends and my brothers, we chose the path of the drainage ditch to wherever it led. In Oklahoma, these watercourses were almost dry, and we could explore them for hours. One day, we discovered a public elementary school and proceeded to investigate. We climbed out of the ditch and ventured onto the playground equipment that did not exist at our private school.
One piece of equipment was the geodome. The aluminum bars allowed us to hang from or crawl over them. The very brave could even walk across the top. From this summit, we saw the tractor in the distance in the middle of a field. From the tractor, we could see the grove of trees in the distance, and it looked like it was sheltering something. As we passed through the edge of the trees, we saw the pond that would become our playground for the next few hours. Later in life, I would not have even stepped into the murky pond. But, as an adventurous teenager, it was the natural thing to do!
Even when we grew tired of swimming in the pond, one of us discovered a natural stream nearby that begged further study. We found several crawdads, or freshwater crayfish, living under the rocks in the stream. Somehow, our parents discovered us, and we had to put off this new adventure until the next day. But it was an adventure, and we found these things when we learned to lean forward.
Leaning Forward is what I call that attitude of squinting your eyes, shading the sun, and looking out at the horizon for clues and possibilities of where to go next. Leaning Forward motivated us as children, the need to discover what we did not already know. “I wonder what that is?” was enough of a script to keep us going for hours and launch us from discovery to new destinations repeatedly.
I learned so much, during those times, about nature and the world.
Unfortunately, adulthood tends to discourage these types of quests. Because we have belief systems, assumptions, and expected ways to function as adults, leaders teach us not to waste our time with such things. We assume we already know what is out there. We know the right way to assess the universe, so we stop being curious and do not walk through drainage ditches anymore. Most new things we learn are only second-hand information from other people who may or may not have gone on the adventure themselves.
Our spiritual belief systems become systematized and civilized, and then we start discouraging questions, exploration, and adventures. We assume that the latest information will confuse us and that everything we cannot predict must be dangerous and unnecessary. When I had the Tea Shop experience and wrote a book with the same title, I discovered that adventures are not scripted and often involve a departure from the itinerary.
For the past few years, I have been looking for clues that something new is available to discover. I stopped defending my certainty and opened my mind to new possibilities and understandings I would not have considered. I am learning to follow my intuition and the clues the universe gives. I am rediscovering my connection with nature, and I find truth, wisdom, and intrigue under every rock.
I know that most of us are afraid of this type of journey. It is a natural response to the unfamiliar. I strongly suggest that if something is valid, it will not evaporate because we discover something new that is also true, valid, and interesting. If what we consider truth or wisdom does not survive our explorations, then maybe it wasn’t true in the first place, and we may not need those old practices anymore.
Leaning Forward is an attitude—it is a posture that leads us to the best discoveries.
Be where you are,
Be who you are,
Be at peace.
(From the introduction to our new book, Leaning Forward)