Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Living Off Topic

Recently I invited a friend to join me in an activity I had planned for the two of us. I had an idea of how this would all go, but when my friend showed up, she had a very different idea. Taken a bit by surprise, and thrown off balance for a moment, I did some quick internal adjustment and decided to just go with it rather than resist and hold to my original plan. I yielded the activity to her direction and ended up having a great time learning some new things, appreciating her expertise, and connecting with her in a way that my plan would not have offered.

Later, she acknowledged the shift that had occurred and thanked me for “being willing to go off topic.” I loved the way she put that, and it sparked a realization that I have lived much of my life “off topic.” That is, I have not always followed the traditional paths of life or the paths set out for me by others. As Frank Sinatra sang, I’ve done it my way. In big ways and little ways, I have followed an inner guidance that has become more pronounced and more reliable as I have come to listen to it and trust it more and more over the years.

I became even more appreciative of this last year as I navigated my experience with cancer. In such a deep, raw, close to the bone life event, I knew I had to engage with what was happening from a place of centeredness, compassion, and gratitude. Now that I’m a year out from the most challenging aspects of that journey, I can reflect on it as truly one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had. It’s hard to believe, but last year was one of the best years of my life. Not because of specific events or outcomes, but because in the most essential way, I was living in a surrendered state of intense focus and alignment. It was powerful and liberating.

As the Dao De Jing says, high winds cannot last all day. That level of intensity cannot be sustained indefinitely. But the impact from it endures. Although not as dramatic, the engagement with my friend reflected this same focus on the present moment, paying attention and responding to what is, rather than trying to make things conform to how I think they should be.

Living off topic can be challenging and scary sometimes, but our willingness to step forward with trust into uncharted territory can gift us with amazing discovery of the beauty and perfection of each moment, just as it is.

I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail. ~Muriel Strode

8 thoughts on “Living Off Topic”

      1. This reminds me of the exchange you and I had last week about our comfort zones. “Living off topic” is quite similar: the expansion of one’s comfort zone is a likely outcome!

        1. That’s right, Bob. I was definitely challenged to leave my comfort zone with my friend’s version of the plan, but then I had a great time.

  1. Kathy Gottberg

    Hi Galen! Ah such an important reminder for us all. And yes, it matters with the small stuff as much as with the BIG stuff. Thom and I head north to Washington tomorrow and I will do my very best to go with the flow and live off topic as much as possible. I’m wondering if you ever got my email from a couple of weeks ago–probably not–but no matter how “off topic” I trust that is what was needed to happen anyway. Take care and enjoy the rest of your summer. ~Kathy

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