During my trip to Bhutan and Tibet, I stopped off for a few weeks in Nepal to visit friends, as well as do some outdoor adventure, soaking in the amazing Nepali culture and stunning landscape. I eagerly awaited the wild rivers and the Himalayan mountain range, with peaks up to 28,000 feet.
I started my exploration of Nepal by embarking on a two-day river rafting trip on the Seti River. The first day offered incredibly scenic vistas and physically manageable rapids. However, the next night we endured a 10-inch monsoon downpour, causing the river to rise several feet and turning the rapids from a ‘class 3’ to a more exciting ‘class 5’ category of difficulty. As we embarked the next morning, I was filled with awe and excitement. The stunning landscape, the sound of crickets and the sight of remote villages along the way was breathtaking.
Unfortunately, because of the swollen river and its stronger current, our 10-person boat hit a giant bolder and capsized, dumping us all into the icy water before the raft was quickly turned back around and nine of us managed to get back on. That is, everyone but me. My grip on the boat was not firm and I was swept down the turbulent rapids for almost two and a half miles, helplessly tossed around and sucked under into infamous eddies like the “Coffee Grinder” as I was pulled down river by its massive force.
It’s in these times, we are told and I now believe to be true, that we contemplate the bigger questions of life. Some reading this may have been impacted by the recent Southern California or Napa fire storm or the hurricanes that ravaged the Southern US, and may understand this moment when we think our life will end. In those moments in the river, I reflected on how life can be so blissful and exciting in one moment, then be turned upside down in a blink of an eye. And like fate, the river does not decide which person it will swallow. Rather it is up to the individual as to how to either respond with determination and grace, or to react with panic and fear in the face of overwhelming currents.
Of course, since I am writing this, we know that my story ended well. I do think, however, that the reason I did survive was the mental conditioning that I developed over the last number of years, including the conditioning I did for money anxiety.
Our financial journey is similar to the river. Smooth, calm and manageable for a period, but prone to sudden changes, either through our poor decision-making or due to outside forces. But regardless of what challenges come our way, we must remember that there is a lesson to be learned and a gift to be recognized. Here are my reflections:
Be ready for your financial seas to change and secure your financial boat.
Wear Your Lifejacket: It may not save your life, but it can give you the ability to float until you reach safety. Six months of savings, a retirement plan, a budget, a short-term, and long-term vision of where you want to be down your financial/life river.
Look For Leaks: Be aware of spending habits that put your boat at risk if sinking. This takes diligence, and a mindfulness practice of regular financial check ups. Am I on my path towards reaching my financial goals? Where am I going astray? Refrain from self-judgment; instead opt for a curious honesty, ideally accompanied by a little humor.
Build A Strong Team: Hopefully, you’ve aligned with a marital and/or business partner who shares your vision and financial strategy. You should also seek out a financial planner, advisor, insurance agent and perhaps an attorney who can help steer your boat down the sometimes rough financial waters.
Expect The Unexpected: Without warning, we may lose of job or a major client, be involved in an accident of some kind, suffer from health challenges, or have a marital change that causes both emotional and financial duress. Don’t Panic! Anticipate change by developing a meditation practice that centers your mind during crisis. I love the saying “whatever you resist persists.” When you are in a vortex of pain, fear and suffering, you are likely only in control of how you react to the situation and not the situation itself. Accepting this can make a difference between sinking or swimming.
Stay Open: I chose to stay open to each moment even if it meant drowning. I had to stay calm and surrender to the flow and not resist or struggle against my situation. My inner dialogue went from “I am going to die, I must struggle to control my situation!” to “This river is moving with such force, my only option is to flow with it and look for a secure rock or log to grab on the way.” And it worked!
Learn From Your Adventure: In the weeks that have passed since this adventure, I have reflected on the situation and considered how I may have been able to prevent the accident from occurring. This is also an important tool to consider after a ‘financial adventure.’ Reviewing our financial situation after a scare may cause our heart to race or maybe even keep us up at night for a few nights to follow. But even this can be an opportunity for curing your money anxiety. It builds strength, character, and clarity. After my accident in the Seti River, I forced myself to get back in the river, on an even bigger river. As I held on with a firmer (and calmer) grip, our boat tossed and turned; we crashed into river boulders and capsized again and again. However this time I had a whole different relationship with the river. It’s the same with money. The more you visit your relationship with money the less intimidating and more fun it can be.
Stay Grateful, Celebrate and Give Back: With gratitude for whatever good fortune you have been granted, celebrate by sharing with others who have not been so fortunate. We are all on our path to happiness. We have all been through challenges and sometimes all we have to share is a helpful hand or an understanding ear. Don’t forget to use it.
In part 2 we will look at our journey on the Mountain.