Sitting on a bench near the WWII Memorial in Washington DC with my grandfather, tourists would come up to him, shake his hand and say "You are a real hero. Thank you for your service." Always the humble man, he would oblige and then respond with, "I'm no hero, the heroes are at the bottom of the sea." This was a special moment I got to share with him, just the two of us spending some quality time together.
I grew up hearing about all the things he loved about being a sailor in the US Navy. Later on in life, he, my grandmother and various other relatives would attend submarine conventions to reunite and reminisce about their time in the Navy. On the rare occasion, he did speak about one thing that bothered him. In 1937 he was serving as the helmsman on the USS Lexington that searched for Amelia Earhart. I recall one conversation where he said one of his biggest regrets was never being able to find her.
As a young 20 year old tasked with trying to locate her, he considered Amelia a true inspiration and American hero.
Merriam-Webster has a few different definitions for the word inspiration. My favorite is the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions. We often hear actors talk about life experiences which inspire them to play a role in a movie. Or how an artist will draw upon objects or situations to get creative juices flowing.
I am inspired by 500,000 people marching for a cause they believe in. I am inspired by a girl named Malala. I am inspired by the addict who is trying to make it to midnight, saying to themselves "One day at a time." I am inspired by the young boy on the train who gives up his seat for an elderly woman. I am inspired by friends who raise money and participate in athletic events to raise awareness for rare genetic mutations. I am inspired by people name Nick Bruck and Amelia Earhart.
"One person can make a difference, and everyone should try."- John F. Kennedy
When I look at the people who inspire it me, it lends itself to further inquiry.
- What did that person do to inspire me?
- What emotions was I moved by?
- How did I respond or react to those emotions?
- Is what they did or do a path I want to follow or just observe from a distance?
A few months back I was having a conversation with my therapist about this type of inquiry and she called it meta. Most people think of metta when they hear it used in a sentence, meaning loving kindness. But meta is like building a spiderweb of inquiry, becoming aware of one's awareness. It allows us to examine one object, or in my case at the time, I used the question- What is yoga? From there I questioned what my definition of yoga is. Who were/are my teachers. What does the asana practice provide for me. What does clarity mean. Who taught the meaning of qi. What sensations do I experience at the physical level, with the breath or with emotions.
This self reflection led me to create spiderwebs for other areas in my life too. Such as my career in the wellness industry, education, sports. It was a great learning tool for me because it allowed me the opportunity to think about all the difference experiences I have had, the people who have been in my life one way or another.
I imagine if I were to do this particular practice again one year from now, a few answers may be similar with some being slightly different. But to me that means I am growing. As the great Muhammad Ali once said, “If a man looks at the world when he is 50 the same way he looked at it when he was 20 and it hasn’t changed, then be has wasted 30 years of his life.”