On a crisp November day on the banks of the Sun Kosi River in Nepal, I had a life-changing conversation with a man about 15 years my senior, Payson Kennedy. Payson, the founder and director of the Nantahala Outdoor Center, organizers of the whitewater river trip on which I was kayaking, had just completed his second 30-day meditation retreat; he had not enjoyed either one of them, but planned to do a third. Puzzled, I asked “why?” “Because,” he said, “I want to be a wise old man, and I figured if I do what wise people do, perhaps I’ll gain in wisdom myself.”
Having suffered from depression off and on since my mid-teen years, I sometimes longed to be an old woman. I could picture myself sitting in a rocking chair on a cabin porch overlooking a pristine lake, wiping my brow and saying, “Phew, I made it!”
I had never considered what kind of old woman I would be. In that moment, I set the same goal for myself: to be a wise old person, a wise old woman. Since then, that has been my North Star, my guiding principle; it has been a fascinating and rewarding exploration to discover what that means to me and how to become wise.
What is your North Star?
Photo: This woman sold me a tiny bag of popcorn outside the movie theater in Kathmandu. I thought she embodied what I might like to at her age: calm, kind, connected.