Though you may travel the world to find the beautiful, you must have it within you or you will find it not.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

How true is this quote from the legendary Ralph Waldo Emerson? Many times we need to learn wisdom from the hard lessons in life – sometimes the painful way… I learned this wisdom the difficult way after graduating college. I had the opportunity to work in Los Angeles at an advertising firm – a referral from a professor who saw talent in me. Instead, I decided to throw caution to the wind and move to Hawaii to surf and follow my heart wish (or what I thought was my heart wish). Sounds great right? Yet, something was not right. I had much to still learn about myself and this thing called life.  My mindfulness was shortsighted and I could not put my finger on why I felt uncomfortable within; a boutique of bad habits, lacking self-esteem and energy. The result was one of the most humbling experiences ever: A mélange of bad karma that fed bad luck all of which contributed to the severed friendship of two great friends, a shattered ankle and a broken wrist; a job so inadequate I was on the cusp of poverty; left to picking sticky nickels out of the sofa to buy .99 cent burgers off the value menu. So downtrodden,  injured and mired with bills, I could not even surf some of the best waves in the world – and through it all I could not even remember the main reason I moved to Hawaii; all of this conflict and suffering while living under the warm and beautiful tropical sun. How ironic… Suffering in paradise…?

Ego and negative energy will follow you where ever you go… My own trappings from childhood and the demons of false-self traveled with me to paradise. But it was not a paradise. It was one of the most humbling experiences in my life. I look back on that experience now and see the art of the event; I see the wisdom from such encounters with suffering (and the cause of that suffering). The two long years I lived in Hawaii I grew from a boy to a man – from confusion to clarity. From that experience alone, I have learned that you can travel the world and find  beauty, but if you are not centered and self-actualized within; you will not experience beauty; only suffering. Our ego and false-self can create a mirror image or mirage that may look beautiful on the surface but deep down the root of such beauty is only veiled by the suffering intrinsic to our actions and reactions. Still the wisdom is to learn from such experiences – to evolve and prosper on the backbone of false-self – seizing a new day – a new paradise wherever you call home.

I look back on those days with some indifference; my feelings are complicated as the situations that created the memories now archived in my head. Still, we cannot escape our past for it is that old weed covered path we walked years ago that has led us to this point in the present. From negativity we can find wisdom; and from wisdom we can move soundly forward, clear, connected and self-actualized.


John C. Bader