Are you in or are you out?

What do you think of when you hear this question? You may think of sitting around with your friends and asking one of them if they are coming to a future dinner or a trip. Perhaps you remember a coach asking you this question or maybe a boss or a co-worker to gauge your commitment level or vice versa. My question is have YOU have ever asked YOURSELF the question–ARE YOU IN OR ARE YOU OUT? It can be a maddening answer to this question, as all too often we are out. Yet, within this momentary feeling of disdain there is learning, and there is a gift.

Fresh snow-covered the woods all around me. On each branch rests a damp powder coat, framing the scene. The woods are magical in this state and few things beat sitting up in a tree and experiencing the remarkable white transformation that occurs in front of your eyes on the first snowfall of the year. I lean back in my stand, take a deep breath and immerse myself into the thick of it, but something feels off, holding me from the meditative state that I badly crave. It’s not the sort of thing that is easily explained, but here goes my best shot…

My head feels almost taken over by uncontrollable thoughts and each seems so real, however the wiser being within me knows that they cannot be real–they’re just fear or ego creeping its way into the moment. I am like a vessel that is being used to channel energy and thoughts, instead of an evolved hunter who is in control. The wind is calm, and the woods are nearly silent. It is a hunter’s dream conditions to be one with nature.

The view is literally breathtaking, yet I am struggling to calm my mind and to control my thoughts. An epiphany suddenly comes to me that I am likely not living with consciousness or being “in” this moment. Then I question whether even having thoughts of “being in versus out” is a step towards entering a state of presence or a state of deeper consciousness than I may be aware of. Yet I question this too, as most of the thoughts are either from the past or about the future. I whisper to myself, “Farbz, are you in or are you out?” I start repeating “I’m in, I’m in, I’m in…” Have you ever felt anything like this? It truly can be maddening, I feel almost anguish over this lack of clarity on such a remarkable day.

Momentarily, I feel myself submerge into the tree, and my body feels elevated above this beautiful scene in a trance-like state. I again ask myself “are you in or are you out”? To this I whisper repeatedly again “I’m in, I’m in, I’m in,” but I cannot seem to stay there. This badly craved totally “In” meditative state of mind appears to be eluding me as I cannot hold on to it and I become almost angered by this.

After about four hours on-stand, it is time to head back to the farmhouse and load up the truck to head home. My sit had proven surprisingly uneventful, except the fact that my circular mind was working in overtime. I chalk it up as a day where I at least asked myself the question “are you in or are you out” and perhaps amidst the unforgettable morning beauty I did evolve in some way, yet I feel most uneasy. I climb down from the tree and begin my long walk through the woods back to the farmhouse and the question keeps repeating itself in my head “are you in or are you out?”

I am walking in the door when my phone rings and it’s a friend who is talking about joining his daughter at an upcoming University of Michigan game. She attends school there and he tells me he doesn’t want to miss the opportunity as she is finishing college this year, and my chest suddenly tightens up and I feel vulnerable, I feel scared. I stare into Hunter’s eyes (my oldest son who is five) and at my other two little beautiful boys (River and Fischer) and I can see in their smiling faces how excited they are that their dad is home. Looking into their eyes I have this vision of my little boys as college kids with their faces all grown up right there in front of me. I feel immediately terrified that I do not want to be “out”, rather I want to be “in” and savor this moment with them and as many moments as possible in the times ahead. I am sure that many of you may have had a similar vision but this one really impacts me, as I know that too often with my family I am “out” and not “in”. If you ask yourself this question, what would the answer be?

I toss my iPhone into the bedroom and I walk up to my boys and kiss them and hold the three of them each close to my body and say, “boys right now I am in. I love you so much.”

I grab my wife Nadine and hold her and as a family we lay there for a moment and I again repeat “I’m in, I’m so freaking in,” and I stare deeply at them. My wife and Hunter have these puzzled looks on their faces like I am a little crazy and that may not be so far off I suppose, but I just continue to hold them tighter and I say nothing, but I know at that moment I am “in.”

While finishing up packing I think to myself how thankful I am to have spent a morning in nature and had such valuable thoughts come to me. I ask you, what is more precious than this in life? Many of us can use business as an alibi because we are always slammed. Shoot, I know how to put so many meetings into my schedule it makes my head spin, but how often is it at the expense of not being “in” in life and missing what really matters most.

Most of us have a plethora of excuses about why we are not “in” moments but those excuses will not bring back or create more of the times like when Hunter peed in the potty, or the first time I heard my boys laugh, or the special gaze my wife and I shared after having three kids so close together and still realizing how much we love each other. What if we focused diligently on being “in” for more of life? You might wonder how we would hold ourselves accountable. Perhaps it starts with a simple inner question of “are we in or are we out”. I thank nature for bringing me these ever important realizations that may help keep me “in” the game.

Image by David Farbman

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