Daydreaming for writer and self-professed adventure enthusiast Jonathan Dufner typically leads to one place: The Great Outdoors.
“A perfect daydream for me would be hanging out in a national park like the Grand Canyon,” he explained for our Daydream Artist Series. “I’d start with a morning kayak sesh down the Colorado River, do a little midday meditating, and then maybe finish the day with a hike to the rim to watch the sunset. Experience is the pinnacle of humanity — I can’t think of a better daydream than experiencing the gifts of life.”
While traveling — at least in the traditional sense — is a bit limited for Jonathan these days, he’s focused on exploring things a little closer to home. In an essay for Reverie entitled The Meditative Traveler, the writer goes into detail about fostering human connections in the time of COVID-19, taking time to slow down and practice gratitude, and learning “to just simply be.”
Read on to learn more about Jonathan, his creative process, and the wisdom-filled rules he lives by. You can also read his complete essay below, follow him on Instagram, or view more of his work at jonathandufner.contently.com.
Q: What things do you consider part of your "artist's toolbox" of inspiration?
Jonathan: Books. I love reading other people’s ideas, opinions, and research because it gets me to think about things in a different way, in a new way that I probably wouldn’t have thought of myself. Then, as I learn and tweak and combine ideas together with my own unique perspective, I find that something new appears — something formed by the wisdom, intelligence, and experience of people who may never meet face to face. It’s an honor to be a part of that process. As Socrates described in his Maieutic (from the Greek word for “midwifery”) Method, we collectively give birth to Truth.
Q: When are you most creative?
Jonathan: When I’m in motion. The more I do, the more I read, the more I see and experience, the more creative I become. All I do is make connections and voilà, there it is. It’s funny, creativity is often held up by society as this goddess; a gift that is bestowed upon the elect by the divine that you either you have or you don’t. That is such bullshit. Everyone is creative in their own right.
Creativity is the ability to make a connection between two or more things that produces a new thing. That’s it! That’s all it is. Your creativity could come in the form of a new philosophy for understanding the world (an idea), or it could be an invention (a thing), or it could be a new way of doing something (a process or an experience).
Here’s the cool thing, your brain (and body) are a unique filter for all the information in the world. Even if two people process the same exact information, your unique experiences, your thoughts, your soul, will change the one-of-a-kind blend of what you create.
Q: If you had three rules to live by, what would they be?
Jonathan: Read Often — My grandfather used to say, “The man who does not read is no better than the man who cannot read.” That has always stuck with me. I read to learn, to stay informed, to challenge my beliefs and opinions, to test truths, and for leisure. It’s a fundamental part of being a cosmopolitan citizen; of expanding our worldview and traveling the world from the comfort of your own home.
I’ve also learned recently that I don’t need to feel pressured to read a whole book cover to cover — sometimes the only nugget of info you need is right in Chapter 7. Just choose the chapter that seems most relevant to you right now.
Travel — It does not matter where you go, how far you get, what mode of transportation you take, or how “good” the experience is — just do it. Traveling will open your eyes to life beyond your bubble and expose truths you never thought possible.
It’s amazing, I’ve lived overseas and learned new languages, yet there are just as many amazing experiences to be had road-tripping across America. It’s crazy how culturally different San Francisco is from Atlanta — they might as well be different countries! The trips you take are so unique because no one will ever have that same experience again, not even you.
Take Risks — Nothing in life is guaranteed. Sure, we can use data or history to make informed decisions about what we think might happen to us and how we can plan appropriately, but you’ll never be able to completely eliminate the risk baked into life itself. Living is inherently risky.
So yeah, make a contingency plan (to do otherwise would be neglectful and stupid), but don’t become married to your plan. The plan will change — and that’s okay. It’s how you respond to the ebb and flow of life that will determine if you had a good ride or not.
The Meditative Traveler
By Jonathan Dufner
Traveling and meeting new people is at the core of who I am. What can I say? I’m an extrovert — it’s my Reverie.
If I weren’t stuck at home right now, there is no doubt that I’d be traveling about my city, exploring new places, and meeting new people. After all, I did live the #vanlife and have lived on entirely different continents before — but that doesn’t mean I can’t travel and meet new people right where I am!
Recently, my travels have taken me much closer to home, and thanks to technology, I’ve made a new friend just a few doors down the hall and we’ve gotten to know each other through FaceTime hangouts. I’m also seeing more of my family than usual because video chat is easy and, let’s face it, we’re all a little starved for human interaction — even if it is with people who may drive us a little crazy! In this way, my heart is still traveling, just more so in the community where I currently reside.
During this time, I’m also focusing on practicing gratitude and reflection. I’m incredibly thankful to have had experiences all across the world, yet sometimes I forget to stop and remember. The thrill seeker inside me says, “Go! See! Live!” but my spirit says, “Pause. Rest. Reflect.” It can be far too easy to be a collector of “things”, and yes, one can also be a collector of experiences. I just don’t want to collect experiences and memories for their own sake, I want them to transform me into a better person so that I may give in return.
So while my heart yearns for thrills, learning new customs, and tasting new food, I am practicing temperance and stillness. For me, this is a time of renewal.
Our #hustle society nor our #riseandgrind millennial mentality doesn't always readily appreciate the intangible benefits of pausing (unless it’s for the purpose of self-optimization within the confines of a federally mandated holiday). So although I am itching to get out and explore, although I want to be more productive, although I am yearning to be doing more — right now I am learning to just simply be. After all, we’re human beings, not human doings.