This year I am not going to travel or do anything else particularly adventurous.

This year, nothing special. Just this.

Can I be comfortable with that?

The truth is, of course, I don’t know what will happen this year. There could be big drama whether I plan it or not. I could get laid off from my job. My mammogram next week could produce results that would pivot my world on its axis. Don’t know.

But I’m not going to intentionally cook up something to keep my excitement level (and my stress level) high. I have a tendency to do that.

It’s mid-January, a time of non-eventfulness. As I gaze out the window at the cold, grey and white, the dullness of the scene mirrors my inner state. One step lower and it would feel like depression. Or would it? When emptiness threatens, I usually don’t give myself a chance to find out. I start a new project and get really busy. It takes mindfulness and self-restraint to just let things be instead of rushing in to make something happen. But that’s what I’m going to try to do.

I follow several blogs that regularly challenge their readers to seize control of their destinies, pursue their dreams, and dare to be extraordinary. I enjoy these blogs and partially endorse the sentiment, especially for the youngish people who write them and make up most of the readership. But I also think, “What’s wrong with ordinary?”

When we pay attention to the ordinary moments of life we sometimes find the extraordinary shimmering within them. But (from my more aged perspective) extraordinary is not something we really benefit from chasing after, trying to engineer, or (heaven forbid) contriving to be. And anyway… ordinary/extraordinary – what are they really but just thoughts?

This makes me think of a scene that I saw unfolding in Laos each morning outside my guest house. At dawn the temple bells would ring, and a short time later the monks would file out from the gates of their monasteries with alms bowls in hand. While laypeople (mostly Lao) kneeled on the sidewalk filling the bowls with sticky rice, hordes of tourists swarmed the scene, often obstructing the process, cameras flashing, striving for the perfect “monk shot.”

I can’t blame them. Monks are incredibly photogenic. And to a tourist’s eyes, including my own, the scene was exotic and extraordinary. We all felt the desire to grab a little of that spiritual vibe and take it home with us. It was worth traveling thousands of miles for, perhaps.

But what was life like for the monks, these exemplars of specialness, of this extraordinary spirituality? Most of them had probably never ventured more than 50 miles from the spot we were in. Each morning they heard the same wakeup bell, chanted the same chants, ate the same white rice. Extraordinarily dull? I don’t think so. Just ordinary life, lived moment by moment.