At one time or another, Scott and my husband and I all worked at the same camp. Scott describes growing up "in Maple Grove, Minnesota, with a beautiful forest bordering our backyard." Nature continues to play a significant role in his life (he lives "next to the gorgeous Crosby Farm Park and the Mississippi River"), and his Hudson Bay Expedition and imminent canoeing plans inspired me to ask for this Earth week interview. Without further ado, please read on to meet massage therapist and explorer (and adventurer!) Scott Miller. Photos courtesy of Scott Miller and Rebecca Zenefski as noted.
What activities make your heart happy and your life full of meaning and purpose?
I love being outside doing something fun either with other people or by myself. Canoeing is something I especially enjoy. The teamwork and camaraderie required to paddle and steer a canoe make it easy to connect and interact with whomever is with me in the boat. I especially love canoeing on rivers because the current keeps you moving and around every bend is a new scene to take in. As for meaning and purpose, I enjoy spending time with my girlfriend, hanging out with friends and I like to be learning something. Right now I am in graduate school for Nursing, which is challenging but also rewarding. I have to be disciplined and also I have to to stay confident in myself even when it seems overwhelming. Learning something hard gives me a sense of accomplishment and I look forward to being able to contribute to society by applying that knowledge.
I also work as a massage therapist at my shop in south Minneapolis and that is very satisfying work. I help people who are stressed, have tight muscles, have aches and pains and injuries to feel calmer and more connected to their bodies. Giving a good massage helps ground me and helps me to be in touch with my body as well, which is a nice bonus. Finally I would say that I really enjoy exercising. I am training for my second "sprint" triathlon right now, which is really just an excuse to get me to work out and stay in shape. I try to run, bike or swim most days of the week and I always feel good when I do it.
How did you discover your heart's true path? How do you continue to discern what is true to your heart?
I studied psychology, religion and philosophy in college. After college, I spent a year in the Lutheran Volunteer Corps working at a homeless shelter and an HIV/AIDS service organization. The next year I studied at a seminary in Manhattan. After that I returned to Minnesota and worked for the Boy Scouts as a Camp Director for kids camps. In 2005, I went on a 2,000 mile canoe expedition from the Twin Cities to Hudson Bay in Canada, where polar bears live. After that I went to massage therapy school and became a massage therapist, and now I am in nursing school.
One way I’d say I’ve discovered my heart’s true path is to be open to change and to trying new things. At the same time, I am really happy to be grounding myself in a more settled life now, so I don’t think big changes are always the answer, I just think it’s good to be open to change if that’s what you need in order to be true to yourself. How do I continue to discern what is true to my heart? One thing that I think is important is to try and discern the difference between fear and your heart. For example, if I let my fears run my life I probably wouldn’t be in nursing school because it is hard. But I have learned that when it gets hard that isn’t my heart telling me it’s the wrong path, it’s just fear of failure. If I persevere then my heart is happy.
What rituals do you practice that help you listen to and honor your heart?
Lately the biggest thing is trying to allow some unscheduled time each day. It doesn’t always happen, but more and more it’s a priority for me. Having a little bit of unscheduled time helps me to be relaxed and to be in touch with what I want.
Think about a time when you got off track. What did you do that helped you return to your heart's true path?
I once had a job that wasn’t right for me and was causing me a lot of stress, but I wanted to try and make it work. I tried my hardest but after about 7 months I realized that my stress levels were so high that it was really unhealthy, and I had run out of options of things to try and change to make it better, so I quit, which was hard to do. It was the right thing to do though.
Are there tools (e.g., vision boards, to-do lists, mind maps) that help you stay on track?
I think the best tool for me is having people in my life that I can talk openly and honestly with about what’s going on with me. That helps me sort out what is my authentic voice from whatever other voices might be in my head.
Tell us about your heart's community: Who are your supporters? How have you found people who believe in you, accept you and cheer you on through your journey?
My girlfriend and a few trusted friends are my biggest supporters. I found them by being open to new people and experiences but also by prioritizing spending time with the good ones once I found them.
What is a book, song, artist or quote that inspires you?
As part of my orientation to Nursing school one of the administrators at St. Kate’s talked about the importance of both trying to make a difference in the world but also accepting the world as it actually is. I really love this concept because it’s really important to me to acknowledge both the really awful, difficult things that humans do as well as the beautiful, heart-felt, wonderful things humans do. I think only noticing the bad things leads to cynicism and apathy, but only noticing the good things leads to a kind of superficiality. I really like the idea that you can make a difference just by being a positive, kind, optimistic person on a daily basis, and that taking on challenges is a worthwhile way to grow and make a difference.