A Deeper Journey
The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. Ralph Waldo Emerson In honor of my 65th birthday, I gave myself the gift of a journey of discovery.
I spent the past four weeks exploring parts of Portugal I did not know, traveling alone, in retreat, and with one of my dearest friends. This was both an external and an internal journey. I am not the woman I was only a few years ago. Everything in my life has shifted; my work, my family, my body, my activities, my interests, my attitude, my finances, and my friends. I am no longer in my prime. This year marks the milestone where I step fully into being an elder; a vibrant, wise woman opening her third act.
This was the best gift I could imagine - to spend a month curious, questioning, and open to the possibilities inside me.
I want to lovingly welcome this new woman living my life. To discover as much as possible about what she likes to do when there is no one else to please or care for. What does she like to eat, to wear? How does she deal with problems, with exhaustion, with sadness, with joy?
I deliberately chose to place myself daily in situations that stretched me well beyond my comfort zones.
My agreement with myself was to respect the limits of physical safety while engaging in at least one action every day that scares me.
So I stepped deliberately and placed my walking stick carefully on the rocky hikes but I also edged close and peered over the precipices. I allowed space for improvisation and magic.
Each day was an opportunity for me to discover myself newly without my usual reference points, without others calling me back to my old patterns and my old stories. Who am I now? How can I lead others into fuller versions of themselves? I know that I am more now than I have shown you in the past and I am capable of more than even I can imagine.
A month alone in a foreign country might not be a gift that you would give yourself.
But I am sure you have ways of stretching yourself that contribute to your growth process. I often tell my kids there is no one out there more critical or more threatening than the person who looks back at them from the mirror.
Growth is moving into the discomfort zone and making it comfortable. While some people find it easy to express their likes, dislikes, and desires, for me learning to love, honor, and hear my own interior guidance is hard work.
It is curious to me how much time I spent with the question of what do I want?.
How is it that I defer so often to the desires of others that I really have no idea what I am feeling inside?
I spent a lot of time discerning where it is in my body that I feel the response to my choices of “this” or “that”? Given a day to fill with anything or everything it took a lot to distinguish what calls to me and what does not.
The many stories I have about what I “should” do, say, and think kept getting in the way. I found myself reserving and then canceling hotel after hotel as I got clearer that I want a small hotel offering a personalized experience as close to nature as possible.
As I got clarity about when and what I wanted to eat, where I wanted to stay and the experiences I wanted to attract things got easier and easier. Towards the end of the trip, I was working more with “how much is enough?” and receiving with grace.
It surprised me how much my expectations influenced my response to everything around me.
Each town and each place I visited was very different from my imaginings.
When my expectations were too high, it appeared to me that someone else had to be at fault for disappointing me. But since I was alone that someone else is usually me... When foreign customs and language created misunderstandings it was usually my expectation that these things should be familiar that was the actual problem.
It was my story about how things should be that created my biggest challenges.
Over and over again foreign travel has shown me that there are many “right” ways to do things. It forces me to be more adaptable and opens my frame of reference and always seems to bring me back to myself.
Does that happen for you, too? Why is it so hard for us to see things as they are instead of as we are?
Doubt, Fear, and Lack were my constant companions. I am grateful for all of the work I have done over the years to keep them from dominating my choices.
There were many days I wanted to give up and take an easier, safer path but I am proud of the way I was able to keep them at bay long enough to conquer my fear of driving a stick shift up steep and narrow village alleys, of standing on the edge of a cliff over the rocky sea, of eating alone in a nice restaurant, or walking into a room full of strangers and turning them into intimate friends, or paying real money for tours, guides, and good meals.
I was able to get lost, find my way again, discern friend from foe, and find whom to ask for help when I needed it.
And I was able to recognize my own inner voice quietly guiding me along the way.
Another obstacle is my tendency to overpack. I noticed that I don’t just overpack my suitcase, but I overpack my days trying to fulfill a checklist of my own creation.
I struggle with balance and my story is that more is always better.
Over the month I improved at balancing rest and self-care with curiosity and adventure. I even came to the understanding that bringing presence and awareness to one activity could be enough to fill a day.
My treasures from this experience are the people who shared their stories, their accomplishments, and their days with me.
I was able to deepen old friendships and begin new ones everywhere I went. I met a man who created his own utopia out of the stone schist of the steep mountainside, young people opening up to the fullness of their purpose and life path, others who left the country of their origin to make Portugal into their home, people who graciously shared themselves and the things they love about this beautiful country, others who created experiences and opportunities to welcome and entertain the curious.
I was surrounded by passion and warmth everywhere I went. My heart is bigger and more open from this experience.
The Portuguese people are very kind, they move slowly, honor family and keep themselves close to nature's rhythm. Rest, connection and nourishment are the foundation for everything else.
I imagine our constant motion and busyness look very odd to them.
Fearless vulnerability is something I believe is critical to full artistic expression. Your art is all about how YOU see the world and your viewers want to see your truth and authenticity. Challenging your limits expands your ability to respond to your circumstances.
By embracing our obstacles and celebrating joy I think we step fully into improvisational living; “life as art”.
One of my friends once said, "you can't get lost during vacation because travel is all about adventure and improvisation". It is on journeys such as mine that discoveries are made. When you are fully present with what "is" then anything becomes possible. Perhaps you feel something new and exciting is calling you too?
I discovered that I am happier, more compassionate, and more generous now than I have ever been.
Facing my fears, conquering obstacles, and braving new situations brought me confidence and trust in my own resourcefulness.
I hope that next year you will join me on a journey of artistic discovery in Portugal. I am planning an 8-day retreat in the western Algarve next June and I would love to include you. Please reach out to me if you are interested so we can talk more about what would light you up too. I will have many more details to share with you next month.
With Light and Delight,