Leisure Lifestyle

Surprises: What are the surprises we have after we leave?

Read the previous posts on this journey: A Dream Is Born and Climbing New Mountains. I have had several surprises since leaving my adventure-filled vacation in Nepal. A few surprises happened immediately upon leaving, others took weeks and months.

Surprise 1. The sun knows best. I was surprised to find out how much I enjoy rising before the sun and setting not long after the sun. i sleep better and more soundly when I follow the sun’s lead (most days).

Surprise 2. How little I need. Shelter, food, water, clothing, heat and electricity — the basics. It makes me wonder about the messages trying to persuade me to buy or do something because I need it. Not really the truth though. Do I need more clothes? More accessories? More decorations, more tech, more pretty shiny things? Nope.

Surprise 3. I enjoy smelling natural and earthy. I liked trekking and not showering, not shaving, not washing my hair and not laundering my clothes. I felt powerful, primitive and rebellious. It was so contrary to the North American ideal of cleanliness using a gazillion hygiene products to not smell, to not smell each other. I like knowing how I actually smell.

Surprise 4.How much stuff I have AND how hard it is for me to part with *my* stuff. The trek leaders offered us the opportunity to donate clothing at the end and it was a struggle for me. I rationalized that I would need the items when I travelled on or would continue to wear them when I returned home. Which I did and do. And I could have given stuff away and been fine. I had an opportunity to let go, to share and be generous. I realize it is not easy to detach from “It’s mine” and “I still need this”.

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Surprise 5. The power of sticking to a daily plan. The trek leaders kept our group on a firm schedule which kept me focused, striving and challenged. Without it I probably would have stayed an extra day to rest my sick, puking stomach and then got caught in the snowy mess ahead preventing me from climbing higher and reaching base camp. Sticking to a plan made the difference between getting “there” and not.

Surprise 6. The intensity of North American consumerism and consumption. It was a shocking surprise to return to North American culture and values and be met with December holiday commercialism, the superficiality of celebrity culture, retail culture, and fitness culture. I felt bombarded by the amount that was promoted, marketed and sold to me, especially with the focus on “you you you” and “me, me, me” rather than “we we we” or “us us us”.

Surprise 7. Feeling spiritually full. I noticed how it felt to shift from feeling spiritually full to empty. I experienced having my spirit feel sumptuously full and fulfilled that my body needed little food to energize itself. I felt energized by what I was experiencing, seeing and doing. In contrast, I noticed the spiritual emptiness to urban life as the days and weeks passed and I settled back into a more sedentary life that was rich with resources and opportunities but lacking in nature, movement, community and connection.

Surprise 8. How the Nepalese listen and Canadians talk. When I arrived in Nepal, I immediately noticed how the Nepalese listen deeply and with full presence. They are able to be in silence, be with silence and allow silence to hang. In contrast, North American culture is all about the talking. Arriving back to Toronto I was surprised by the amount of constant, loud talking. We talk at each each and talk to make our opinions known.

There were surprises where my core personal values came alive in fulfillment and resonance, or when I experienced an inner chafing, a personal struggle of conflicting values.

There were surprising moments where a few of my core personal values declared themselves and wanted me to honour them more.

There were surprising places where I experienced a struggle between my values and those of my culture and society.

Surprising insights and realizations can happen when we leave anywhere or anything: Leaving a vacation place. Leaving a workplace, a job, a career. Leaving a relationship or friendship. Leaving home. Leaving an experience. Leaving a habit. Leaving a lifestyle.

Being aware of the surprises we have after leaving can not only give us important insights into ourselves. It can also help us understand and honour our true self.

What have you left?What things have surprised you since leaving?

Climbing New Mountains: 10 lessons learned on how to reach the goal

Trekking through the magnificent Annapurna range of mountains taught me many lessons. The biggest lesson was that I had to climb my internal mountains to get there. Yes, trekking up a mountain was tremendous physical exercise but it was even more of a mental and psychological exercise in mounting my fears and doubts.

I feared injuring myself. I doubted my ability and my fitness level. I worried about not sleeping, ever, and getting sick. I worried about feeling really cold and becoming ill. I worried that I would not be able to complete the trek. I worried that I would not meet like-minded folks on the trek. So there was lots of Saboteur chattering and nattering going on in my mind.

I learned a lot about my personal Saboteur, how loud the nattering can get and how to quiet it down so that I could move forward and complete the trek:

1. Have a scheduled plan and scheduled rest stops. In order to climb higher and manage the challenging parts we had to have a scheduled plan, scheduled rest stops and scheduled “Tea and Pee” breaks as Gelu Sherpa called them. We could not have reached the top without a goal, a plan, scheduled time to rest and replenish.

2. Adjust and realign with what is happening. I got acutely sick with some stomach thing on the very first night. Projectile vomiting sick. I didn’t sleep much. We had been told the next day was “the hardest”, trekking up five to six hours.

I took a few dozen steps and had to stop often, feeling weak in my legs, light-headed and nauseous, vomiting again. As I consumed some electrolytes, our leader guide offered me two options: Return to the tea house and rest (and say goodbye to the rest of the trek), or Pay for the services of a horse to take me to the next tea house.

Of course, the horse — because continuing on was the only option. Forty-five minutes later my white horse (really donkey) arrived. And his name?

LUCKY. I got Lucky! I hung onto dear Lucky’s saddle for dear life as he mounted up and down the steps that I couldn’t manage.

Thank you good Lucky!

The next morning I woke up feeling strong and well again which was good because we had to leave at 5:15am to ascend steps for the sunrise at Poon Hill.

This is what I would have missed had I gone back:

Sunrise at PoonHill

4. Staying present is necessary to staying well. Worrying about losing my footing and injuring myself, I focused on each step - to see where I was going, to step safely and stay the course without breaking any body parts. Trekking up the mountains required strength, patience and endurance. Descending the mountains required concentration and courage (the heights!). Being so mindful of every step transformed the experience into a walking meditation. Focusing on the here-and-now, on each step, kept me grounded in every way.

5. Celebrate at the end of each day. It was exciting to meet the scheduled plan and goal for each day. Some days were easier and some were more challenging. At the end of every day we celebrated what we had experienced and appreciated the stunning views from the new tea house in the new village with the team of trekkers, Sherpa leader guides and porters.

6. Appreciate the boring parts. There were boring parts, even trekking the Annapurna Sanctuary. Until I remembered where I was, what I was doing, and what I was there for! Until I noticed the beauty and wonder in that boring moment. Until I brought myself back to being present, appreciating just being there, and being grateful for the boring parts too.

7. Prepare appropriate equipment and supplies. I needed equipment and supplies to keep me safe, healthy and well as I trekked the mountain. It was helpful to get up steep ascents and then back down safely, to keep me warm, comfortable and dry, and to keep me hydrated and nourished. We need equipment and resources to get us up the mountain.

8. We need support to get up there. It was important to have expert help from knowledgeable people. They knew the landscape and the dangerous parts. They knew when to lend a hand and when to give space so that I could do it on my own. and grow my self-confidence.

I felt gratitude to everyone who was a part of making this mountain trek possible — the leaders, the porters, my fellow trekkers, my family and friends who supported me to get there.

We need help to get up the mountain, and helping each other up our mountains is a powerful relationship builder.

9. The challenging, stressful parts can take your breath away. Climbing up 4000 feet (1200 metres) in 8 hours with wind and snow is a whole thing. Heart pounding, lungs heaving, my mind and body wondering, “What is going on here? What are you making us do? How do we breathe up here?”

Everyone was ahead of me and I did not care at all. I was getting there when I was getting there. It became clear as the Annapurna mountain air that I was not there to impress anyone.

During my numerous rest pauses, I noticed the raw beauty surrounding me: the stark rockiness of the landscape, the lack of wildlife and birds, and cloudy skies darkening as sunset approached. It was primal and I felt primal.

I also felt emotional — to be aware of my heart beating and pumping, to feel so much heart. It was a heart-felt climb.

I arrived at the teahouse and received big cheers and hugs from everyone. I had made it, we had all made it together and there was a palpable sense of fulfillment and aliveness in the space.

10. Leaving the mountain is both euphoric and sad. The euphoria of seeing such raw beauty and of getting “there” is potent. Two feet of snow had fallen overnight at Annapurna Base Camp. The morning skies were bright turquoise as we started our descent. It is a memory etched into my being.

I had no idea what to expect when descending the mountain. I had prepared for it by bringing trekking poles to protect my knees. I was ready to descend and welcome more oxygen into my heart and lungs.

And then it hit me. We were leaving “there”.  I was leaving the mountain and leaving my mountain.

I had done it. I had planned and worked hard to make this dream happen. I got up there and now it was time to leave. I could not stay up there forever. I had to leave “up there” and come back down. Coming down the mountain was unexpectedly sad for me and I was not ready for that.

I began to think of new dreams and adventures in different parts of my life - in my health and lifestyle, career, home, family and friendships. If I could reach this mountain then I could surely climb other mountains. What other dreams and goals might I vision and focus on now? New mountains await.

Each of us has our own mountain to climb. It is only ours to climb and only we can climb it. No one can climb it for us. It is on that climb that our mountain reveals our power and our vulnerability — to us.

What is the mountain you are climbing? Where are you on your climb? Just beginning to see your mountain, at the bottom of your mountain, half-way up, approaching the top, coming down on the other side, somewhere else?

A Dream Is Born

“Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty waiting to be born.” Dale E. Turner

A new dream was born twenty-five years ago. It happened as though a tiny kernel of curiosity popped somewhere inside me. A friend introduced a new country, Nepal, to me when he talked about travelling there for his work. He spoke of Nepal and the Nepalese people with great respect, warmth and love. It created a great impression on me that he looked forward to traveling to Nepal every year, like an annual pilgrimage.

Years later a new dream of trekking the Annapurna Sanctuary in Nepal was born. I can’t quite recall exactly how it happened. Most likely it was after seeing a photograph of the magnificent Himalayas or reading about it. I don’t recall learning about the trek from anyone — it seemed that no one from my network of friends and acquaintances knew anything about it.

The dream of seeing and trekking the Annapurna Range lay dormant for years. I came up with the usual reasons for not going through with it: “I don’t have the money”, “I don’t have the time”, “it will be too hard”, “it will cost too much”, etc. Sound familiar?

Years went by like that.

And then one day I came across a travel agency that specialized in adventure travel. They offered talks about treks, including the Annapurna Sanctuary. So I went to find out more. I learned about all kinds of things: about the land, the weather, the topography, the supplies to bring, the clothing that would be helpful, how to prepare myself for trekking and for altitude. There were people in the audience who were leaving a few months and even weeks later — which inspired me and roused my “journey envy”. I wanted to go too!

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What is it inside of us that dreams our big dreams?

Is it the desire to grow and be challenged? Maybe it is the yearning for inspiration and excitement? Or is it our curiosity being aroused and kindled? Perhaps it is our spirit wanting to experience awe? Sometimes it might be our courage daring us to be bold Our wanting to be masterful? Our wanting to leave ourselves or to leave our lives? Wanting a change? Wanting to change? Wanting something new, something unfamiliar, something unknown?

“Nothing happens unless first we dream.” Carl Sandburg

 

The birth of our childhood dreams can feel very different from our adulthood dreams. As kids, our dreams seem to be born from a magical place of innocence, wonder, naiveté and joy. Adult dreams are born from other places too; from experience, wisdom, loss, pain and even tragedy. I know that it was during my dad’s illness when I knew that this dream of mine really had to happen. Now or never.

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Is it our dream or someone else’s? Our intuition, our heart and inner voice know whether we are doing it for ourselves or for someone else or because of someone else. If we continue to pay attention to the dream no matter what, it is ours. If we continue to pursue the dream no matter what anyone says or doesn’t say, it is ours. If we keep our dream alive without others’ validation or approval, then it is definitely ours.

When a dream is kindled, it is our edge calling us forth, our soul craving fulfillment, our inner self wishing to grow, out of our comfort zone and into the fullness of who we know we are and can be.

What was the last dream you gave birth to? How did you conceive of it? Is it time for a new dream?

After The Absence

The last time I blogged was May 2014 - eight months ago. That last blog post was published before my life changed. It was right before my dad became ill and died. Since then, life has taken me on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, changes and transitions. I felt drained out of energy and focus to write fresh material, or any material really, for this Life Changes blog. How ironic. In December I took myself off and away to make a personal dream come true — to visit Nepal and trek the Annapurna Sanctuary in Nepal. It was extraordinary and I have returned home now feeling grounded, re-energized, and inspired. How can seeing this sight of the Annapurna range not inspire?

Prayer flags in the Annapurna Sanctuary, Nepal

So I am taking the same determination that got me to the Annapurna Sanctuary and channeling it into writing this blog again.

I hope you will enjoy the posts that are born out of this long absence, perhaps enough to add a comment and share your ideas too. I would love to hear from you!