On May 15th I set out on a three week journey of self-discovery, inner connection, and most importantly, to learn the art of mindfulness. My plan was to transcend the burdens that I had placed upon myself – my overwhelming expectations and desires for the “better” – and discover inner peace and tranquility with a little liberation mixed in. What I got? Unexpected clarity coupled with a still yet undetermined stomach virus.
Very unfortunately my whole trip got derailed six days in when, seemingly out of nowhere, I became sidelined by a very violent, extremely painful stomach ailment. Without going into much detail, I will say that not being able to stray far from a bathroom really puts a damper on a trip where you need to sit still and meditate. (Although, to be fair, lessons in mindfulness were very much present). I had no choice but to pack up and come home. My long awaited quest for the stillness that exists behind the waterfall had to be cut short and the inherent teachings to be tabled for another time. Or did they? To my surprise, my hunt restarted almost instantaneously.
On my excruciatingly long drive home (I still consider it a miracle that I made it home without incident), I spent a lot of time thinking and wondering. Not being able to turn on the radio thanks to sound making me nauseous, I decided to challenge the thoughts swirling in my head. My mind kept returning to two situations from the previous few days: an experience I had in a labyrinth by a lake and a conversation with one of the workers at the Wolf Education Centre in the Halliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve (both destinations I was thankfully able to make before my intestinal tract attacked me). The first experience occurred as I walked through a labyrinth at a wilderness retreat in Algonquin Park. For those not familiar with a how a labyrinth works, the idea is to walk into the spiral pathway (think circular maze) with a very specific question in mind. You concentrate on that question as you walk towards the centre of the spiral. Once you reach its core you unload all your negative energy associated with your question and literally dump it at your feet. The idea is that this allows your energy to be open to receive the answer you seek. As you make your way out of the labyrinth, following the same spiral pathway that brought you in, you concentrate on the answer you are given. I followed these instructions to the letter and was railroaded with the screaming answer I received. My question: Is it time for me to go? My answer, a booming – stay where you are. The energy literally swirled around me. I was dizzy and lightheaded but fully lucid. Any worries, doubts, or concerns I had seemed to melt away. The universe had given me a very clear message and I knew I would be a fool to dismiss it.
The second thing my mind drifted to occurred during a rather lukewarm debate on the behavioural differences between wolves and domestic dogs. It was a very specific comment that stayed dormant in my subconscious until my silent ride home. While I don’t remember the exact words, the proclamation went something like this: the main difference is that in the domesticated world it’s all about wanting what others have, whereas in the wild world such desires will either get you ostracized and driven away, or killed. I found this to be a profound statement framed by honest insight. It’s not that such a concept was foreign to me; I just think that this time, for whatever reason, it was put into a context that made absolute sense to me. I had set out on this field trip of self-discovery with the hope of finding much needed answers as well as the reengaging of my inner desires and passions. What I returned with (albeit earlier than expected) was the gift of appreciation for all that I already have and, most importantly, the person I am – and always have been. I know from way too much personal experience that the more I ventured away from being “Erica” – with all my quirks, faults and moodiness –the less comfortable I was with myself and others. However, whenever I looked past the jokes and comments about my rather bizarre decisions and life choices, I realized that I was blissfully at peace. I was instantly transformed into my authentic self and became the unique person all those life affirming wall quotes have been encouraging me to be.
I prefer grocery stores to shopping malls. Coffee dates to pub crawls. Book clubs excite me the way a trip to Vegas once did. I have become the social definition of boring – and have come to relish in it. I don’t have a long list of fake Facebook “friends” (hell, I don’t even have Facebook!). What I do have is a tight knit group of people that I love and care for more than anything in the world. People I would do anything for without question or hesitation. I may not always say it with words, but I hope my actions relay the true and supreme sentiments I feel for each and every one of them. I realized that I had gotten stuck in the “other side of the fence” persona – the “what if’s” and “if only’s” had taken over the maze of my mind. The voice inside my head was stuck on a dangerous choose your own adventure loop and my soul was caught in the middle trying to decide which page to turn to next. My plate had become overflowed with ideas, courses, obligations, hopes, wants, dreams. I expected that I could accomplish it all without incident or accident. Then a stomach bug literally zapped me back into reality – and unexpected clarity.
My three week journey clearly didn’t go as planned, but then again, what in life does? What surprised me most about my unanticipated turn of events was how not upset I was. Yes, I could chalk this up to either delusion brought on by extreme illness or, while it’s a stretch, maturity, I am starting to believe that the universe had other plans for me. I get the strong sense that I was meant to come home when I did, that the meditation retreat wasn’t meant for me to be a participant – at least not now. It’s really hard to put into words how I feel at this moment but I am taking to heart the message I got at the centre of the labyrinth – STAY. Stay true to your location, your loved ones, your choices, your feelings, and most importantly, yourself. The time has not yet come for me to change or move or seek what other’s have claimed for themselves. The time has come for me to simply enjoy what I have; to say yes or no when needed; to make time for the joys that others think may be silly; to live my life exactly as it has played out. While I still may occasionally peek around the corners to see what others are up to, my intention is to do so with the hopes of gaining information, guidance, and with luck, meaningful connections. While the grass may or may not be greener on the other side of the fence, what could be there is a new friend or new opportunity waiting to say hello. And, as I’ve said before, my side of the fence can be just as lucrative. My new found path involves fully embracing my world as it is, faults and all, so that I may welcome others too.
Welcome to MY world dear reader. I’m not going to entice you with candy or warm kittens, all I have to offer is me – and I think I’m pretty cool.