“Serenity is the depth of being that holds difficulty, not the resting point after we’ve ended difficulty. And peace is the depth of being that holds suffering and doubt, not the raft we climb on to avoid suffering and doubt. This leads us to joy, which is much deeper and larger than any one feeling. Happiness, fear, anxiety, contentment, doubt, regret, unworthiness, anger, despair – all these are the waves that rise and fall in the sea of being. Joy is the ocean that holds all feelings. “
Mark Nepo, The Endless Practice.
I love overcast blustery windy not-quite-but–almost-rainy-days, hot breezy sandy oceanside days, books with provocative titles (like; Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn, Good Grief…), steaming hot tea, awakening into a day relaxed in the knowing that there is no where to go and my day is in front of me to choose; almost-but-not-quite-pee-my pants laughing, holding hands, the natural world; and hiking and paddling…to name a few…and I do not love the doubt, the fear, the anxiety, the regret and the unworthiness I feel at varying times to varying degrees. The unsettled emptiness of ‘what now’ and ‘how to’, have had me over the years clinging to memorable moments of joy – gnawing away, pulling my awareness….and I’ve never had a sense of lasting serenity nor peace nor the deep content of knowing I can deal with life on all levels and still have peace…until a trip I went on this past summer.
I’ve been wanting to write about this past summer’s kayaking trip around the Great Bear Rainforest in the Queen Charlotte Islands…except it was not really a kayaking trip – well, on the ‘outside’ it was – and yet, the magic of the trip was discovering the trip was an inside job.
This experience was cellular–in-nature, some would call it a spiritual experience, some might say it was an awakening, certainly for me, it was a soul-touching expansive experience. I am hopeful I can convey the freedom this trip has created inside of me. Liberation is exactly my best word to describe the core feeling, of what really occurred and continues to occur for me, as result of this trip.
I didn’t know what I had truly encountered until the end of the week…it stealthily emerged; made itself known as the week unfolded.
Like how this trip was a Sea Kayaking trip, and the Crew were Sea Kayak Guides, a Cook and a Captain…those turned out to be woefully limited titles for the roles they have cast themselves in. What was ‘done’ by the crew, is true, authentic facilitation. Their facilitation occurred as if it was the floating text of a story or the undergirding of a building structure; yes they were all highly skilled at their titled-practical-roles, but really they were in service to a much higher calling; The calling of stewardship of humans and their intersection with the majestic environment we were immersed in. Their facilitation was deeply centered in respect and kindness, with an offering in every interaction of a quiet, in-service, light-hearted, love for humans and the natural world. It bespoke of a shared camaraderie of intention far beyond the loading and unloading of kayaks and people, the guiding of paddling passageways. It worked on us, in quiet ways, as we grew individually and collectively lighter and quieter, more solid and yet freer. I have since wondered to myself often, about this way of being these Guides provided us with, and it has had me contemplating – what are my deepest commitments and how do I live them out-loud, how do I relate these commitments inside my world of teaching, facilitating, coaching, friending, parenting…
Returning to the hustle and bustle of my ordinary life, I was desperate to put the Genie back in the Bottle – except first I had to figure out what the Genie was…and I needed to talk about it, ruminate about it, hear from others what they had experienced…which we did – some said to stop unpacking the experience because the constant attention to it would dissipate the magic…
I was born with a deep appreciation for nature and the ever differing landscapes the world offers…and I do have a strong affinity for the ocean and the natural world as a safe, centering place for me – the wind on my face and physical movement are certainly part of my personal definition of bliss – this natural world is a place that has offered me solace and joy, and flashes of peace often in my years. But this, this trip, it was an immersion, and as I relaxed into it the more my body and mind gave-way, the freer I became and the clearer I became – I emerged different.
It was a trip that turned out to offer healing, it was an experience of complete acceptance, no striving, no proving…the Guides and ‘program’ had a rhythm of a gentle open hand here’s what is on offer…care, acceptance, support for choice, in the accompaniment of the freedom of whales, grizzly bears, eagles, seals, sea lions, elephant seals…boundless ocean, stunning waterfalls, fjords, streams, estuaries, the wide endless expanse of open water, lunches on white sandy beaches, blissful quiet paddling, dead rotting whales, beach games, spontaneous ocean dipping, the presence of companionship if wanted, conversation if desired, steadying of kayaks, unassuming Guides with a mentoring of reverence for the environment…choice, safety, quiet activism, offers of whole hearted embracing care, blankets of stars, sunsets with dancing sky-pink-cloud ballet shows, gratitude and appreciation flowed, alongside belly laughter and heart-full connections. Snoring, banging doors, cramped berths, were a background part of ‘what is’…no resistance, all a part the greatness of the totality of environment. It was an experience of witnessing Human and Environmental Stewardship, or by another name, Grace-in-Action.
I have often wondered if the Mothership Adventures Owners and Crew are intentional in this quiet hand, open offer of their mentorship, extending an authentic reverence for each guest …Yes, they offer kayaking trips…and yet they are truly facilitators of growing human environmental stewardship – helping others realize our responsibility to grasping a real individual experience of here-now, of acceptance, of the no-need for titles and who you are in the world beyond this week – but instead here’s an experience of genuine interest in how you are, who you are, and connecting the gift of our life, our lives, within the opportunity to deeply connect to that which gave us life and within that realizing more deeply that our true human and natural world environmental conditions are our ultimately and inescapably individual and therefore collective responsibility.
My deepest learning from this week, was my realization that the only sustainable way forward is to move with suffering and not be beholden to it…it is the only way to transform.
This trip, this experience, dissolved my anger, my fear; about a condition I developed some years back called cervical dystonia (spasmodic torticollis). If you had told me even 6 months prior to this trip, that I would paddle a kayak reasonably comfortably again, or play beach games that required accuracy of throwing…or just be able to be in a place of acceptance for what is here, now – for me – without struggling against it…I quite simply would not have believed even God or Buddha combined. If you had told me I would scramble over rocks and have complete blissful solitude on an island in the middle of the ocean – being fully present, where I blessed this dystonic condition for bringing me to my knees, I would have wondered about your sanity. If you had told me I would find a way to share this trip with my daughter and that she would, in her words, say to me as we flew then drove home, “How do we keep this feeling, this real way of being, back in our worlds…I have had a pinnacle experience”, I would not have believed you.
We did come back to our ‘usual world’, to discover my beloved Uncle had died. I also came back to recognize I had lost my ability to tolerate some of my family members unkind behaviours. I came front and center with how much pain many carry and then try to distance ourselves from – through expressing judgements, assumptions, and old stories that hold others and ourselves in-stunted-places (a form of living the past and future into the present.) It was impossible for me when in that space, to practice acceptance, to let go and let people have their separate experience of life. It was a difficult and humble moment, then and now, to know that my GBR experience was so new, and like a mother protecting a newborn chick, I lashed out in my protection of my own new, knowingess. Failing to hold onto the peace, the serenity, the honouring of life… in that moment, I failed miserably. The Good Grief that followed was in knowing, that I could choose differently…”just give me time”, I have since thought with a forgiving, peaceful smile, I will get this.
Life, at our best, is a noble act. Growth, invokes strangeness, fear, joy and humility, failure and success; embracing growth, being unwilling to stay stuck, is our way forward past the old to the new. Life is meant to be lived here and now, individually separate and whole, holy connected and in an unfolding way. That is our one great act to play, to be noble, humble stewards of the gift of our life and our personal and world environment. To fail and not be caught in the net titled, failure forever more. To know too, that all exists in our experience, and to hold lightly with an open hand, to deeply know that right here, right now, is new and available to us to make anew.
Sit and Feast on the Here and Now
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
A friend and I were recently discussing our Ah-Ha’s of late and she was wondering how we turn Ah-Ha’s into actions…different beliefs…and I not so quietly said that I agree…morning pages or brains full of AH-Ha’s are quite worthless without action. So – here’s just abit of my journey since the GBF trip…
Over the past few months, some of us from the trip have shared our experiences. Some of us have lamented about the challenge of ‘re-entry’, holding onto the peace and joy. Some of us were fundamentally changed or awakened through this trip.
Since returning, I have taken up Yoga…alot – in a new, committed, real way – i.e.: 2 hours a day – and I continue – to the point of wondering of late, if I was nurturing a future addiction. What I have noticed is that my practice has expanded to engaging and connecting my mind, body and soul…encouraging me to let go of spiritual and physical ‘dog crap bags’ (even if they are biodegradable). Challenging myself to identify that which I no longer need to carry around…encouraging more compassion with myself, working with my physical challenges whilst I look fervently for evidence of my healing and I acknowledge and celebrate the moments of ever increasing physical alignment whilst smiling at my mental chatter that I can now shift to gentle and kind towards the dystonic activity. And, I’ve lost 28 pounds, because I realize that truly clean eating is an act of self-love, not consuming alcohol is equally a way of reducing inflammation and a living commitment to wanting to be fully present with myself. I booked a trip to Belize for a month at the end of this year…a long awaited trip to visit an old friend and do more ocean kayaking and snorkelling and lots of outdoor yoga. And, I adopted an orphan 7 month old kitten soon-to-be-cat, appropriately and loving christened Oliver. My daughter, well I will say – (though she may have a differing opinion) – her kaleidoscope view of what is within her sphere of control has become clearer and she’s embracing knowing what contentedness, peace, means to her….plus since the GBR she made happen her own bucket list trip to swim with manatee’s.
It is not possible to put this Genie in a bottle…because this Genie is in me, is in each of us…I am thinking today, that life is actually about freeing this Genie. Facing ourselves, our limitations; reaching for compassion, worthy conversations and accepting that we are truly responsible for our selves, our part.
Our natural world is a reflection of the tumultuous human condition we have for all time been a part of using and abusing, creating and destroying. It is up to each of us, to create the personal environment inside of ourselves, in our most seemingly minute of interactions within ourselves and with others, within our families, our communities, our work worlds, to be ever more kind and considerate of our thoughts and our actions.
I have searched for a long time for a core question that will help me, guide me. I have found my question. Will this thought, this action, this behaviour I am engaged in or contemplating…. generate more life or bring death closer to the door of my life, our world?
There is no past, only this step. All the relapses, all the failures, all the troubles … these now exist only in our heads.
Be Here, Now. Present. Give the gift of your life, your best shot. I am.