Venturing down a new path
Embarking on a journey towards enlightenment is like hopping on your bike in search of new trails and undiscovered features. Most of the time we tend to evade uncharted territory because it means facing fears—we’re comfy where we are thanks!
We deny our curiosity and the call to a challenge because it’s much easier to coast through life or cruise down flow trails. But if we take on the challenge of exploring our potential and the unknown, we can find enhanced experiences and greater achievements.
Airing myself into gnar
Something’s not right. That thought crossed my mind every night before I fell asleep. I’d crammed a lot of life into my 31 years and checked a lot of boxes—established a career, got married, owned a house, had financial security and experienced my fair share of adversity. On paper life was pretty good. Status quo was safe. But over time, I realized safe didn’t serve me.
Deep down I knew that this life wasn’t congruent with my soul, and no matter how much effort I put in, I was never going to able to be my true self in my current situation—and it was destroying my spirit. I had no idea where to go, so contrary to the most sensible choice, I went with my gut, and aired myself into treacherous terrain.
Temporarily closed for spiritual maintenance
A year and a half has gone by since I began venturing down a new path and the journey has not been a comfortable process, but growth and comfort can’t coexist. New territory can be terrifying and confusing, but the discomfort is a catalyst for questioning everything, for evaluating your life and your place in it. And somehow, when you start asking the hard questions, the answers just begin to unfold.
Much like finding your way down a new bike trail, there is self-doubt, worry and fear. The truth is, you have to really want it. You have to be wiling to be uncomfortable in order to make a change, and it’s the only way to get to the other side. The biggest times of growth are when we are uncomfortable; when we push the boundaries and test our limits.
I began making decisions solely based on my values and from my heart. This heightened my self-awareness and my self-actualization began manifesting. It’s a profound experience when how you see yourself becomes increasingly congruent with your experiences. It’s as though your inner and outer world merge and your true self grows without impediment.
Welcome the fear
When you begin stumbling in the direction of enlightenment, you naturally move towards fear. For me this is akin to sitting on my bike at the top of a gnarly drop; I have a twinge of panic about the future, I recall past mistakes and I criticize myself for considering chickening out—we are SO hard on ourselves, aren’t we? The truth is, the only way to progress is to venture outside your comfort zone. And out there, it’s not going to feel familiar, so give yourself permission to be uncomfortable.
I still struggle with fear on a regular basis, but I’ve learned that you can’t stop emotions. You can however, learn to be mindful of them. Fear and anxiety can eat away at you, and yet, acknowledging and welcoming fear and taking action turns out to be the best way to conquer it.
Your life is a trail waiting to be built
To nurture enlightenment you must be able to take a long hard look at what you’ve got and say, “This is me, what do I see?” You create a work of art not by copying someone else or letting others do it for you, but by embracing and enhancing your features, your uniqueness and your style. Only you can create the picture of who you want to be. And only then will you attract others who truly appreciate you and love you for who you are.
Turn regret into compassion
Regret is the act of passing judgement on a past action. It’s important to understand that whatever happened in your life taught you something valuable. Mistakes are how we learn, as such, they’re not mistakes. You have to fall off your bike to learn how to ride. But going through life wishing you’d never fallen is futile.
Regret stems from the cognitive dissonance you feel when acting against your truest self. The more your choices deviate from your values, the stronger your experience of regret will be. For example, if you regret not telling someone you love them, it’s because you value connection—but that’s a good thing!
In order to progress on your journey to enlightenment, it’s essential to have compassion for yourself, understand what regret can teach you and not dwell on its negativity.
It’s a solo journey
To really go the distance, the journey towards self-actualization must be a solo mission. It can be incredibly lonely, it’s true. And without a doubt there are times when you long for companionship, deep love and connection, but no relationship will ever be as strong or as crucial as the one you develop with yourself.
You’ll never take the journey if you wait for someone to go with you.
Knowing yourself and being happy and comfortable in your own skin has to come before you can thrive in a relationship. For me, being single has allowed me to evaluate my life and assess what I want for myself and for my future. You learn to step up and tackle problems head on, using creativity and increasing experience, and you build self-assurance by having full command of your decisions and their outcomes.
In nature, you’ll find answers
There’s something precious that’s communicated in the stillness and silence of nature. There’s an energy of life that you can feel, that flows freely without concern. In this space your questions and emotions no longer have to compete with the busy-ness of society, distractions and human activity.
In this space you can get closer to your being and the realization that you are not your thoughts, your feelings or your predicaments; they are only mental concepts you tell yourself.
The more you know, the less you understand
This journey starts by accepting your true self, but the second part is understanding that the journey has no end point.
The more you go through in life, the more you realize how little you know. Where’d all my unwavering certainty go? I suppose it drained out of me alongside my insufferable hopeless romanticism. The good news is when you develop the humility to realize there’s so much you don’t know, you gain the empathy required to understand everything and everyone on a deeper level. You take off your blinders, put your ego in the back seat, and you seek to understand; this is when you hear the things that can make a significant impact in your life and the person you’re still becoming.
Love is all that really matters
Without sounding cliche’ (oh wait, I just did.)
Love is a state of being, and it’s not analogous with romance. It’s the energy we feel when we are connected in a very deep and authentic way, and you can only experience this when you are your authentic self. You can pursue possessions, sensations and desires, but you cannot pursue love. It’s in realizing that there is no separation between you & me.
Love is the capacity to care for, protect and nourish. If you’re not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself; your mind, your body, your heart and your soul, it is very difficult to love another person.
Lessons I’ve learned on my journey
You can attempt to prepare for everything, but there are inevitable obstacles and crossroads
If things seem under control, the next obstacle is waiting around the corner.
If you’re lost, it’s okay to ask for help
There is strength in speaking up. Don’t suffer in silence.
You’re not going to feel your strongest all the time
Don’t fight it. Thrive when you’re feeling strong, go easy only yourself when you’re not. If you get tired, learn to rest, not quit.
You’re going to feel self-doubt
When you venture into the unknown it’s natural to wonder whether you’re on the right path, sometimes wish you’d just stuck to your familiar trail and feel anxiety that you made a mistake—this is all just part of the journey.
You’ll meet people along the way that will change you forever
Adventures take you to new places with new people who will change the way you think about the world, the way you view yourself and the way you look at others.
You’re going to see some crazy shit
It’s not an adventure unless something goes wrong.
You don’t need as much stuff as you think
Being a minimalist allows you to stay agile and unattached to things that aren’t important.
You’re going to feel like giving up, but keep going
Sometimes the thing you need next is just over the hill.
One of the best antidotes to fear is humor
It’s hard to be terrified when you have a grin on your face.
Having a sidekick is awesome
Self-actualization is a solo journey, but everyone needs a good sidekick now and then. Whether your friend has four legs or two, they can be there to pull you out when you’re at your lowest.
Celebrate the victories
They may be small, but a lot of little victories can equal a big win.
We’re all just throwing rocks at the moon
If you can dream it, begin it.
Always carry an extra banana
The journey is exhausting, keep yourself (and your little sidekick) fueled up.
We’re all on our own journey
Everyone has their own path, and so often compassion is the answer. To love those that love you is easy. To love those that love you not is the true task.
The further down the trail you go, the greater peace and joy you feel
Eventually, you begin to understand that letting go of attachments is the way to freedom, and with time you begin to realize this freedom.
It’s not about the destination
Being present in your journey is more important than the outcome.
I don’t know if I will ever reach what Buddhism defines as enlightenment, but I know that following my intuition, being insatiably curious and being more of me has increased the harmony with myself and the world around me.