It has now been a year since we sailed off to our new adventures - leaving behind the comforts of "home" to explore Europe and its wonderful people, cultures, and landscapes.
The past year has reshaped my view of myself, humanity, and life in general - in more ways than could ever be listed.
In this post I try to touch on some of the core realizations and insights I've assimilated into my consciousness.
I am still trying to integrate these into my daily life as often as possible, although sometimes it's not easy to fall back into old conditioned patterns of thinking...but every day is a new opportunity and every new outward journey points at the equal importance of the journey within.
Building upon the five lessons learned from our first five months on the road, here are lessons 6 - 12 for a total of 12 over the past 12 months :-)
Lessons 6 - 12:
6. There Is Always Enough
We rarely realize how many of our fears can be addressed through a shift in perspective.
How many things have you worried about in the past year that have never actually materialized?
When we get to the root of the fears we all face, they can be classified into two categories: physical safety and social connection. We want to ensure that our essential physical needs (food, water, and shelter) are taken care of while desiring to feel life's meaning pulsate through us as we share our gifts and the joys of being on this planet with others.
Addressing the fear of having our social needs met starts with the realization that we can be the source of what we think we need, while addressing the fear for our physical safety starts with trusting ourselves.
When we trust our ability to think outside the box and to enjoy the process of working and helping others, the fear for our own survival diminishes. If we are willing to play our part in the process of life, life will always take care of us.
Right now, there are enough resources on this earth to feed you. Nature is constantly producing fruits, vegetables, and grains. Yes it may take time and effort to find, cultivate, grow, or process these resources, but they are there — somewhere on this Earth — all year round.
From planting pumpkins in fresh Austrian manure to harvesting olives in the Greek sunshine, we have witnessed the results of nature's magic to transform a seed or a blossom into food. Nature will simply not let you starve if you meet it halfway.
The earth abounds with enough raw materials to build basic forms of shelter. There are always enough kind people to help you build this shelter if you're willing to ask. When you join forces with us others, roofs can be built to protect anyone from the earth's elements.
The Workaway program is proof that no matter what happens, as long as you're willing to contribute, you can always find a place to rest your head, fill your belly, and share wonderful stories and laughter with others.
7. The Innate Desire to Express and Share Our Skills is Universal
As humanity, everything we do is ultimately a way for us to sustain ourselves through helping others sustain themselves.
It is beautiful how so many of those that we have gotten to know have a desire to share themselves with the world in some way. Whether it's through teaching or giving advice, providing a cozy place to stay, raising a child, cooking delicious meals served with kindness, or simply providing an ear to listen or a hug to comfort a hurting heart, it's clear that everyone has a strength that they are excited to use to help another.
While I didn't have to cross the ocean to realize this, seeing this in many souls back home, travel has only helped to reinforce this knowing. The innate desire to be of service is ingrained in all of us - regardless of nationality or culture.
8. We Are All Learning to Face Our Fears
Every time we share ourselves from that space of wanting to express our strengths to help others, we help humanity realize that we are much greater than our fears - we are the kindness, courage, and strength beyond them.
Every time we face our fears, we get closer to residing in the present moment from which we open up to the full enjoyment of life as it flows through us.
We are all learning how to be human together - and that comes with helping one another reduce the stresses and fears that hold us back from enjoying the marvelously complex simplicity of being alive.
Every seemingly unkind word or action is always a call for help. Once we peel away the layers of self-defense, frustration, anger, worry, hatred, shame, blame - it all reveals some underlying fear of not trusting that our needs will be taken care of. These are the fears we are all working through addressing as we learn to trust our ability to co-create with all other components of life to design our lives the way we envision them.
This outward journey has shown me that we are all on an inward journey to rediscover the strength in our being through the gradual shedding of our fears - which leads me to the next insight.
9. Our Personal Growth Can Become a Resource to Help Others
Working through our fears and doubts is a great way to cultivate and express the positive qualities of the soul that we all have within.
Every time I am afraid of crossing the boundary of another comfort zone, I remember that this is where growth happens - this is where life expands beyond my old perceptions.
This doesn't only apply to physical comfort zones such as venturing out to a random place on the map that I've never heard of. It also applies to leaping past the comfort zones of my psychological defenses - living from an open heart, knowing that through my vulnerability to be myself even through all my insecurities, I can help others see that it's ok for them to be themselves too. Acceptance of my own weaknesses is the gateway that allows me to recognize them so I can work on replacing them with the behaviors I would like to exhibit instead.
Self-discovery makes us much better equipped to help others. It's the old "sharpening the saw" concept.
For it is from a place of knowing our strength and our value that we can let these flow through us to others.
When we constantly live in a state of fear and stress, our attention is focused on self-preservation and survival. Recognizing these fears and overcoming them frees up energy that we can then use to infuse our lives with meaning by sharing our joys with others.
10. No Matter How Far You Go, There YOU Are
No matter how many countries you step foot in, you are the only thing that's always going with you.
Consciously choosing to see the world through fresh eyes is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.
The lighter our inner load is and the faster we face our own fears, the more we can perceive the beauty that surrounds us.
Our vision of life's magnificence is often clouded by mental chatter - much of which isn't even ours to begin with.
The more we step out of worries about the past or the future, the clearer our thinking becomes as we utilize all of our senses to process and embody the present moment.
I've noticed that in times when I put pressure on myself by my own high expectations (of self and others) or by having too many plans of what "has" to be done or what we "have to" see, that's the moment I disconnect from the beauty of here and now.
Luckily, I have a sweet Subby with me most of the time to remind me to just enjoy the moment and immerse myself in the present experience.
11. Seeing Through The Eyes of Compassion Makes Everything Brighter
During our Workaway experience in a Tibetan Buddhist Center (Gomde) in Austria, I joyfully plunged into a few Buddhist texts to broaden my horizons.
My main takeaway from the underlying messages of Buddhist philosophy can be summed up in two words: Compassion and Wisdom.
The Wisdom of understanding the interconnectedness of ourselves with one another and with all of life. The Compassion to see past our own and others' fears and into the true inner strength that resides in all of us. Authentic power lies in the combination of these two.
Understanding the interconnectedness of life can help us cultivate compassion for other sentient beings. It is through this compassion that we can then utilize our knowledge and resources to help others - and thus bring meaning to our own lives.
Every country we've visited has had its fair share of trials.
Whether ravaged by war, poverty, or other difficult situations - in the past or present - the psyche of the nation has inevitably been shaped by these trials. The effects of World War I and II or of the Communist regime have left scars on the souls of those that witnessed these events. These fears have often been passed down through the generations on a cellular level.
Certain groups of people may seem to be more "cold," distanced, or defensive because they have unconsciously taught themselves to grow a "thick skin" to protect themselves from the perceived attacks of others. When we look underneath these defenses, we can see how that person's culture or past life experiences have contributed to the fear that leads to these seemingly "cold" behaviors or actions.
The more we travel, the more I try to train myself to see others' "negative" behavior through the eyes of compassion - to see the fears and insecurities that lie underneath their words or actions. This provides a space from which I can try to respond more consciously, rather than react to fear with more fear. It's a slow learning process but seeing others that are able to live from that state more often (shoutout to the Gomde crew!) provides so much inspiration and hope!
12. You Can't Connect The Dots Looking Forward: Trust
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” ~ Steve Jobs
This is one of my favorite quotes that elegantly sums up the importance of trusting in a higher order even through all of life's uncertainties.
There have been many times on our travels when we had no idea where we were going to end up next week - and yes also times when we had no idea where we were going to sleep that particular night. But here we are - alive and well. We somehow managed to pull through those times and everything's worked out.
Every new Workaway adventure posed the question of what kind of people our new Workaway hosts were going to be. Would they treat us kindly?Would we get along with them? Would we have our basic needs met? Despite the uncertainty, we trusted - in our ability to navigate difficulties if they arose, in the good nature of people, and in the mysterious ways that life works behind the scenes.
Every step into uncertainty has broadened our horizons. Seeing life in new ways has increased our understanding of ourselves and of humanity. And that broader perspective has allowed us to see opportunities and the goodness in things that we wouldn't have been able to see before.
Even when our rational minds can't understand why or how we should take the next step, our hearts know. So all we can do is make the best use of the knowledge we do have and trust that the dots will connect - as they have done until now.
For if the dots didn't connect, would we still be here, alive, breathing, perceiving these words?
Whatever you have been through, it's all led you here - this moment is your point of power.
Trust in yourself, trust in others, trust in life.
The dots are connecting - even as you are reading these sentences.
This world is breathtakingly gorgeous.
But so are you.
Think of all of the events that must've occurred,
the eyes that initially must've sparkled,
the smiles that were exchanged,
and the biological processes that must've gone right
in order for you to arrive in this body.
And despite such minuscule odds,
here you are...fully alive, fully present...or are you?
Don’t ever lose that sense of awe
for you are the magic.
You always have the paintbrush in your hand
to paint your story of wonder on this canvas of life.
Paint with love.
Paint with your whole heart.