When I first started traveling, I set out seeking for something. Hoping that some country, some person, some place would give me this epiphany and the whole world would make sense.
Of course, CDO (that’s OCD in alphabetical order) LN planned everything down to the day and wanted to control everything. Because when you have that much control and something goes wrong- you can “wing it” a lot easier, right?
I quickly learned that this is not the way to get stories, experiences or the coveted epiphany.
So I deviated a lot. I started “winging it” as much as my comfort zone would allow. I searched for a long time and in all sorts of places- constantly being reminded that “stuff like that happens when you least expect it!”. I tried to stay busy. I occupied myself with stints of wwoofing work, “voluntourism” (aka: slavery), long hikes, dancing, CrossFit, drinking and adventure days.
I even went to an ashram in India to learn how to meditate- thinking that this would give me some clarity. It gave me a clear definition of how much I loathe mosquitos, baboons and how sitting cross-legged makes my legs hurt something fierce, but, sadly, not much else.
(OK…ok…I lie. I learned a lot about asana, my body, my emotions, listening to myself, and all sorts of ways to meditate- but no epiphany came.)
When I was in the Philippines, I discovered that I loved disaster relief work. I learned more about my skills, abilities, putting everything that I had learned (exercise/CrossFit skills, communication, politics, persuasion, the power of laughter, the importance of good morale, patience, patience and more patience) to good use. But, again, I was keeping my physical self busy- while I was clear on “my stand” (a phrase from the book “The Way Of the Seal” by Mark Divine) I didn’t have this “epiphany” that I was searching for.
Now- I don’t mean to sound fluffy, spiritual or “out there” like the dirty hippy/backpacker I am… But this “epiphany”, the thing I was looking for, was more than just a “hey! I like doing this AND I’m pretty good at it” type of moment. I wanted this crystal ball moment I read about where everything becomes super clear.
It didn’t matter how many books on vision and visualization I read. It didn’t matter how much I wanted it and sought after it. It didn’t matter how many questions I asked people (I’ve been dubbed “question-girl” more times in my life than I care to count). It didn’t matter how much I meditated, either. It seemed that I wasn’t getting much closer to this “epiphany”; this thing I couldn’t explain or even guess at what it was. It was the stereotypical crap of “I’ll know it when it happens”. The answer I always hated from producers and bosses who critiqued my work.
On August 31st, we went to Splitzkoppe, Namibia. Famous for it’s ancient volcanic rock formations that, in reality, are just really fun to climb. Which we did. A team-building exercise with my group of climbing up/over these Uluru-sized boulders. We got all the way to the top of a massive peak to gape at a gorgeous sunset (note: all African sunsets are spectacular!). We ate dinner around the campfire, had stimulating conversations and laughed a lot- then we set up our sleeping bags in a semi-enclosed cave/canyon and I slept peacefully under the stars. The first night I was warm and at peace.
I woke up at 4:30- an hour before everyone else would be stirring. I couldn’t really get back to bed, so I flopped on my back and stared at the black-indigo sky get darker right before the sun started making an appearance. I sat up, sat cross-legged with my hands on my knees, palms up, thumbs touching my first fingers, and began to focus on my breathing.
All of a sudden, images came flashing into my head. A calm like I’ve never experienced flooded over my whole body. I relaxed and kept on breathing.
Now, when I was at the ashram, my “good meditation” days would go something like Scrooge’s Christmas dreams where he was with the Ghost of Christmas present. I would sit with an old friend and we would talk about stuff over a pot of fresh brewed sun-tea. They would show me something and tell me how LN, “the real LN” would think/feel/react about this. I would get comfort in these experiences, but they were usually about superficial things. Boys, my cat, flight itineraries, dinner, that sort of thing. Things I had very little control over.
This time, in the desert, was different. There was no one guiding me. It was like I was floating in the marauders’ pool from Harry potter- except it was the future.
It didn’t give me any clues as to where I was. Just WHO I was. This sounds silly. Of course I know who I am- I’m LN the Great! Curly-haired traveler from Troy/Baltimore/Seattle/Houston/wherever who plays the bassoon, enjoys to eat durian, burnt toast and bubble tea and likes puns and feeling productive. What I lacked was the whole “your reaction to ____ defines you” thing.
But this particular morning I got some clarity- and then some. It grounded me in a place where I didn’t realize I was floating/flailing. It gave me clarity on my spirituality, emotional connection to the earth and the universe and- most importantly, I saw events happen. Events that would touch me and (the best part!) how I was going to react to them. Like Neo in the Matrix- I could see the punches of life happen and I knew I was just going to dodge or block them- (emotionally/mentally speaking, of course.)
I couldn’t tell you what these obstacles are. But I felt a shift- a vision of “this is Old LN dealing with this. And this is LN2.0. See how it’s gooder?”
(Yes. The crystal ball people say “gooder”. You should, too!)
I did see vividly the friends I would lose. The ones I would gain. The personalities/energies I would interact with. The energies/cultures I would struggle to find common ground with- and the ones I would instantly meld into.
I feel like I figured out a new definition of acceptance, peace, understanding…. Love, even?
(Blah blah blah.)
I know, I know. It sounds fruity to me, too. And I don’t even live in California, believe in God, or practice veganism! I wasn’t even on any sort of drug! What kind of sorcery is this?!
I don’t know how long I was in this “trance” for. I know it was more than 30 minutes because the sun rose at 5:45, and that’s when the birds decided that my hair looked enough like medusa/worms that they wanted to try to eat me-literally- and I “woke up”.
I can’t say that my life has changed drastically from this. I’m still a freelancer-traveler/backpacker. I still don’t know a lot of things. I’m still scared of snakes, clowns and Ebola.
Except, now, I just feel that it doesn’t matter what you throw at me- I won’t freak out.
It’s gonna be ok.
If anything, my CDO (OCD in alphabetical order) is more curbed and I have a story that is really difficult to explain.