In late May of 2017 I went on a dream trip to South Africa as part of Martha Beck’s STARS program. STAR stands for Self Transformation Adventure Retreat.
I had been planning the trip since before my divorce in 2013. I’ve written about the trip from time to time in various blog articles. Lately, I’ve been encouraged to go deeper on every level and exploring this trip is one of them.
I’m not a “surface” kind of person in general but I often hold back when I write. The way I live my life is unconventional to say the least.
I wrote my last blog about breaking rules. I never posted it.
I have enough of my own energy to sort through regarding what I want in my life, let alone having to deal with everyone else’s energy about the decisions I’m making so I kept the ideas in the blog private. I had written it shortly after giving notice at my muggle job which lasted all of about 5 months.
You see, people have cultural rules that they were raised with, often without question or scrutiny. We tell or hear the same story many times, then, because this is how energy works, we see it reinforced through reality and we simply believe it to be true. We are never taught to test the theory.
I’ve spent the last 4 + years unraveling most of the stories I grew up to believe were true. This is NOT a commentary on my parents or their job in raising me. I could not have asked for a more perfect mother and father for who I am. I could not have asked for a better family life.
I also knew from an early age that following the “rules” kept me safe and got me special privileges. I learned early on, that people were more likely to say yes to you if you were a rule follower. Trust was easier to earn and to maintain. Forgiveness was more readily available. Again; expectation (read: energy) reinforced by action.
Some of the stories I grew up believing:
- Work isn’t “work” if it’s fun
- You have to “work hard” to earn a living
- If you are rich, you are greedy and “unholy”
- You don’t bite the hand that feeds you
- You don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself
- You have to look, act and be like everyone else and they will like you - life is easier when people like you.
Before my trip to South Africa I had rewritten most of these stories:
- Fun is possible in everything we do - taking it one step further, having fun is a priority
- “Living” and “hard” don’t have to be in the same sentence - I don’t use the word “hard” much anymore to describe anything.
- Money has nothing to do with spirituality, religion or behavior - it’s a means of exchange, period.
- Biting is a self defense mechanism (and a primal response) when someone is feeding you poison.
- Drawing attention or not - being authentic is paramount to breathing - if that draws attention - so be it.
- Authenticity will attract other authentic beings - being true to who I am makes everything easier (because it doesn’t take any energy to be me in my most raw and authentic state) - whether or not people “like” me because of it is not my problem and not my business.
These ideas are my own and they work for me. I share them not to try and convince you to change any of your own stories. I share them only to show you that it’s possible to rewrite your stories and therefore, edit your reality.
One of my struggles before South Africa was how to integrate the spiritual person I am with the human I am required to be to run a household as a single mom of two beautiful young girls.
That might sound odd - to separate the human and the spiritual. When I was first exploring my spiritual side - a side of myself I didn’t recognize or know, I felt as if it was a separate entity; an unknown being.
I wanted it to allow that side of me to learn without the stories and constraints of my upbringing and societal rules. As such, it was done secretively and in private, with just a few people to witness and explore these new ideas with.
Then I found out that the more I shared with my “right” people, the more I got to grow into myself, fully and holistically. The stronger my spiritual side got, the more confident, the more she became a part of how I presented myself to the world.
I lost friends. I confused the hell out of most of my family.
I built a new tribe filled with deep and meaningful connections.
South Africa helped me to stitch myself back to whole, the rest of the way. It accomplished this mission a few ways:
- It was a new group of people; there were no preconceived notions on who I was, so I could be fully authentic and unapologetically me - testing my "holisticness" on a group of strangers.
- There was space and silence designed into the program to allow for me to truly feel present (not distracted by life’s requirements like laundry and packing lunches.)
- The location, surrounded by nature, in rhythm with the Earth and witnessing it’s harmonic ecosystem was pure magic.
- I could feel my feet firmly on the earth and still be spiritually connected to all that is and understand what that sensation felt like.
I’ve always been best when I’m learning through experience so having the sensation of integration and peace helped me to know what “it” felt like. This made it easier to know and understand the sensation I was after, without the influence of my day-to-day.
Knowing the feeling made it possible to bring back into my “normal” life. I remember coming back and being so excited about this concept.
Something else also came back from South Africa, that at the time, I didn’t understand.
While before I left I had shifted my view of convention to be a bit like the lines on the roads, designed to keep a flow and allow us to move around one another; I also much preferred the unpaved, unmarked paths we drove while in Londolozi. If someone had to pee, we pulled over and said human squatted behind a bush; just like the wild animals - only they didn’t care about hiding.
I didn’t realize my thought process had been altered until I was home and walking my dog one day. As we were walking I realized I needed to pee and that instinctively, I was looking around for a place to go.
“Where can I pee?” was the thought in my head until I laughed out loud and realized I’m in my personal neighborhood with houses all around and that while my dog was welcome to be his own natural, wild self, I could likely get “in trouble” for doing so.
When I shared this story with my coach she said “Yes; that makes sense, you are re-wilding.” I accepted this statement because even if, at the time, it didn’t have a place to land in my heart and in my mind, the sensation of it resonated.
As 2018 started, I did my usual “start of a New Year” routine including revisiting my Core Desired Feelings (From Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map). One of my CDFs at the moment is wild. Not in the “crazy” sense but in the natural, from nature, of the earth, “original” sense.
I am a creature of the planet, subject to my own internal rhythms and routines, influenced by planetary alignments and seasons, by sunlight and daylight. I have a longing to get back to that natural rhythm. One that’s not disrupted by the laptop I’m typing on or the cell phone you might be reading this on.
To get back to how I felt in Londolozi, South Africa. One with the Earth and the creatures of God; in rhythm with it all.
I am a week away from going into the desert of California for a retreat unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It feels, to me, like a deeper exploration of the work I started on the trip last year and a chance to feel “wild” for a whole weekend.
My intention on this trip is to surrender to the wild nature of my own being.
To be as I was born to be. To honor the modern conventions which make it possible for me to travel and be present in a new state over just a few hours time and simultaneously to get deeper in touch with the natural part of who I am. To strip away the conventions for a few days and touch back to the present.
This seed, that I’m just beginning to witness. honor and understand, almost 9 months after the trip, is the special gift that South Africa gave me that I wasn’t even aware of (except for the tiny glimpse during my dog walk).
New ways of thinking, or, in this matter, deeply old ways resurfacing, come in small hints and suggestions. The seeds germinate and take root in our unconscious levels until they are safely rooted and growth can begin. (That's generally when we become consciously aware that something has shifted.)
This is done for our soul's well being before our ego can tear up the seed or overexpose it’s delicacy to our human brashness. The day I went looking for a place to pee on my dog walk is easy to laugh at. I spent a bit of time sharing it as a humorous story.
It was, however, cloaking a far broader, far more soulful endeavor that I’ve only now realized I’ve been on the whole time.
It’s one more step in becoming more of who I was born to be; before convention, society and culture made me who I thought I was supposed to be.
It's getting back to that natural, organic version I'm craving to unite with.
It's my re-wilding adventure and I'm honored you are here with me.