Finding your way in life through the willingness to Know Thyself completely.
As I learned more about myself and the sources of my challenges, I've developed a deep desire to share my journey with others. This is part of why I write this blog as well as the books I've published. The desire is grounded in the hopes that my stories will help someone else with their own struggles. Sharing my stories (or even to write this) is not an easy thing to do. To allow myself to be vulnerable with you opens me up wide to the very thing I fear the most, and that is not to be accepted for who I truly am.
I'm not special or better than anyone else. However, I do know that I am unique, just like everyone else. I know that my experiences of life, how I'm designed physically, emotionally, and spiritually are all of the aspects that make me unique. I crave wanting to share who I am with others. I want to share how I see the world, what I believe in, and what touches my heart. This is the very thing that moves me forward to live this life. The connection to my heart with others and nature outweighs any temporary suffering I may experience. Especially when most of my suffering is self-created.
One of the ways I've been willing to take the risk of being myself has come from traveling to parts of the world unfamiliar to me. There has been anxiety related to traveling, like getting to the airport on time, not missing my connections, etc; but this is worth the effort. It has been my time with the local people, their culture, and their history that sparks a deep connection within me. There is something about being away from home and those familiar with me that enables me to fully step into who I am, without the practiced mask I normally wear.
My wife Melissa and I recently enjoyed a bucket list vacation to Sedona, AZ. We had spent part of the first day on a tour with a local guide showing us sites related to the history of the area. This included the Hopi Indian influences, a Buddhist ceremonial site (Stupa), the geological makeup of the land, and the vast underground water systems.
The land had a measurable energy connected to the core of the Earth and the ancestors who've lived there. The feeling I had was very grounding and the sites were absolutely breathtaking. My heart felt called to the area in a way that I haven't felt in a long time. There was a sense of a belonging to the Earth, to the lived history that was indelibly imprinted on every plant and stone.
Our guide (Robert) even treated us to a spiritual ceremony in a medicine wheel at the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park. The ritual spoke of our soul's evolution as we grow through experiences in each lifetime. The medicine wheel also reflects the teachings we find in many religions as well as the cycles of our lives from birth to death. The connection to this place helped to reset my perspective on my life. I could see a bit more clearly the futility of my worries and I connected to a deeper place where I saw myself as infinite and part of everything.
On the second day, we found ourselves back at the Stupa, recounting the lessons we'd learned at the medicine wheel. This place left us feeling introspective and emboldened to see what other sites we could find. Our connection to the area was definitely settling in and a kind of romance with the land was appearing. We wanted more!
As we looked around at the shades of red, brown, and gold landscapes, we found ourselves on a path around a place called Chimney Rock. The path was moderate in difficulty and offered us a circular hike ending back where we started.
With each step on the trail, I found myself torn between paying attention to where my foot landed and taking in the natural desert beauty all around me. In those moments where I was caught up in the scenery and thought my path was smooth and straight, I would trip on an unsuspecting stone or root.
This got me thinking about how often this kind of thing happens in my life. I'm moving along feeling like what I'm doing is okay, only to have something trip me up and take me off my path. My reaction to this oftentimes would make me want to pay attention to each step and ignore the destination or world around me. However, this leaves me feeling isolated and disconnected.
We ended the day at a what I believed to be a sacred riverbed located near the intersection of Dry Creek Road and Long Canyons Road. We stopped there because Melissa had spied this creek on our tour and knew it would be a goldmine of smooth stones. She loves to find interesting stones to add to our gardens or use for art projects.
I was a bit hesitant at first, but once I stepped onto the riverbed stones, I immediately felt connected and calm. I started to look into the shallow pools of clear water, and it mesmerized me completely. I felt myself being drawn to the stones as if they were friends or even family. I couldn't help myself but to touch the smooth stones and talk with them quietly.
As I sank into my own place of calm, I began to see images in my mind's eye of a person I follow online who has a mediation practice of creating cairns from river stones. He has an amazing ability to balance large stones in seemingly impossible ways. It felt as if this place was asking me to play by reminding me of that small boy inside me that used to find joy and wonder in nature.
I reached down into the clear warm water to awaken a smooth stone. I asked permission to make it part of a piece of art, giving honor to the balance it brings to the world. I felt like I was one with the Universe and was lost in all the possibilities I felt for myself and the world.
The creative expression I felt with these newfound friends brought a sense of balance into my own life and I felt blessed to share this time with them. The feeling of home was so strong in this place, I could have stayed for many more hours.
The next day we were hoping to find a location Robert had pointed out to us. We couldn't remember the name, but we knew the general area it was in. So, we looked at our map and noticed the same area had what is known as a "vortex" located nearby. Having a couple of adventures under our belt on this trip gave us the courage to see what we could find. As we looked at the map, the drawing and description made it look like the endpoint of the trail was nearby a small parking area. We thought this would be no problem. After all we are "seasoned" hikers!
We managed to find the parking area and paid a fee to enter, only to realize that the lot was full! We ended up parking on the side of the road nearby like dozens of other cars.
The hike started out pretty smooth and followed the path marked on the map. But the trail kept going and going. The beauty of the path showed us dense forest with a variety of trees, flowers, and dry creek beds. Occasionally you could see the clear blue sky peeking through the canopy above.
Every once in a while, we would greet someone going the opposite way and ask, "Was it worth it? What did you see?" The informal survey results showed us everything from people saying, "It was beautiful" to "I was really disappointed.".
After another hour of walking and the climb becoming more difficult, we asked someone, "How much longer to the end?", by which they would reply, "Oh, maybe another 30 or 40 minutes. You'll know when the trail opens up and you can see all around the valley." Okay, we've come this far, we can do that right?
After another hour of walking and climbing, we asked again and got, "Um, maybe 20 minutes?" The frustration was setting in. I thought, "What have we gotten ourselves into here? Should we turn around now? What would we be missing out on if we don't see the end?" I asked Melissa what she thought and she replied, "All I have to say is, if there is a parking lot at the end of this trail, I'm going to be pissed!" Oh man, now that was funny. Well, I thought it was anyway.
We reached a point in the trail where we were looking at an almost vertical rise of boulders and rocks. Melissa stopped and said with tears in her eyes, "I can't go any further. I'm exhausted, tired, hungry and have a blister under my big toe, I'm done here." I could see that she meant this. I could see the disappointment in her eyes and the frustration of feeling a bit lost and even mislead by the little black and white map.
I looked up at the stones and then at her and said, "I'm going to go up a little further and see what it looks like.", and she added with a frustrated tone, "Do whatever you want." I stepped up to her and gave her a kiss and said, "I'll be right back."
I took a deep breath and carefully made my way up and over the large stones. With each step the light became brighter, and the sky opened up. It was the end. I was elated and yelled, "This is it! The end of the trail. We made it!", and from down below I heard, "Oh, thank God!"
A few moments later Melissa, along with a few other weary people climbed the last few steps to see the view. It was, well, it was very anti-climactic. While the view was not horrible by any means, the incline was so steep, there was nowhere to sit or rest. With that, we looked around for about a minute and turned around to go home.
As with most trips to a new place, it always seems to take longer to get to the destination than to return home. This was no different. The path helped us a bit as it was downhill. The landmarks we passed on the way there appeared sooner than expected. There was a sense of relief to be going back but also, a sense of accomplishment. We did it. We can say we did the hike and made it out alive.
As we met each person or group going where we had just been, there was an urge to tell them, "Turn around, it's not worth it." I could see the hope in their eyes that maybe just around the next bend would be the end. I remembered that feeling within myself and thought if someone had told me to turn around and not bother to go any further, would I? If I did, would I forever hold a sense of loss and regret that I didn't see it through to the end? Would I be able to let go of the wonders that might have been at the end of the trail?
When we were moments from completing our return, we saw a young family coming towards us. The dad was smiling and pushing a stroller containing a diaper bag and water bottles. Behind him were two bright eye little girls giggling and bouncing their way along the path with mom chasing them and laughing as she pulled a plastic toy with wheels. I knew they wouldn't make it very far, but who am I to tell them otherwise. This was their path to follow. It was their adventure to have and experience to the fullest of their desires.
As we were driving home, it was quiet in the car. We were both exhausted. I began to think, was this 4-plus hour hike worth it? Did we experience a vortex and see a breathtaking vista? I knew it wasn't what I expected, but I do feel that I learned something about myself. I learned that when I stop and focus on the beauty around me, my life feels much better and I'm a happier person inside. If I focus too much on the path and the steps I'm taking, I get lost in all of the details and the struggle of the journey.
Last and most importantly, know thyself and walk your path. This is your life and your experience. You are not here to replicate someone else's life or be them. Spending time with the steps you are taking is necessary, but if you spend all your time in the details, you will be missing out on the gifts being shown all around you.
Dwight Raatz, Author, Personal Coach & Konsilisto
Dwight is a writer, personal guide, life coach, and healer. He specializes in helping people on their path to truly knowing themselves, healing and removing blocks, and coaching them in achieving their goals for life and business. Click here to learn more.