What does a dream coming true look, feel and taste like?

When I was younger I was so in love with the idea of Spain.  I wanted to learn the language, travel to the country, immerse myself in the culture – even since my teenage years.  I wasn’t sure why, not then or as I got older, but I was strongly drawn to the country.  I must admit at the time I really didn’t know too much about Spain, only that I wanted to be a part of it.  In fact, when I was a very late teen, I was so desperately in love with Spain (or the idea of Spain) that I went ahead and got engaged to a Spaniard whose name was Antonio.  Such was my desire for Spain….

Needless to say, that didn’t work out (possibly becoming engaged to someone because you love the country they were born in could work out, but for me, well, no).  But what did work out, after many years, was my desire to travel to Spain.  After years of keeping that dream alive, I left on a jet plane to spend the best part of three months in the country I’d dreamt of since I can remember.

I travelled first to France to start walking the Camino de Santiago Frances Route from St Jean Pied de Port all the way across the country to Santiago de Compostella.  That’s a trek of about 800km.  After that I extended the hiking on to an extended route out to the ocean, the Camino Muxia and Camino Finisterre.

I spent my first 40 days and 40 nights in Spain as a pilgrim, with all of my possessions in my backpack.

 

hay field
Resting wherever I could…

Of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who arrive in Santiago each year on the various Caminos, only about 5% walk on to the coastline with most of these going from Santiago to Finisterre (a 90km extension).  Finisterre was known as the end of the world and for me, it was more important a destination, or completion point, than Santiago was.  However I also wanted to walk to Muxia, a town further north on the Atlantic coastline, and even less than 5%  walk here first, and then on toFinisterre, a 120km extension from Santiago.

Following the Camino my travels took me to Ourense, Salamanca, Madrid, a week long stint in Portugal, Seville and the Andalucían area, and to end the trip, some time in Barcelona.

So did my dream to travel in Spain, walk the Camino and experience the culture and language of this country come true?

Sure.  You can see it did by the previous paragraphs.

But what did it look like, what did it feel like and what did it taste like?  Was it all I dreamt it would be?

What did this dream coming true look like?

It looked like fear sometimes.  It looked like love sometimes.  It looked like Groundhog Day sometimes.

It looked like me with my backpack on, walking 30km a day in the searing heat. Swearing a lot, sometimes.  Other times, just walking and taking every step as it came.

It looked like beauty.  It looked like poverty and despair.

It looked simple, and significant at the same time.

It looked like my comfort zone, and then it didn’t, and then it did again.

Heaven and Hell.  Wonder.

It looked like I thought it might.

It didn’t look anything like I thought it might.

 

jumping
It looked like this sometimes

What did this dream coming true feel like?

It felt like love.

Sometimes it felt like fear.

It felt like loneliness and then it felt like connection and belonging.

It felt frustrating, and it felt freeing.  It felt right, and sometimes it felt wrong.

It felt painful.  A lot of the time.  Blisters, muscle soreness.

It felt joyous.

I felt grateful.  Emotional.  Emotional a lot of the time.

I felt shattered, and also full of energy.

I felt at home, when I wasn’t feeling homesick.

I felt strong, except when I was feeling weak.

Torn. I felt torn.

I felt done – physically, mentally and emotionally.  Then I’d have a beer and a chat to new friends, a meal and a sleep.  And I didn’t feel done anymore.

It felt so right.  Walking day in day out.  Only a few decisions to make each day – where will I sleep, what will I eat?

It felt easy.  It felt hard.

Sometimes I would feel like quitting.

Sometimes I would feel like I could walk forever.

I felt disgust – when watching a bull fight.

I felt overwhelmed. In awe.

I felt brave and full of fear. Sometimes at the same time.

I felt guided.

I felt that the universe was consipiring  to provide me with what I needed. Not necessarily what I wanted.

 

heart
It felt like discovery

What did this dream coming true taste like?

For me, it tasted like Tarte de Santiago.

 

tarte
The taste of dreams coming true

In keeping my dream alive to walk the camino, for many years I’ve been making Tarte de Santiago for my family and friends. A traditional cake based on almond meal originally fed to pilgrims walking. The first time on the Camino that I had a slice of Tarte de Santiago was …well a little surreal for me.  I was alone and in a small village as I took my first taste.  It was at that moment that I understood what a dream that comes true tastes like.

It also tasted like pilgrims meals day in and day out.  And then it tasted like tapas and octopus (not something I would try again) and tortilla and red wine.

It tasted like shared meals with friends. New friends from all over the world.

So what now?

So I am settling in to return to work and back to my life in Australia after fulfilling this lifelong dream which in the end, was exactly everything I expected and dreamt it could be, and at the same time, completely different to anything I expected and dreamt it would be.

It also provided me with more personal growth every day than I could have ever imagined.  I was graced with beautiful new friends, some who I know will be in my life for a long time to come and others who were in my life just for the moments they were meant to be.

 

horse
Ultreya – onwards with courage

My belief in the goodness of people was tested and at the same time, confirmed, over and over again.

My belief in myself was tested, and at the same time, reaffirmed time and time again.

Not everyone will understand my journey.  That’s ok because it isn’t their journey to understand.  It’s mine. And even if I don’t fully understand it, that’s ok too.

Buy the ticket, take the ride.  See what happens.

I know my journey gave me so much.  There is a saying on the camino that “the camino provides”.  I agree and I experienced this day after day.  I have a new saying for the camino to add to that one.  “The camino also takes away”, and that is just as important.

Don’t confuse your path, with your destination.  Enjoy your journey.  Thanks for the memories Spain!

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi.

 

The poetry of mountain climbing

Here’s Peter McFadyen guest blogging for Life Support on his poetry of mountain climbing.  Love adventure?  Peter does.  

Mountain Climbing is now one of the joys of my life (and for those grammatically inflexible amongst us; yes I do realise that I have capitalised “Mountain Climbing” but that’s how I pronounce it in my mind).  Once I had recovered from climbing Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro to the extent that I was no longer adamant that I’d never climb again, I began to look into the changes that I had discovered in myself since the climb. 

I found increased levels of self-confidence, an inherent trust in my ability to take on challenges and do well.  I found the yardstick against which I measured challenges to have grown taller, making any challenge I now came up against seem that much smaller.  I was also much more comfortable with being uncomfortable and so my resilience and ability to persevere were greatly increased.  This is a very pleasant way to live life and I found that many of my previous peaks and troughs were now smoothed out by the personal growth and awareness I had gained by taking on challenges and seeing how my actual experience matched my expectations on how I’d go.          

Man climbing ice Something changed – I was part of the mountain and it was part of me.

Something had fundamentally changed in the way I viewed the world and the way I viewed myself and my place in it.  This was not by the way of increased ego, or a superman complex, but more in an increased sense of myself, my place in the world and an ease of living that was borne of experience.  In short, I was happier being me and more confident that I could make a worthwhile contribution to the planet – albeit in a small way.   I also knew that when it came right down to it, I could push myself to achieve and that I would enjoy the experience no matter the effort required. 

Another joy of my life is poetry.  I love reading it, I love discovering new verses and finding the message within them and I love writing it.  Consequently I have a love of the ‘notes’ area on smart phones as I will often be doing something and a phrase will pop into my head.  From discovering that phrase I will normally have a fully formed poem a few minutes later.  I’m not sure how that works and at times I believe that I am just a way of the poem coming to life rather than having ‘created’ it myself. 

In this instance I was driving along a back road and saw a mountain peak in the distance.  Rather than just thinking “Wow that’s pretty” or “I wonder what that’s called” my thoughts immediately ran to “I wonder how I’d climb that?”   What?  Why that thought?  I realised that, having climbed a mountain, I was in some respects a ‘mountain climber’ and my view of the world had changed.  I then thought, “having climbed a mountain” – I could do something with that.  And so the following poem came to life:

Having climbed the mountain

Having climbed the mountain, there can be no “un-climbing”

Your view of the world is forever changed

You have outgrown yourself to be there

And having outgrown, you no longer fit into your life as you once did.

Having climbed the mountain, you have made the sacrifice

You have left something on the mountain

You have carried something away with you

You are no longer the person who commenced the climb

Having climbed the mountain, there is now a question

Each time you see a peak, you ask “How would I climb that?”

These may be physical peaks or challenges of the heart and mind

All peaks must be met, just needing time and devotion to task,

Turning from a peak is no longer in your being

Having climbed a mountain there is now a void

A challenge waiting to be met,

A dissatisfaction with your old path or any easy path

An ache to once again go beyond

Having climbed a mountain there is now a choice

To turn your back on what you have become, or

To embrace the fear of knowing that you can go beyond

And in doing so, bring the mountain into your being.

View from mountain top We all have our mountains to climb – and when we do the view is amazing

We are all capable of ‘climbing the mountain’ – of moving outside our comfort zones.  It is here that growth occurs; the benefits of which can last a lifetime if we choose. 

What mountain is waiting for you and what can you do to ready yourself to climb it?  What will you leave behind and what will you take away?   I hope you have the opportunity to find out soon.   

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi

How to build your mood changing toolkit

Again welcome Peter McFadyen as a guest blogger here sharing how to build your own mood changing toolkit.

A year ago I decided as a part of my self-development journey that I wanted to be able to change my mood whenever I felt like it.  I was learning more about mindfulness and had been utilising the theory and practice of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to improve my ability to live mindfully.  As a consequence of adopting this manner of thinking, I had learned to live more in each moment rather than catastrophising about possible futures or ruminating on improbable pasts.  My increasing ability to recognise and accept grief, anger, happiness and boredom and greet each of them as a casual visitor in my day was a powerful gift.  Taking that one step further, I began to think that it would be handy to be able to change my mood whenever, and in whatever, direction I desired. 

Does that sound like something useful?

 

Happy face Sad face
Turning the frown upside down

So how would I go about changing my mood?  The traditional way to get over a bad day was to go home and have a few glasses of “attitude adjuster” and let the day slowly wash away – as well as most of my enthusiasm and desire to achieve anything that night!  And besides, alcohol and mindfulness are not the best of buddies so I was looking for something with greater benefits and fewer headaches.  I wrote down a title and began to fill in the lines below:

What makes me happy? 

–          Singing

–          Dancing                                                      

–          Meditation

–          LOL cats

–          Saying hello to strangers

–          Trekking by myself

–          Writing poetry

–          Spending time with my granddaughters

–          Experiencing wonder

–          Cooking

–          Hugs

–          Laughter

–          Doing an energy clearing

–          Being silly

–          Doing twenty push-ups

 

pencil and happy word
Creating happy – one thought at a time

I then developed that list a little further to see which of the above actions I could put to use at different times and in different locations.  Suddenly I had a toolkit I could dip into quickly at work, when I first got home or in the morning to set up a great day.  I also had a powerful set of tools to utilise if my mood was particularly dark and I needed a solid effort of being in the moment, being happy and being grateful in order to salvage my day or my weekend. 

Having completed my toolkit, I then eagerly awaited a bad mood so that I could try them out!

Having come home later that week after a hectic day, I immediately booted up Youtube, danced, sang, looked at LOL cats and then, when I had altered my mood enough to be open to the possibilities of the afternoon, I went upstairs and had a chat and a laugh with my son.  Low and behold, 20 minutes after coming home in a bad mood I was happy, energetic and engaged.  What a wonderful feeling and what a vastly different night it became! 

On waking in the morning now I begin my morning with a dance in my study to my latest favourite video clip (I have hopes of being able to shuffle in public one day).  I then go about my normal morning routine fairly relaxed and happy.  On my drive in to work I set an intention as to how I want my day to go and what kind of energy I want to bring with me to help make everyone’s day a little better.  During the day if something threatens to drag my mood down I close my door, clear my space, read one of the poems I have on my wall, drop and do 20 push-ups or walk outside and find something to be amazed about or someone to say hello to.  Quickly enough I then get back into my day, refreshed, open and with more energy. 

It was such a simple task really.

Are you ready to action these three steps to build your own mood changing toolkit?

Here they are again for you:

  1. Listing down what made me happy
  2. Assessing which of these I could call on or action at different times of the day
  3. Putting my tools in to action!

So let me ask you – what makes you happy?

What will you put in your toolkit to help you get the most out of your day?

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi

 

Lessons I learned climbing mountains

Welcome to Life Support our guest blogger Peter McFadyen, who in this post shares some of the lessons he learned climbing mountains.  What mountain are you climbing?  

Let your life be your message.

Michelle

One of the joys of my life is mountain climbing.  I came into the sport late and, in truth, just to spend some time with my wife and get a chance to visit Africa and maybe see a cheetah or two!  At that stage I was more interested in the safari than the summit!  We climbed two mountains that trip.  Mt Meru came first as an acclimatisation climb.  At 4,562m it was a truly challenging introduction to mountain climbing!  From the top we could see our ultimate challenge – Mt Kilimanjaro!  At 5,895m it’s the highest peak in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.  Our attitude towards this sort of adventure is that if you are going to do something then it may as well be a challenge.  It was an amazing adventure in an amazing part of the world spent with an amazing group of people, some of whom we are still close friends with.

I came away from that most amazing of experiences swearing that I would never step foot on another mountain again in my life!

Over the next three months, I noticed that the problems in my life all seemed much more manageable.  I had grown a lot more confident in my ability to handle just about anything that came my way.  I had also become a lot more comfortable in being uncomfortable and this allowed me to be more open to opportunity and challenge.  These three changes to my nature provided a powerful springboard to my journey of personal development and making the most of my life.  About that time a great mate of ours said he was training a new group of climbers to take on Kilimanjaro to do some fundraising and asked me if I’d help them train.  Once I started training again I realised how much I loved the training and being around people who shared my passion and I began to wonder if I had perhaps been a bit hasty in my decision never to climb again.

 

Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa
At the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa – the highest freestanding mountain in the world

This great mate of ours tells people that “Whenever you climb you leave something of yourself on the mountain and you take something away” – and I believe he’s right.  I now climb with him and we’ve since moved on to more technical climbing.  This requires a greater level of training and a lot more focus and in return it rewards you with even greater insight into who you are and allows you to be comfortable with that person.  Of course, this is the benefit in taking on any challenge that pushes us and there are “mountains” around us all the time in our everyday lives just waiting to be climbed.

On a recent climbing expedition I ended up with a failed attempt for the summit of Mt Aspiring in New Zealand.  Despite it being a “failed attempt I did get in a few other summits, I had a great time and learnt a lot of new skills that would come in handy in later climbs.  While I was writing down my experiences each night I ended up building a random list under the heading of “Things learned while climbing.”

On my return home I found that lot of those lessons could be applied to help me in my everyday life and I’d like to share them with you.

·     Preparation and application are key to success.  Wishes don’t climb mountains!

·     Never panic.  Stay centred and move with determination and with a clear path in mind.

·     Each step must be taken in order to reach the summit.

·     Do few things quickly but when speed is needed, do these things well.

·     If at first you don’t succeed be open to a better path – it’s there to be found.

·     Don’t dwell in difficult areas.  Move through them to a place of rest and a clear view.

·     More can be learned through hard earned failure than through easy achievement.

·     We are capable of great things if we go into them willingly, with a smile and a clear purpose.  The greatest limit is in not attempting the challenge.

·     The emotion you feel on achieving your goal may not be the one you expected but it is the right one for you if you allow it to be.  Take thetime to enjoy it and learn from it.

·     Many things must combine for you to summit. No-one summits or fails to summit by themselves – to claim that is to carry an unbearable load.

·     Look forward to see your goal, look back to see what you have already achieved, focus on each step to ensure the next step is on the best path.

·     Your chances of success rely just as much on your partners as they do on yourself – what are you doing to help them to be ready to summit?

·     Take on challenges not to achieve but to believe in the best of yourself and make it true.

 

Climbing in snow
Reminders every day of what I learned climbing and how it helps my life

I have these lessons printed up on my wall and refer to them whenever I feel I’m losing my way or when I feel a goal I have is unattainable.   Mountains are all around us in our everyday lives and every time we set out to “summit” we grow in our abilities and our self-knowledge.

What mountain are you climbing right now?  What gifts can they give you?  What are you learning?

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi