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.

 

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

2017 Year in Review – Part 2 of 2 – So how did you go?

This is Part 2 of my two part 2017 Year in Review.  If you haven’t read Part 1 you can find it here.

In Part 1 we covered my intention to live a values led life and I talked about how I had structured my 2017 goals around my core values.  I assessed how I went against the first 4 of my 9 goal areas: Spiritual and Emotional; Health and Fitness; Connection; and Self-Development and Growth. 

In this instalment I have a look at how I went against the final 5 of my 9 goal areas. 

5. Character

As I mentioned above, each year I review my values and 2017 was no different and this year I also structured my goals around my core values. 

I read as many books as I could.  Actually that’s an outright lie.  I spent more time on Social Media (especially Facebook) than I should have, when I could have used that time to read more books, a pastime I really enjoy.

 

Finally finished!

Over five long and painful sessions I had my full sleeve tattoo finished – and I have no regrets.  The fears that held me back from getting a sleeve tattoo all these years were faced down and I feel liberated and at peace with my decision.  For so many years I have wanted to do this and have let the fear of what others might think stop me in my tracks, keeping any tattoos I did get in places more easily covered up. 

 

On the Summit of Mt Tibrogargan – exhilarated, exhausted, elated! Outside my comfort zone.

Part of my character that I want to nurture is to allow myself, to push myself, to go outside my comfort zone on a regular basis.  I did this in 2017 through undertaking a 6 week pole dancing course, spending 5 days in the backcountry of the Snowy Mountains on a mountaineering course and also (rock) climbed Mt Tibrogargan in the Glass House Mountains in Queensland.  I tried at least once a week to do less drastic things to stretch the edges of the comfort zone but I feel these three things in particular were such a big stretch outside my comfort zone they require mentioning. 

2017 saw me wishing to live more intentionally and in that light, I committed to living the Four Agreements (Miguel Ruiz).  It was harder than I thought.  The four agreements are: Be impeccable with your word; Don’t make assumptions; Don’t take anything personally; and Always do you best.  If you haven’t read this book I would highly recommend it.  I’ll keep committing to living these four agreements into 2018 and beyond and know with practice and conscious effort, I’ll get better at it.

6. Wealth

An important one in order to allow me to do all the great things I want to do! 

Together my husband and I renovated an investment property and will have that on the market for rental soon.  There I go – another flat out lie.  Ok I had little to do with it except to ask how it was going, and my husband actually renovated the place, not me.  I’m not really into it. 

We also committed to throw some more money on our home mortgage and we were successful in this.  The big aim now is to get it down even further and I must say I am revitalised after reading the Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape.  An easy read (I got through the entire book in two sittings) and with some great advice – some will suit us and some not, but I’m willing to try new things. 

7. Career and Mission

I clocked up five years in my current executive public sector role and signed up for another five.  I’m not really sure what my career looks like into the future but right now, I’m feeling like I’m making a difference and stretching out from my traditional role.  2018 will see more planning in this regard. 

I had the pleasure of mentoring a very skilled, intelligent and driven professional woman, albeit our relationship was brief as she took the opportunity to take the leap over the ditch to take up a seat at the executive table (a jump up in position) in New Zealand.  These are the women I love to be around – they see they are better than this, they see that they can do more, be more – and rather than sit around and lament that they can’t be all that where they are, they get up and go somewhere they can be all that.  I loved the process of mentoring her and particularly taking her through the Strength Profile tool and helping her see where her unrealised strengths were and what she could do about it. 

After a number of years of procrastination, I launched Life Support as a website and Facebook page, prompted by the 30 Day Blogging Challenge that I came across on Facebook.  I am over half way through the free 30 day course and it’s been really useful and enlightening.  The development of my website www.lifesupportaustralia.com has given me an avenue to share my stories and my learnings from life, and holds my blogs and some other general information.  I have many plans for Life Support and will be launching a product through it in the coming year.  I’ll keep you posted. 

Peace maker – Dream chaser

2017 saw me undertake training in Mediation.  That’s Mediation not Meditation.  In 2018 I will undertake my final accreditation before adding Accredited Mediator to my portfolio.  A friend recently told me she understood mediators to be peace makers – I like that analogy. 

8. Recreation and Travel

Oh I so love travel – adventures are the best way to learn.  It’s about that exhilarating feeling of teetering on the edge of the unknown.  I can never get enough of it.  So in 2017, I completed my fifth trek across the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.  I never get tired of this one and I love leading and guiding my trekkers to achieve what is, for most of them, the single most physically, mentally and emotionally challenging adventure they have ever undertaken.  I get so much from this gig that I don’t know if I could ever give it up.  My knees might tell me a different story in the coming years but until then…bring on the next one! 

 

Selfie time with friends in the village of Naduri in Papua New Guinea

I trekked the Green Gully Track in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park – a five day trip carrying all you need on your back, with some amazingly beautiful landscapes.  A challenging experience, providing confidence and growth every step of the way. 

As mentioned above, a five day mountaineering course in the backcountry of the Snowy Mountains gave me some skills and experiences that I will never forget.  You can read about it here – needless to say, sometimes you get more than you expect! 

On the lighter side, I wanted to see more live music in 2017 and I have loved actioning this goal!  It’s taken me to new places, with friends and family, and I’ve gotten to see and sing along to James Taylor, Bernard Fanning, Kasey Chambers, The Waifs, Doug Anthony Allstars, Midnight Oil, The Village People, Marcia Hines, Sister Sledge and KC and the Sunshine Band!

9. Home and Lifestyle

I love our home – it’s an old house near the beach.  It has a wonderful energy and it’s my sanctuary.  I love where I live. 

This year we started developing a renovation plan for our home and I’m really looking forward to making some improvements that are around lifestyle choices.  Hand in hand with this is my commitment to simplification.  I have over the past few years realised that I have too much ‘stuff’ and instead of me owning my stuff, it’s owning me.  No sooner have I given all the rooms a spring clean and donated box loads to the Op Shops then I start again!  Yeah I know, the key is to stop replacing that ‘stuff’ once I’ve tossed it.  Still learning this. 

Bring on 2018!

So there it is – my year in review 2017. Too often I move from one achievement to the next project and don’t take any time to celebrate what I’ve achieved.  This review is a way for me to take a breath, recognise where I nailed it, and where I didn’t (and why) and refocus for 2018. 

 

Take the time to celebrate!

One key question that has come out of taking the time to review my 2017, is this:

Why is that I don’t have any trouble keeping promises and commitments to others, but I don’t keep the promises and commitments I make to myself? 

Something to ponder for 2018.             

Whatever your 2017 held for you, I urge you to take the time to review it.

If you haven’t already done an exercise around identifying your Values then I would recommend you do so.  It drives everything for me these days – including my goals and resolutions for each year.  After all, it’s hard to be yourself if you don’t know yourself.  I can take people through this process (it’s one of my favourite things to do) however if you do an internet search on ‘free values determination tools’ you’ll find a few there. 

Thanks for the memories 2017!  Another year I am blessed with challenges and with good health and loving friends and family.  I hope you were too.

Let’s rock 2018!   

“Let your life be your message” – Mahatma Gandhi