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

Keeping dreams alive one dream at a time – my dream to walk the Camino

I’ve had to work hard at keeping my dreams alive. Haven’t we all? 

One of those dreams I’ve had for like, ever.  It was something I’ve wanted to do since my early 20’s but I never knew it was a real thing until many years later.

I was in my late teens when I first came across author Paulo Coelho. I was given a copy of his book “The Pilgrimage” and I devoured it – loving the sense of wonder and adventure of the spiritual journey he took the reader on while he himself walked his own spiritual journey.  Coelho is also the author of the best seller and ancient fable, The Alchemist, my all time favourite book in the entire world – I know, that’s a big call.

As I wandered through the pages of The Pilgrimage, where Coelho took me on a journey through Spain, I thought that putting on a backpack and walking day after day sounded like an amazing dream.  I had no idea at the time of reading that the walk he did was a real walk and that the book was autobiographical.  I’d paid that little attention at the time.

I held this dream for over a decade – dreaming of this imaginary walk and wishing there was a way I could do something like this.  I didn’t even own a backpack and hiking wasn’t in my repertoire of pursuits.

 

Follow the arrows
Follow the yellow arrows

Life happened for the next decade or more and I recall over time hearing about this walk in Spain and it was with amazement one day I put the two together.

I realised the walk Paulo Coelho did in his book “The Pilgrimage” was in fact the Camino de Santiago and it was a real thing!  In fact, the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

The most popular route is the Camino Frances which stretches 780 km (nearly 500 miles) from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago.

I am going to do this walk.  I am going to put on my backpack and make my dream come true, and I am going to start this next week.

 

Backpack
It’s real and I’m packed

Have you ever held a dream in your heart for so long that when it finally looks like it’s coming to fruition, it’s almost surreal?  That’s where I am at the moment and it caused me to have a think about how I made this dream come true and how I fulfilled an (almost) life long goal.  Because you can imagine, taking off with your backpack for a couple of months to live in hostels and walk everyday takes some planning, some sacrifices and some deep commitment.

  1. Keep the dream alive – read everything you can about it. 

When I understood that the dream I had was a real thing, a real walk, I devoured every piece of information I could on it.  I read guidebooks – my first guidebook was delivered over a decade before I actually booked flights (needless to say I needed to upgrade to the latest version), I watched ‘The Way‘ movie once or twice.  Ok I’ve watched it over a dozen times now.  While I was never in much of a position to put the dream in to reality for all those years, I never lost sight of it.  I even started to learn to speak Spanish over 10 years ago – just in case I ever pulled this off!  It was always there, waiting for me to find the right time, the right place and to have the courage to take the plunge.

 

Dream Catcher - keeping dreams alive
How will you keep your dreams alive?

2. Know that there is a time and place

Up until a few months ago when I booked my flights, I knew I had no hope of doing this trip.  I had a life that prevented me taking the steps to get on over there for two months.  I chose those other things (like family and career) over this dream – all the while keeping it alive (see point 1) because I knew, deep in my soul, that this journey was meant for me and that when the time came, I would be ready.  That’s not to say there were times when I felt I would never turn the dream in to a plan and then subsequently in to a reality – there were.  But each year I would reaffirm my desire and wait until the time came that I could really start planning.

3. Hand it over to the Universe  – but also take action

In saying there is always a time and a place, and espousing my patience around this dream fulfilment, I did have to be proactive.  Keeping myself open to signs, I was also making plans that allowed for the dream to become a reality. Some of these more practical things were: saving up annual leave and long service leave balances; getting my family in on my excitement even if I had no idea when it might all happen; remaining healthy and well so that my body could handle the 800km walk; opening a savings account to quarantine funds especially for this goal.

4. Stop reading everything you can about it

Whatever your dream is, it is your dream and no-one else’s.  I know this contradicts point 1 above where I said to read everything you can about it, but one thing I realised as the dream became a plan and as the time to departure drew closer, was that I was at great risk of heading out on this journey with the expectations and desires and experiences of everyone else except me!  My advice would be to research enough so that you feel confident that you know what you need to know to get by, and leave the rest of the adventure up to the adventure fairies.

 

Long walk
The long walk after the long dream

5. Take a moment to realise you are actually doing this

That moment I clicked the purchase button on my flights to Paris was surreal.  I sat staring at my laptop screen for a while before I gave myself permission to actually celebrate.  A friend said to me “that’s it, the first step toward fulfilling you dream has been made – your flights are booked”.  No, I replied.  The first step was many decades ago, when I promised myself that this dream was for me and I would not, could not, let it go by the wayside because the time and the place wasn’t right.  I was on my way now and I could congratulate myself on getting this far.  The excitement level just went up a notch!

And I’m off.

So while I have less than a fortnight to go before I board my flight, I realise now how important it was for me to keep this dream alive and work toward it’s reality.  It has been a long time coming.  My backpack is ready.  My body is not quite as ready as I’d like.  My soul is champing at the bit.  My mind and spirit is open.  I am at peace with whatever this journey ends up looking like and I am so blessed to have had the foresight to keep the dream alive.

So, as they say, adios amigos and buen camino.

I hope you find a way to keep your dreams alive.

PS:  I love this poem by Spanish author Antonio Machado – it came into my life only 5 years ago.  Here it is in English as well as the original Spanish.

Wayfarer, there is no path (English)

Wayfarer, the only way

Is your footprints and no other.

Wayfarer, there is no way.

Make your way by going farther.

By going farther, make your way

Till looking back at where you’ve wandered,

You look back on that path you may

Not set foot on from now onward.

Wayfarer, there is no way;

Only wake-trails on the waters.

 

Caminante no hay Camino (Spanish)

Caminante, son tus huellas

el camino y nada más;

Caminante, no hay camino,

se hace camino al andar.

Al andar se hace el camino,

y al volver la vista atrás

se ve la senda que nunca

se ha de volver a pisar.

Caminante no hay camino

sino estelas en la mar.

 

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi