Spring Courtright, and I led two fabulous Women’s Transformational Kayak Journeys this summer. The experiences were empowering as they provided a certain challenge, a lot of fun, and a way, through sharing and being witnesses for each other, to bring learning back into our lives. Great women wisdom was shared!
Challenges help us to be more aware of our inner state, and with awareness comes freedom. Two predominant themes emerged. One was the desire to connect authentically. People are craving the opportunity to feel connected and to share from their hearts. People long for real heart to heart communication, speaking about what is truly alive and what moves them, and sharing in a way that feels safe and comfortable.
On the trips, when we set the tone and introduced our way of listening and communicating, a valve opened up and gratitude and enthusiasm started pouring out. People were thrilled to be able to be themselves and to be seen and accepted for who they were. We forget how often society demands that we try to be something we are not. We harbor some hidden belief that we are not enough as we are. We fear that people won’t like us or appreciate us if we reveal our true selves. We also constantly face the reality that when we share some tender truth, we often get a response back that is at best not helpful and at worst, actually painful, because most people have never been educated about communication. And some people are in so much pain themselves, that they cannot be supportive of others, and are really best avoided. It is important to let go of toxic relationships, if at all possible, or, to minimize their impact by not taking anything personally.
Creating a safe container is key. Aspects of safety include: holding space for the speaker, refraining from giving advice or bringing up our own story in response to the speaker’s story, and finding a place of non-judgment within ourselves from which we can openheartedly remain curious and receptive about what is true for someone else.
It is amazing how someone’s story can touch something within us, trigger something maybe, and boom… we are off and running about our own issue. But focusing on ourselves is not really supportive of others. We have found that the best way to help people feel fully heard is to sit in a circle and give each person a chance to tell their story without any comment at all, or just a reflection back of what was heard. We support each other with our attention and our open hearts. We listen, accept, feel our common humanity, and offer our love. This is what people want and need.
We would generally ask a deepening question, and everyone would speak to it, such as: what obstacles did you have to overcome to be here; or what steps can you take now, to bring into your life the change you would like. Everyone could reflect deeply and share an intimate part of themselves, and with our format, people felt safe to really dig deeply. This way of sharing really filled the need to connect authentically. And we celebrated that connection with lots of chatting, laughing, bonding, great camaraderie, and sharing of wisdom.
The other theme that emerged was that, as women, we often spend our lives taking care of others and putting others’ needs first. Taking care of others is a source of great joy, but sometimes, deeply engrained patterns and ways of thinking and behaving prevent us from leading fully actualized lives because we don’t develop the capacity to put ourselves first. We might be workaholics, addicted to being productive or to having everything clean or orderly at all times, or have some other compulsion that makes us put something ahead of our true selves. We have to be aware of our own needs, and know how to meet them, and not let them be drowned out by all the demands that life places on us.
Airline travel teaches us to put our own oxygen mask on first but we often forget that in our daily life. Through talking about this shared reality, we learned that a simple shift can make a big difference. If we admit the need to fill our cup first, so that we can better serve others, it can help us justify doing for ourselves. If we understand that taking care of ourselves is not only good modeling for those we love, but that it also enables us to give our best back. It is, in a sense, our responsibility. We can accomplish this by noticing subtle shifts in our inner state and by cultivating the ability to say yes and no appropriately. Yes please, more of that. No thank you, not now, I can’t do that- for those of us who are unaccustomed- it feels weird and takes practice!
The concepts of giving and receiving, taking in and taking care are aspects of the Earth Element, which is alive in this harvest season between summer and fall. It is really a good time to practice taking in the abundance that is there for all of us, to relish the conscious act of receiving, to cultivate the art of giving from an overflowing self, and to take care of yourself lovingly.
Giving ourselves the gift of experience is a great way to take care of ourselves on a deeply nurturing level. More than possessions or consumables, moving experiences can help us grow, change, learn, and blossom into all that we want to be. They can shake up our life and let those things that don’t serve us filter out, while leaving the things that are truly important and most helpful. Consider putting off that remodel or new gadget and go on a trip or take a class or workshop. We become more through what we do, our life reflects our choices, our capacities grow as we allow new experiences to move us.
Think about joining me in Oaxaca- either in October or next January, for a truly life changing and transformative experience. You will be so happy you did. And if it is a challenge- well, that can be a gift too.
Thanks for reading this! Stay in touch and let me know your thoughts.