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Transcending Your Circumstances: Taking Only What You Need

I took this photo in Catalonia, Spain from the basket of a hot air balloon. We got up before the sun and rose up over the mountains as the sun started to paint the sky with color. On the way there, it was dark and I was sleepy and therefore somewhat grumpy. As we pulled up to our location, our bus parked right beside the field where a donkey loudly greeted me as I descended the stairs of the bus into the darkness ahead of me. To say that I was surprised by this greeting is a vast understatement.

I impatiently awaited the news as to whether or not we would be able to take flight that morning, having been disappointed by a previous experience. I continued to be grumpy about the fact that I had not had any coffee and would not be able to as having to pee while in the balloon would be an uncomfortable situation in more ways than one.

Eventually, we received word that we would take flight and the slow yet magical process of inflating the balloon for take off began.

The hot air balloons as they were being inflated. I rode in the green one and the red and white one is the one pictured flying nearby in the first photo of this post.

As we were floating high above the mountains which enveloped the road we traveled on to reach the field with the donkeys that so abruptly announced our arrival, any grumpiness that I had about not getting my morning coffee or concerns about potentially having to pee mid-flight vanished. I was now completely immersed in the serene silence of the world above, surrounded by strangers that immediately became new friends, and the awestruck feeling of how beautiful everything was from this perspective.

This hot air balloon journey is only a tiny moment in the larger experience that took place as I traveled throughout the Catalan region of Spain, and symbolically representative of a small insight gained within a much greater understanding within my own Spiritual journey through life. Reflecting back on it now, I can easily see the ties to all that came before it and all that has come since, yet at the time, I was just on a trip to Spain excited, a bit nervous, and at times impatiently awaiting my voyage in a hot air balloon.

Yes, this is the actual donkey that I referred to earlier. It was quite cute and friendly once the light allowed me to see it, but nearly made me jump out of my skin when it hee-hawed from the darkness, merely feet away from my sleepy self.

Years ago, when I was an art teacher, I would teach my students that they are never an expert the first time they try to do something. This theme would inevitably come up year after year, class after class, as someone or the collective group would break down in frustration over a process or skill that they were attempting to learn. Each time, I would ask the class for a volunteer to talk about something they are really good at. I would then ask them to think back to the first time they tried whatever skill or activity it was that they chose, and really break down whether or not they were "good" at it then or not.

We often found that they would choose to speak about something that they were not only good at doing, but also really enjoyed, and even further that they wanted to learn in the first place. As humans, we are highly capable of learning any number of things; skills, activities, or bodies of knowledge, when we put our minds to it. Yet we move through the learning process much easier when we choose to pursue something rather than when it is our responsibility to do so or it has been imposed upon us.

This photo was taken while participating in a lesson on how to emboss copper at the Albert Gilles Copper Art Studio during a trip to Quebec, Canada.

When we are babies, we are in a constant state of learning and growing. Many of the skills and knowledge that is attained, move us along our growth or knowledge path at a slow and steady pace. However, there are some skills or milestones that create a quantum leap or a massive shift in our realities. These are skills like learning to walk or use language to communicate.

Prior to the point where we can stand up and walk across a room to secure a toy that we have our mind set on, or receive a loving embrace from another human or animal friend, we have a desire to move more independently. It is this desire that drives us to learn the necessary skills to achieve our intended outcome. This analogy is frequently referred to when someone reminds you to take "baby steps".

This is not my baby. This is not my photo. It's a stock photo from Unsplash by Alexander Drummer, but I appreciate the efforts of this baby to transcend their circumstances and overcome limitations.

We tend to have not only more patience with, but wonder and excitement around the process of watching a baby learn these skills that we deem to be a necessity in life, than we do when we are learning something new ourselves. We celebrate each wobbly step with claps and cheers and hugs and kisses. Imagine if you gave yourself the same love and compassion and encouragement as you wobble through a new life skill or process of understanding something.

There is a self-care ritual that I came across several years ago (I can't remember where exactly I read it - in a blog post somewhere, I believe) where the woman who was writing mentioned that she sets a goal to have 10 tiny celebrations everyday for herself. These celebrations are not intended for the quantum leap moments, but the micro steps that eventually add up to something bigger, which continue adding up until a change or shift occurs. She also suggested making a big deal of these celebrations through the words you choose and the enthusiasm that you give to them.

If I were to use this as an example in my day so far today, I could list celebrations like:

  • Yay, Regyna! I'm so proud of you for getting up early before your alarm when you woke up naturally!

  • Wow, great job choosing to sit and read and reflect this morning while the house is still and quiet!

  • Opening the curtains to let in the light and watch the rain really made you feel happy. Awesome job recognizing that and making it happen!

By the time you reach the end of your day, you feel like a rock star! I suggest trying it. It will probably feel silly at first, but it's amazing how quickly you shift to a place where you no longer feel foolish and begin to really enjoy this process.

These tiny celebrations encourage you and remind you to feel good about the small moments that lead you progressively toward the big shifts and changes that you desire in your life. Eventually, you reach a tipping point where there is one final step that may feel like it is enormous, but in actuality it is just one more tiny step. Often, this "step" is actually a decision. It is the moment when you determine that it is now time to put into action what you have been preparing for.

This photo was taken as I was about to descend a long and precarious staircase leading to a breathtakingly beautiful beach near Coromandel, New Zealand. Both the slow and careful descent as well as the steep climb back up were 100% worth the effort. Read to the end of the post to see the view.

When you finally made the shift from crawling to walking, you likely stopped crawling for the most part in favor of your new found freedom and the efficiency that walking brought with it. This does not mean however, that you no longer know how to crawl, or do not have a need for it on occasion. As an adult looking to get something out from under the bed, or playing with a small child, we may utilize this long discarded skill as it is the most appropriate means of movement for the situation.

When we leave something behind, it does not mean that we forever abandon it and can never use it again if or when we need it. This goes for painful moments in our lives as well. We can choose to keep reliving those moments and suffer the pain over and over again, or we can learn from them and take the lessons and skills that we gained forward with us; leaving the rest behind. I'll use a common childhood experience to illustrate this.

If you were to touch a hot stove and receive a burn from the experience, you may end up with a physical scar on your body where it once touched the hot surface. While there is certainly physical pain that came along with the scar as it was created, and likely while it healed, there is also a mental scar that accompanies it. You may have gotten in trouble for touching the stove. Your caregiver may have yelled at you either as a warning or after it was over; this was most likely an expression of their concern for your well being and of their disappointment with themselves for not being able to protect you from harm.

This is a caution sign from an elevator ride that I took while traveling in Berlin, Germany. I believe it was saying not to get in the elevator in the case of a fire. I share this in the spirit of the theme of images attained while traveling which I've been using throughout this post.

In many cases, as the physical pain of a situation or circumstance begins to fade, we revisit the mental pain that accompanied it repeatedly. This is what suffering is; when we revisit the pain of a situation over and over and therefore continue to experience the pain associated with it. In addition to the pain that we experienced, we may have also received punishment in the form of newly implemented physical restrictions or words that brought with them additional suffering.

We eventually detach from the physical pain in such situations, but the scar on our body remains as a reminder of what occurred. We will likely not touch a hot stove again, but what might we carry with us emotionally for years to come? Do we digest the words that were spoken out of worry and fear (which actually were love disguised as fear and worry) and begin to believe that we are actually bad or naughty or careless? Does this become the soundtrack that runs in our subconscious and we spend our lives trying to prove otherwise to ourselves and everyone we encounter?

Another caution sign from my travels. This one was found at a wildlife sanctuary near Sydney, Australia. I happened to be traveling with a friend who was extremely afraid of birds. This sign was far too accurate a representation of her trauma-induced reaction to birds.

This is what trauma is. Regardless the severity of the situation, when we have an experience that "leaves a mark" on us either physically or emotionally, we carry it with us until we find a way to heal it. Trauma can come in the form of one significant event, or begin as something seemingly small and insignificant at the time, that grows in intensity and strength as other seemingly insignificant events align with it, and create another layer of scar tissue.

When we think about the physicality of scar tissue in/on our bodies, we know that it is dense and harder, or less pliable and flexible than our "normal" or "healthy" tissue. It is often raised up if on the surface of our body and void of pigment, or a slightly different color than the tissue around it. This is also the case for emotional scar tissue. It is more dense and less flexible. It is often an energetic block and may be perceived as feeling heavy or draining. This is why we refer to it often as "baggage". We drag it behind us, full of all of the moments and trauma of our past that we have not yet healed or integrated into our soul.

My big red suitcase in action on its way to China with me. I have frequently traveled internationally and/or domestically for months at a time and have dragged a big heavy bag with me all over the world. Over the years, I have learned how to significantly cut down what I need to survive on and enjoy the journey to get to/from my destination exponentially more.

Just as a baby may transcend its need for crawling but still has the knowledge and lessons that it once brought them, we can transcend our experiences while bringing forth only the knowledge and skills that we need from them. Likewise, just as my art students more freely spoke about their chosen activities and lessons learned, we more easily progress and transcend into new patterns and beliefs when we are driven by an internal desire for growth. When we reach those pivotal moments that follow that final step which brings us to a quantum leap or major shift on our journey, we can then look back at how far we've come and enjoy our newly expanded view with a sense of accomplishment.

Here I am on my hike in New Zealand, all sweaty from the climb yet feeling healthy, happy, and completely in love with the view.

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