Sacred Journeys – September 2014

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An Adventure That Changed My Life

Vancouver Island is where I lived until I was 11 years old. Its salty air, mossy trees, and forest slugs were all part of island life. An opportunity to return to the island came this summer; I would be there long enough to be able to find my first ‘sentient-self’ again – that magical child who sensed the vastness of the universe through the ancient beauty and presence of the trees, and the rhythm of the ocean tides. My life-longing to return to my birthplace was not about collecting memories. Rather, as I discovered later, it was about making contact with those original childhood experiences of accepting my interconnection, and owning my original purity and potential. Hiking the West Coast trail this summer – an ancient forest of 300 to 750-year-old Douglas Fir trees, waterfalls, and wild beaches – proved to be that extraordinary journey.

It was fun preparing for the hike, as friends offered air mattresses, backpacks, water purifiers and dehydrated food recipes. Hiking for eight days, with no roads or cell service, and the potential for rescue by boat or helicopter only, changes how you pack. Luckily my fellow travellers were experienced and generous guides. The forest managers warn that you must be an experienced hiker. I am not. I confess there was a moment, before I flew out, when I saw photos of the ladders, clearly hundreds of feet high, and I grew faint of heart. But, as the trip would prove, there was no room for fear in the way forward. A metaphor for life.

We began at Port Renfrew, where a boat dropped us at the trail head. The first three days were the most difficult. On day one, we hiked straight up. Even the best of us travelled at a mere one km/hr, up dirt paths made of tree roots, stepping higher than our knees,  adapting to a 40 lb. pack. But there were many days of this ahead, so one had to find the strength, again and again. The campsites were all on the beach, had waterfalls for fresh water, and were kept pristine by previous trekkers. There were bear boxes for our food, posters warning us about cougar activity on the trail, and dry driftwood for fire. Trying to turn over in my sleeping bag at night, my legs were so swollen I could barely move. Despite our physical capabilities, there was no lack of sharing of homeopathic Arnica, and other aids, between all of us as we rose each day to morning fog and aching muscles.

By the end of the second day, we had learned to jump deftly from wet boulder to wet boulder, letting go of our fears as we leapt over crevices filled with surging tidal pools, trusting our footing, and appreciating the beautiful anemones in the calm pools underfoot. That night, I awoke to find my sleeping bag, and tent, full of scurrying creatures. Moments later, at 2 a.m., the supermoon high-tide had soaked all the tents around us. The whole campsite was awake, shaking hundreds of creatures, and water, out of tents. I privately believe our tent was spared the flooding because I had found an eagle feather that day, and kept feeding it tobacco by my tent door.

Day three heralded my personal transformation. The day was long, and I was already sore and exhausted beyond description. But it was not until I saw the ladders we had to scale, in order to reach the suspension bridge, that I knew survival required a new story about myself. There was no room for retreat, excuses, limitation, or weakness. One of the ladders – on an odd slant, and running over a bare rock – proved to be more of a crawl than a climb. One foot, one foot, one hand, one hand. Each of us needed to be fully present in order to make the descent. One slip and death would be the most likely outcome. At one point, I heard the compass on my hiking stick fall down, and down, and down. I stopped listening for it. One foot, one foot, one hand, one hand. I felt both the thrill of accomplishment, and a quiet, steady strength – present within me all along, but hidden behind stories of limitation.

I knew I was never going to be the same. Conquering the trail, I’d burned off all my old stories about being: the shortest in my class, the slowest runner, the shortest high jumper. I loved my legs, my arms, my beating heart. I was strong, and grateful for my body having been put to the test. I was thriving – and I was gifted with a second eagle feather that day.

We were told to wear bells and sing songs to alert the bears and cougars to our presence; I sang songs of love to the forest, and songs of gratitude to my body. Releasing all the stories that no longer served me, I literally lost the fat of false beliefs and gained the new muscle that comes from marrying the heart and will to the body. I am never going to complain about my body again. Imagine that, ladies – never again! Now that was worth the trip, right there!

Later, my friend and astrologer peeked at my chart; turns out that the day I began my trek, Venus was in the exact same position as when I was born. I had returned to my first heart, the one filled with potential and power, before the stories started; and there I fell in love … with me!

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