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Entries from September 2009

How ignoring my Inner Nag got me to Africa.

September 17th, 2009 · 9 Comments

Does she have an Inner Nag?

Does she have an Inner Nag?

Over and over, I’ve been asked the same thing about my recent trip to Africa: what was the best part, the most important thing I learned, my biggest “aha”?  The people, the animals, the landscape, the country, and the African STAR workshop enriched my life in so many ways.  Did one thing stand out?

I puzzled over this, and then it hit me.

The biggest lesson for me was this–I went.  I didn’t take the advice of the whiney chorus of nagging, nay-saying voices in my head intoning “NO-O-O-O. Don’t go.  You shouldn’t do this,” somber as a criminal court judge handing down a life sentence without possibility of parole.

“You don’t have the time,” the clockwatcher crisply noted.  “You don’t have the money,” begged the voice of lack, convinced it’s the only thing between me and a life spent living under a bridge with my worldly belongings in a shopping cart.  “You didn’t plan this far enough in advance,” clucked the practical one as she studied the lists on her clipboard. “The long plane ride will wipe you out,” implored the hand-wringer that thinks danger and injury lurk around every corner.  “Everyone will think it’s foolish/be jealous/won’t like you,” pleaded the approval-junkie that desperately wants to get along well with others.

Is she looking for approval?

Is she looking for approval?

I’d heard them all before, cautioning me not to seize other opportunities in my life.  I’ve listened to their advice many times.  This time, I realized they were just the voices of limiting thoughts that weren’t true.   So I thanked them for their efforts.  And I ignored them.

Oh my stomach still did loops when I gave the airline agent my credit card information.  But I knew my feelings were coming from thoughts fueled by my Inner Nags.  So I bought the ticket.

And I had a fantastic trip with absolutely no regrets.  I was enchanted.  I learned.  I grew.  I shared amazing sights and transformative insights with fabulous people.  I had an adventure.  It felt light and airy and magical and free.  And it still does.

He doesn't seem to be worried about his future.

He doesn't seem to be worried about his future.

The Buddha taught that you can always know the sea because it always tastes of salt and you can always know enlightenment because it always tastes like freedom.

I can recall so many adventures that I’ve passed up because I chose to believe that chorus of hyper-cautious, sensible voices.  This time I listened to the deeper, wiser voice inside me.  “Go,” it whispered.  “This is an opportunity of a lifetime.  Don’t pass it up.  Go.”

Recognizing and listening to that still, quiet voice of truth is the greatest lesson I learned.   And it’s delicious.  It tastes like freedom.

Tags: desire · fear · stillness · thinking · truth

How to deal with anything life brings.

September 11th, 2009 · 5 Comments

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Among the many lessons in the African bush, the lesson of stillness unfolded again and again. Many times during our game drives, we were invited to get still and notice what was happening around us.  Putting down our cameras and stopping our social chitchat, we sat still and simply did nothing.

I’d never been in a place where there was stillness in every direction, where the sights and sounds of human activity were completely absent, where not even the hum of a distant highway or an occasional overhead airplane broke the silence.  Only the subtle presence of nature surrounded us.

Before long, our Shangaan tracker would quietly gesture to something which we hadn’t immediately comprehended.

Like the beautiful blue heron sitting beside this lake,

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impala grazing across the field,

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zebras hiding in the grasses,

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hippos disguised as boulders,

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and elephants emerging from the forest.

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The more still we get, the more we see and hear and learn, and the more we connect with the beauty and wonder always around us.  This is the place we can access the wisest parts within us, where we can become the detached, curious observers of ourselves, and where we can always know peace.

Lao Tzu teaches, “Empty your mind of all thoughts, let your heart be at peace  . . . you can deal with whatever life brings you.”

Africa was a powerful reminder.

Tags: Uncategorized

Which one is the real world?

September 8th, 2009 · 14 Comments

Londolozi, South Africa

Each dawn we bundle up and sleepily climb into an open Range Rover.  We pull thick wool blankets across our laps, gratefully tuck our hands around the hot water bottle nestled inside, and head out across a network of dirt trails traversing gently rolling hills and grassy fields.

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We pass leafless tree-skeletons

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and quiet ponds ringed with vibrant green marshes.

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It looks very much like the open lands in the Colorado foothills, with one very significant exception.  Londolozi teems with an incredibly diverse array of animals and birds not found in the wild in North America.  Nyala, kudu, duiker, impala, hare, vulture, eagle, bat, heron, mongoose, monkey, warthog, baboon, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, elephant, water buffalo, hippopotamus, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, hyena, crocodile, duck, stork, lizard, guinea fowl, lilac-breasted roller–the list is endless and in short time, we see them all.

And it’s up close and personal. . . .
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We sit motionless, spellbound by the antics of lion cubs pouncing on their macho but indulgent father.

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We’re awed by the sublime

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And the ridiculous

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We’re even charged by this grumpy, one-tusked bull elephant.  Our adrenaline was running so high, I missed the photo op.

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He’s probably responsible for snapping the tree limb here, so luckily he only wanted to chase us off.  We happily indulged him.

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The full moon is shinier and fuller and more beautiful than ever before when sitting atop a termite mound.

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And just as we were getting used to the idea that we really were in Africa, that we really were seeing the African land, the African moon, and that the animals really hadn’t escaped from the zoo, it was time to leave.

Toward the end of the week, a couple of folks in our group voiced their dread of returning to “the real world.”  Which raises a fascinating question—which one is the real world anyway?  Is it the one at home, with careers, relationships, fashion, television, mortgages, the internet, and animals who eat from cans?  Or is it here, in the African bush?

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Tags: noticing · truth