Living in Alignment With Who I Really Am
Revelations from the Heart Cave – Part 1
How a simple-life trip to the Sierra de Gredos over Christmas turned out to be so much more than a typical festive break and instead became a guide to discovering what it really means to live in alignment with who I really am.
I believe that the pursuit of living in alignment with who we really are is directly related to how much we are willing to transform ourselves in the process. After all, an authentic life can only be led by an authentic person. There is no room for facades when following our deepest soul dreams.
This is a post about my own experience of stepping into my most authentic self and living in alignment with who I really am. As I continue on this quest to leave the city behind in favour of an alternative life in the countryside, I continue to be confronted with the reality that in order for me to birth a new life, I myself must first go through a rebirth. It involves letting go of all that was and giving myself the permission to step into the new.
In this post, I reflect on how this process has required me to change as a person and all the wonders and discomforts that this can entail.
This is my experience of this transformation thus far.
A Different Kind Of Christmas
Christmas 2021. Another Christmas away from home. However, this time I had decided to take matters into my own hands and sidestep the strangeness of another Christmas in Madrid. Come the 25th we were packed and in the rental car, heading in the direction of Gredos, a beautiful mountainous area famed for its quaint villages, rivers and pozos to swim in, around an hour and a half from Madrid.
I was desperate to get out of the city and escape the jingle bell rock and Maria Carey repays. Now, I can assure you that I am no Scrooge. In fact, Christmas is usually one of my favourite times of the year. But this year all my soul yearned for was a bit of peace and quiet in nature. No crowds, no pressure, no talk of the dramas of the world. A bit of the simple life to balance out the the busyness of the last month and reflect on the year was what I needed.
Simple Life Holiday
On the advice of my friend Oscár, we had booked five nights in a little round eco-build house in a forest not far from the beautiful village of Valverde de la Vera. The website spoke of being an innovative rural tourism project that combined sustainable building practices with the simple life or the ‘buenos habitos de la vida’, (‘the good habits of life’).
These little roundhouses were equipped with just the bare necessities: a bed, a small kitchen with a hob, a dining table, sofa and log burner. They were situated in a forest of autochthonous trees such as oak, madroño, and cork, as well as an olive grove and fruit trees. The micro-climate there, it claimed, made it an enjoyable temperature all year round for hiking and walking trails.
With the car full of food, books, notebooks and art supplies, we finally arrived. I knew at once that we had made the right decision. Our home for the next five nights was cute and cosy, with pretty decorations with an Indian touch. The views looked out through the forest over the mountains and the village below. We had a little table and chairs outside and a small porch where the firewood was kept.
Who needs 5* resorts when you can have a log burner and nature on your doorstep? This was my idea of luxury!
2021: The Year of Change
2021 had been a tough year for me with a lot of changes. I had left my previous life in the English academy behind and the comfort and security that went with it. That also meant leaving the community that had kept me rooted for the last seven years here, as well as moving on from different friendships and past times. In short, the end of 2021 looked very different for me from how it began, and I was still trying to get my head around it.
I knew that all this change was positive and helped move me in the direction of my dreams, but the intensity of it all had me feeling exhausted. My soul needed some rest, reflection and renewal and I had found the perfect place to do it.
More than anything I needed some time to reconnect with dreams and vision for this next chapter of my life. Although my desire to leave the city never wavers, it’s true that even with the best of intentions, you can easily get distracted from going after what you really want. Especially after going through such a strange and disorientating year. It was time to connect to my heart’s desires once more.
The Heart Cave
Despite the claims about micro-climates on the website, it poured down with rain for the next two days. No hiking for us! Instead, we were forced to stay put in our little house next to the fire. I have to admit, I could hardly complain. All I wanted to do was sit in front of the log burner, read, journal and eat good food.
I was so happy in that little house. Every time I opened the door to admire the nature on our doorstep, my heart sang. Every time I looked up at the wooden ceiling, with its symmetrical beams meeting in the middle like a Buddist mandala, I felt peace. Every time I lit a candle and had some quiet time in front of the fire, I felt joy.
During these few cosy days, I felt the call to go within and reflect on the journey that I had travelled so far without the usual distractions of the festive season. I wanted to return to the Heart Cave, the place of inner connection, knowledge and inspiration; the place we can go to commune with our soul and its true desires, dreams and yearnings.
There in that little roundhouse, sat cross-legged in front of the fire on Christmas day with the sound of the rain on the rooftop, I could truly say that I felt aligned with who I really am. It’s true that I missed my family, and the ‘Merry Christmas’ Whatsapps from old friends had me really a bit out of sorts. After all, two years is a long time to not have been home and the distance seems to grow ever greater.
But yet, I knew that I was in the right place for me. This was where I needed to be and I felt grateful. As much as part of me grieved for all the missed moments shared, knowing that I was in the right place for me brought a sense of peace and contentment.
This was me. This was my kind of life. This is who I have always been but I had never fully stepped into this full awareness. I had somehow managed to think that I could be both who people think I am and who I really am at the same time without any problem.
But 2021 had been a year of stepping out and showing my alternative vision of the world and my life, regardless of what people might think. The show was up: I had been outed. Both to others and myself.
Not that I want to be too hard on myself. Unless you have some alternative influences in your life, it can seem as though the mainstream is all there is. Looking back, I had only encountered alternative ways of living during my explorations on my travels. These experiences were brief but long enough for a seed to be planted. Yet it wasn’t enough for it to sprout strong enough for the modern world of urban living to lose all of its appeal.
Maybe there is a right moment for everything and these urban experiences have been an important part of my journey. This is where I met Sergio, my partner in crime, as well as other very dear friends, after all. I have been able to develop myself as a person, learn a new language and acquire a profession that can take me to where I want to be.
Yet now, the winds have changed and my desires are taking me away from the conveniences of the city. Not only that, but it is also taking me far away from the mainstream Western culture that I have been brought up in.
Realities of the Paradigm Shift
Looking back at my first blog post, in which I invited people to join me in journeying into what Charles Eisenstein calls “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible”, it was obvious that this was going to happen. Except then, I had no idea what this journey truly entailed.
Previously, I had experienced the cultural differences of living in different countries and the reverse culture shock of returning home to the familiar. But after beginning to undertake this journey, I realise that the quest of co-creating a more beautiful world means experiencing another level of differences in perspectives that can be even more alienating than the reverse culture shock of coming home after a long time abroad.
This last year has taken me further away from the overarching paradigm of the Western world and all of the assumptions that make up the cultural waters in which we swim. As uncomfortable as this may be at times, I realise deep down that it cannot be another way. You can’t co-create a more beautiful world if you are keeping one leg in the old, and one leg in the new. You are either in or you are out.
If the world is going to be changed it is not going to be changed using the same tools and assumptions of the same world we have now. As Albert Einstein rightly said, “a problem can’t be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”. That only means one thing: we have to evolve. We have to evolve our ways of looking at the world. First, we change, then the world changes. As within, so without.
Back two years ago when I started writing this blog I knew this. Yet I didn’t know how uncomfortable this process can be. At times it feels exciting, exhilarating and inspiring, and other times it gives me a dizzying sense of altitude sickness and a sense of loneliness as comfort can no longer be found in the old ways.
However, the seed had been planted and had resisted long enough for me to arrive at this point. Was I going to continue down this road that will take me, no doubt, further and further away from all that I have been and known before?
This is a true adventurer’s path: the path of the pioneer. This is what my years travelling the world were preparing me for. I learnt all about getting off the beaten path and doing things differently. Now it is time for me to harness all that I have learnt and go forth into the real off-the-beaten-track realms of the co-creation of a new kind of Earth.
This is the point of no return.
There is no going back to the ‘normal life’ of 9 to 5’s, mortgages and stable careers for me. There is no going back to a comfortable life in the city of consumerism and entertainment. There is no going back to the world of the status quo living passively ignoring what is happening to our Earth and the majority of inhabitants in it.
Life has been preparing me for this moment. Over the last year, I have had the good fortune to connect with new people who are also on the same journey. Some of those have been new friends that have entered my life here in Madrid (Oscár for example!) and old friends that have come back into my life in synchronistic circumstances, such as Iván, from my trip in the Azores (we now live around the corner from each other!). Others have been online connections, people that I have met through social media (I have even chatted on zoom with a number of them!). I have even had the pleasure of meeting some of my readers in person!
These connections have helped create a bridge of community that takes me from my pre-2020 life, to where I want to go and who I want to be. Having a community of like-minded people is so important as we set forth on this journey of co-creating a different kind of world.
It is important for the new seeds to get adequate nourishment in order to grow strong and firm. They need time in the nursery before they become the strong trees that they are destined to become. These new friendships and connections have given me the sustenance I have needed to arrive at this Point of No Return and continue walking.
Whilst sat dwelling in the Heart Cave, memories surfaced that also helped me to take those next steps. Memories from my travels in the Azores, our off-grid road trip around empty Spain, all the people who I have met living in alternative ways that I have met over the years, books that I’ve read. They all came back to help light the way and will me on. They all played a part in nurturing those seeds enough to arrive at this point of knowing that mainstream life was never mine to begin with. It is time to accept this fact once and for all.
I had to leave and return many times to find these alternative currents and recognise them as my home. I have dipped in and out and tested the water various times. Now it’s time to dive straight in and let these waters take me to where I am destined to go.
Yet as inspiring as this may sound I assure you, this realization has not been such an easy experience.
On one hand, I have tasted enough of what it feels like to be aligned with who I really am to know that it just feels too good to not continue on this path. This knowing brings great freedom. I am free to create the life I truly want and become the person I am destined to become.
However, you would be mistaken to think that this is an easy baton to carry. Many of us prefer not to know who we really are, on a deep soul level, because this knowing may require changes to be made. Changes that could be quite uncomfortable. And sometimes comfort can hold more power over us than truly living boldly and embodying our truest selves.
Indeed, the freedom to become who you really are comes with consequences. For me that means engaging in the world the way I used to do is no longer an option for me. I don’t care to pretend to be enjoying myself when I am not, nor alter my way of being to fit in or censor myself to allow others to be more comfortable.
I have become allergic to my own inauthenticity.
Things That Just Won’t Do
Previously, I have written that there are things in the world that ‘Just Won’t Do’. Now my words return to me.
Living a life that is not in alignment with who I am at the deepest level falls into this category. Engaging in activities that don’t nourish my soul and my dreams also. So too, investing in relationships in which I have to keep part of myself hidden or whereby I don’t have the space to be my full self.
Being anything other than who I really am in all areas of life -work, friends, romance, hobbies- is no longer an option that is on the table.
This naturally brings with it the next step in this transformative journey: You have to stop investing in those realities. That may mean that old friendships need to be let go of, as well as outdated identities that no longer are in alignment with who you are and the habits and routines that support them.
This knowing of who you really are and who you are not clears the midst from your vision. Suddenly the doubts shift and you are liberated from all illusions that prevented you from seeing this clearly before. This is a bitter-sweet process. Sweet because now you see that the only thing standing in the way of your freedom was you and your own mis-vision. Bitter, because of all you have to let off, accept and forgive.
It is the process whereby all that is false falls away to reveal what had always been there underneath it all. It is about surrendering into the truth of who you really have been all along.
As I listened to rain and sat in the warmth of the fire, I contemplated who I have become after two years of beginning this journey. I thought about all my family and friends doing the Christmas rounds and watching ‘Love Actually’ no doubt after eating too much Christmas pud. Do I fit in there after two years of being away? In this time I have developed my own ways of doing things; could I really go back to it all so easily? Or would the reverse culture shock be too much?
Although, those are not the real questions to ask.
The real question is whether I want to or not.
And the answer that I found within myself on that Christmas Day far away from it all, was no, I don’t want to. There is nothing wrong with that life, but it just isn’t mine.
A square peg can’t fit into a round hole. I want to create something different for myself, something that is the right fit for me, even if that means living outside of the typical norms of my culture and society.
And the process had already begun.
This year the desire for a deeper experience of Christmas was stronger than ever. After the initial festive fun for the first half of the month, all I wanted was to turn inwards and get in touch with the real spiritual significance of that time of year. The commercial Christmas music and the empty consumerism seemed like an insult to my inner need for true connection and reverence for the closing of the year.
I’m not sure that I could authentically enjoy the normal festivities in the same way as I have before. And as we have already established, this falls into the category of ‘Things That Just Won’t Do’.
But letting go isn’t easy. Especially when you don’t know what you are letting go into.
Our culture is like a spiritual anchor. It keeps us feeling safe and secure and gives us a sense of belonging. However, in my case this has become too limiting. I want to break free and create my own kind of culture that gives me the space to explore new ways of being, doing and seeing.
However uncomfortable as the process of lifting the anchor is, once it is done there is a huge sense of relief. Finally, space has been created to come into all that you are.
In my case, it feels like “Thank god I don’t need to doubt myself anymore!”, “Thank god I don’t need to continue to waste my energy trying to fit into a mould that was never mine to fit into!”, “Thank god I see who I really am so clearly”.
It’s like finally coming out of being stuck in a tiny box and realizing that the door to the wide pastures was open all along. I just hadn’t found the exit.
Then comes the final part of this inner journey: giving yourself the permission to walk through the door and be who you really are.
We deserve a life that is a true reflection of who we really are. We have not come here to play someone else’s part. Being true to yourself and living in alignment with your soul is a true service to humanity. When we give ourselves permission to be ourselves, we also give others permission to do the same. Our authenticity inspires and uplifts and adds to the diverse tapestry of the human race.
For me, this may mean that I never celebrate Christmas in the same way as I have before. It may mean that my family and friends that have known me my whole life can no longer relate to me (or me to them) in the same way. But it also means that I can be of service in a way that I wouldn’t be able to if I continue to pretend to be something I am not, or not bring all of myself forward to be seen.
It means I can really contribute something to the world of value. Being of service to the authentic expression of my own soul means being of service in the most effective and powerful way possible to the whole world.
After all, the world has never been changed by the status quo. Humanity is moved forward only by what is happening on the fringe, the vanguard. This is where I belong and secretly where I have always been, despite outer appearances.
Time to own it once and for all!
As for the rest of my trip, after a few days the rain cleared and we were able to go out and explore our surroundings. Leaving the cosiness of my retreat in the Heart Cave, I ventured out cautiously.
The final question to this story is an obvious one:
If I have given myself the permission to truly create the life for myself that I really want…
What do I want?
The next few days were rich in inspiration and filled up my dream tank once more.
However, one step at a time, one moment at a time, one blog post at a time.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither should a new chapter of life be rushed into.
Now a new year is upon us, it is the perfect time to dwell in the Heart Cave of dreams a bit longer and linger there until something is ready to be brought up to light.
Stay tuned for part 2! Sign up for newsletter below if you would like to get it delievered straight to your inbox. You can also connect with me on Instagram or my Shared Earth living Facebook page. Feel free to say hi!
Credits for this post go to my family who continue to love me and support me, wherever my life leads me.
This is what it means to courageously love: to love someone enough to allow them to be who they really are.
I love my family!
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Interesting, reflective, personal and beautiful post. Thank you.
I ask myself “Does my day-to-day life make me feel happy, connected and alive?” THAT is the question. That is the question I ask myself every single day. The answer is in every one of us. We just need the strength to meet our convictions and the trust in the Universe to allow ourselves to follow our hearts and dreams.
You are on the correct path, because it is your path. You feel as though you have found it. Trust me, however, please… you have not reached “the final part of this inner journey”. Indeed your true journey of consciousness may have only just begun. This journey is eternal, it is now, and it is simply overflowing with experiences and learning. It never ends. It is beautiful and only now do you you see it as beautiful because, as you say, it is at last honest and true. I hope it makes you feel happy, connected and alive. Enjoy your journey!
Thank you David for these thoughtful and inspiring words. I think the question that you pose is a very interesting one. I wonder how the majority of people would respond and what changes was result as a consequence. For me right now, I would answer ‘yes’ to that question, even though I am yet to fully fulfil my dream of moving to the countryside. Yet I am trying to life that dream everyday through small actions, doing what I can with what I have right now.
As for my inner journey, this is something that began long ago and as you said, continues to blossom. It blossomed enough for me to let the Universe in and for it to direct me where I am headed now. Maybe I didn’t expect it to crack me open as wide as it has done though! haha! But I trust the journey.
Thank you for wise words of support! I appreciate them.
All the best for your journey too!
Love this post Olivia , sums up beautifully where you are at … I feel very similar and sometimes I don’t know how to put it into words …. Thank you
Thanks Laura! You’re welcome! It is certainly a strange feeling to be in a limbo phase between where you were and where you want to go. The awkward phase between past and future; the uncertainty of not being quite sure of your path or where you are going. Maybe it’s just about embracing the present moment, in it’s full awkward discomfort! Hats off to you for following your own path and let’s keep going 😀💪