Taking Another Leap of Faith into the Unknown
Taking a leap of faith once again into the unknown as I follow my heart obediently towards the type of life I want to live.
Written Mid April 2023
Three years post pandemic and we have war waging, the cost of living souring and threats of economic crisis whispering in our ears. It could be argued, and with much validity, that now is not the time to be taking risks that could potentially threaten our personal financial security.
Yet, that is the decision that I find myself facing as I consider what to do with my summer. Am I going to go with the certain, the stable, the known? Or the unknown, the unstable and uncertain possibilities of something new?
The question I have been debating with myself as a muddle back and forth between these two realities is:
“What is it that I really want?”.
Such a simple question but sometimes the answer remains elusive. It is so easy to get sucked into old patterns that have us following the paths that we forged long ago and provide us with a sense of safety, familiarity and security.
Sometimes, that might be exactly what we need. But other times these comfort zones are laden with traps. What was good then, is not necessarily good now. What gave us a sense of purpose before, now feels bereft of meaning. Whereas before these paths offered us expansion, now they only offer us restrictions.
We have outgrown them, as much as we might resist it. Time to forge a new, more expanded path and discover pastures new.
I often think of this process as being like a series of boxes. As we grow and gain experience we gradually take-up more room in our current box. The spaciousness that once gave us a feeling of adventure and challenge becomes just the right fit as we grow. It holds us just right. It is comfortable and we are happy there – for a while.
But as we continue to grow, learn and expand, the box gradually gets less and less roomy…until we are squashed and cramped with a strong urge to stretch our legs.
I am sure that you know this feeling. That is how I felt at the language academy where I used to work before I left. And this is how I feel now as I contemplate whether or not to go back and work in the summer camp in the UK where I worked last summer.
The logical mind tells me that it’s the responsible thing to do. The safe thing to do. The easy thing to do. English classes have a tendency to dry up in the summer months, you see. Going back would ensure my personal economy remains healthy during this dry patch.
I could return to Madrid at the end of the summer with a full bank balance and be back where I was financially pre-quitting my job. Therefore, it seems like a no-brainer: good(ish) money, beautiful location, a job I can do with my eyes closed, an opportunity to eat lots of jam scones, drink copious amounts of tea and go walking in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
There’s only one problem though.
I don’t want to go.
Mind vs Heart
I’ve been trying to convince myself otherwise. I’ve managed to convince myself many times.
“You need the money”, the mind says. “You said you wanted this year to be ‘steady’ – financially and emotionally. If you don’t work at the summer camp, you will end up spending the money you have saved up again. The point is to move forwards, not backwards!”.
At this point my mind wins and I say to myself that I should be responsible and just do what I have to do. Be a grown up and be realistic.
I lower my head in defeat, reluctant but relenting.
But soon enough, this voice pipes up again:
“I don’t want to go”.
“But we have had this conversation already”, my mind growls, irritated. “We’ve already talked about this. If you do this camp, you will be in a stronger financial position when you return. You’ll have put back into your savings the money that you have spent over the last two years. That will make you feel good”.
I consider this latest argument. I agree that having a bigger bank balance would feel good. I relent once more and try to focus on all the country walks I’ll be able to do and strange books I’ll be able to read in the second hand books shops of the village I’d be staying in.
Yet, I can’t shake the anxious feeling that something isn’t right. I feel tense, stressed, trapped and restricted. After a few days of this I begin to think that something about this decision isn’t right.
Peace vs Persuasion
Normally my go-to measure of whether a decision is right or not is whether or not it feels peaceful. I had to admit that it didn’t.
Maybe the solution then was to go for three weeks, instead of the full six. This seemed to be a logical compromise. I could go for three weeks in July, earn my crust for the summer, and then dedicate myself to the things that I really want to be doing.
I spoke with my friend who is also the director of studies for the summer course. I got clearer on the plans. He said that just going for three weeks would be fine.
Problem solved then!
Only, as soon as I got off the phone to him, the uneasy tension returned, as did the voice inside, this time even louder:
“I DON’T WANT TO GO!”.
“For God’s sake, woman! What the hell is your problem?!”, my mind cried in response.
So followed the previous arguments reminding me of why it is the logical, practical and responsible things to do this summer:
“Think of the money, think of the scones, think of the rolling green hills of the Yorkshire Dales…it’ll be a walk in the park!”.
Maybe that is the problem.
I’ve been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. There is nothing new, no challenge, no adventure. The only thing that this experience will help to build is my bank balance.
And doing something just for the money has never been my way.
Hong Kong Reverie
I remember when I was living in Hong Kong, back when I was twenty three. I had begun to discover how lucrative teaching English out there could be, and I was trying to decide whether or not to stay on for another year.
The possibility of finding a better job and saving up a tonne of money was very appealing.
“I could save up 10k in one year maybe, and then go travelling around the world for a year!”, I thought.
Again, that sounded like a logical and rational plan. After all, that is every twenty-something’s dream isn’t it? Live in a vibrant Asian city and travel unfettered around the world for a year versus going back to my hometown of Bolton in Northern, industrial, grey England. It should have been an easy decision shouldn’t it?
I felt the same uneasy anxiety of inner conflict as I do now. Should I stay or should I go? My mind and heart battled back and forth.
My mind pushed for the safer, logical option of staying on for another, citing the argument that I would be stupid to pass up some great opportunity. My heart whispered of returning to my roots.
Finally I made up my mind: I was going to stay on for another year! My imagination was already filling up with images of all the places I was going to travel to.
Then one morning I received an email from my mum out of the blue. It was entitled ‘Some words for you’.
When I opened it, there was a red rectangle in the middle with a message in it. It was a daily teaching for the book ‘The Secret’:
“You are the master of your own life and the Universe is answering your every command. Don’t become mesmerised by the pictures that have appeared, if they are not what you want. Take responsibility for them, make light of them if you can, and let them go. Then think new thoughts of what you want, feel them, and be grateful that it is done”.
As soon as I read it, I knew exactly what I needed to do: follow the quiet whispering of my heart and return to my roots, my home, Bolton. The inner battle subsided and I felt at peace. I knew it was the right choice.
Later, in my last few weeks in Hong Kong people would ask if I was staying or going, expecting me to say the former. (Indeed, that was way more approved of in those circles than the ‘boring and mundane’ option of going home). I joyfully proclaimed that I was leaving Hong Kong for good, much to their surprise. I left with a joy in my heart and never looked back.
It was the same when I left the ashram during my trip to India in 2019. Many people were very reluctant to leave, vowing to return again and again. Not me! I was ready to throw myself back into the world and not look back.
Not that I hadn’t had an amazing, life changing experience. I had. But I felt like I had done everything that I wanted to do there. I had done a retreat, had profound realisations and mystical experiences. I had even had the good fortune of being able to be in the ashram when my Guru was there, and through divine synchronicity, and even had the opportunity to participate in a programme that he was leading.
What more could I ask for? There was no beating that. It had been the crème de la creme of the ashram experience. Why hang around any longer?
I left knowing that I would never return, because once you have experienced all that there is to experience, why go back for more of the same? (Or in this case, less of the same, as I don’t think I would have the same good luck the second time round).
In this way, I have never been one to repeat experiences or go back for more of what I have had before.
I remember a quote of Osho’s that I once read. It was something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing now): “when you have two choices, one involving the known, and other the unknown, taking the latter will always make you more intelligent.”
Once I applied this logic during a hike in the mountains of Madrid. The end result? We got drenched in a thunderstorm, ended up in a village where there were no buses back to Madrid, and had to hitch hike back to where we had originally started, soaked to the bone.
I guess there are two ways of looking at this. One perspective would be that this was a complete disaster; an irresponsible and dangerous decision that caused us stress and discomfort.
For sure, it was less than a comfortable experience. But, did I become more intelligent?
Yes, I discovered that the route we were on is connected to the reservoir that I had swam in many times before, and how it is close to the village I had visited once many years earlier. It helped me connect the map and orient myself in a way that I was unable to previously.
I also learnt that it’s not easy to get back to Madrid from that particular village, but that people are open to picking up hitchhikers and taking them back to the bus stop further up. I also learnt that when hitchhiking, normal family cars with regular looking people are not the best option. Instead, better aim for the camper vans with people who look more like travellers/ climbers/ adventurers themselves.
Written June 2023
That’s why, after writing down these memories back when I started this blog post mid April, the decision of whether to go back to the summer camp or not became clear to me: I’m not going to go.
Did it feel peaceful?
Yes, totally. When I allowed myself to consider not going, my body relaxed immediately.
Did it feel joyful?
Yes, my heart lifted and I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt lighter, happier, like I had actually gained something, rather than lost anything. I have gained time and space to dedicate to what I truly want.
There is nothing more to learn at the summer camp. I would be simply repeating the same paths taken before. The only thing that it would help me to do is build my bank balance, but not enough to really have a great impact on my life. It wouldn’t be building me in any other way. It wouldn’t take me closer to my dreams, or help me get closer to becoming the person I want to be, nor make me any more intelligent.
Taking a Leap of Faith
Since I made that decision though, life has come to tempt me, to see how sure I really am. The job offer improved, not once, but twice. Less responsibilities, the same money. Then: what about two weeks instead of three?
At first I wavered…I checked flight prices. I thought about it. But ultimately I knew that my heart wasn’t in it. I had already made up my mind.
My heart had spoken. It was the same message that it had given me at the start of the year back in January when I was first thinking about the summer, but I didn’t take it 100% seriously: I need to stay in Madrid this summer.
And so, I am staying here, in this city that has just begun to heat up, which in a few weeks time will become a hot furness of sweaty bodies and even sweatier nights (and not the good kind!).
The next few months are open. I don’t know what to expect. But I am very happy not to be getting on a plane back to ol’ blighty this time round.
My life is here, my partner is here, my future is here.
By saying no, I said yes to my dreams. I say yes to my heart. My heart needs to have the ultimate authority, not my loud, fearful, worrisome mind.
That’s the work.
I don’t know what is up ahead, but I am willing to find out. And if nothing else, at least I will become a little bit more intelligent, either via useful and enlightening experiences or via regret.
We will have to see which one.
For now I remain open to my heart’s next instruction.
Let’s have the courage to follow our heart and trust that it knows where it is taking us.
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