What I Learned from Leaving

I struggle to leave places. I don’t like it at all. To look at the stars one last time before closing my eyes or to stand at the shore looking out on the water before turning my back on it or to say “I love you” one more time before hanging up…it is torture. Even if I want to go where I am going, it is hard for me to leave and I really feel it intensely. So why ever leave? Especially if you are happy and content and love where you are? I don’t like it, but I have gotten better at it because I have realized some things. I leave because sometimes this is exactly what you need to shake things up and to appreciate where you have been.

It is exactly what you need to draw your attention and your senses to what it is that you love about where you are and to give yourself focused time to love it in the special way that you can only love something that is fleeting…longing as if it has already been taken from you or as if it is something you yearn for and have not yet found, while having an intense presence and focus in order to capture the well of emotion such that you can store its essence deep in the memory of your heart and body forever to recall at will and go back there.

It takes the Truth in the journey of life that everything is always changing, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, and it makes you conscious of that. Well, it does for me. I am not talking about running away from anything. It is exactly the opposite. I notice what exactly it is that I am sad to leave and it makes me run towards more of that in my life, both while I have it and in new situations.

A lot can happen when you leave. You realize where you came from and you wonder about where you are going. You maybe have fears. You maybe have hopes. You maybe have decisions to make. You have an approach, whether conscious or not, for letting go of what was and embracing what is and opening yourself to what could be. You have the opportunity to take what you learned, what you loved and to apply it in a different context and in doing so, integrate it into your life more fully.

Leaving does not have to be moving cities or countries. It can happen even when you go to travel for a holiday. It can happen when you move from one house to another, one neighborhood to another. It can happen when you leave your bed in the morning. It can happen when you get totally immersed into nature for a day and then cross the threshold back into civilization. It can happen in a relationship with someone you love deeply who is just not the one.

How would you live your life for the next month if you knew you were leaving to a new place at the end of it? Would your senses be on higher alert? What would your priorities be? Who would you want to spend time with and how? Where would you wander? What new things would you do that you’ve been wanting to do and haven’t gotten around to? Where are your favorite places you would go and what would you realize about why you appreciate them? What would you feel grateful for? What would you realize about what you have learned and experienced there?

I just left a magical place, where I have had six months living on a lake in the mountains of Patagonia, surrounded by stunning, pristine nature and warm, fun, authentic people. I feel that I lived more consciously during my time at the lake, as I was so aware that I was only there temporarily and wanted to take advantage of that. I think I am leaving there living my life more in this fashion, understanding more about the nature of a full and consciously lived life. Life too, is temporary.

I am so sad to leave, but it is sadness that is grounded in the deep happiness and gratitude for having been there and knowing that although I am leaving, it is forever a part of me.

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Countdown to 2015 – 1 – Oh Darling, Let’s Be Adventurers!

It’s the final countdown or rather the final blog in this series of personal development practices for an inspired and adventurous 2015. Thank you for following along and I hope it has been a fun and interesting mini-journey.

Here is where we’ve been:

10 – Setting Intentions

9 – Expressing Gratitude

8 – Wandering in Nature

7 – Playing with our Passions

6 – Letting to go Excuses

5 – Law of Attraction and Ritual

4 – Self Care

3 – Finding your People

2 – Into the Depths of Our Unconscious

drumroll for number 1….

Well, it has to be adventure of course…getting out of our comfort zone and diving into the unknowns.

If you’ve been following along, you are likely aware that I have my own little adventure going in the form of a kickstarter campaign called: Let’s Go on an Adventure!

It is a two-part project that includes writing and publishing a book telling the story of my transformative adventure and also an interactive guidebook with practices and exercises such as those presented in these blogs that are intended to help someone on their own personal journey of self-discovery or change.

Tomorrow is the last day of my campaign where I will either be fully funded or go back to the drawing board. Whatever happens, I’m humbled by the support and grateful for the opportunity and courage to put myself out there and be vulnerable. It’s been challenging for me. Thank you and if you are so inspired, please check out the campaign.

So adventure…why am I so addicted to it and why do I think it is so important?

Well nature and adventure have been the two most significant transformation tools in my life in the way they challenge me, teach me and inspire me.

One of the most defining characteristics of adventure, in my opinion, is that it involves unknowns….maybe surprises, an element of spontaneity, a willingness to explore and get out of your comfort zone and away from what is familiar.

I think it is important to get out of our comfort zones because that is where the growth happens. Our brains strain to keep us safe and protected and do so by clinging to what is familiar and efficient, while our souls long to explore and discover and learn and grow.

Maybe I am suggesting that we trick our brains into seeing change and growth as an adventure, so that we acknowledge the unknowns and we get excited about them instead of triggering fear responses.

They have a lot in common actually ‘adventure’ and ‘change’….unknowns, a goal, no guaranteed outcome, tools/practices that can help, something to be learned; a physical, mental, emotional and often spiritual element. And yet even just focusing on each of those words seems to bring up different feelings, emotions and thoughts.

Adventure is often treated like a choice and like a luxury for those who have the courage and resources, whereas change is inevitable, hard and sometimes even dreaded. “Change” often gets a bad rap and yet changes are happening all the time; it is one of the guarantees, the truths of life.

So what if we approach our life changes, goals and intentions like adventures? I believe it can shift our perspective and ultimately influence the outcome.

When something is an adventure, we often look for ways through…ways around obstacles, people to help.

We dream big and we share our experience with others.

We tend to focus on the positive, the new and the exciting with childlike wonder.

We tend to assume that it’ll be a success and that even if we don’t know the outcome, it will be fun and we may learn something along the way.

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

~ Ernest Hemingway

So what would it look like if we treated changes in our lives as adventures? How would our approach evolve if we set intentions for where we want to go with our lives with curiosity, excitement and determination?

When I decided that I was going to head off to Argentina to do some wandering, I started with practicing a bit close to home. I started going to movies, cafes, restaurants, and bars by myself. I had earned a short sabbatical at work and used it to take myself on a road trip in my home state of Colorado. I traveled to Costa Rica by myself for a week. I went on a vision quest in the mountains of Colorado. I started trying new things that I had never done before.

By going into the unknowns, especially when going alone, you are automatically rewarded with the opportunity to learn about yourself. What turns you on? What turns you off? Where are your limits? What are your fears? How will you face your fears? Just how resourceful are you? How do you handle challenges? Are you curious? What thoughts or questions are sparked? What surprises you?

Being surrounded by unknowns heightens your focus on what makes you, you. When things are unfamiliar, they draw your attention and maybe beckon a new approach or response or perspective and so there is this expansive, growth quality inherent in going into the great unknown.

I acknowledge that certain fears are rational and are there to keep us alive. I get it. That’s pretty important. I’d dare to say that most of our fears are irrational though and it is incredibly freeing when we can dig into them, understand them and set them free.

We can do this by choosing differently….by saying, “Hey there fear, I see you and I raise you some courage and a new perspective. I’m going to befriend you and we’re going to do great things together…but I’m in charge.”

We can do this by asking what the fear is really about. Where did it originate? What triggers it? What are the emotions and feelings behind it? Where/when else have I experienced those feelings being triggered? What is my process for attending to those feelings? What do I notice about my energy when confronted with one of my fears? How are my fears taking away my power? How are they helping me and how are they keeping me small? What is my fear response? Does it influence the source of the fear when this response is activated? What are some other responses I could have instead?

To be clear, I am not suggesting repressing fears, pushing them aside and pretending they don’t exist. Yikes, no. They are there as tools to tease us and maybe even torment us, but then to teach us. Often our fears and our shadows hold the keys to our greatest desires and our greatest gifts. When we get to the other side of them it is absolutely glorious.

The more I spend time confronting fears and the more I spend time trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone, the more I enjoy life. Truth.

I learn, I grow, the new experiences beget still newer ones…new connections and relationships, opportunities, lessons, insights, growth, transformation, fun and adventures.

It’s like the universe is there to reward the brave and courageous and when that becomes you, you feel like, whoa….that’s cool, now I have more energy and space for being alive.

“Be alive your whole life.” ~ Bumper sticker anonymous

…and let’s make it an adventurous one, yeah? Who’s with me?

Thanks again for coming along for this ride. Now go do something new today.

Countdown to 2015 – 3 – Find Your People

The countdown to 2015 continues here, moving right along from self care to sharing our fabulous selves with others. This post is brought to you by Finding Your People.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too, can become great. When you are seeking to bring big plans to fruition it is important with whom you regularly associate. Hang out with friends who are like-minded and who are also designing purpose-filled lives. Similarly be that kind of a friend for your friends.” ~ Mark Twain

Since we just talked about self care it seems appropriate to talk about finding what I like to call “my team” in supporting me in that. For me, once I started making big changes in my life, I needed more and more support as things showed up. This touched on those categories again of mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, cultural and social.

I didn’t consciously realize it at first, but I was putting together a support network for myself. This included a naturopath, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, a shaman, a therapist and a meditation teacher. I hope to add ‘mentor’ to this list soon.

I do understand that I had the resources to have such a team and I’m grateful to that. I think there are options out there to trade services/talents, to work with students training to be in these roles, to seek online resources, to save money and have a fund for this sort of thing and I welcome other ideas for how to make these types of services accessible. Part of it is making it a priority as well.

I also sought support from people in my personal network. A few friends of mine and I formed a brunch club that met every other week or so. We were each seeking to make some changes in our lives. We would meet for brunch and talk about what each of us was doing towards those goals and we would share resources, ideas and encouragement.

One thing that will happen as you start to make changes is that some relationships will change in your life and maybe even fade. This was unexpected for me and I struggled with it at first. We all get so comfortable with experiencing people how we know them and when they start to act out of that role it can feel confusing and maybe even like a betrayal.

Change is often scary and so when you have the courage to make a big change and follow through with it, it can bring up feelings for others about their own changes they want to make and are maybe avoiding. So this is difficult and I have had to mourn some relationships. I do think it is necessary though and is really better for everyone in the long run.

I recently read a fantastic book on relationships from a Jungian perspective called “The Eden Project”. The basic premise is that we project our own fears and our own desires onto our relationships (especially our romantic, intimate relationships). The challenge and the goal is to remember that we are each unique beings on our own journeys and to focus on our own individuation and then support others in their own individuation.

It is about bringing our best selves to the table and fiercely guarding that for ourselves and others. In our romantic relationships, I think it is especially crucial to have agreements with each other around how we’re going to do this as a team.

Depending on where you’re at in your journey, you may be kickin’ it solo right now. I totally geek out on the hero’s journey, the pattern found in the stories and myths of cultures worldwide throughout the ages whereby the “hero” undertakes a journey into the unknown, into solitude to discover his/her unique gift. In times of solitude and liminality such as this, “Your People” still show up, maybe as teachers and guides and accomplices.

I’ve been on a solo journey for a couple of years now and it has heightened my senses and awareness to those whose paths cross mine. Why those people? What can I learn from them? Who am I attracting into my life right now and why? What am I sharing with them? I have learned so much about myself from paying attention to this.

One thing that has arisen out of these new relationships is the idea of creative collaboration. In the past year in particular, I have started working on some creative projects with people close to me. In some cases this has been inspired by a shared passion, in others because there’s been a shared goal or desire and we’ve gotten creative and supportive about how to meet the goal.

This has been photography projects, informal peer coaching, dream work, scavenger hunts to have fun getting to know a new town, and here at the estancia where I am living we are always challenging each other to do new things and to create together to keep things interesting and fulfilling while living in a quite remote place.

Creativity is a tool, a gift even, that we all have in some way and it is so expansive to engage in creative practices. It opens possibilities and doors, encouraging your brain to be a bit more of a wild child, a dreamer.

Ok so here are some actions we can take in these areas:

Take an inventory of your relationships – personal and professional. Who is in your inner circle? What values do you share? How does this show up? What do you give to and receive from these relationships? Are there any that are changing or need to change?

Seek a mentor.

Seek a community for shared experiences of your passions and interests.

Sit down with your lover and come up with agreements for how to be a team while also serving your authentic selves.

Play with some kids.

Start a creative collaboration project with a friend.

Form your support team.

Start an equivalent of a brunch club with friends…maybe do that right now and share where you’re at with setting intentions for this year and use this as a way to check in with your intentions and stay loyal to them.

Thank you for tuning in to this series of ten blogs posts on personal development practices for a fulfilling 2015. If you’re just arriving, welcome! Here’s where we’ve been:

10 – Setting Intentions

9 – Expressing Gratitude

8 – Wandering in Nature

7 – Playing with our Passions

6 – Letting to go Excuses

5 – Law of Attraction and Ritual

4 – Self Care

If you like what you are reading, please consider backing my kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! and please share too. The campaign is focused on writing and publishing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to a life designed around passions and also includes an interactive guidebook to help those wishing to make their own personal changes.

I have 3 days left in my campaign, all or nothing!

You can read more about my story at erinkmac.com and continue to receive this blogs by clicking the ‘follow’ button.

Thank so very much for coming along on this adventure.

Countdown to 2015 – 7 – Passion Play

As the countdown to 2015 continues so does our opportunity to focus on what we want out of the coming year. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

10 – Setting intentions – thoughts and questions for inspiration

9 – Gratitude – an absolute must

8 – Wandering in Nature – taking a look in the mirror via the wilderness

And now for number 7, how about a bit of passion play.

I’ve been focused on “passions” maybe more than anything else in the last 2 years as I’ve been trying to pursue my own. My working definition of passion is something that goes beyond a hobby or interest; something that we want to dive into and get lost in; something we want to learn more about and explore and share; something that lights us up inside and makes us feel so alive.

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life…if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” ~ Roald Dahl

With vulnerability, I admit I used to get jealous of people who were living their passions or who were doing things that I wanted to have as my passions…the people who were born on top of a mountain and have been climbing them ever since. I thought of them as a different, untouchable race.

Honestly, when discovering how much I love to climb mountains my first feeling was despair for the lost years growing up in the anti-mountain midwest.

This has really changed for me the last 2 years as I decided to focus my whole life on finding my passions. I shifted my perspective and realized that I want to live in a world where everyone is living fully and passionately and connecting and supporting each other in this. With all of my attention there, I became a student of passion.

I got outside my comfort zone. I looked at the things I was interested in and made a point of doing more of those things and noticed how I felt…treating them more like a right than a luxury. In doing so, I met others doing similar things and often doing related things that were bigger, bolder and creative…things that hadn’t even tickled my consciousness.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from those interactions:

It helps to become an admirer. Seek out people doing things that make you say “wow. I wish I could do that.” And then rather than taking the role of bystander…be inspired to take action. Court someone as a mentor if possible. Study what they do. Be curious and ask questions…to them directly or to the great all-knowing google.

Seek out resources. Seek out community.

Keep trying new things. When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

The imagination is key here…even with an inkling of what your passions are, you can start to play around with them.

Pick an interest or passion and brainstorm, without restrictions or judgment, different adventures to have with that activity. Write out goals, possibilities, things to explore. Dream big and broad and then pick one of those dreams and start pursuing it.

What would it take? What would it look like if I wooed this? What do I need to know? What do I need to do to make this happen?

It is magnetic to be around someone who is pursuing and living their passions. Opportunities seem to open up and connections are made. This is one thing that I love about travel…you often meet people doing something they love and you also encounter a lot of perspectives that you wouldn’t otherwise in your familiar surroundings.

It is never too late to play with our passions and to pursue them and pursue them some more. I guess it would only be too late if we reach the end of our lives and realize that we never did.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

2 years ago (as of yesterday!) I left the USA for Argentina on a journey of self-discovery to design my life around my passions.

I’ve launched a campaign on kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! to help me turn these passions into something to give and share in a book and guidebook that I plan to publish. What I love about Kickstarter is that it is all about bringing together people to support each other’s passions.

I have 7 days left in my campaign. All or nothing…not to be dramatic, but you really do get everything you’ve raised if you meet your goal or you get nada.

To give people a taste of thoughts on pursuing your passions, I am doing a countdown to 2015 with ten blogs over ten days. They are focused on personal development practices, specifically around preparing for a glorious, adventurous new year. Number 7 here is focused on pursuing passions.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider backing my campaign, any donation helps; also please share my campaign with others who might be inspired. You can find out more about me and my story at erinkmac.com.

Follow this blog to receive the others in this series. Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me, the countdown to 2015.

Gone Journeying – A Call to Adventure

Are you familiar with The Hero’s Journey? If not by name, you’re likely more familiar with it than you know. King of myths, Joseph Campbell, identified a similar structure in myths throughout countless cultures, eras, and in our own individual lives that shows up with striking frequency. So much so that many a movie, novel, or personal transformation story echoes this mystical pattern. Creative geniuses of the likes of Bob Dylan and George Lucas have been known to acknowledge being guided by this pattern.

So what is it? In short, the “hero” of the story experiences a “call to adventure”…some sort of pull, feeling, or event that tells the hero that their current situation has become too small and it is time to go out wandering to discover something new. This might appear as a feeling that is magnetic, a ‘must do’, without being able to actually see the magnet. In some cases, the call is not recognized or it is dismissed, often leading to a more dramatic and often painful “yank” to adventure. The universe now has the hero’s attention, and the hero commits to crossing the threshold and going on this journey. The hero goes out wandering and often encounters signs and guides along the way, as well as barriers and obstacles to overcome. Typically there is a climax as the hero is faced with the biggest challenge yet, a death of old ways and a birth to a new revelation. Ultimately, through the course of this journey, the hero learns, grows and receives a gift, his personal, unique gift. He is then faced with the task of returning back to his community, crossing back over the threshold as a transformed hero ready to share this gift.

There are many types of travelers that I meet. There are those who have a break from school or their job and are using it to travel. There are those who are moving abroad to work, either with a job lined up or the willingness to find some sort of work that will enable them to live abroad or travel. There are those who are going for months or even years, those accomplishing huge adventure goals, those taking a short vacation to experience a new place. There are those who are taking a break, maybe a sabbatical and have a job or commitment to return to. Here I am wandering Argentina, out exploring and meeting all sorts of these travelers and I feel so different from them. I feel this weight or responsibility. I think travel is a wonderful thing for many reasons, and I respect all types of travel. So what is this feeling? It finally it hit me…

I am not “gone traveling”. I’m gone journeying, a heroine’s journey to be exact. The purpose of my wandering is to pursue the call to adventure that I felt first as the “yank” and then felt more gently once I accepted it. (I touch on this in an article I recently wrote for elephantjournal.com.)

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What am I doing? Well, after fighting it for some time, I gave in to the whisper to go wander foreign lands right  now. I sold my house, car, most of my things, and set out to get in touch with my essence and design my life around it. Not to “find myself”, but to fully “be myself”. I’m not traveling, I’m not jumping into an expat life, I’m not looking for work. I’m on a journey to have my unique gift revealed to me. This journey could happen with or without travel. Ok, well travel is part of it 🙂

So why travel? Well, because you are alone if you are going about it the way I am. Things are different, foreign, there is a threshold to cross and dance with the unknowns. I am trying to look at things in a new way and this facilitates that because newness surrounds. And for me, I love to travel. To create a life around what I love, I started with something I know I love…travel. This is why it made sense for me.

So why alone? Because it is uncomfortable or maybe a gentler way to say it is that you are out of your comfort zone. This is a heroine’s journey. It is a rite of passage, which is very common across cultures and eras as well and is experienced alone and often in nature. Along with travel, nature is such a great teacher and mirrors so much back to you. It teaches me my tools and forces me to come up with new ones as well. It teaches me what I am capable of when I have courage and take action. What frustrates me? What does that tell me about me? What am I afraid of? Why? Is it a familiar feeling? What am I doing about it? How am I processing it? What excites me? What is it about it that lights me up? Who have I attracted doing this journey, and what experiences? What have I learned in the process of preparing to leave and throughout wandering? What do I do when I get to a new place? How do I approach people and situations and how do I want to be approached?

My journey is a conscious one and one grounded in intention. I am getting answers to all of these questions. I am pausing to reflect. I am still discovering my passions, talents, and my unique gift. I’m still out on the journey. There absolutely have been challenges along the way and there continue to be. At times I’ve actually been too obsessed with The Journey and have had to learn to just be again. I need to be guided by what I love and continue to fine tune what I learn when I do that. One component of this is that it’s a “can’t turn back” sort of situation. Once you cross the threshold into this journey, it is almost impossible to turn back. But history also shows with this pattern that if the hero moves forward with conviction and awareness, the hero perseveres. It’s not a coincidence. To me, it is an energetic response to the heroine owning her true nature and letting it out to play only to find it was within her all along.

This looks different for everyone, but the components often resonate. It feels right to share this story because I think we benefit a lot from sharing our personal experiences and connecting with what resonates. And I think the hero’s journey is just so simple and awesome. Have you felt the call to adventure? What do you love? What would it look like to let yourself dedicate time to fully pursuing what you love?

To read more about The Hero’s Journey (or Monolyth), well, just google it! Or you can read the book where Joseph Campbell first references it called The Hero With a Thousand Faces