From Alison: We got talking about how we’ve changed since we began our nomadic journey. Because you live with yourself all the time sometimes noticing the changes can be difficult. You go through whatever you go through and something shifts inside and then that becomes the new normal and the old normal seems remote, forgotten, almost like it never happened at all. So I started thinking about what I could clearly identify that’s different from when we began.
So what is different? Trust for one thing. I have never felt so trusting that we are on the right path, that all is well, that everything is as it should be, that we are held, supported, by “The Mystery”, that our life is exactly the way it is meant to be, that we are exquisitely “on purpose”. I’ve felt this way right from the beginning of our decision to sell our apartment, car, and belongings, and become nomadic. There has never been a doubt. Oh there are moments of great clarity when I/we realize that we actually haven’t got a clue what we’re doing. Really. It’s like that. It’s a place of being a bit detached from it all and in that detachment we see that there is no knowing, no comprehension of what we’re doing, or why. But I trust that “The Mystery” knows, I trust that life knows. All I have to do is listen, say yes, and let go. And that was one of the very early written instructions Don was given about our journey – listen, say yes and let go. So we do. In a more dedicated and conscious way than either of us has ever done before.
I’m much less trapped by mind-stories than I was before, and much less prone to self-sabotage. It’s really interesting to me the way things have changed. For years and years now I’ve gradually been becoming more and more aware of the mind, of the thoughts that arise, of the way I react to them, the way I believe in them and think they define me. Gradually becoming more and more aware. Bit by bit, practice after practice reminding myself that they are only thoughts. They are not who I am. Who I am is still there even when there are no thoughts. Thoughts arise, and fall away, but who I am, the self, is always there it seems. So I’ve gradually become more and more detached from all the thoughts that ran my life. It’s been a process with only glimpses in the beginning, but still mostly being lost in the thoughts. My level of self-sabotage was pretty high too – I’d have dreams of success and always underlying that would be subtle, usually unconscious thoughts like “I’m not good enough”, “that will never happen to me”, etc. And I’d get caught up in wanting to be right, and play conversations over and over in my mind, always finally saying the things I wish I’d said at the time, because I was right! And the other person was wrong! Of course these imaginings were supremely frustrating since they took place only in my mind. Sometimes they would go on for days. And I identified with these internal conversations and beliefs and opinions and feelings as if they were who I am. I have always been a fairly positive person, and adventurous, but often being me was not a very comfortable place to be.
All of this still happens. However . . . . . Gradually over the years of practicing consciousness, of becoming aware of thoughts and feelings and choosing to understand that they are ephemeral, and not who I am, and to not identify myself with them, they have less traction, and my getting lost in them happens less frequently and for shorter periods of time. The improvement in this area has been exponential since we became nomadic. It seems that my only way to maintain equilibrium is to not let the mind get traction with stories of fear, discontent, or self-sabotage. It’s a constant practice. It gets easier and easier. Love and compassion for the mind-made self, for the personality that arises here, has increased. Could this have happened if we’d remained in our safe and comfortable life in Vancouver? I have no idea. Possibly. Maybe even probably. All I know is that it appears that being kicked out of the nest, jumping off that cliff into a nomadic life, has forced a truth-facing that was inescapable. It has forced a constant returning to presence and away from thoughts of past or future or discontent or self-sabotage in a way that would probably not have happened had I stayed in my sweet comfortable life in Vancouver. I can’t know that for sure. All I can know is that it has happened the way it has.
In La Manzanilla we’ve met, and befriended several people who are quite a few years older than we are. One woman is seventy-eight and is easily as fit, healthy and active as I am. There’s no stopping her. She says she wants to leave La Manzanilla when she’s eighty and start travelling. The take-home message? I’m only 62. I’m young. Holy smokes I’ve only just begun! I realize that I’ve finally got to a place in my life where I have a measure of self-confidence, and am comfortable in my skin. I have a whole new life ahead of me. I’m just getting started!
I dress differently. I care about appearance generally a lot less than I used to. No more make-up. No more hairstyles. No more hair! The lady who gave Don and I buzz cuts in Melaque (near La Manzanilla) called it the no-ego hairstyle. I guess. I just don’t have the interest that I used to have in being “well turned out” and “put together”. Whatever that means. Admittedly this does vary with where we are and who we’re with, and I’m sure on our brief visits back to Vancouver I might make a bit more of an effort. Also when we have dinner out with friends in La Manzanilla and the women are all dressed and made-up I do feel a bit like the frumpy country cousin, but not enough to actually do anything about it. I can imagine situations in the future when it will be appropriate to be more stylish and I’ll happily do what each occasion calls for, but on the whole I’m much more relaxed and comfortable about appearance. Even having, somewhat, come to terms with the travel weight-gain. I’m only displeased with it when I think about it :)
And finally I now know how little stuff I need. Things I cling to? Laptop, camera, passports and other ID, credit cards, back-up mini hard drives. Three times in my life I’ve sold and/or given away all my possessions except for a very few essentials. I guess stuff just isn’t that important to me. Now it seems even less so.
The only constant is change. This is all true now. Ask me in a week, or a month and I may say something different. And that’s okay too.
In the next This Nomadic Life post it will be Don’s turn.
Photo of the day: Village child, near Bagan, Myanmar
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.