My Story: Part 6
If I thought I had taken a leap into the unknown already on this trip, Africa was the real plunge into the void. I had flown to the bottom of the continent to attend two courses I had only signed up for a month earlier and knew very little about, in a country I hadn’t even heard of until recently. And I did this all because intuition said so.
From an objective perspective, my travel route was mystifying: why would I fly all the way from Bali to Italy, then from Greece all the way down to South Africa? It seemed haphazard and poorly planned, but I wasn’t following a linear path around the world. I was learning that sometimes intuition tells us something that, at that moment, doesn’t seem to rationally make sense; but afterwards, we may realize the “why” and in fact, that it was for the best. The challenge is having the faith and the trust that what you get is actually your intuition, and then to take the leap and do something that doesn’t seem to make sense, that maybe you really don’t feel like doing, that others might question or ridicule, or that you think might have serious consequences if it doesn’t work out.
My greatest challenge at the time was actually receiving and recognizing my intuition, and then following through on it. In fact, that was the main reason I was in Africa. During our sessions, my coach would ask me what I’d “get” during a “tune-in” and my answer was always “nothing.” Meanwhile, she could speak for 5, 10, 20, 30 minutes about what came to her. I knew we were all capable of accessing intuition (even me), and I really wanted to do so, but I was blocking myself.
To be clear, we all have intuitive moments in our daily lives, without having to necessarily “tune in” and get all meditative. Even I was having some of those moments, it’s just I wasn’t recognizing them very often. Beyond that, I wanted to get more in tune with my intuition, to gain greater awareness of the messages coming to me and to practice calling upon it anytime. I wanted to access my own inner wisdom and attain a higher level of self confidence and independence by not relying on others to tell me what to do, or deferring to them because I didn’t trust myself. By regaining my health, then deciding to take this trip, I was taking command of my own life; by delving into myself, gaining greater self awareness and practicing my intuition, I was taking another step in doing so.
I had landed in Johannesburg just as the sun was rising, having decided to arrive a little early to give myself time to relax a bit before the group dinner and departure to Swaziland the following morning. When I arrived at dinner it became clear that many of the participants knew each other already, but I found most everyone to be welcoming. We enjoyed a tasty steak dinner and headed to bed in anticipation of a long day of travel.
The next morning we started early and drove all day, making two stops: one at the border of South Africa and Swaziland (“An American passport…There’s an American on this trip?!” (there were two of us)), and the other for lunch and shopping at Swazi Candles Centre (which, by the way, is extremely cool and well worth checking out!). Here we saw artisans carve and mold candles into different animal shapes and I bought a beautiful handmade, colorful scarf.
Finally, we reached our lodge in the Rift Valley in complete darkness. I was feeling anxious, worrying that I wasn’t good enough at whatever it was we were going to be doing, so I wouldn’t fit in and it would all be some sort of colossal disaster in the middle of nowhere, Africa. That said, I was determined. I had come this far and I was going to push through. A piece of me was also trying to provide some perspective amid my self-doubt. I went to bed that first night feeling excited and adventurous. I was curious about what was going to happen in the coming weeks and what I might learn. I was also nervous, riddled with feelings of inadequacy and incompetency. But overall, I carried an attitude of “let’s do this!”
Our first morning we were given course workbooks. On the cover were images that appear in the Sistine Chapel, as well as that of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. I smiled. This all felt so in line with my trip (I had booked my place in this course while in Rome, after all!). This was very clearly the next step on my journey.
In the class we learned to use our intuition to access our “genius” — our creative spirit untainted by our thoughts and feelings — and use it in our writing. Equally as important, we learned about our “ego” — our rational self consciousness — and how it can limit us. I learned about my unconscious beliefs and how they affect my actions. We learned how to use tension to our advantage, to direct it towards creating something powerful, instead of allowing it to control us.
This is how true creativity is achieved: by making connections that haven’t been made before. So if you’re writing, or creating anything from your “normal,” conscious, rational mind (i.e. your ego), you’ll just be drawing from the collective consciousness that already exists. But, if you tap into your own personal genius, that’s the where the gold is, and that’s when you create something that’s never been created before.
All of this was complemented by intuitive readings on specific aspects of our offerings, our genius, our ego, etc. to give us a structure and self awareness to produce something that is genuinely one of a kind. Early on, we were asked to break into groups of four and do intuitive readings on each other pertaining to our writing. I was incredibly intimidated. I had come here to discover the tidbit that was going to magically make me a master intuitive, or at least, allow me to access my intuition more clearly and on demand. Instead, I was now expected to do readings on three different people?! Couldn’t we just go see the animals? I had no choice, I was going to have to get through this. I pulled up a chair, told my group that this was my very first time and asked for their understanding.
So there I was in rural Swaziland with a group of strangers doing intuitive tune ins. Were these people serious?! My ego was freaking out, but I just tried to take it all one moment at a time. If I hadn’t been so busy being terrified of failing and looking like a fool, it would’ve been funny. In fact, it was actually incredibly cool. And I had tiny victories — flashes of intuition. As time went on and I sat in on other readings, I absorbed the style and structure that others used and started to get into the flow a bit. Little by little, as I did more and more readings, I was slowly gaining confidence and improving. When it came down to it, I was starting to realize that intuition was like a muscle and the more you used it, the stronger it became.
I was growing comfortable with the other course participants. We had all come from so many different walks of life, and the others had so much wisdom to share. It was fascinating to hear about their lives and what they had discovered along the way. Some were business people, some were life coaches and health advocates, some were young, some were old. But we all had this passion to discover more about ourselves and our capabilities, and to stretch to become better versions of ourselves and do amazing things in this world. There was an unspoken recognition and understanding that however different our lives had been, we had all intersected there for specific purposes. This was an environment in which people would tell you some really confronting stuff about you, but did so in service to you, in an entirely non-judgmental way. Consequently, there was a warm and powerful vibe radiating among us.
In our last session before I went to Africa, my coach had told me to try to spend time around children to soften me, awaken my feminine and motherly instincts and re-discover the childish innocence, wonder and creativity within me. My reaction had been: “OK…but I’m going to be in these courses for the next few weeks, so I don’t think many opportunities will arise.” But of course, her intuition knew something I hadn’t anticipated. There was an amazing family enrolled in the courses with me who had brought their young daughter with them. They were fascinating, lovely people who had started a life experiment of living entirely in the flow years ago. I started getting to know them and found myself really relating to their little girl. Then we took a day off from our courses to have a cultural day where we visited local villages, were surrounded by young children, viewed dance performances, and made food and toy donations. Guess my coach’s intuition hadn’t been all that far off after all!
And of course, I was thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere, the land, being in Africa. We had the opportunity to visit an additional game reserve, separate from the two in which we were lodging. There I saw elephants, lions and rhinos, in addition to the giraffes, zebras, impalas and nyalas I had grown accustomed to seeing on our way to class in the morning and on our way home at night. We had all seen a hippo and some crocs, and during our second week, I was awakened every morning by the sounds of baboons.
On two of our evening game drives we stopped the jeeps, turned off the engines and gazed up into the sky. The stars were phenomenal. About three months earlier, I had stood on the shore of Lake Tekapo on the South Island of New Zealand, a place world-renowned for its stargazing. The southern hemisphere sky there is absolutely littered with stars thanks to the minimal man-made light pollution, and that night I had seen my first shooting star. Then in Crete I had soaked in the full moon, its brilliant light shining along the sea. Now I was back in the southern hemisphere and under African skies. On these two evenings, I sat in the middle of a game reserve in Swaziland, wild animals all around, taking in the loud silence of the land and the direction of the stars. They were special moments. It’s impossible to include and describe here all that I learned and all that I experienced, but sufficed to say it was a memorable trip.
When I left Bali almost two months earlier, my intention had always been to return after spending a bit of summertime in Europe. A two week vacation in Italy had led to three weeks in Greece and another three weeks in Africa. Even after I booked these “detours”, my expectation was still that I’d be heading back to Bali around the start of September.
It had become my way of doing things to not book legs of my journey in advance (frequent flyer miles came in handy when booking long distance international flights only days ahead of time). So when I arrived in Africa, my plan was to conclude the month by spending a few days in Johannesburg, during which time I would book my flight. This system afforded me immense flexibility and freedom and had served me well throughout my trip. I allowed for the possibility that something could change. In other words, I gave myself space to let things evolve.
As my time in Swaziland wound down, the reality that I needed to decide where I was going next set in. One course participant, a Brit, was heading to NYC for a wedding. There was a piece of me that was envious. Yet again, I wasn’t homesick or wishing for my trip to end. Instead, I believe part of me was craving the familiar, and that’s what home represented. Africa had plunged me deeper into my self exploration and spirituality and further outside my comfort zones, so the idea of spending some late summer days at home didn’t sound all that bad in that moment — it would give me some normalcy again and my ego could stop freaking out. Though it was tempting, I never seriously considered going home. I didn’t want to and there was more left to do on this trip.
Many of the course participants were from the UK, and as I listened to them talk about going home, I was starting to feel like I wanted to join them there. The UK felt comfortable to me. Additional courses (higher levels to what I had just completed) were being offered in London in October and November. I was interested in taking those, and weighed the option of perhaps spending the month in between the courses in London (that would finally give me a chance to spend some extended time there!). It was exciting to think that my trip might bring me back to where it had all started. Though I hadn’t officially registered for the courses, I was now seriously considering going to the UK, and weighing whether I’d head back to Bali in the interim.