One year ago I took one of the most magical and mystical journeys of my life. The story begins here... The train I was to take overnight from San Francisco to Portland, OR arrived late at the station due to engine troubles. I didn't think much of it at the time, and just boarded late with the other passengers, found myself a comfortable seat to relax into, and quickly fell asleep.
At some point in the early morning the train came to a stop in a dense forested area of Northern, CA. The engine had died, and we were stuck. As the passengers around me started to wake up, and we all realized the train wasn't moving, concern began to spread. An announcement from the conductor clarified what was going on, but we still didn't know exactly when another engine would show up, and how long we'd be sitting there.
Oh, and the breakfast car wasn't going to be opening either, because of lack of power. Passengers around me quickly began to become distressed, and hungry!
I sat there pondering what my reaction to this event should be. I was actually feeling quite peaceful, and was pleased that I'd gotten a good 7 hours of sleep...not something I necessarily expected on an overnight train trip...but as the tension around me began to rise, I felt myself pulled into the conversations and worry.
The passenger in front of me began to complain loudly, stating she'd never take Amtrak again, and that she expected a full refund. She called her friends and her husband, sharing her distress bitterly over the phone to each person whom she contacted.
Behind me, a young mom with two kids tried to comfort her young daughter, consoling her with the few snacks she had left, postponing the inevitable low-blood-sugar crying fit that would occur if the breakfast car didn't open soon.
And then there was the woman across the aisle from me who just shifted around a little and fell back asleep.
As I continued to note the reactions my co-journeyers were having around me, and check in with how I felt about the situation, I realized that there were some interesting metaphors in this experience - metaphors that speak to a state of stuck-ness in how many of us live life.
Do you feel sometimes that you're trapped in a dense and dark forest, not knowing when and how you'll find the pathway out into bright daylight?
As these thoughts were churning through my mind, I asked myself, and ask you all now:
1. Can you be content with where you are in life, even if you can't see your way out of a dark/scary place where you feel your control has been taken away?
2. Can you TRUST in the process, and know that any discomfort you may be experiencing is just a hiccup that will eventually be worked through?
3. Can you practice patience with yourself and your situation, even if it's not necessarily the situation you'd most desire for yourself?
Eventually, of course, the replacement engine showed up, and we started moving again. And then the most magical thing happened. The train chugged around a bend, and...
It turns out the whole time we were sitting there feeling stuck, we were about 1/2-mile away from Mt. Shasta. For an east-coaster who is not used to such dramatic natural beauty, it was enough to take my breath away.
For the next hour and half we proceeded to wind our way up and around the mountain. I think I had my mouth open and my camera out for most of the time!
As I soaked in the vista, my mind started whirring again with more metaphors for life.
There we were, stuck in a dark forest, with no real concept of when we'd be moving again, and definitely no control of the situation (plus, no breakfast!!), and then suddenly, just minutes later, we were treated to this glorious beauty.
It seems that life is like that sometimes.
We get thrown curve-balls that might spin us into a period of darkness or doubt, anger or uncertainty...and the only way through is to trust that the present challenges will fade in time, and that the most amazing gifts may be waiting around the bend.
As we moved out of the forest, the woman in front of me was still on the phone, griping about how upset she was to be delayed in her trip. I'm sure she looked up to see the mountain, but I didn't hear her stop to take it in.
It is, of course, always our own decision as to the attitude we take towards life, and what we choose to pay attention to.
I understood why my co-passenger was upset, but at the same time I wanted to ask her if she could stop for a moment and just experience what was around her. Perhaps if she chose to slow down in her complaining long enough to take in the sights around us, she would have been able to calm down a bit, and the anger and upset would have dissipated, leaving her in a place to take in this gift I felt we'd all been granted for our multiple hours spent in doubt and uncertainty.
At the risk of taking this metaphor too far, I want to suggest that sometimes in life we just need to strap on the training wheels. A child who wants to experience the freedom of wind blowing through their hair as they whiz down the street on their new bike...has to start off slowly riding around the front yard with the training wheels on, until they have the confidence and steadiness to take it to the next level.
Adults are no different than children, really. We have goals and visions and hopes for ourselves and our lives - and the only difference is the scale of our desires.
Just like a child strapping on the training wheels to avoid serious injury at the outset, we need to take a step-by-step approach as well. We may feel we're stuck somewhere we don't want to be, and can't see the way out, but when we put on the training wheels, we take that first step towards realizing our dreams. And I think the "train"-ing wheels adults would do well to strap on for a while are a combination of two things: trust, and effort.
First, start with the trust that life can bring you what you desire. If you don't believe you can realize your dreams, you won't.
And then, the effort comes in. Frequently the greatest effort is right at the outset, when you decide to choose to make a perspective shift in your mindset about how you are approaching your current challenge. Once that happens, you will often-times realize you need to take a specific positive action step that will lead to realization of your ultimate goal.
I do believe that ultimately life is a lot more fun when you can let go of the griping about your current state, so that the heart and mind can be open to the beauty that life presents (By the way, not too long after we started creeping up and around Mt. Shasta, when we were on a very steep cliff-face, the train took us past some old rusted cars that had clearly fallen off the tracks in an accident years before. Now there's some perspective for you! Our predicament definitely could have been a lot worse.)
This will be different for each one of us, but I'm guessing you can probably come up with one or two things you might try right away that could positively impact your current situation - whatever it is that may have come to mind for you as you read this article.
When it comes to health goals, maybe the effort comes in checking out the newest fitness program in your neighborhood, scheduling morning walks with a friend, or signing up for a 5K. Or maybe you'd like to experimenting with dietary changes by cutting out certain foods, or making a simple commitment (like I just recommended to a client yesterday) to eat green veggies every day for a week.
Regardless of what it might be for you - and I trust this article will bring up different realizations for each of you - I encourage you to reflect on the ways in which you resonate with the message in this article. Do you feel you are stuck in a dark forest in some aspect of your life? Are you ready to start to take the steps towards moving out of it, with the trust that there is a wonderful vista awaiting you on the other side?
Just so you know, I only recommend what I know to be true based on my own inward and outward journeying, or that of my clients, so I can tell you that much of what is shared above has come from my own life experience of working through challenging times, combined with what I've learned from my clients, whom I consistently see exceeding their goals and working through blocks they couldn't have imagined possible. Enjoy the process!!