Sunday, April 24, 2011

Paying Attention and Thinking Less

*Note - I intended to post this last weekend, but got distracted by chocolate Easter bunnies and the such, hence it is dated*

I'm in Vancouver and today is Easter. I flew out to the West coast last Sunday to attend a conference on rural tourism, which was taking place in the interior region of BC and planned to spend an extra few days in Van City to catch up with some old friends and enjoy the balmy weather. I didn't really have a lot of time to think about the trip before I boarded the plane and, to be honest, when I did turn my attention to it all I did was worry about plane crashes, tsunamis and bedbugs. Yes, I'd invited a wee bit of unnecessary paranoia (because that's the only kind of paranoia there is) into my life.

Luckily, in the weeks leading up to my trip, I also decided that I work on shifting the energies I was sending out into the world. January and February were especially tough months for me. After a spectacular second half of 2010, whereby I somehow managed to go from homeless, penniless, jobless, and manless by the time my 30th birthday hit in August to being gifted with everything I desired in the second half of the year, the first month of January felt like a punch in the stomach. A reality check that not everything is always wonderful. Or so I let myself think. And by letting my thoughts turn to what was wrong and what I didn't want I created negative emotions and energy, and invited more negative experiences into my life. What ultimately saved me was my own awareness that I was bringing about these negative experiences, that I was the creator of all the things I didn't want in my life. And, as the saying goes, recognition is the first step towards releasing yourself of self-harm. A few years ago, I wouldn't have realized my part in creating the experiences that I didn't want. In some ways, it's harder to know that YOU are responsible for all the emotions and experiences that you have, than to believe that these emotions are incited by other people or by events that are out of your control.

Taking responsibility for the life you have is so hard for most of us that we choose not to believe in our own power to create. We choose to ignore the power we have to shape our thoughts and the emotions and actions that result from those thoughts. Yes, taking responsibility for the life you are leading means acknowledging that you've invited many things into your life that you have feared - sickness, a broken heart, a job you don't like, family feuds, etc. But acknowledging your responsibility is also extremely liberating. For once you realise that you are the creator of your own life, you will move towards the realization that the ONLY limitation in your life is your thoughts. That fearing what life might bring is the path to inviting unwanted experiences into live, while believing in yourself and loving yourself is the path to making all your dreams come true.

Can you tell I've been reading personal development books lately? It's true, I confess to being an Eckhart Tolle convert and vehemently believe in the fundamental law of attraction - that which you resist will persist, that which you think, you will bring into existence. I was also inspired by the very simple advice of a TED speaker who was talking about compassion. He suggested that with each person you encounter in a day, that you think 'I want you to be happy'. If you think this, and then speak and act in accordance with this thought, it will serve you and everyone that encounters you very well.

Anyways, back to how this all relates to my trip out West. So I'm headed to this conference in the interior of BC, I'm not particularly excited about it, I'm more focused on what I'll do once it's over and I am in Vancouver for the weekend. The flight into Williams Lake is awesome. There are five of us on the plane (it's one of those lovely Dash 8s) and we can see the snow-covered mountains below us. It's breathtaking.

Once I arrive at the tiny Williams Lake airport, I wait for the 1 hour shuttle to the ranch where the conference is taking place (it's VERY rural!). I strike up a conversation with another woman from the plane who seems to be waiting for someone, and learn that she's attending the conference too. As we chat with our shuttle driver, I learn that she's staying at a different hotel, because the rooms and chalets at the ranch are all booked out. When I hear that her hotel is a half hour walk away, I pipe up with an offer that she can stay at my 3 bedroom chalet if she wants. When I went to book my accommodations for the conference,I was informed the hotel-style rooms were all taken and only the 3-bedroom chalets were left. They weren't expensive, so I booked one and was, understandably, under the impression I'd be staying there on my own. Right, so we go to Tara's other hotel first, she asks if she can cancel her reservation and gets a 'yes', so we head over to Hills Health Ranch and I check-in. This is when I find out that 'they' (not sure who actually did it) have booked two other people into my chalet! There's even a note on my invoice saying 'Shannon really wants to stay in the same chalet as Donna Dixson'. I have never heard this name before. Totally perplexed and slightly annoyed, I inform the front desk people that I had no clue I'd be rooming with others and that I've already promised a room to Tara. Oh, and I'd prefer not to share with a man (the other person they'd booked into my chalet). They get things sorted, and we settle into our chalet.

As the day turns to night, I take in my surroundings, and enjoy a lovely dinner in the company of new friends. I feel my heart getting lighter. The next morning I run on the treadmill and sweat more than I have in a very long time, then as I am getting dressed from my shower, Tara calls out to tell me that there's an opportunity to go horseback riding. I fly into my jeans and a top, run down to the front desk to sign my waiver (i.e. life) away and then head to the stables. Everyone is happy, the air is crisp, the horses are munching away on the hay that's been put out for them and a rather crazy-eyed dog is boundlessly running around trying to entice one of us humans to play with him. Eventually he finds playmates in the four miniature donkeys that have come over to check out the happenings. We walk leisurely through the muddy trails, there are still patches of snow but I don't think our horses even notice. It is the most relaxed I've been in a long time. When we trot, I am able to find my rhythm with the horse, so I'm not bouncing around haphazardly. Isn't that true of life too? We must all try to find the rhythm of the day, of the moment.

The conference begins and the talks are good. After the afternoon sessions are over, I head back to my chalet to get dressed for dinner. That's when I meet Donna Dixson, whom I apparently really wanted to share a chalet with. Sometimes the universe delivers what we have asked for in such a blatant way that it is truly perplexing. Such was the case with Donna. I sensed immediately that she was bursting with positive energy (and not that fake kind, but the really genuine, infectious kind. It didn't take much longer to realize that she was also a kindred spirit (cue Anne of Green Gables). It's hard to explain what a kindred spirit is, but you know them when you meet them. I have a tendency to meet them when I am traveling, which is probably one of the reasons I've always loved traveling so much.

The next evening, we are told that a special event has been arranged for the conference attendees -a Cowboy Cookout Rodeo! Amongst the offerings are a BBQ, haywagon rides, bonfires, First Nations drummers, a horse whispering show and smores.

I want to see the horse whisperer. We are told that many people shed tears when they watch this show. I cannot say that I shed any tears, but shivers did go down my spine as I watched this slight woman command a young horse using only the energy of her thoughts, which she communicated physically by glaring and holding her body tensely. The horse moved as close to the outer ring as possibly, running in one direction around the ring until she moved her body to tell it to turn and run in the other direction. Eventually, she relaxed her stare and her body and the horse came to her, it's own body relaxed and its head in a submissive position. Then it wouldn't stop following her around the ring, it was amazing. She told us that in order to communicate with the horse, she had to remain in the moment, she could not let her thoughts wander to the past or the future. She said that's the most powerful thing she has learned from the horses -that all we have is THIS moment. There is not such thing as the past or the future, they are only created by our thoughts. This really stuck with me, not because it's the first time I've heard such philosophy, but precisely because I have been inundated with this message as of late. I have learned from experience that when you keep hearing the same message over and over again or multiple people tell you to read a certain book or you keep running into the same stranger at various places, that you have to accept this message into your life. So I'm running with this message about the illusion of time. I want to enjoy the moments that I am breathing, rather than spend them contemplating the future or recalling the past.

Later on, as I stood by a warm campfire, I found myself mesmerized by the music and chants of the First Nations duo - a man and woman that were gifting us with traditional songs. There were no words, just the beating of drums and chanting. Words were not necessary to convey the stories and emotions they were sharing. It was an experience I will not soon forget and was deeply moving. Later I reflected on the authenticity of such an experience and compared it to experiences I've had while traveling. It occurred to me that we are constantly seeking expensive, complex thrills to incite short-lived 'rushes' of emotions when we have, at our disposal, opportunities to enjoy very real connections with fellow humans and with nature that are long-lasting, simplistic in design and enduring in the heart. Plus, you don't need to go to Orlando, Florida to find such emotional connections, they are all around you if you are open to letting them in.

And so you see, a short 3 days on a ranch in rural BC, amidst mountains and horses, kindred spirits and kind souls, I found a treasure of insights that I'd not been expecting, but that I had invited into my life by shifting my energies weeks prior. I am grateful for these experiences and for the chance to 'get away' from everyday life. I always find I have more 'space' to reflect, to emote and to evolve. I have come home with no souvenirs for myself, but with insights that I know will shift my future in positive ways.


Rob said...


Ellie said...

Great piece Shannon! I love the attention on law of attraction (of course). Life is such a learning, growing, loving captured that beautifully here.

fromaway said...

Rob already beat me to it.