As I sat in silence before writing this reflection, my ears began to ring and my stomach had that feeling much like when you unexpectedly go over a hill in the road. That feeling of surprise, expansion and exhilaration. That seems to be a summary of my first trip to Africa in the spring of 2016, so I will focus this reflection on those 3 words as nouns.
The surprises were numerous and came in many forms. First, I was surprised by my resolve to make this journey despite my own resistance. The ego pushed back with its usual mantras of, “Who are you to make this trip?”, “You cannot afford to do this!” and the strongest one of all: how will I answer, “Why are you going?” So I kept my decision to make this journey to myself until I was a bit more comfortable with these answers. I knew in my soul that if I said I was going, it had to be just that, “I AM going to Africa.” There would be no room for thoughts or phrases like, considering going or contemplating going.
Surprise #1, the words “I am” are truly powerful and transformative. I began to pay full attention to my thoughts and my words and I saw the surprising shift in myself and others.
Surprise #2, I am courageous. And, when I unleashed this and faced my fears, the fears dissolved and dissipated. This realization of my own courage came when I decided to make the journey to and from Africa alone. My ego was pushing back hard and trying to bail when the person I was going to be traveling with decided the timing was not good for her. There was no end to the flooding of excuses or reasons not to make the trip and yet there was a bigger push, to get on-line and book the ticket and to make my journey there solo.
Surprise # 3, I never felt one ounce of fear about the trip from the moment I hit “book it”. There was no fear when I was 15 ft. from lions in an open Jeep or when 3 young Elephant bulls were “Standing Tall” and threatening to charge toward us as their herd crossed the road or while standing naked in the shower at Tsau and hearing a white lion roar.
The expansion that has occurred is difficult to put into words. I am still experiencing the shifts in my thoughts, words and deeds since making the trip in 2016. I realize now that the ancestral influence on my life and my duty to honor and heal their wounds is a part of my sacred contract in the life I chose.
The bone divination I experienced began my process of understanding that ancestral connections are not just of the flesh, but also highly connected to land and the soul. The ripple effect from the forgiveness, healing and reconciliation is indescribable and yet so undeniably evident that I could write a book! Perhaps I shall!
The trip to Africa in 2016 marked the first time I had left this continent and was at a very crucial time in my professional life. Shortly after returning from Africa, the opportunity to leave the security of my well-paying state job of 24 years presented itself. There was no question; and that decision has led to more world travel and to opportunities to conceptualize, create and partner with people I could only have dreamed of collaborating with. Anias Nin was correct; life truly does shrink or expand in direct proportion to one’s courage. I am grateful and also sometimes irritated with my new-found ability to recognize my fears and resistance. It’s a struggle most days, but it’s a blessing every day to wake up with this knowledge.
The feeling of exhilaration is present daily, often accompanied by exhaustion and fatigue, but there is an underlying current, an energy of joy that I carry with me. I will often conjure up the sights, sounds and smells of Africa. While I saw and learned many things that were painful and tragic, I also saw a level of resilience that I never knew before. In Africa, where my soul remembered that truth, reconciliation and forgiveness are fertile grounds for resilience.