How to build self-belief and not die with regrets

Photo by Edu Lauton

Photo by Edu Lauton

This day six years ago, I was walking from Bruay-la-Buissière to Arras in France. It was day nine of my Via Francigena pilgrimage and my longest walking day yet.

With few accommodation options between the two towns and still uncertain if I could make it to Rome within my 90-day Schengen visa, I felt that I had little choice but to walk the 38.5 kilometres between the two towns — and that was the shorter route; if I followed the guidebook exactly I would have walked an extra 14 kilometres. Ouch and no thank you to 52.5 kilometres.

It took me 10 hours to walk the 38.5 kilometres to Arras. I had two deep blisters on my toes that burned, arch and heel pain, and then my hips went into a spasm. The pain was excruciating. It took me an hour to walk the last 2 kilometres into Arras. Actually, it was more like a shuffle.

When I was a kid, I seemed to have the words “I can’t” pre-programmed into me and spilling off my lips whenever things got tough.

Learning (and struggling) to tie my shoelaces, I’d tell my dad, “I can’t.”

Going on a long bike ride with my dad and brother: “I can’t” make it up the hill. “I can’t” make it home; it’s too far.

My dad was ever patient and calm. He told me many times that there’s no such thing as can’t. He taught me to read the book, The Little Engine That Could whose mantra was “I think I can.”

I get it now.

I can’t usually means I don’t want to.  It can also mean I don’t know how to yet or this is really hard for me and I’m scared of failing or even just plan I won’t.

I’ve had many people tell me that they could never do what I did and walk the Via Francigena, especially alone. I never believe them because broken down to its simplest component it is just walking, one step after the other. Unless you are affected by a disability, you can most likely walk. It’s just a question of whether you have the desire and motivation to walk so far and on your own.

I was a solo pilgrim walking the Via Francigena.  I had only myself to urge me on and there really wasn’t any room for I can’t.

My mantra that day walking from Bruay-la-Buissière to Arras and every time the going got tough was I” can do it.” On repeat.

I can do it. I can do it
. I can do it. I can do it.

I repeated this over and over until I did it; I arrived in Arras. When I was saying I can do it, there was no room for I can’t.

The pain and the struggle faded away not long after arriving and flopping down on the bed in my hotel room in Arras. All these years later, I still remember that day and that I was in so much pain but the pain itself now just resembles a large grey cloud that hovered above me as I walked. I don’t feel the physical pain in my body and even if I did, I would walk the whole Via Francigena again in a heartbeat.

The Via Francigena tested me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I didn’t arrive in Rome as the same person that set out from Canterbury. My bank account may have been lower but I was far richer in all my being; deeper, wiser, stronger and with a reinforced faith that I was guided and supported by life. I still receive gifts from this journey all these years later.

Lewis Carroll has been quoted as saying:

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”

Whatever it is that your heart longs for, whether it is an adventure, to learn a new skill, leave a career and start a new one, take a risk and find a way out of your comfort zone , find your way to say yes.

You can do anything you put your mind to and energy into.

Maybe you aren’t destined to be Luciano Pavarotti or an Olympic gold medallist or maybe you are and don’t know it yet…but how will you ever find out what you are capable of if you don’t try.

Imagine if Pavarotti told himself he couldn’t sing and believed it!

If you are ever in doubt that you can do what you really want to do, then borrow the Little Engine Who Could’s mantra, “I think I can, I think I can” or even my mantra: “I can do it.” Say it over and over even if you don’t believe it at first. It will still help put positive I can energy into your system.

If you’re not sure if it’s worth the risk, and if you’re still scared and struggling to take the first step then reach out to me. Working through fear and self-doubt is my specialty.

With love and courage,

Kym
xx

PS Here’s a few snaps from that hard walking day: in sunshine, a rain-free moment, in the midst of raining wearing Kermit my green poncho, my friends the cows, a lot of potatoes and the avenue of trees.

The wisdom of being lost and tools to navigate the fog lands (including an excerpt from my book)

Photo by Dimitar Donovski

Photo by Dimitar Donovski


Dear ones,

Just like clouds can suddenly blanket the sky and block out the sun, we can find ourselves at times feeling lost and uncertain of where we are going or how to find the sun again.

I call this the fog lands. This is a place in my life where I feel fogged in and I cannot see where I am or where I am going and where the vision that was guiding me seems to have disappeared. When this happens, as it does from time to time as clouds are a part of life, we might find ourselves waiting for someone or something to show us where we’re going or meant to go but we already have the tools available to help us navigate our way out of the fog.

1.    Tune into your heart.

Our heart’s know our true desires. The heart is the home of our heart. So when wanting to know what way to go in your unique life, tune into you heart.

A simple question you can ask over and over and contemplate is “What does my heart desire?”

You can also play with visioning, finding pictures and words to create a collage of your dream whilst exploring the feeling within the dream.

At the moment I participating in Hannah Marcotti’s Five Beautiful Dreams visioning circle. http://www.hannahmarcotti.com/hannah-marcotti-2/2019/7/25/together-we-dream-a-two-week-visioning-practice

2.    Set your intentions

Setting intentions is a very powerful way of setting direction in your life.

The Upanishads, which are a collection of ancient Hindu religious/philosophical texts, state that,  “You are your deepest driving desire – as is your desire, so is your will, as is your will, so is your deed, as is your deed, so is your destiny”.

I really love Davidji’s process of ritualization and in particular, the way he sets intentions by inviting your attention into your awareness, planting it like a seed in your heart, then handing it over to the universe by letting the universe kiss your heart.

You don’t have to force it, just invite it in.

You can find the details of his process here:
https://davidji.com/ritualization-important-meditation-practice/

3.    Use intuition and divine guidance to navigate towards your intention

When we jump into our heads and try to figure everything out, we disconnect from our body and intuition and try do do everything ourselves.

When we ask for guidance, it opens us up for help and support in whatever form it comes. For me it is usually what I call the whispers or the quiet voice of wisdom within that I hear directing, guiding, supporting and encouraging me. It can also come as symbols, knowing and guided movements or action.

 4. Getting lost can serve your path

Many of us worry about getting lost, not knowing what’s next or if we’re gong to be okay. When I was walking the Via Francigena, the quiet voice of wisdom spoke up one day early in my journey in France. It said, “You are so worried about getting lost, but can you afford not to?”

We are lead to believe that not knowing where we are going, not having a direction or focus in life and being lost is a bad thing. But what if being lost was a gift and a blessing?

Here is an excerpt from my book, The Path We Make: a journey of the heart on the Via Francigena, about the positive side of being lost. 

 

In the morning, I woke and launched straight into my new routine. I dressed, filled the hydration bladder with just enough water to last the day, packed the Devil, ate breakfast then harnessed myself into my bags. It was nine o’clock when I checked out of the hotel and started walking out of town. The morning market was in full swing. The streets were lined with stalls selling summer fruits and vegetables, local cheese, cold cuts and clothes. I bought six ripe apricots and an apple from a fruit stall then a ham and cheese baguette from the boulangerie. It was too big to fit inside the Devil, so I tied it to the left side and tucked the bottom of it into the pocket that held my walking poles.

The market obscured the landmarks. I couldn’t see the mairie, the town hall, to get my bearings. After a few false starts, I used the GPS to find my way out of town. I didn’t bother with the guidebook at all for the rest of the day. The trail was well signposted and I had the map and GPS that I referred to more often than was necessary. As I went to check it again, I heard a firm but kind voice that I recognised as my own, coming from within but also beyond.

“You are so worried about getting lost, but can you afford not to?”

I stopped. I knew from my time in Tuscany that getting lost could mean miles of extra walking, physical pain and tiredness. It meant having to ask strangers for help and trying to communicate ineloquently in a foreign language then trying to interpret the reply. But I also knew that it was through getting lost that I discovered the most treasure. When I had lost my way in my career, taking on a role that I discovered I didn’t like, it provided me with the opportunity to take a risk and leap into the unknown by quitting without another job lined up. In taking that leap, I found that I could live with uncertainty and I experienced the joy of slowing down and living one day at a time. When I lost my way walking through Tuscany, I discovered that I could navigate my own way back to the route or the next town, and that getting lost helped to sharpen my intuition. And once, after I was kicked out of a taxi in a part of Bangkok I didn’t know because of horrendous traffic jams, I stumbled into the middle of a festival with bands and food stalls and streets jammed with tens of thousands of people wearing white. It was the Thai queen’s birthday celebration, something I will always remember because of the unexpected delight of chancing upon it. What would I miss out on if I didn’t get lost? What would my life be like if I had never lost my way in my career and decided as a result to step off that path in an unknown direction?

In The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau writes that “what every traveller confronts sooner or later is that the way we spend each day of our travel ... is the way we spend our lives.” I no longer wanted to live being so worried about not knowing what the hell I was doing or where I was going in my life. I didn’t want to spend my life trying to keep myself on a safe and known path. I wanted to trust that if I followed my heart and my intuition, I would always find my way. I knew that if I kept hoping to find answers outside myself in books or from other people then I would never fine-tune my inner compass, and I would forever look outside myself when I needed to trust what was within. I promised myself that from then on I would only turn the GPS on if I really needed it.

May you navigate your own fog lands with courage and trust.

With love,

Kym xx

The wisdom of your younger self

photo by J R Korpa

photo by J R Korpa

When you were a kid, did you ever write a story about what you would be or what your life would be like when you grew up?

I did. And I found mine yesterday as I was tidying up and organising our cupboards.

I pulled out my storage box of cards, letters and other papers and started poking through the contents and there it was among some old schoolwork that my dad had kept for me and that I had put away and forgotten: a typed up and illustrated story that I wrote when I was 7 or 8 years old, titled When I’m grown up.

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 Here’s what I wrote:

When I’m grown up.

When I’m grown up I will be a nurse. I will also be bigger. And instead of being a nurse, I might be an artist. If I am an artist I shall draw wild birds and wild flowers. When I’m grown up I shall get married and have children. I shall buy a house and get a pool, I shall have fun with the children too. I shall take them to the circus. We shall go on holidays. When I have finished being an artist, I shall be a ballerina. I shall go over the world as a ballerina. When I am a bit older I shall quit being a ballerina and go back to my own country.

                        THE END

(because when you’re young all stories must formally end this way.)

I giggled joyfully when I read it and studied the pictures which include a red-framed painting of the wild flowers I would draw when I was an artist, a self-portrait of me as a very happy pink-crowned, purple tutu wearing ballerina, and a picture of me and my future husband with orange hair surrounded by colourful confetti.

It wasn’t just the pictures that delighted me but the innocence of the story and although I never became a nurse or ballerina, and haven’t had children or bought a house with a pool there is still a very sweet truth that lives within those words that has played out in my life.

I didn’t know then but I would help to care for my mum from the time I was age 11 as her muscular dystrophy deteriorated her physical condition and she became bed bound.

I also used the qualities of the nursing in my financial planning career by trying to improve systems and cultures, to care for what is sick or ill or not functioning well and finding ways to bring ease and joy.

I am a writer and a poet. I also dabble in painting and pastels for fun. Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally), my last two paintings were of an owl and tulips.

I have always loved being in water, from dad taking us to the swimming pool to beach holidays at my nana and papa’s house in Rosebud West.  Swimming, scuba diving, being in or near water is like oxygen for my soul.

My younger self used to love putting on her leotards and choreographing her own dance routines, especially to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I’ve never studied ballet or taken any other type of dance class for that matter except for line dancing and ballroom dancing that was part of compulsory physical education classes at school, but I have actually danced my way around the world: I’ve danced in Thailand, India, Bali, on boats in Indonesia, and I dance-walked parts of the Via Francigena in France and Italy —I dance-walked into St Peter’s Square when I arrived in Rome and completed my pilgrimage.

And yes I have come back to my own country. I’m living in Melbourne and not dancing all over the world at the moment but I don’t think I’m done being my version of a world-travelling ballerina just yet.

When I re-read my story of When I’m Grown Up, I can’t help but marvel at how my younger self easily and innocently dreamed up her life. She knew what she liked and what mattered to her and easily declared her willingness to follow her curiousity without second guessing herself.

Of course this was before all the seriousness of growing up and being an adult and having responsibilities and taking on ideas about what it means to be an adult and live a meaningful life took over.

Often we look to our older or future selves and even our higher selves for advice on how to live our lives and which direction to go, but I think that our younger selves have their own wisdom to offer that was gained before we unlearned our innocent ways and were taught how to succeed and fit into this world.

What wisdom does your younger self hold for you?
Is there something you forgot along the way to being an adult that you could pick up again that would bring you joy?

With love and courage,

Kym xx

How do you cope with sudden change and not knowing what the future will bring?

Photo by Ross Findon

Photo by Ross Findon

After my last blog post about letting go of what you think life should look, I received emails with questions about coping with change and how to let go and get unstuck. These were great questions and useful for us all to consider as we all experience and have to find our way through change.

When life changes very quickly it can feel like the rug is swept out from under your feet and you don’t yet know where you will land.  When the sudden change relates to our living arrangements our sense of security becomes threatened and can trigger our fight, flight, freeze response. A sudden change in our circumstances or expectations can initially shake everything up creating confusion and an inability to see the way forward.  In time when the mud settles, there can be more clarity.

If even just reading this makes you feel uneasy, take a moment to ground yourself in the safety of this present moment.  Feel your feet on the ground, look around you where you are and name what you see, notice your breath and see if you can slow it down and make it deeper and remind yourself that you are safe.

Like you, I’ve experienced a lot of change in my own life. Mine include changes in living arrangements, to redundancy, to relationships and friendships ending and deaths of loved ones. I experienced all the emotions that go along with change: shock, disbelief, anger, confusion, grief, sorrow, uncertainty, fear and eventually even curiosity and excitement about new possibilities.

Packing up my life to travel for a year (which turned into a prolonged period of living between Melbourne and Thailand, travelling and adventures such as walking the Via Francigena) meant that I have spent a large chunk of my life with my belongings in storage and without a permanent home.

Having a home gives us a sense of security and safety, as does having some certainty in our working and personal relationships. A change in our life circumstances can make us feel unsafe.

In my experience, not having a permanent home and travelling meant I had to trust that somehow everything would turn out okay, that I would find a roof over my head and work when I needed it. It helped me to grow my courage and my trust in the universe but I also experienced a lot of fear and shed many tears along the way.

A great example of this trust and courage was my experience when I was walking the Via Francigena and I arrived in Gy, a small town in eastern France with a population of just over 1,000 and was unable to find accommodation. I had been afraid that this would happen.  You can read the whole story here, but here’s the very short version.

A little pot of panic simmered in my stomach and started to boil as I worked through my list of accommodation options and couldn’t find anything. But a very firm voice within me told me to “Keep calm,” which I did. Eventually I found a Bed n Breakfast in Choye, a town 4 kilometres away and after making a phone call speaking only in French with my limited vocabulary and comprehension, I found a room for the night. I was so happy and relieved and even victorious.

That night I wrote in my Via Francigena blog…

“Everything always works out.  We end up exactly where we are meant to be.”

For me this continues to be true, although it doesn’t always feel like it in the midst of change or uncertainty. It is at those times that I find it most useful to reflect on my life, at the path I’ve travelled with all the change, fear and uncertainty I’ve experienced and how life turned out at those times and the gifts it gave me. That is, I give myself a reminder of how everything has worked out okay.

I find that when change comes, my life turns out in ways I could never have imagined.

If you are experiencing a period of change and transition in your life with all of the fear, grief, uncertainty, frustration and confusion that may entail, may you connect deeply with our Mother Earth who supports you with every breath and may friends and loved ones hold space for your uncertainty and unfolding.

With love and courage, 

Kym xx

PS I love to hear from you, so if you have a question or a comment get in touch!

Letting go of what you think life should look like

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For years, I leaned forward into a life I never arrived at.

I was preoccupied with everything I thought would make me happy and that would eventually make my life mean something important – like a successful career, financial security, overseas holidays, a home, a husband and family.

Then one day, during a prolonged period of extreme unhappiness, I quit.

I left a long-term relationship that I had over-stayed.

I quit my job without another job to go to.

Eventually I packed up my belongings to travel and be free for a while.

Unshackled from routine and my never-ending planning and doing, I found myself in wonder at this life and what it truly means to be alive.

Free of ties and blindfolds, free of commitment and expectation, I sank into the invitation to move the way my spirit moved me instead of the way I thought I should move through my life.

I began to see the magic all around:
in the blossoming of flowers,
in the setting of the sun,
in the kind and gentle touch of a lover,
in the sting of being misunderstood,
in the flow of following my intuition and the surprising terrain it guided me through.

I let go of what I thought life should look like and how it should unfold by becoming open and free and willing to see what could be possible.

I became a blank canvas for the universe to write on and through.

I began to experience the rapture of living in the aliveness that is only available now and cannot be deferred or chased.

Your life might not look like mine. You may not be called to the same adventure, to quit a job, to leave a relationship, to travel or to change careers. But there will be times during your life that you will be called to adventure in your own unique way.

You may resist or deny the call. Making life changes can be thrilling for some but scary for others. Resisting that step for too long can lead to pain and suffering or even a dulling of vitality or complete loss of joy.

My wish for you is that you don’t stay stuck in the resistance for too long.

May you gather your courage and your allies and supporters who really want the best for you and can hold space for your change.

May you find your way to let go of whatever may be holding your back, or find the energy of your tipping point to move you forward.

There is no formula for letting go and moving forward and it’s usually never as simple as just letting go as some people may tell you, although they may mean well.

There can also be a lot to learn from our resistance if we unpack and explore it, but staying stuck for too long can be unnecessary and unhelpful.

If you find yourself stuck and need some support to help you move forward, send me an email to kym@kymwilson.com.au. I’m here and ready to help.

With love and courage,

Kym xx

What do do when you don't know what to do

There will be times on the journey when you lose your way, lose your vision, become directionless, disoriented, confused and you don’t know what to do, who or where to turn to.

Don’t panic.

Don’t rush to take the first step that comes to mind to get you out of your experience and away from where you don’t want to be unless the house is on fire or you are in some other kind of immediate danger.

You don’t have to scramble to retrace your steps to find out where you went wrong to end up in this place for nothing is wrong despite what you may think.

Instead, take a deep breath and rest exactly where you are.

Melt into this place of stuckness, confusion, unknowing, uncertainty and visionlessness, deeper and deeper with each breath you exhale.

Another breath will come without you having to do a thing.
You are alive and life is supporting you exactly where you are.

The discomfort you feel isn’t a sign that anything is wrong nor is it something you have to escape or even figure out.

The flow that you may have had and lost doesn’t need to be rediscovered right this very moment.

Slowly you will adjust to what at first felt uncomfortable and made you want to scramble to find your way again.

You will find that you can look around at where you are now with curiousity, love and compassion; the fog will lift, the mountain may dissolve.

You can listen more intently and hear more clearly what is arising from within you.

You will discover that you are standing on sacred ground, that being stopped in your tracks or the way forward disappearing beneath your feet came to serve a sacred purpose: a time for rest, renewal, reconnection or redirection.

This sacred pit stop may help you strengthen and recommit to your vision or allow a new one to arise along with a new path to walk. Or may be you discover that you really did take a wrong turn and you can retrace your steps to that point and continue on, but not before opening the gifts of your wrong turn.

Don’t jump ahead and miss this step.  

Don’t be in a rush to carry on and arrive.

If you were really meant to be there already, you would be there.
If you were meant to know what to do, you would already know.

The fruits are always in the journey not the destination.

Slow down and just be here where you are, with your palms open in gratitude and receptiveness for the knowing to arrive in its own divine time and way.

Using the power of brave

My own photo taken in Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy .

My own photo taken in Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy .

Dear ones,

Today I feel called to share an excerpt from my coming-soon book, The Path We Make, about bravery and how to follow your heart’s guidance even when you are afraid.

The excerpt is set in France on day 14 of my journey as I left Tergnier to walk 32 kilometres to Laon. The Devil is the affectionate name I gave to my backpack, inspired after reading Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild in which she nick-named her backpack Monster.

 

With the Devil harnessed onto my back, I walked outside into the dull light and drizzle and headed straight into the bar next door for a café-au-lait chaude (coffee with warm milk). I added sugar and savoured its hot sweetness in quick sips. I wasn’t eager to walk in the rain but I had 31 kilometres to go today and I needed to get started. As I paid for my coffee, the bar lady spoke to me in English about my pilgrimage.

“Aren’t you scared of walking alone?” she asked.

“No. No, I’m not. Most of the time I’m in the countryside, and there is no one around. I make sure I am alert and aware of my surroundings. I’m more scared of walking on the roads. They can be dangerous.”

“You are very brave.”

That is not a word that I would use to describe myself. It’s not that I’m not brave; it’s just that I don’t always feel brave. I’m far from fearless. When I started seriously contemplating this pilgrimage after I was made redundant, all my fears surfaced as ‘what if’ statements. What if I didn’t make it? What if it was a huge waste of money? What if I were injured? Over the years, I have discovered my own unique dance with fear. I feel it, I back away from it, and then I dance up to it again, allowing myself to feel the fear a little more before retreating. I repeat this dance until I am ready to take that final step into what is unknown, uncomfortable, scary or painful. There are people who take a flying leap right into or over their fear, but that’s not me. I dance with it until I am ready to act. Brave is the power I summon to take that final step. I have learned that my authentic desires are more powerful than my fears. Therefore, instead of focusing on my fear, I focus on my dream and how it would feel to live that dream. This way, my desire grows stronger than my fear, and it makes the decision to take that final step much easier. This was how I decided to embark on this journey in the first place. I summoned the power of my bravery to make the decision. Everything else was just walking, faith and resilience. Still, I appreciated the bar lady’s kindness. I thanked her, said goodbye and walked back out into the rain.

Deciding to go and walk the whole Via Francigena pilgrimage route alone from Canterbury to Rome was one of the boldest, bravest choices I have made in my life.

 It was the choice, that is, making the decision to go, that I wrestled with as the protective and fearful part of me told me all the reasons why I shouldn’t go and do something as crazy as walk 2000 kilometres alone across the other side of the world.

It could have turned into an epic battle of the mind demons but it didn’t.  I listened to the voice of fear without shaming it, and then listened to the voice of my heart that yearned strongly and lovingly to go and walk this path, come what may.

I chose to listen to my heart.

After I made the decision to go and walk, the fear didn’t go away but excitement and the strength of my heart’s longing and knowing carried me forward despite the fear.

Sometimes the heart yearns for us to act in ways that is illogical and frightening to our mind that just wants to protect us and keep us safe. The mind will judge and reject anything that is uncertain and risky with an unknown outcome or the possibility of failure or looks at odds with current reality or our limited picture of what is possible.

I continue to learn from my own life that letting the voice of my fears direct my choices in life usually leads to suffering, sadness, staleness, smallness and the merry-go-round of inner conflict, whereas listening to my heart takes me on a great adventure to discover myself and life in ways I never knew was possible when I was held back by fear.

The step through fear doesn’t necessarily get easier. Fear doesn’t go away. To be brave or courageous requires a certain fierceness not fearlessness, and a loving commitment to choose your own heart again and again.

These times call for us to live with great courage, to slow down, become quiet and tune inward to be able to hear the voice of our heart that speaks in quiet and subtle ways, as well as to be able to receive its guidance and messages, especially when it looks different than what you’re used to or doesn’t make sense from where you currently stand.

I hope that sharing the story of my dance with fear helps you to tune into your own heart and all the courage and sensitive wisdom it contains to guide and direct your life in miraculous ways.

With love and courage

Kym xx

PS If you would like support and the safety of sacred space to explore your own dance with fear and doubt whilst cultivating your courage to say yes to the ideas and callings of your heart, I’m here and I’m currently offering free 30-minute discovery sessions. Please reach out to me.