“Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be.” —André De Shields, Tony Award winning actor, singer, dancer, and director, in 2019 (age 73)
Over the weekend, Norman and I went for a long walk on a new-to-us trail. We knew the general area, had walked on parts of this dedicated trail location, but not the full loop I wanted to take for a long 4-5 mile stretch of the legs.
I took a close look at the map before venturing onto the desired trail, noted which trail name and which direction to continue when we arrived at a convergence of trails, and read it a couple of times to imprint it in my mind.
I intentionally left my smart phone in my vehicle choosing to let the sounds of spring after the prior day’s lush rains provide the senses with entertainment and hold my full focus.
As Norman trotted about off-leash, I found a brisk pace, and my entire body and mind was awakened and engaged.
We had walked about one mile and the trail switched back toward the way we had come; confident it would reverse itself, I didn’t pause and kept my stride. However, it didn’t switch back as quickly as I had imagined, so a smidge of doubt entered my mind.
In this moment, I reminded myself of my preparation, my clear visual aid and the awareness to the detail that the trail was not straight on the map – it had squiggles. It reversed itself as I, now physically on the trail, noted it had to in order to travel up the hill in the best way to prevent erosion all the while enabling the trail to lead where humans wanted it to take them. The trail gradually switched back and forth to heed where Mother Nature made an easier path, even if it did add distance. So I kept walking, and directed myself to take in all of the fresh new growth, the scent of the earth and trees after a long day of rain the day before. It was magnificent.
Once we reached the trail crossing, we took the new trail that would connect to the third trail I had walked on before and this second-leg stretched for nearly two miles, moving us ever further away from the parking lot. Again, for a moment, I doubted – how far away must this trail go before dead-ending at the known trail? Turns out, it went as far as it needed to go and then promptly ended, delivering us to the known trail that would lead us home.
Even when we know we are headed in the right direction, because the journey is new, different and full of “first”s that keep our senses heightened and exercised for long periods of time, because there is so much novelty, we may find our emotions and energy to hold our minds in the Sage Mind exhausted. Exhausted sometimes to the point of deigning to revert to patterns, relationship and habits we know are not constructive, helpful or supportive of our chosen life journey.
In the case of taking the new trail, if I would have turned around due to my doubt and not knowing when the trail would look familiar, I would have had to walk on a ‘one-way’ trail, walking in the wrong direction which would have caused stress because I would have received not so happy looks and possible responses from fellow walkers and bikers, which would have negated the entire purpose of getting out in nature – to de-stress, to relax. to enjoy.
On TSLL blog, podcast and in each book, we have talked about how the start of a new journey, an intentional journey to shift into living a life of contentment, can often be the most difficult and stressful part; however, such stress is temporary. But it is also important to note, and this is something I write about in detail in The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment, once we have made significant investments, seemingly cemented decisions that take us into a new chapter, we can also have moments of doubt, but in truth, these are moments of fear.
We feel fear at certain moments because we have never been in such a situation or been traveling/living in such a way to know how it will unfold nor how much time and patience it will require. We just don’t know, and that not knowing causes us to shake a bit in fear, to wake up in the middle of the night and worry, but I am here to say, your worry is for naught. If nothing else, your worry expresses your sincerity for the journey you have chosen to travel.
In such moments in the middle of the night, rather than lay there and ruminate, turn a gentle light on and read something that hugs your mind and provides gentle comfort or encouragement – directly or indirectly (lately I have found comfort in a memoir about a person who’s life inspires me ever more with the more I learn about them). Another or additional idea is to journal out your thoughts, but more specifically what is going well. This will bring your mind to a more conscious state and reduce the Lizard Mind’s strength. Then, when your eyelids become too heavy, put yourself to sleep again and when you awake to begin your day, you will have strengthened trust in yourself that even when the fears arise, you can handle those well and know you have grown, and your skills are strengthening to enable you to arrive and live as you wish to in a state of true contentment.
Today in Bend it is snowing (see the accompanying picture to this post above). Yes, on the 8th of May, for the first time that I can remember in the seven years I have lived here, it is snowing in May. But in this moment, it reminds me of the trail that appears to be going in the wrong direction that in fact, is quite headed where we imagined it would lead, even though temporarily it has reverted backwards. In actuality, I know that spring will return and summer will follow. I know because we are going in the right direction toward longer days, which become warmer days and nights. I know this snow storm is fleeting and only temporary. But in the moment, if you don’t know your direction, you may question such a truth.
Since I do know the possibilities of such weather in Bend – a random snowstorm in May (and sometimes June), I can then savor the snow’s beauty, appreciate how unique this is and cozy up in my reading chair, smile while the white cherry blossoms seem to dance in a snow storm they look to be perfectly cast, and the birds eat determinedly from their cafés.
The past year in my own life journey feels as if it is mirroring in many ways the year during my undergrad when I chose to graduate early and so took extended course loads for the final year. Oodles of information, many late nights and early mornings of study as well as work (I was also working three part-time jobs), thus much organization required, but I didn’t doubt my choice for a moment because I knew that it would be beneficial to support the direction I wanted to head, for the future I saw myself living and thriving in. I knew the year of exhaustion was temporary, and its rewards great, and I was correct.
However, because I was so inundated with demands during that one year, I didn’t realize the many lessons I had absorbed, so it wasn’t until I slowed down afterwards that I had the time to first, acknowledge an awareness of feeling and responding differently to the same situations presented as well as the same people; initially, feeling very uncomfortable because I wasn’t sure why there had been a change in my responses; but then finally, giving myself patience and trust that I was exactly where I wanted to be, so I put the lessons to work and began living the life I had envisioned. I was forever changed, and for the better.
Currently, I am in the heart of stage two of this three-stage process, and while feeling discombobulated for more moments that I expected during this latter half of April and now month of May, I am reminding myself to embrace the slow pace, recall and deepen in my mind the lessons I now know and apply them for the constructive outcome I know is possible, the outcome I have worked so hard and clear-eyed to be my reality every day.
In time, as you keep striding forward, the trail will begin to head in the direction you had imagined, the snow will stop, the skies will clear, and you will be savoring the arrival at your destination. Perhaps, as seen below, with a hot cuppa sitting amongst the cherry blossoms surrounded by birdsong.
Today’s post is for every TSLL reader who has made the conscious choice whether long ago to live a life of true contentment or has just recently been inspired to do so after picking up The Road to Le Papillon, who finds themself en route to full True Contentment. There are stages, but knowing that you are traveling in the direction you have chosen is a comforting place to hold yourself when unknowns present themselves. You are doing mighty well and you have come so far and made so many difficult decisions that are supporting you soundly. Your courage to make such decisions will ensure an arrival at your once-dreamed about destination – everyday true contentment. Every Day.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
Dream First, Then Plan, episode #152
Using Failures as Guideposts to Success
~TSLL READER/PODCAST LISTENER NOTE: Beginning with Season 9 of The Simple Sophisticate podcast, new episodes will air on Wednesdays (the 1st & 3rd of each month) instead of Mondays, and a regular Monday Motivational post (such as this one) will appear every Monday. Season 9 begins in September 2022.
20 thoughts on “The Winding Trail Toward Trusted Contentment”
You wrote so well capturing the experience of those middle of the night fears and ways to cope. I had a night like that the night before last. And even though it is very occasional and I rationally know things always look better in the morning, it is disturbing. Meditating when I awaken like that sometimes helps, but at times I just need to rise from bed as you suggest. I found it most interesting to ponder that these experiences strengthen our “knowing” that we can handle our fears and move forward in our chosen direction.
Your sharing your experience of this human condition, that is not often spoken of, once again inspires me with your vulnerability.
Thank you for your comment and sharing your journey of strength building and trust in yourself. It is a journey, but definitely a worthwhile one. I appreciate your steady and honest voice as well. Thank you for sharing what works for you, meditation. A wonderful idea.
Have a beautiful week,
I am sure you are feeling a little discombobulated as this, as a teacher, has always been your busiest time of the year. I always feel a little lost in Aug/Sept and Apr/May even though I have not worked in education for several years.
I feel as though I need to be doing something different, but am lacking the courage. Thank you for your words and for The Road to Le Papillon which is helping me realize that whatever “that” may be is attainable if I take the leap.
Have a glorious week!
Wishing you great courage which absolutely resides within you to make that leap. It will be worth it if it is coming from a calling from within.
I must be clear, my discombobulation has nothing to do with not teaching. It has much more to do with reverse culture shock. I adore being in France and England and it is and always has been extremely hard for me to leave and return to the states. No, teaching is a closed chapter, and I feel oh so good about making this shift. This past year with all of the projects kept my pace far too fast, even though I knew they were temporary projects, gearing down once you are set at a certain pace is a conscious choice, and I am grateful I can make that choice now. 🙂
Thank you for stopping by and sending you much strength. It is more than a ‘may’ be attainable, it IS attainable. 🙂
Thank you for recognizing doubts and sharing how you pushed forward.
Life is always in motion, non? Grateful to have today to savor and learn and apply all that I have experienced. 🙂
I originally read this post last night, ahem, unable to sleep! Pondering how paths of uncertainty have affected me and mine, I have some conclusions. I feel that each phase of life, “chapter” if you will, presents with all the uncertain aspects you describe on your trail experience. Even knowing how well you planned and also knowing that the challenge will bear witness to your diligence, little doubts creep in. In life, sentinel events arise that cause us to do the same. No matter how well we plan, not everything comes together as we project it will. However, with each event, each trial, we gain strength in our minds and resilience in our actions. There are methods to help us along the way and the introspection you provide in Le Papillion supports that path. As I often do, I tend to over think issues. Building action algorithms in my mind, is second nature due to the work I did. It really is part of who I am, but I also find that it helps me with decisions and plans. *see what I mean, I’m doing it again! Have a lovely week, hopefully, the snow season is behind you in Bend.
Oh what a beautiful gift of seeing a quick visit of snow with the backdrop of the cherry blossoms! ( I’ve already had to shift all outdoor putterings to the cooler morning hours here.)
Ah yes those nighttime feelings of doubt. Once I wake myself thoroughly, I either lie quietly doing a bit of meditative breathwork or get up for a glass of water. The key for me I find is waking thoroughly and the dreams of doubt dissipate.
I am so enjoying reading “The Road to Le Papillon” in the quiet of my mornings. The meditations provide a sweet and steady guidance of how I can move through my day with gratitude and contentment, and yes, joy in all the sweet little moments. Congratulations Shannon, your writing is lovely. And thank you.?
Thank you Rona. 🙂 I appreciate as well your sharing what works for you and it is the ‘waking thoroughly’ as you have shared that the doubts do dissipate. We forget sometimes that we are not fully awake even though we may be conscious and that is why our Lizard mind has the steering wheel and not our Sage Mind. I appreciate immensely your comment. Thank you or stopping by and sharing all that you have.
Shannon you speak from the heart. It’s not easy to open up about doubts and fears but you have shared practical guidance which is so valuable to anyone starting on a new journey. We’ve all had those moments of waking in a cloud of doubt. I usually just make my way quietly to the kitchen and make a cuppa . I sip that slowly in silence and then creep back into bed feeling reassured that tomorrow is another day.
My cherry blossoms have finished and the fruits are a good size already. Enjoy the beautiful blossoms and the snow. What a great. Have a great week. Kameela xx ?❄?
Kameela, I totally agree. I was not raised to share any feelings of doubt and fear, only in my adult life could I speak with my father honestly. (Not my mother, bless her, but she was my steadfast friend in the end.) Fortunately in my adult life I had kind and wise guidance. And now, Shannon, you continue this guidance.
OK Kameela, just what exactly are you doing with your abundance of cherries?!
Sorry typo *What a treat*
I love the change to a Motivational Post every Monday!? And while I always looked forward to beginning my every other week with a TSLL podcast, truth be told, sometimes I could not visit until later anyway. So bonus for getting more!
A question—has the feature of opting in to see replies to your posting been disabled? If you have already addressed this, my apologies, and if this feature is no longer available, perfectly fine.
Thank you for your feedback. Yes, I am looking forward to beginning the week with this regular posting as well, and as I am no longer teaching, I can work on the podcast during the regular work week which was partially why I posted the episode on Monday as I would work on it over the weekend outside of school hours.
Thank you for letting me know about the opting-in/out for comments as you are the second person who has alerted me to this. I have forwarded your comment to my web tech and hope to have it fixed soon. This was not done intentionally and should not have happened. I appreciate your help. 🙂
Thank you Shannon , I think it is fixed now ?
I also love the Monday Motivations , it is a great start to the week .
I hope that your week is going well , loved the photo of Norman on the trail you posted on your Instagram page ?
x Anne x
Yep! I think during an update (which are often), a box became unchecked. All is fixed and I know where to go if it should happen again! 🙂 Thank you again for letting me know.
Thanks for asking this Rona , I have had the same problem with the comments ‘subscribe ‘ option on the page of the post !
It seems to be fixed now though, fingers crossed ?
I hope you are having a happy day ?
Best wishes from the UK
Hello Anne! I hope your week has been lovely and you are looking forward to a splendid weekend.
Much love, Rona
You too !
Thank you ?