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  • Calista Ocean

What I left behind

The obelisk in Milngavie (pronounced Mull-guy ) marked the starting point of the West Highland Way. We'd been planning this trip for almost a year, and tomorrow we would come back to this monument to begin the hike. Our journey would wind through farmland, woods, and moors to the foot of Ben Nevis (the highest peak in Britain). It seemed fitting that we begin with a ritual - one that would give energy to our intentions as we set forth.

The granite marker displayed an engraved 'Thistle' symbol that would mark signposts along our way for the next seven days. The national emblem of Scotland, this spiky purple flower has taken on special meaning for me as a symbol of beauty and ruggedness - qualities that I would find around me and within me as we traveled.

On the morning that we started our trek, we reached the obelisk and paused. We held hands and closed our eyes for a minute or two to reflect on what each of us would leave behind and what we hoped to find along the way. What was I ready to let go of? What could I 'unpack' from my bag to make room for something else? What did I envision finding in the next 96 miles of my life?

I rummaged through the daypack of my mind, trying to sort out what I didn't need.

The fingers of my thoughts brushed it, and I knew in an instant. My heart fluttered nervously in my chest. There were tears behind my closed eyes. I visualized opening my hand to see the key to my house in the center of my palm. It was silver and small. It seemed like an insignificant thing to leave behind, but because of what it represented to me, I wanted to close my fist and bury the key back deep into the safety of my bag.

What would it look like to loosen my grip and to let go of my need to feel safe? I've spent years working hard to build and maintain financial well-being. I claim that my striving is for the sake of my daughters, but the truth is that I'm addicted to a standard of living that is 'rich' despite the fact that I'm not as 'wealthy' as some. The more money I make, the more I find to spend it on. There is always something else to do or own or invest in. Don't get me wrong. I don't subscribe to the ideal of 'noble poverty'. There is nothing wrong with money or having enough of it. But how much is enough? And what am I willing to trade for a sense of security?

I stood in Milngavie with my eyes closed. I envisioned a future that was BOTH financially and spiritually wealthy. I also pictured different outcomes. In one, I maintained my current standard of living, but also continued to work in a corporate setting as a project manager, and carve out occasional time for my writing and coaching. In another, I lived a simpler life in a more natural setting. I didn't travel as much or eat out often, but I wrote and taught and gardened and hiked. I literally vibrated with joy as the latter scenario unfolded in my heart and in my body.

There was no contest. If I have to choose between stability and freedom (and I probably don't have to choose), then I choose freedom.

There is a deep longing in me that will no longer be silenced. It whispers to me of simplicity. It tells me stories of my own beauty and ruggedness. It sings to me of my wildness, and it assures me that my freedom is worth taking risks for.

We opened our eyes and reached down to set our invisible offerings at the base of the obelisk. I left behind my imaginary key as a symbol of my attachment to security. I wasn't making a decision to leave my job or sell my home (at least not yet), but I was letting go of some of my fears about living a life that feels less stable, less certain. I was setting down the weight of the stories I've told myself about 'what should be' to make room for 'what could be'.

I smiled and wondered what my Beloved was leaving behind. Hopefully not me...

What ritual could you create to amplify your own intentions? What symbols have special meaning for you?


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