#12 Lessons of being Listlessly Lost
Have you ever felt lost, adrift in the moving sea of life without a compass? Can one feel lost and stuck at the same time? I believe I have lived it. This is how this experience taught me to take responsibility for myself and act accordingly.
“Where are you going?” The friendly manager of the little backpacker hostel in downtown Cancun, Mexico, asked me with raised eyebrows. Good question, or rather, not a good question because it was the exact one that I kept trying to answer in my mind. Ever since I had left Germany, I had been moving around a lot. Traveling over oceans, mountains and volcanoes. I had fallen in love with movement, with this aliveness that comes with novelty and adventure. These dopamine rushes that flooded my brain as I took leaps of faith and experienced the serendipitous rewards of facing my fears were intoxicating.
Yet here I was, restless, alone and heartbroken over Mateo who was now thousands of miles away back in Germany. I felt the weight of the consequences of my choice to continue my journey by myself every day. Fellow hostel guests invited me to parties but I was in such a sour and sulky mood that the only things that gave me solace were reading fantasy books, writing in my journal, and doing yoga.
Now that I look back I realize I was experiencing the universal truth: pleasure habituates. I felt depleted. I had experienced the high and happy life, but how volatile and short lived happiness is. How was it possible that there was no sense of fulfillment after all those pleasurable experiences? My joy, too, had departed. Joy, which is one of my strongest character traits, seemed lost.
It was not surprising that I was not experiencing joy with all those pecking thoughts tormenting me. Why was I doing all this? Where was I going indeed? Hadn’t I had enough of an adventure? Why couldn’t I just be content? The stream of thought had me cascading down into the dark and murky waters of self-doubt. Guilt and pity were like mighty waves, threatening to roll me over and pull me deeper into misery.
My spiritual mentor Jill had taught me about the concept of “being in victim mode” and on honest reflection one thing was clear, I was in full-on pitiful victim mode. “It is normal to be in victim mode but remember, when you are, you are relinquishing your power to change the situation. You can shift from “Why me (me me meee)?” to “What can this experience teach me”? This is how you reclaim that innate power you have to change your situation.”
In an attempt to step out of my lethargy and back into my power, I spontaneously signed up for a week-long yoga festival in the jungle. It was an experience that taught me two things. One, that I love practicing yoga because of the way it makes me connect with myself in the present moment. And two, that I did not (want to) belong to the yogic ashram life I had experienced there. I did have some interesting conversations with yogis and spiritual seekers, but others left me feeling confused and disconnected. I found that many of the people had views and beliefs that were slightly too esoteric and otherworldly for me. I also encountered self-proclaimed spiritual seekers who were so righteous that I felt repelled. My hope had been that my new found spirituality would make it easier to connect with people at the yoga festival, but it didn’t happen.
So I left that jungle ashram with sore muscles, a feeling of disappointment and a sense of surrender. Distractions no longer worked. I needed something else. I needed to give myself space and time to breathe, to rest and restore. To listen deeply. This is when I remembered the last words my mother told me as we said farewell. “You have it all in you already, you just need to listen.”
“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”
― Ram Dass
If you’ve ever tried listening to your gut, you know how hard it is to hear that voice that speaks without words. In the hostel that had become sort of a homebase, my outer environment was almost as loud and disturbing as the turbulence inside of me. What do you do when you have trouble listening and understanding your inner compass? Well, duh! It helps to get silent.
This is how I contacted Joe, the elderly expat I met in Antigua, Guatemala, while I was traveling with Mateo. He had told me that together with two friends he had bought two houses in a nearby village and turned them into one beautiful community house. “In case you come back to Guatemala and you are sick of hostels, hit me up. We always have free rooms and I’ll make you a good price.”
Sometimes we feel lost and directionless. We cannot see the next step because our minds are chasing the horizon, that illusionary place of eternal happiness. It is difficult to be in the discomfort of a dissatisfied mind filled with judgement, unprocessed feelings of guilt, heartbreak, and being weighed down under the pressure of expectations. This is why it is important to learn to create space and sit in stillness. Life is challenging and requires us to take on our journey with its trials and tribulations because it is those experiences that actually prepare us for what we are seeking. If we learn to take responsibility for ourselves by asking “What is this experience here to teach me?” we start to accept reality and open up to opportunity.