A few years back, I was reminded of the fragility and unpredictability of life. I was 32, going through stressful transitions; moved countries, changed careers, and was getting used to being a mother of two toddlers. It was November, I went for a casual check-up and ended up being diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer, spreading like a wildfire. Within a few hours, my world caved in. After days of crying, and thinking it was all a bad dream, I got myself together and felt a deep desire to live, be close to my loved ones, travel, and fight the cancer.
I lost my “rational mind” and my gut instincts became stronger and clear. I made a decision, which was logistically challenging and would require me to be the best possible version of me at a time when my life was falling apart.
After two weeks of going through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, I decided to relocate my family, close to my guide, mother nature. I relocated to Ganges near the Himalayan foothills.
During chemotherapy, I used to wake up to the sight of the milky green Ganges, a valley surrounded by mountains, the chirping of birds, and a burst of energy that came with the river breeze. I would hike down to the river, catch the first rays of sunlight, feel the rich life around me, stand under the gushing waterfalls, and take dips in the freezing water of the Ganges.
I also did yoga and meditation by the river, and it made me feel so free, fearless, and one with nature. There was an invisible force, guiding me, protecting me, and loving me. The worst time of my life suddenly changed into the most enlightened time.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here are the 3 things I learned from this journey:
1. Keep faith, accept the challenge, and believe in the grand scheme of life
Imagine you are on a hiking trip. You have trained, are well prepared, and there is energy burning inside you. You are conquering the terrain, feeling the rush of blood, enjoying the beauty, and getting more adept with every step. Suddenly, the weather takes a turn for the worse, you become overwhelmed, tip over a rock and fall.
Your group keeps on moving and you are left behind, in the harsh weather and a broken leg. What is supposed to be a beautiful journey, suddenly becomes a nightmare and you are gasping for breath. Now, you have a choice to either sit and blame everyone else or to think about the possibility that there is more to what just happened. You can’t change the course of the weather or the fact you got hurt. You can either feel helpless and be a victim or you can channel your energy, get back your inner strength, and think about the possibility to get out of the mess.
Life is like the hiking trip, unpredictable and bittersweet. Unforeseen events, can put us off the radar, no matter how well we planned. Giving more power to the events, being in a state of victimhood or ‘why me’ leads to helplessness, anxiety, depression, isolation and low self confidence.
Instead, have faith in the universe and yourself. You can’t control certain things, or go back and change them. What is within our power is to accept the test that life has bestowed, find that inner spark, and move ahead.
2. Mother nature has got your back
Because thousands of thoughts cross your mind, it’s challenging to break a chain of negative thoughts that take over your mind. What you can do is go outside, and experience the sunset, sunrise, walk in the woods, swim in the sea, lie on the grass, and take deep breaths of gratitude.
Feel the richness of life, the cycle of change, the vacuum of silence, and the music of the trees. You will observe your negative thoughts slowing down and your breathing getting into a more natural rhythm.
Go on a solo nature trip, do Forest Bathing (a therapeutic technique originated in Japan), release the vented up emotions through writing, singing, or observing and learning from mother nature. When the mind is at peace, the inner voice within, becomes louder and stronger and all the fears are left behind. That is the place you want to be, where you activate the voice that knows the best for you.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius
3. Work from the inside out, detach yourself from the outcome, and take small actions
The thoughts and emotions you are experiencing are there for a reason. Without judging or labeling them as good or bad, or shoving them under the rug, take a deep dive and reflect on the meaning of them in your life.
Working with a personal development coach or self reflecting on your values, what drives you, and your vision will give your emotions a medium of self expression. Unexpressed thoughts and emotions are like a dormant volcano, building up pressure every time you feel dishonored.
For instance, if you feel stuck in a toxic relationship or a job, it could be because you have invested every bit of yourself into it and it feels almost impossible to escape. Though your values are consistently dishonored, you feel betrayed, angry, helpless, and there is too much friction and resistance to take another step.
Not taking action is like being stuck in quicksand, because the more you postpone, the deeper you get sucked in. Your self confidence and self esteem takes a nosedive and every day you drift away from who you are as a person. Instead, take small consistent actions every day. These actions should help you feel alive and make you feel close to who you are.
Go for a run, sweat out those toxins, or practice yoga. These activities can help you develop the mental strength, the ability to face challenges, and to believe in yourself. If you love to dance, join a dance class. If you love to play sports, find a group and commit to it.
Have you seen a climber plant? Once it gets the right support and nurturing, it climbs up against gravity. The key here is to create that support system by tuning in to the above practices and no matter how hard life pushes you, find that firm ground beneath your foot, and bounce back.