the forest

9:00 AM I started out the day with a beautiful, long hike through the forest. The plan was to hike through the jungle to the beach, spend some time taking photos and then come back. I am a pretty experienced hiker so a four hour day-hike isn’t really a big deal. I only set aside the entire day because I had to take a train for just under two hours from the city I was staying in to get to the small town where the trails began. I brought the appropriate amount of food and water for the day, got on the first train out to have an early start and was really excited to finally make it out to the figure-eight pools. The hike down was great. I was moving along the coastline so the views were amazing the entire way down. The beach and figure-eight pools were more than what I expected. I took my photographs and began to make my way back. When I hike sometimes I like to listen to music or a podcast, especially if it is a longer hike, so I am not in total silence for several hours. Somewhere along the way I deviated from the path. This had never happened to me before, but I was going through some pretty thick jungle and that made the path hard to see. Normally I wouldn’t worry because the worst case scenario was that I would have to retrace my steps until I found a point I recognized. I quickly remembered that wasn’t the issue. The main problem was that the town outside of the jungle is so small that the train doesn’t run there that often. The last train was at around five pm and it was nearly half past three. The hike is two hours one way and I wasn’t sure how long I had been lost for. I could’ve tried to find a shortcut, but I didn’t want to risk being more lost than I was. Did I mention the way back was all uphill? I also needed to walk from the trailhead to the train station which was about a twenty minute endeavor. I was also in a foreign country so it wasn’t like I could call any family or friends to come get me. There were no hotels nearby either since it was so far out in the jungle. I essentially had two options: a) spend the night camping with no gear or b) run like hell.

3:32 PM You don’t need to get lost in the jungle to understand the feeling that I am talking about. We have all found ourselves in situations where we weren’t exactly sure how we got there in the first place. All we can do is focus on finding a way out. It is an essential energy within the classic hero’s journey. We begin our adventure with some apprehension mixed in with awe and enchantment along the way. This essence appears any time you are experiencing something new. Think back to an initiation you went through. Was it one of your first days of school? Perhaps the first partnership you ever experienced? First day at a new job? First time saying “I love you”? They are all extremely daunting at the time when we have no idea what awaits us. Will I make any friends during my first day? Will this person be “the one”? Will I enjoy this job more than my last one? Do they feel the same way about me? Every new experience like this is an opportunity to step into our power in a new way. This is what happens when we take that dive into the unknown with something we aren’t yet comfortable with and don’t know how we will come out on the other side. There are new dimensions of power, like treasures, hidden all along the forest. How much you embrace being in the unknown with an open heart will determine how many of those treasures you bring back.

3:40 PM When we experience a new manifestation of the unknown, we go in totally blind. Sure we have our previously accrued knowledge and skills to guide that will help us for the recognizable elements of the voyage. However, if it is truly a dimension of the unknown then we need to be totally open to the inevitable learning experience that awaits us. We are very likely to get lost along the way. That is nothing to be afraid of. Similarly to any other mystical adventure, we will discover some variation of friendly allies to help us out. All it takes is being open to their assistance as we move deeper into the journey. It is hard to tell exactly where they will come from since we have never been in this forest before. They could be a teacher in a class we are struggling in, friend to support us in our new relationship, mentor who provides some sage advice, or some aspect of ourselves. All of them are available as a compass. In my case, I was lucky to have the ocean. As long as the ocean remained on my left I was heading in the right direction. They are all happy to offer their wisdom, we just need to welcome them in with an open mind and heart.

3:58 PM While we feel lost it is important to not lose our heads and hearts. It is so tempting to break down and think that you are lost forever or that there is no way out. No matter what unknown forest you are in, your heart already knows that you can take care of yourself. The narrative of someone coming to your rescue is far past outdated. You need to be the one to show up for yourself and keep yourself calm so you can make your way through. This is especially crucial when you are in the middle of the jungle and it doesn’t seem like you can see your way out in any direction. Your usual senses and logic won’t work. You need to be the one to bring the patience and serenity.

4:44 PM: You may go into the unknown forest with a plan. I love plans. I love having the original plan, four backup plans and then eight backup plans for every backup plan that may fail. You may be wondering, “well if that is true, where were your thirty six backup plans that day in the jungle?” Fair point. My real backup plan in any unknown jungle is myself. I love taking all sorts of new adventures that are way outside my comfort zone. I run just over twelve kilometers daily and love a good twenty kilometer run occasionally. One of the two worst case scenarios involved me running back to the point where I got lost and coming all the way back. Even though it was uphill and through the thick brush that was still feasible… though I would have been in serious trouble if I injured myself. That is exactly what I did and I proceeded with care. No matter what, you need to know that you can always rely on yourself. You are your own greatest guide no matter what the situation is. The location of the hike was out of my comfort zone since I had never been to that park before and I was already in a foreign place. The hike itself wasn’t as novel because I love spending time outdoors. There are so many situations where we think we are totally out of our element because the form is different. When we look at the core elements, we realize we have more that enough to guide ourselves to find our way through. Besides, we are already in way too deep to turn back. Now is the time to embrace the unknown in our hearts and face the challenge head on.

4:59 PM Nevertheless, there are things that throw us off or completely through a loop that we may not be able to rely on previous experiences for. That doesn’t mean we can’t still rely on ourselves. You may just have to reach deeper into your heart than you expected. For instance, I never knew I could run that fast after already being pretty drained. I had to dig really deep for that one and didn’t stop until I was out of breath at the train station. I slept the entire ride home. The jungle will challenge you far beyond the limits you thought you had. That could mean anything e.g. cracking problems you didn’t think you could, loving something within someone else you didn’t imagine you would be called to, standing up to someone kindly, or loving yourself in a new way you didn’t think was possible. We cross those unimaginable thresholds before emerging on the other side.

5:02 PM The wonderful thing about when you make it out of the forest is that you are so relieved and you can imagine doing it again. Sounds crazy, right? I mean we did just achieve the impossible… why would we ever put ourselves through that again? Despite the fear, density, and uncertainty you may have experienced you can still feel the leftover magic and wonder. Every time we make friends with the unknown we are enticed to return. Amongst the unknown are not only new dimensions of yourself that are waiting to be unearthed, but also the overwhelming potential of strength you feel from within.

6:11 PM: You will probably also have a brilliant story afterwards. You will definitely have a new dimension of resilience that you didn’t previous know was within you. Your heart is far beyond equipped to handle any manifestation of the unknown. You just need to tap into the trust you have for yourself.

6:29 PM: When we build trust with ourselves, there is nothing we cannot handle. This has always been true, but now we are more aware of it. Even though you may not know what every forest looks like in its entirety with all of its twists, turns and tricks, you know you have the ability to adapt. You know you have the ability to reach down within yourself and pull something out to guide you.

7:00 PM The forest is a vessel to know ourselves in ways that ways we couldn’t have possibly conceived before. Every adventure into an entirely new forest becomes this practice of transforming the unknown within ourselves into something that is known that we can integrate into our daily lives.

7:00 AM The colorful, multilayered, mystical, vibrant forest is always ready for you. What is really fun is not knowing the specific manifestations of the dimensions of self that we will discover but realizing that they await us in a new adventure.

with love, katie

1:00 PM: I found out later that the shortest hike is about three and a half kilometers… I am still glad I took the long way.

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