I ran into a professional contact at an event mid-year, and he said to me, “Vanessa, where have you been?!” It was a joke since most people hadn’t seen each other in person in a couple of years as a result of the pandemic, though also a serious question. I’d chosen to live a bit more privately over the last couple of years and he was sincerely curious as to what I’d been up to.
My personal pandemic shift was taking time to slow down and go inward. “Inward” is a nod to Yung Pueblo, a remarkable poet and my greatest find of 2022. While I’ve been somewhat active on social media, I’ve not really known what to share about my inward journey.
A thread I’ve continued to explore from my journey in 2021 is spirituality – I’d define spirituality in its simplest form as the state of interconnectedness. I’ve come to understand that there is a mind-body-spirit connection and that we are all of them together. We exist in all 3 at the same time, and when we lose that, we become disconnected both from ourselves as well as others.
Until 2021, I had really only explored mind and body. In 2021, I explored spirit. In 2022, I explored them together in a few main ways: being in nature and exploring my connection to all things (spirit), pushing my body with lots of periods of rest (body), and through reading to distill hat I’ve been learning (mind).
“If you want to make small changes, do things differently. If you want to make big changes, see things differently” – proverb
Nature helps quiet the mind and teaches you about how interconnected everything truly is. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always liked being outside. This year, I took that to the next level. One of my biggest achievements was hiking 60-km in one day on the Dobson trail from Fundy to Riverview, NB. As with most achievements, I didn’t do this alone. My friend, Sarah, and I hiked the trail together. We prepared together, and each brought a different skill set to the day. I witnessed her incredible mental resilience on the trail. We had lots of help too – Sarah’s husband drove my friends Mischka and Saniya to pick up my car, the 3 of them who met us along the way for supply refills, and Amanda who met us with 10-km to go and lead us through the darkest part of the journey.
I spent a lot of time on the Dobson trail this year. It feels like a home to me. Throughout my time there, I’ve met many of the regulars and had many chats. It made me feel safe, and also connected. What I learned from spending time there is the difference between ownership and stewardship. Obviously the Dobson trail is not a home to me in a traditional sense as I have no ownership to the trail. I do consider myself one of its stewards though.
I’ve come to think of ownership and stewardship as concepts that help us interact with the world – ownership is a legal concept, one where I can use buying power to acquire things like a house and land. On the other hand, even if I legally own a house and land, being its steward is different. Being a steward of a house or land changes the way I choose to interact with it. I’m responsible for its upkeep and maintenance similar to ownership, though I’m also responsible for living in harmony with it.
In 2022, I reflected a lot on the concept of stewardship – it’s something I feel I haven’t learned enough about. In business and management books, we often receive the message that people have to be owners to take things seriously and treat things with the respect they deserve. How would that change if our culture taught people to be stewards – of their relationships, their businesses, their land, their homes? I think this tiny shift in frames has the potential to create waves of change in the world.
One of the themes I’ve been reading on over the last 2 years is is reconciliation with Indigenous North Americans. One of the lines that has stuck with me for over a year now was from Tanya Talaga’s Massey lecture, All our relations, where she said for Indigenous peoples “separation from the land is equivalent to a spiritual separation”. In a sentence, she captured what I had been trying to wrap my mind around and perhaps something that I knew on an intuitive level. We cannot live separately from anything or anyone else, including land. We have to be stewards of each other, and live with the land rather than on it. I continue to explore what that means for me in shifting my behaviours, through shifting my mindset.
I learned another important lesson from my time outside – how far I can push my body. Someone said to me in passing this past year that the body can exist only in the present. It was one of those “a ha” moments for me where I realized that part of the goal of meditation is to simply bring the mind into coherence with the body – in the present. I’ve come to believe spiritual practices are meant to bring the body and mind into coherence with the spirit. I wanted to do the full Dobson hike as a spiritual journey, and it was indeed that. I realized the body is capable of so much more than I realized.
After that, I ran 2 x 5-km races, 1 x 10-km trail race, 1 x 17-km trail race, attempted to summit Mt. Katahdin (didn’t end up conquering the fear of heights, but planning a re-visit!), played a few ultimate frisbee tournaments, got into downhill skiiing and have generally enjoyed being active. There is a happiness I find in being active that I find rare in anything else I do. I attribute much of that joy to the presence required in being active.
Throughout my life, one of my main habits in deepening and expanding my thinking has been reading. In 2022, I ramped up my reading through fully embracing audiobooks and managed to somehow read 57 books in a year. My next post explores my takeaways from a year of exploring a few themes. As I reflected overall on the main takeaway from this broad exploration in 2022, my main takeaway was that the mind-body-spirit connection is indeed real and that people are exploring in many different ways – from pushing their bodies to extremes, to researching how groups interact, to opening oneself up to alternate ways of being in the world aside from the ones you may have been trained in. My post on my the books of 2022 is long (coming soon), though I wrote it to figure it out my own takeaways and I hope in the process contribute something of value to others. If you ever want to talk about any of the books I discuss, please reach out to me!
It’s taken me a few weeks to solidify my thinking about what I grew into in 2022, and what that means for me moving into this new year. After a couple of years going inward, I’m now ready to journey outward again – now that I have become aware of my previous separation of mind-body-spirit and brought those into integrity. While my practices are in no way perfect, I’ve fully embraced that perfect is no longer the goal. I now understand what is meant when people say the journey matters more than the destination. For the first time, I’ve also truly experienced what it means to have faith – faith that there is so much than I can ever understand, and faith to simply accept interconnectedness – both within myself (mind-body-spirit) and outside of myself.
One of my first explorations of 2023 has been diving into the practices of “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” by Julia Cameron. Most of what I’ve read about creativity lately has a deep spiritual element to it with the main messages being that we are channels for creativity, and that creativity is available to everyone. Her practices have components to help bring the mind, body and spirit more fully into coherence. I’ll be creating this year through a few different formats and I hope you’ll join me for the journey, as I hope to follow your journey as well.
With much love.
you can change your location,
meet new people,
and still have the same old problems.
to truly change your life,
you need to look inward,
get to know and love yourself,
and heal the trauma and dense conditioning
in your mind.
this is how you get to the root.
have a significant external impact.