My then boyfriend, now friend, can tell you exactly how I looked when he dropped me and Pacer off to start the Colorado Trail, just a few months after moving to the state and having only done one very, very, short overnight backpacking trip on the AT. He’ll tell you that I looked like I was about to cry, that he could see the fear written around the worried lines around my smile. I actually didn’t know he could read any of my emotions in that moment until he repeated this scene to me a few months ago, because at the time, he knew what he had to do. He remained stoic, not allowing me to linger too long in our embrace, and sent me and Pacer off down the trail.
My tears are usually a mixture of emotions. Sadness, fear, and excitement all wrapped into a ball, moving from my chest to my throat.
The sadness is partially still from the ending that transitioned right into the beginning, but also a grief for the people I can’t take with my on my journey. It’s a love, really. The tears if sadness also mix in with tears from pure fear…a new beginning is stepping into the unknown. And, even while at this point in my life I know all will turn out okay, the fear of the unknown seems to be embedded into my DNA. Its grip has simply loosened. Blending in with the fear then, of course, is the heart of my adventurous soul singing out loud in excitement, for there is surely much beauty to be seen.
So is the cycle of my life. An ending, a beginning, and all the emotions in-between. Beauty in every step.
In the midwest, we like to name the “fun” sections of our routes, like “The Stairway to Heaven” or “The Piano Keys”. If you’re not familiar with Cuyahoga Valley National Park, then you probably at least heard of the infamous “Heartbreak Hill” on the Boston Marathon course.
I like to call this section of the Colorado Trail/Collegiate West/Continental Divide Trail “Death by Switchbacks.” Now truly, this section of the trail is nothing short of majestic, but in these few specific miles, you drop down from alpine via what feels like 100 switchbacks, cross a short marshy section (pictured here- it looks much different in the summer!), only to return to alpine via another 100 switchbacks. If you’re already feeling tired, it’s nothing short of a struggle. The good news, however, is that once you make the death march (hike, run, or cycle) up, you meet heaven. (If headed southwest, towards the Alpine Tunnel and Cottonwood Pass to the northeast.)
The ego (how we feel about ourselves, our self-esteem) death uses a similar model as this section of the trail, although I’m going to offer a reframe that it is not necessarily about a part of us that needs to die, but actually about the part of us that doesn’t want to truly live, or “be here”, as I’ve written in previous post. It’s that part of us that says life is too hard, too painful. It’s the part of ourselves we try to numb and call it depression. The ego death is actually about bringing that part into Light and reigniting your own inner fire. It’s accepting that there is pain in the world but realizing it is not our own. It’s acknowledging that there is suffering, but it is not our truth. It’s reclaiming our authentic expression of self and believing in our divine right to live freely, peacefully, and joyously. This is “fighting for the Light”.
Again, the question is, will you choose yourself (Love) over fear?
For what I am holding onto will not allow me to live.
The wounds of our past: slavery, separation, running from love.
Both Mother Earth and I know the depths of the darkness.
Wounds, resurfaced, by no other than a lover.
No longer buried deep, but instead, threatening to consume the light within.
The love within.
What choice will I make?
I hear my body groan in agony.
“Good”, instructs my Mother.
This is the release.
I can’t see the way,
but with signs, she assures me that she does.
My only job is to lean back,
to trust my fall into the night sky,
to trust the stars will catch me.
There is no doubt some type of death will occur.
In my sacred groan, I choose to release my pain.
I choose to let go.
My only chance to return to the Light.
If you are in pain right now, know that you are not alone. This is part of the human journey. To transcend our pain. Not to hold it in, but to release it. To let it go. Realize it is not a burden to carry but a path to transformation. This process of moving through pain often requires more movement of energy than journaling or meditating. I suggest first moving the body and inviting any noises…screams, groans, cries, etc to come to the surface to be released. Then you may find peace in stillness.
I believe this is the difference between suicide and ego death, which is, I know, a big statement to make. But when we hold on to our pain, internalize it, keep it inside, it can absolutely kill our light, our soul. On the other hand, if we choose to step towards the pain and allow it to move, to be released, whether it be by groaning and physical release or talking to a therapist or friend, it is simply the ego that dies so the flame within can burn brighter.
The opposite of the sacred groan is, yes, the sacred moan. I hesitate to write about the sacred moan, for lack of many people understanding. There needs to be some conceptualization of sacred sexuality, even if it is only resonating with the term. The sacred moan is the mirrored twin of the sacred groan. It is the orgasm between two divine energies merging together to create something so expansive that it cannot be held within. It too, must be released. Yes, it can happen during sex, but it can happen outside of physical intercourse too. For it is in the energy, the pleasure, the love, the intersect of two divine energies coming together to co-create something bigger, more expansive, that one could have ever done in singularity.
One gift, or word, my older sister left our family with before she passed was the word “yay!”. I think she must have picked the word up from the minions in Despicable Me. I really don’t remember, but “yay!” and “awesome” became word that we associate with her.
While it’s not uncommon to hear any member of my family say “Yay!” and then see another family member smile, I only realized recently what an “awesome present” (all puns intended) my sister left us with.
Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts that discuss things like quantum physics and vibrational frequencies, which a very teeny, tiny part of me has begun to understand on a logical level.
I’ve also begun, while alone in my yurt (+Pacer), seemingly out of nowhere and somewhat unconsciously, hearing myself yell “Yay!”. Pacer looks up from the couch and wags her nub, both of us realizing that at the same time that the sound came from me.
Yay! is an exciting, celebratory word. The exclamation point that comes after it is more of a given than a necessary component.
Yay! doesn’t just mean life is good, it means life is amazing, miraculous, and so much so that your inner being can’t help but shout “Yay!” It’s like the vibration, or the energy of the word is too big to contain inside of oneself and must instead be shouted.
As you read the word “yay!” over and over again in the blog post, can you feel the energy rising in your chest?
Why hold it in? Say it out loud with me. Yay!
How did that feel? How do you feel now compared to when you started reading this post?
Yay! is like sunshine in a word. It contains so much light that it can’t help but to burst forth, raising your vibration and that of everyone around you.
Even when not feeling great, try saying “yay”. When said without the exclamation, or in a monotone voice, it feels kind of silly to say. Which is still a lift in the right direction. And personally, while I’m not one to bypass uncomfortable emotions, a little silly on a dark day is still a much appreciated light. Whether a day is a bit gray or already sunny, I’ve now come to consciously start saying “Yay!” to raise my own vibration and let the Universe (Spirit/God/Mother Nature) know that I am grateful for what I’ve been given.
Have you ever seen this magnets that say “YAY! _______!” “YAY! MOUNTAINS!” “YAY! COFFEE!” “YAY! DOGS!” “YAY! CAMPING!” “YAY! LOVE!” “YAY! ADVENTURE!” “YAY! ADVENTURE!” “YAY! PIZZA!” “YAY! CUPCAKES!” “YAY! FRIDAY!” “YAY! PICKLES!” “YAY! FRIENDS!” There is pretty much a “YAY!” for everything, which is another way of saying that there is so much to celebrate and be grateful for.
This is your practice. Make saying “Yay!” a daily habit. Throughout the 16 or so hours that you are awake, say “Yay!” whenever you see or hear anything that makes you happy or thankful. “Yay! coffee!” “Yay! dog walks!” “Yay! lunch!” “Yay! friendly cashier!” “Yay! friend who called me!” “Yay! candles!” “Yay! books!” “Yay! going to be early!”
At the end of the day, just take note of how you felt. Then, if you want, do it again the next day. And then maybe again the next. Because life is way more miraculous that we’ve been trained to see. Yay!
[I always feel like I have to write a disclaimer when I write a post like this for fear that what I say will be misconstrued and called “toxic positivity”, even though the study of “positive psychology” itself is misconstrued. I am 100% for feeling all the feelings, because feeling them is the only way we allow uncomfortable emotions to pass, and the only way we can be guided to deeper truths. Maybe it’s because I’ve done the challenging work of going into my own darkness that I’ve gotten to this point, but I really, really care about feeling good and living a life that is directed towards joy. So yes, feel all the feelings, and then orient towards beauty, awe, and however you want to feel.]
*I truly contemplated entitling this blog “Manifesting for Muggles”, but I know not everyone shares the affinity for Harry Potter culture that I do. Also, what I really mean is “physically mortal”, as in, our bodies die, but our spirit continues on.
Is manifesting magic?
No…and Yes! (In my head, this is said in my best Buddy the Elf voice.).
Manifesting is a word that comes with a lot of different interpretations and connotations. Some people think the idea of manifesting is ridiculous, and others practice manifesting daily, with mixed results.
I’m here to provide clarity and some middle ground by sharing a little bit of my own journey with manifesting. If you’re a doubter, stay with me.
I’m not sure how old I was the first time I heard of manifesting. Maybe it was in one of Gabrielle Bernstein’s first books, maybe it was before that. But it certainly wasn’t the word I was using in my early 20s, when first started manifesting. Honestly, I didn’t even know I was doing it. I just knew what I wanted and I, with my Midwestern grit, was sure as hell going to figure how to get it. Only, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.
For example, after I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to take a trip to Africa and spend some time volunteering. I just had no idea how to do that. No one in my family had ever done anything like it. I had only been to one other country…Canada. I’m also from a middle-middle class family from Ohio and I certainly didn’t have the extra cash oozing out of my bank account. So I just started researching.
I was also signed up to run Burning River 100 that year, which was then the USATF 100 mile Championship and I was fortunate enough that summer to have the time train for the race. I managed to get second place to the legendary Connie Gardner, which I think earned me $500, the amount I needed to make the down payment to Cross Cultural Solutions, the organization I chose to volunteer with. During that time, I also was accepted to be a “loaned executive” for the United Way of Greater Cleveland. As the name suggest, usually this position is loaned out from other companies, but I was one of the rare solo hires. The job ended in mid-December as the big fundraising campaign ended right before Christmas. At one of the company holiday parties, I won one of the raffles… usually I’m the person lucky enough to win a dollar on a lottery ticket. This time, I won enough to help make another needed payment for the trip. The job ended at a perfect time too…I spent Christmas with my family, then took off in January to spend a month in Tanzania, Africa.
The next few years was a series of small manifestations, but there’s a few key take-aways here. I gave away my “business” cloths…the pencil skirt and pant suit. I didn’t want a job where I’d have to dress up. I landed my then “dream job” at Girls on the Run of Northeast Ohio. It didn’t pay much, but I loved the organization and the women I worked with. Not long after, my then boyfriend got a job at the University of Colorado in Boulder, right where my sister lived. I stayed a little longer in Ohio because I wanted to work another season with GOTR, but before I knew it, I was close to my sister and in the land of adventure. Oh…and I almost forgot to mention. At GOTR, I met a volunteer who had lived in Colorado previously and had backpacked the Colorado Trail (CT) with her dog. I had been on the CT before when visiting my sister and had a moment of “falling in love” with the scenery. Of course, this all led me to backpacking the Colorado Trail with my dog the very summer I moved out to Colorado (again, after never having backpacked before!).
I then made grad school happen, I got a wonderful internship in the mountains and found rare, affordable housing with wonderful landlords, and I opened my private practice, Wanderlust Counseling. Eventually, my heart started telling me it was time to move again. Actually, it had been giving me the nudge for awhile. After my sister and her partner moved and I found myself spending a silly amount of gas money to drive to further west to play in the mountains with my pup, the calling got louder (and yet still subtle….if you’re not use to listening to your intuition, it’s easy to ignore it).
On August 13th, 2022, just after many miles spent climbing Mt. Harvard and playing on the Colorado Trail in the Sawatch mountains, my twin’s sisters “home” mountains, I wrote in my journal “Universe/Amanda*- we want to find a place near here-close to trails, perfect for Pacer.” This accompanied a prayer I often said in my head “A van or something better.”
*Amanda is my older sister who transitioned in 2020. I know she always has my back and enjoys it when me and my other sister are together…because when I’m paying attention, I can feel it.
Less than 2 months later, my dog and I were moving into a Yurt, 20 minutes away from my sister, at the edge of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I honestly could not have come up with that idea in my head. It’s perfect. While I give some credit to the Facebook-verse (I had shared a post that I was casually looking for a place on a rentals page, a page that isn’t exactly and uplifting place to find housing), I tell people “I honestly think I manifested it” when they ask me how I found the Yurt.
*There are several reasons why a van would not have been a good option for me right now.
As you can see, or rather, read, my manifesting journey has been both simple and spectacular. Which is really the life I want to lead. Simple in not wanting a lot of stuff but spectacular in outdoor adventures, often in my backyard.
Personally, I can’t wait to do Gabrielle Bernstein’s 2023 Manifesting Challenge, and I listen to Abraham Hicks (the channeled beings or consciousness, that is translated through Esther Hicks) most mornings of the week. That practice has been going on for a few months now, and sometimes I still get tripped up and my Midwestern critic voice comes in that says its all nonsense. I get the raising my vibration piece…but then do I really want it? Do I not actually want it? Am I blocking what I’m trying to manifest? Wait, is that my vibration lowering? But I’m trying to raise it, I swear!
Then I judge myself for all that questioning, which is most definitely a block. Sigh.
In short, I’d say the simple key is returning back to your vibration, or stepping into how you want to feel. Which is really, really simple when you break it down with the steps I’m going to give you.
My 4-Step Guide to Manifesting
1. Know your core values.
I like to either think of core values as roots of a tree that ground us so we can grow higher, or like points on a compass, which I’ll use here. When you know your core values, you have a clear direction of where you want to go in life. You may not know exactly what that life looks like, but you probably know the feelings you want to have by following those values. For example, my top for values (in no specific order) are growth, adventure, family/friends, and kindness. Encompassed in all of that is what I feel like my purpose is: to be a light in the dark. If I follow my values, that leads me to a life of love, peace, freedom, and wisdom. Damn, that feels good.
(I’m a mental health therapist, running coach, and aspiring writer that lives in the middle of the mountains with my dog, although not too far away from my sister and her partner/my “brother”…see how my values all play out?)
2. Take a step onto the path.
Let your intention be known to the Universe. Say a prayer. Write it down. Initiate the spark. Clear your path. I don’t know if this step is necessary for a practiced manifestor, but for me this tiny step towards my dreams always seems to put things into action. I do a little research, I write a Facebook post, tell people about what I’m doing and want to do, etc. Usually, my values have already helped me to align and make it easy to take this first step (and laziness is not a value of mine anyway).
*I have not yet overcome my natural worrying tendency. This step, worrying, is definitely not necessary. For example, when I was looking for a place when I first moved to the mountains for the internship, I worried for months. And then, at the last minute, the perfect place came my way. It had nothing to do with my worrying efforts. An acquaintance, now friend, who is also a running coach happened to live next to people with an empty basement apartment.
3. Practice Gratitude.
Whether I have what I want yet or not, I can always practice gratitude. If I’m wanting a companion, I can be grateful of the quiet loveliness of the current moment snuggled up next to my dog. If I’m wanting to write and sell a book, I can be grateful for the time I have to write creatively, an activity I enjoy regardless if I get paid or not. If I’m wanting my body to heal after an injury, I can be grateful for what I can still do and for all the adventures I’ve already had.
See what happens. Be curious. Flow, don’t force. Yes, keep moving toward your dream, but you should always enjoy the process. You might get exactly what you wanted, something a little different, or not get it all. Because it might be something you just couldn’t have imagined. Regardless, you’re feeling good. You’re aligned with your values and are grateful for what you have. Life is already good. Manifesting just enhances it. And the more you align with your true self and your purpose, the more you open yourself up to receiving.
A few years ago, on a cold and snowy night in Northeast Ohio, I picked up a pen and my journal and words spilled from my hands. As I wrote, I thought I was writing my story, the story of how I lost my wings as a young girl and found them once again in my 20s. What I realized later on was the I was writing the story, in poem format, of most women I know. A year later, my sister and her boyfriend turned my poem into a video that has now been viewed by thousands and seen at The Trail Running Film Festival. My poem has now become the story of women rising.
She Wanted to Fly. . .So She Flew
Once there was a little girl. She wanted to fly… So she flew.
She flew over rooftops, And skimmed the tops of trees. She flew so high that she soared with the birds. She flew even higher than the clouds, She flew among the stars.
Her wings took her anywhere she wanted to go. Her wings were only visible to her, And that is how the problem occurred. She told others of the her magical flights, And how her wings rose with the wind, Taking her higher than the mountain tops. But those who couldn’t see her wings told her this wasn’t true. They said her imagination was playing tricks on her, She had no wings, She couldn’t fly.
At first she didn’t believe them, and she continued to fly. But they grew more persistent. They told her she needed to start growing up, That it was best to keep such silly dreams to herself. Then one day, a few years down the road, She tried to fly, But never left the ground.
She remembered those voices who told her she couldn’t And figured they were right. She couldn’t really fly. Still, she worked hard in school and got good grades. She dreamed about her future And about what she wanted to be when she grew up. However, when she told others of her dreams They told her she was foolish. Some said she was not pretty enough, Others said she was not smart or creative enough. They said she should be practical And to keep such silly dreams to herself. So, she believed those voices too. Her world became gray, Rain fell every day.
But then, on a seemingly un-extraordinary day, A soft breeze blew at her back. At first she ignored it, But then it grew stronger. It lifted her feet right off the ground!
Suddenly she remembered all the times she used to fly. “Yes!” she remembered, “I flew so very high up in the sky!” As a young girl, she had flown over rooftops, Skimmed the tops of trees, And soared with the birds. Without any doubt, She knew her memories were real. Her dreams could come true, If she just believed.
And with that thought, Her broken wings were healed. Suddenly, she was flying above the clouds, Higher than the mountaintops, And found herself among the stars.
Once there was a little girl. She wanted to fly… So she flew.
A calm, regulated nervous system creates an atmosphere within the body in which healing is achieved. The body truly is designed to heal.
“Higher levels of stress cause higher cortisol output via the HPA axis, and cortisol inhibits the activity of the inflammatory cells involved in wound healing.” -Gabar Mate, When the Body Says No
While this quote is specific to wound healing, we can transfer this knowledge to the whole body, as the book When the Body Says No does for many conditions such as ALS and cancer. I was also lucky enough learn from other therapists who carried this knowledge and have helped people heal mentally and physically. In addition, I can bet you that any of my counseling clients who experience high anxiety also have gut issues, in part because the blood flow is being directed outward, just in case they have to fight, flee, for freeze, and not towards the gut to help digest foods. On a more personal note, I can tell when I get a headache that I’ve caused because of high levels of stress and worry.
*Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nakazawa is another good read on the topic
In short, science is finally catching up to what many healers already know. Actually, what many of us know, but have been taught to ignore or thought silly after frightened men gave intuition names like “woo woo” and undermined Eastern traditions.
Without exactly knowing it until a friend defined it (https://adogandhergirl.com/2022/10/27/wanderlust-and-transformation/) I was in the wanderlust phase, or what others may call the transformation or liminal phase. The phase of “in-between”. No longer my old self, not yet my new self. What I conveniently forgot is that the wanderlust phase involves a challenge, and that challenge doesn’t actually happen externally…from a divorce, death of a loved one, or an outdoor survival challenge. It’s actually what happens within. While my challenge initiated by being unable to work through attachment wounds with a lover*, the actual challenge was working with what was happening inside of me. The internal messages of not being good enough, not being wanted, not being understood, and all the fear, sadness, and pain that came with that. In short, I was actually forced to start healing my attachment wounds. I continually showed up for myself (https://adogandhergirl.com/2022/08/04/i-will-not-abandon-you-coming-back-to-myself-in-the-san-juan-mountains/), much of it through inner child work. It was liberating…and also exhausting. A continuous cycle of fear coming up and self soothing, dysregulated to regulated. There just wasn’t enough energy left for my Achilles to heel (not to mention I was still hiking up mountains with Pacer).
*In hindsight, it probably started much easier, just more subtly.
Hence, the cocoon phase. A phase often left out of the stages of transition or rites of passage. A phase I would gladly hand out to any of my counseling clients if I could, if our society wasn’t based on “work, work work, earn, earn, earn.” Because of how I had already been living, this was something that I could carve out and and create in my life. Hence, yurt life.
Quiet. At the edge of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Peace. A step back from going into the office for work, from errands of daily life. Also, intentions of serenity and healing, which I’ve created the next 6 months around. (I could have easily allowed my life to become busier without intention.)
I am still working on taking more time away from Instagram, but I’m getting there. Healing takes time after all 😉
I was hiking with a dear friend earlier in the year and talking about some of my internal struggles. This friend also happened to be a therapist, and someone much more holistic medicine and astrologically knowledgeable than I am. At one point, she ever so quickly paused but so clearly said to me “Oh, I think you’re supposed to be going through this right now. You’re in the transformation stage.”
I instantly resonated with her words, I just thought, or hoped, I was further along in the journey. To be clear, nothing externally tragic was happening to me. Just a “relationship” opening up old wounds. My discomfort was internal. Only in hindsight can I realize I was letting go of, resisting, and grieving my past self. The part of me that wasn’t serving me anymore, but had protected me for so long. A loss is a loss, even if it’s the best possible thing for you. I was in the process of exposing my wounds so they could be healed…and not just healed, but transformed.
“Love can only heal what presents itself to be healed. If our woundedness remains hidden, it cannot be healed. The best in us cannot come out unless the worst comes out as well.” -John Welwood, PhD
Now, looking back, I can see my journey with clarity, a clarity that I certainly didn’t have when I was going through it. I just trusted (most of the time…okay, some of the time) my friends words and my intuition that I was on the right path.
And that, my friends, was the North Star in my Wanderlust Phase.
As to what I am transforming into, or rather, who I am becoming, that has yet to be seen. But it’s gonna be good. As well as any evolution thereafter.