My Best Kept Secret
I have a secret to share.
A secret that could possibly change your outlook on life and the way and the way in which you live it. For centuries people believed that man’s biggest fear is to die – death to one’s family and friends and death to oneself. The fear of this looming event has occupied so many minds for so many years that millions of people across the globe spend their lives trying to prepare themselves for this uninvited end. I am writing this today to contest this theory and question whether it is in fact ‘living’ that we have become most fearful of. This fear of ‘living’ can be a burden to some, or could stifle others completely.
Before I went travelling in Nepal my life came to a complete hault, a crossroads. Fear became the one and only ruling element in my life and its impact was shocking, hurtful and disappointing. When I describe the fear of living I mean; the fear to love or be loved, to feel, to learn, to travel, to appreciate, to disappoint, to hurt, to be free, to think, to eat, to sleep, to help or be helped. When I realised that I was more scared of living my life than dying I decided that I needed to do something drastic in which I could start facing my fears and begin living my life.
What was my main goal? The same as everybody elses in life: to live my life to the fullest and find happiness.So…I went travelling.
On my travels in Nepal I learned how to skilfully use my fear against itself, pushing me to do things that I wouldn’t naturally or normally do. In turn, for many months whilst travelling I forced myself to face many fears, mentally, physically and emotionally which enabled me to partake in unimaginable experiences that I now feel blessed to have in my memory and many that continue to influence the rest of my life. Facing my biggest fears became the only way I was to end the dreaming and fearing and begin living my life properly and honouring what living life should be.
There were many secrets that I discovered whilst travelling in Nepal, some of which I will now share.
As I left Kathmandu airport the sudden realisation of what was happening started to sink in. Riding in the back of a tiny taxi that had no windows or seat belts I assessed my fears and the facts; I was alone, it was dark, and I had no idea where I was going or where I would be staying the night. I knew that this was going to be the start of a very journey so it was here I adopted the attitude of ‘Flora the explorer’ and told myself: “F*** it, you only live once! Anything is possible! You’ll be fine! Explore everything!”. From here on in it has been my firm belief that fear is the main thing stopping us from doing anything that we really want to do. So, with this in mind I stepped out into Thamel, put my back pack on and waded through the streets of strangers to find somewhere to sleep and plan my journey into the unknown.
In my first month away I decided travel up into the mountains to complete a vipassana meditation course which involved learning the art of living life as a monk in complete ‘noble silence’ and meditate for ten days, surrendering oneself to truth. It was in these ten days in pure silence that I turned inwards and started to face many mental and emotional fears that you would inevitably and naturally face during deep meditation for nearly 15 hours a day. A wise man said to me “work diligently and strive ardently in noble silence to become master of your own mind and be a warrior of true courage. With addhithhanna (strong determination) and perfect equanimity, observe, work out your own salvation and take refuge in your own enlightenment. A secret that came to me from this time in seclusion was that there is no heaven, and there is no hell, there is only what is inside yourself.
Another secret that I discovered here, near Begnas lake is that at 6;30 am on a clear day, the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas turn a majestic shade of pink.
After completing the vipassina I felt as though I had learnt more about myself, the world, and others in those ten days than I had learnt my entire life. It was here that I felt even more ready to leave needless anxieties behind and push myself and the theories of basic psychology to the limit. If fear was only an emotion, and emotions can be controlled by the mind then I was prepared to test exactly how much I had personally developed during my stay up in the mountains.
In many travel guides you are advised to take tourist buses where ever possible and considering I was a lone, female traveller I had taken this advice. To give you some idea of what travelling by road is like in Nepal…..its terrifying. Drivers of every vehicle drive fast, they beep loud, and seem to enjoy playing chicken as wheels spin around winding, narrow mountain cliff edges.
However true this was, I decided to travel on the rickety, old and battered local bus. Not only did I haggle my bus fair but climbed on top of the bus to travel on the roof! There are no seats, no belts, no hand rails…just your rucksack to sit on and a sturdy balance.
I shared this hair raising journey with a few guys from a Iran and some from Germany. Together we clung on to the roof top for dear life using each other to balance. Nepal has become famous for its electricity wires draped above the streets which became an exhilarating experience as we continually had to duck our heads and sometimes our bodies to avoid decapitation!
Throughout my journey I experienced some amazing, exciting, and pure terrifying activities that I look back on fondly and proudly. some of these activities included white water rafting and absailing down water falls...
….Paragluiding off a clifftop to fly with an endangered bird of pray…
….Riding elephants in the jungle….
….and bungee jumping off one of the tallest canyons in Asia…
It was here, that fear taught me what freedom felt like. It was scary…but, it also took my breath away. I learnt in that moment that there isn’t anything you can’t do if you put your mind to it, and that maybe sometimes in life the scariest parts can be the most rewarding.
Now, nearly 6 months after my travels I can honestly say that in no way am I fearless, infact I think I am now even more aware of my real fears in life. Since coming back I have used my experiences whilst travelling to learn how to distinguish between the fears that are still yet to be faced and those which are completely needless. Why waste your time worrying or fearing something that is out of your control when you could be spending that time being happy and accepting that not everything needs to be controlled? Im still trying to tell myself this every day.
I will now leave you with the biggest secret that I descovered on my journey:
One day I sat staring at the mountains next to a monk. We talked about life, enlightenment, people and the natural beauty we have all around us in the world no matter what country we are from. Before he left, he got up, brushed the dust of his robes and said; “live your life and be prepared, yes, but do not be over-prepared in life or you will actually miss the part called ‘living'”.