Follow Your Fears
Follow your fears
Leaving the mountains of Colorado is never easy.
There is something surreal, and almost unearthly, about living in an area full of wildlife, surrounded by a vast mountain range.
Leaving to go anywhere feels like we are leaving a sweet dream and stepping into a somewhat harsher reality.
Closing the house before our journey to Japan was a process of slowly detaching ourselves from the comforts of home.
We said goodbye to the wild deer who have come every day to eat the bread, fruit and vegetable cuttings that we leave for them in the garden.
We exchanged last, reassuring words with the roofer who has promised to do a great job of replacing my leaking studio roof while we are away.
I finished the painting that I had been working on all winter long, and packed up the painting that I had just begun during my last week in the studio.
I noticed that instead of feeling excited about going on an adventure, I was feeling a bit nervous.
When I asked myself why I was feeling nervous, I realized that I was not feeling fit and strong enough to walk for so long a time, almost three months.
During the winter I had put on some weight and I was not active enough, and so I am feeling sluggish and not ready.
I try not to think of the mountains we will be climbing …
Despite all my attempts to pack light, my backpack feels heavy and stuffed to the gills.
And then there are the mental and emotional aspects to consider…
Walking a pilgrimage is not a stroll in the park.
It is a demanding journey, one that will require me to rise up to the task daily, mentally and emotionally, not just physically.
I will need to find inside me the ability to renew my spirit and body every day, despite feeling tired, experiencing fatigue and feeling disheartened by the hardships.
And then there is the need to overcome all potential setbacks….
I hope we will not encounter many of those.
We left home three days before our flight, and drove to Boulder to buy some gear and other small things we needed for the pilgrimage.
The feeling of slight nervousness has not left me, in the days we have stayed in Boulder.
In a cafe, I saw a man who had a slogan on his laptop that I liked very much.
It said: “Follow Your Fears.”
I love the wisdom in this slogan.
We always hear that we should follow our dreams and make them real.
I have followed my dreams many times, only to find that the real “gold” was not at all what my dreams were about.
“Our” dreams are not even our dreams.
They are preprogrammed ideas from society, movies, books, and our own unexamined ideas about what our life, lovers, career, friends, house, family, environment, SHOULD look like.
The real treasures are where our fears are.
We gain strength, courage, and confidence by facing our fears and seeing where they lead us.
Only when we look fear in the face, do we see that it is often just a smoke screen, a veil hiding our strength and possibilities.
So… I am following my fears to walk in Japan now.
I tell myself that historically, pilgrimages were always considered to be life threatening journeys.
That is why Buddhist pilgrims in Japan traditionally wear white clothing.
White is the color of the shrouds of the dead.
To add to my nervousness, this is a pilgrimage that almost nobody has fully walked before.
I most definitely feel like a pioneer in walking it.
In my backpack, I have a handful of utilitarian hiking clothing, but not one fashionable item to make me “feel good.”
We are geared up and prepared for cold or hot weather, for the rainy season, for blisters and for living on the road with very little.
Many blessings to you, and see you on the other side of the world,
I am adding a photo of my latest 500 Arahats painting on a scroll.