Extended Insights
Extended Insights

May 23, 2006, 13:59

By: Lorri Hanna, President/ Co-Founder
Soltreks, Inc.
Two Harbors, Minnesota

Are you overwhelmed by emotions that sometimes make you afraid to act? Life is so busy with parenting, relationships and work, that there is hardly time to read for fun. The arrival of spring reminded me of how much I love to spend time in the open air. After lunch on the patio, I spent time thinking about a garden and the plants I wanted to grow, I sat at my desk to check emails.

In the subject line of one email I read: Is there a possibility of doing a trek?
When I travel, I contact friends and folks I know who live along the way in hopes of seeing them. Sometimes that's the only way we get to see each other. On my way through Madison, WI, in the early fall of 2005, I met a friend-a mom for coffee. Author Jacqueline Mitchard, whose first novel-The Deep End of the Ocean-the first book of Oprah Winfrey's Book Club, was already part of the Soltreks family. Three of her seven children have graduated from Soltreks.

Emails and holiday cards help us stay in touch as Jackie travels often. Fortunately, she wasn't traveling this time and meeting for coffee was a joy. Although we had not seen each other in more than two years, it felt like only six months. We can spend that kind of time together, she and I, and fill it with matters of the heart. There is no surface talk with Jackie. Through her work with Soltreks and her boys, she knows being truthful is what matters most. She shared some of her struggles in her personal relationships and with living a centered life. I recognized she was living from a place of fear instead of love, and suggested she do a trek of her own. Four months later, I received an email saying she was ready.

Look for opportunities:
My days are full and busy…everyday. I slow down only enough to get my run in for the day, fix dinner and eat with my 17-year-old son. I talk on the phone with my husband who is miles away. I talk with many people throughout the day who question the circumstances of their lives. For me to guide a trek is a reminder of what has meaning in my own life. Jackie requested a trek during a time when she would not be traveling, and I was able to fit it into my schedule. I made a commitment to slow down and guide her through her journey.

There are no stupid questions:
Jackie called early during the planning phase filled with fear and doubt that initially stalled her process. She willingly embraced a writing assignment I gave her to help recognize her false expectations. The application process for a customized trek is much like the trek itself…individualized, custom designed and filled with many questions. The questions I ask students are questions I'm willing to ask myself. After reviewing her answers to numerous application questions, I had a road map specifically designed to navigate Jackie's journey.

I did my homework:
I have known Jackie for over six years throughout the work we did with her boys, but knowing my student personally can bring its own challenges when spending eight days with her in the wilderness. My goal was to design Jackie's trek with intention and heart while keeping me grounded. Being compassionate and understanding was acceptable to me, but enmeshing and blurring boundaries was not. I prepared writing assignments that would jog her memories and lead her to wounded paths. Like a physician, I prepared my "instruments" for experiential activities to teach Jackie new skills, relearn lessons or aid in self-healing. These instruments included written, meditative, visualization, physical and action-oriented principles and exercises. They were prepared with ceremony; they created rituals to honor her vulnerability and the truth I knew would come.

Timing is important:
Jackie arrived in Silver City, NM, for her "Intimate Guided Journey into Self-Discovery." She did not know what to expect, one never knows, but we can create opportunities to seek insight through the power of intentions, listening, and awareness.

Strength is not only external:
Altitude adjustment, matched gear adjustment-both required lessons in personal and physical safety. Jackie's strength was impressive. She backpacked strong and she traveled deep within herself. It is amazing what a woman can accomplish when she chooses life.

Finding meaning in life lies in facing and unraveling obstacles:
Instead of resisting, ignoring or distracting oneself from difficult situations and people, I believe in treating these as opportunities to regain personal power while discovering one's potential. As a facilitator, I guided Jackie and helped her examine, and uncover the truth and good intentions beneath the situations that triggered the obstacles in her life. This process involved allowing the deeply buried feelings and obstacles to surface and become a visible key to self-healing. Jackie wrote, "I walked out of the wilderness; I was lighter, not just in my pack, not just in my body, but in my spirit."

Live from a place of love instead of fear:
Students graduate Soltreks with a new mantra, often quoting co-founder Doug Sabo, "Feel your feelings." Don't be afraid of emotions. They are the pathway to the heart.

There is no beginning and no end:
Like the circle and cycle of life, learning is an ongoing process. Through every painful lesson, there is a lesson for healing. By recalling an influential person from each decade of her life, Jackie acknowledged an occurrence she wanted to let go and the lesson she gained through each experience.

It is said that one can only take others through a process as far as one has gone him or herself. Change doesn't occur overnight. It comes in small steps with perseverance in practicing new skills and lessons while learning from one's experience and staying true. This process of opening the heart promotes change, self-healing and restores healthy families.

Helping Jacqueline Mitchard supports my own growth because it reminded me to embrace the opportunities that come to me and utilize my courage to glean lessons. Upon reflection, I found myself drawn to my close spiritual and familial values. I believe personally facilitating treks is vital to my soul, and I encourage my management team to facilitate at least one trek annually.

"The harder the truth to tell, the truer the friend that tells it:"
Throughout this trek, I remembered this quote. To not only facilitate this trek, but also enroll as a middle-aged woman, it took commitment, a willingness to slow down, and a willingness to find our inner truths. Jackie stayed true to what mattered most.

To learn more about Jackie's experience click here.

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