Last week I packed up the little ladies and we went for an epic adventure. An adventure that, to be completely frank, I had no idea if I could actually pull off. But with lots of planning, website reading, consulting with a fellow mama, pulling out gear and testing stoves and asking lots of food related questions to the girls, we loaded up for our first backpacking adventure. Five days, apparently I wanted to go all in. Or that was the boat schedule and so that was the option. We left from Ventura Harbor via boat on Monday at 8am, dropped off at Santa Rosa Island, and were to be picked up on Friday at 2pm. With a hefty dose of resilience and a foggy memory of backpacking days of yore, we went for it.
I forgot some things. Salt. Safety pins. An extra warm layer. Socks that fit my child’s apparently growing feet. I was rusty on starting up my stove and how to pack my backpack comfortably and efficiently. But I didn’t let any of those things stop me. I was nervous about weather and how we would fare; I was nervous about how I would fare, just me with the girls for five days.
And that week, with no cell phone service and no other distractions than my own dear monkey mind, I dropped off the grid and into presence. When I was hiking, I was hiking. With my kids. When I was cooking, I was cooking (and fielding questions about cooking and the flames my stove was throwing and when the food would be ready.) With my kids. In some ways the week was far easier than I could have ever anticipated, in some ways it was more challenging. The views and vistas, flora and fauna, white sand beaches and flush (!!!) toilets … amazing. The girls were so tired by the end of the day, they could barely make it through the questionably rehydrated dinner. They went to sleep before dark every night, and slept peacefully every night. Bless them. My body is seven years older than the last time it slept on a thin-ish backpacking thermarest. It now prefers the plush camp bed of car camping. Big feels were to be supported by mama, or ignored by mama, or met with my own frustration. There was no one else to support the emotional or physical needs…mine or the girls’. And in one particular moment that I lost my cool and needed to do some reconnection and repair with the heart and soul of my littlest, I was met with this message from Grace:
Practice Absolute Sincerity: To have genuine sincerity is absolutely necessary in the spiritual life. Sincerity encompasses the qualities of honesty, genuineness, and integrity. To be sincere does not mean to be perfect. In fact, the very effort to be perfect is itself insincere, because it is a way of avoiding seeing yourself as you are right now. To be able and willing to see yourself as you are, with all of your imperfections and illusions, requires genuine sincerity and courage.
Adyashanti, The Way of Liberation
I brought this book with me because it was the thinnest book I found on the shelf. And what timely messages it had for me…to focus on sincerity, not perfection. I want to be perfect. I want to extend compassion from an endless well. I want to hold when they want to be held with endless strength and energy, and have all the right comfort foods and the right size socks. But sometimes (a lot of times) my sincere effort isn’t perfect. And it allows me to see myself, right where I am. Ask questions of my own heart and soul. Meet myself in those vulnerable places. Rise up again, try again, apologize and comfort and release.
During that week on the island, I remembered a lot about myself, rekindling a part of me that I wasn’t sure when would return. I found one (or two…or more) of the million pieces of my soul that I’d lost, and each fit so perfectly with me once again. Separating and uniting, with myself, my soul, my intentional way of showing up. Sincerely. Nature has a way of doing that for me, and five days, just me and my girls, fully immersed in the wonder of the natural world left me filled up and exhausted in all the right ways.