Personal Growth

5 Spiritual Truths For a Successful Life - Learned at the World Domination Summit!

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Stepping out of the safety blanket of the 9-5 to live an extraordinary life isn’t an easy ride no matter how many palm tree fringed beaches you get to see en route. In the last four years I’ve gone from marketer to meditation teacher via a whistlestop tour of the world.

Part of what has kept me sane in an extraordinary burst of change and growth has been surrounding myself with other people who don’t think i’m nuts. 

Each year I go to an event called the World Domination Summit (WDS.) It’s a weekend of inspirational TED X style key note speeches plus hands on academies for people leading a remarkable life in a conventional world. It’s been a glimmering bright spot in challenging times and provided me with a crew of friends who I consider amongst my best.

Whilst my journey has been inextricably linked with my spiritual path so much of my own development hasn't been prompted by silent retreat or yoga class but by walking out of the door of the corporate world and into the skin of an entrepreneur.

Bizarrely demographic and pigeon hole free - WDS is not just for entrepreneurs and nor is it just for the spiritually aligned (although I know it has a secret pair of hippy pants in the closet!) However there are some fundamental spiritual truths about how to lead a successful life that were present across so many of the key note speeches this year I thought I would pull them together for you. 

Whether you’re heading out the door on your own hero’s journey or busy bootstrapping your first business…I hope that sharing these five little nuggets of soft and gentle truth will help smooth the entrepreneurial path ahead. 

1)  Finding Stillness

Jonathan Fields kicked off proceedings by asking us to ponder a Richard Wiseman quote “fortune favors the open.”  It’s easy to be swept away with reacting; reacting to our highly sensationalistic media, the sense stimuli surrounding us, the guy serving us our coffee, the red blip of a notification on the screen. If we are not careful our ability to choose our response in freedom and openness gets swallowed by reacting out of old fears, mental loops and habits. How do we cultivate openness to what is available in the present moment? Stillness.

Over the days leading up to WDS my meditation practice had gradually shrunk from an hour a day to a brief 10 minute chant. Welcome not so subtle hint from the universe. I’d received a challenge from the Be Kind game (more of that in Point 5) to buy someone behind me in the queue a coffee.

However queuing at Starbucks on the saturday morning I forgot all about the challenge and all about my environment. I didn’t even notice the person standing behind me in line until after they’d paid. Who was it? Yes. You guessed it. Jonathan Fields.

 He then went on to open WDS with the first speech of the day. The subject? Our ability to remain present and open to our environment is what allows us to choose our response and how we’re then free to respond with kindness.  POINT TAKEN UNIVERSE!

How do we zoom out and get the space and awareness to notice the opportunities surrounding what is - instead of getting lost in the “what was” and “what ifs?” We cultivate stillness. Cue meditation practice swiftly reinserted!

2) We have an unlimited amount of compassion to give.

My favorite Tibetan Buddhist saying ever by someone who doesn’t have a shaved head or surname ending in Rinpoche. 

Zach Anner didn’t let growing up with cerebal palsy and being confined to a wheel chair stop him from becoming a World Traveller, Comedian, Actor, Oprah regular and author of the brilliantly titled “If at Birth you Don’t Succeed.” He encouraged us to move beyond defining ourselves by our limitations and remember that when we feel we have nothing to offer we always have an unlimited amount of compassion we can give to the world. 

For me, this one line and longstanding truth  was a pure shot of sunlight into what can seem like a dark and sometimes scary world. 

3) We are limitless

Chelsea Dinsmore lost her husband Scott in an accident on Mount Kilimanjaro.

In the days and weeks after his death it would have been perfectly understandable if she had chosen to retreat from the public gaze and go into hiding to grieve. Absolutely devastated and with no experience of how to run Scott’s business empire and community of 200,000+ followers she chose a different response. A beautiful example of both utilizing our freewill to choose a healthier response in the moment and how to cultivate compassion - Chelsea chose to approach every new experience with “endless curiosity” and positively reframe doubts and fears by asking:  What is the best that could happen today?  How can I give more? and perhaps most potently of all: What if the hardest thing I’ve had to do is behind me?

In doing so she has successfully taken over the reigns of the Live Your Legend community as Chief Inspiration Officer, Scott’s legacy lives on and they continue to inspire people around the world to find the work they love. Her discovery through the process was simple. No matter what stories our mind tries to tell us. . . 

We are limitless.  

4) Me Too is empowering.

Emily McDowell , multi millionaire business owner and creator of an empathy greetings card and stationery empire for people in real life relationships talked about the dark spots in her own life first as a cancer survivor and then as supporter to a best friend diagnosed with the disease.

Those times when we’re at our lowest when we most need people to reach out to us is often exactly the time when people just don’t have a clue what to say. Oftentimes it’s not just the curve ball that life’s thrown but the side helping of shame, guilt or fear that comes with our experience that also stops us looking outwards for support from others.

Loneliness, ill health, depression and anxiety weren’t carved out as a special present from the universe just for you -  they are a part of the multi coloured rainbow that is the human condition. Keeping ourselves separate and just reading the good news of other people’s aspiration can be exclusionary - sharing our story or being willing to listen to another’s helps us connect. As Mcdowell so succinctly put it: 

Me Too is Empowering.

5)  Be Kind.

Hugs and high fives are par for the course on this positively joyous and non judgmental weekend of the year and this time it was taken a step further. The overarching theme of the event (not to mention the lynchpin of most major spiritual traditions) is Be Kind. The Be Kind game launched at the opening party and continued throughout the weekend encouraging attendees to perform random acts of kindness on unsuspecting strangers. That coffee that I didn’t buy Jonathan Fields?  That was this game (yes there was a subsequent lucky recipient and she was highly surprised and grateful! )

If there was one message that I took from the event it was this. We always have something to give and what we can give is kindness.

Ride that Baby! 

Life will happen and the entrepreneurial journey more than most can be a bumpy ride. We will never have control over other people’s reactions to us or the curve balls that life throws but we do have control of remaining centered in the present moment and how we choose to respond. Will we be centered and strong enough not to sway in reactivity; remain open to the opportunities and grace available to us in each and every present moment, cognizant of our potential and our power and use our free will to respond from a place of compassion and kindness? I hope so.

Stillness is a good place to start. 

How to Develop a Daily Practice

Meditation helps give us the space and the stillness to witness our reactions and make healthier, wiser choices on how to respond in the moment. 

If you’d like to develop a daily meditation practice - one that is easily accessible regardless of personal religion or spiritual belief and aligned to the wisdom contained within our own hearts and feel the “me too” in an empowered global community of women - join my sangha of heart centered female seekers and you’ll receive a free 7 day heart meditation course as a welcome gift to get you going! 

Join and Receive a FREE 7 DAY Meditation course - Just Pop Your Name and Email Address in the box below!

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Alternatively drop me a line (Dominique) to wanderwomenclub@gmail.com  or my personal email ddidinal@gmail.com and let me know how I can be of service to you :)

PS: The next latte's on me Jonathan! 

 

 

 

 

 

An Ecuadorean Rose and a Story of Should to Could..

Bill walks past and sits himself down opposite me at the writing desk. In his late fifties, to early sixties he reminds me of a friendly Grizzly Adams. Heavy set, with thick greying beard and kind, twinkly blue eyes he’s looking at me with a face wrinkled with concern. 

“I really enjoyed our walk yesterday but I’m sorry if I said anything to upset you…” he says. 

I’m absolutely mystified.

We’re staying at the Meditation Centre in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. 

Run by ex miltary, Bernie it encourages longer term stays (you only book by the week or month,) and I like the communal aspect. The rooms are next to each other with tables, chairs and hammocks outside that look out onto the gardens and tranquil, green hills of this sacred valley famous for its health inspiring properties! 

 

Meditation Centre Vilcabamba

 We all sit down and breakfast together (a choice of fresh fruit, yoghurt, oats or eggs and potatoes) in the morning, take part in a guided meditation at noon if we desire and generally have the option to keep ourselves to ourselves or socialise when we feel like it.

Yesterday Bill and I took a little stroll around the small town and then joined some of the other guests at a local juice bar. 

I was a little distracted about leaving the group early to head back to the centre to meet a chico for a date.

Its still so difficult for me sometimes, putting my time before someone else's that around fifteen minutes before I leave i’ve disappeared into my own dream world that make many people misinterpret or indeed, perhaps accurately decide, i’m being aloof.

I have my own insecurities and have often interpreted a person’s behaviour personally. I can see in this instance Bill has interpreted my distraction as dissatisfaction with his company. Its a timely reminder to always try and put myself in the other’s shoes, to endeavour to stay present when i’m in people’s company and give them my full attention.

I assure him that my distraction has nothing to do with him and chat moves on to his struggle around taking a decision about when to return home.  We discuss how paralysing it can be to make any kind of decision when the cold hearted, voice of the internal judge and critic in kicks in with its negativity and relentless shoulding. 

I grew up  with (and still experience when in contact with my family)  a relentless battering ram of  “shoulds.” 

“You should do this,”  

“You should do that,” 

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

 As if there is some model of perfection that I, in all my glorious and human fallibility, is constantly failing to live up to. 

Subsequently that’s how I internalised my own inner voice and its a relentless task master, constantly evaluating the degree of perfection within myself and to what degree i’m successfully living my life, and not letting up for a second. The bastard. 

I’m either a hero or a failure and the black or white thinking that makes any decision right or wrong creates a mental cage that then filters out the whole breadth or different shades of grey of other opportunities, possibilities and choices that I could take in between when making a decision. 

“Try replacing “should” with “could” whenever you notice yourself doing it,” says Bill. 

“For example I should have gone to university to get a degree, becomes I could have gone to university and got a degree” 

Saying the “should” out loud lets me become consciously aware of it and that its just one voice, one opinion. Changing the word to “could” gives the power back to me. 

“I could,”  implies we have a whole, wide, range of decisions to choose from  and reminds us of our own free will and responsibility for our decisions. 

Rather than berate myself with an implied judgement about the quality of the decision that  i’ve made,  “I could”  provides a simple, gentle reminder of “what is” and “what was.” A way of moving gently from judgement to compassion. 

In the gardens of the Meditation Centre there are wild, pink, roses climbing around the walls. 

“Ecuador is known for having the most beautiful roses in the world,”  Bill tells me. 

As we are  at the Equator they are the only roses to grow upwards with long, strong, straight stems. The roses around the rest of the world have to lean, and crook their branches to reach the light of the sun. 

“There’s a metaphor in there somewhere if we look hard enough”  I joke.

“Is there?” asks Bill, “well I think I’ll leave you to find it! ”

 

And find it I do. Although i’m not sure I can take any of the credit. 

A day later I see a quote from Ram Dass, the author of “Be Here Now” about trees in a forest.

When we’re walking through the forest, Dass explains, we see all different types of trees and shrubs. Some get the light through the canopy and others don’t get any. Some grow differently as a result; they are twisted or leafier or just grow low to the ground. We don’t judge any of those trees as bad or lesser just because they get less light and their stems are more twisted. 

Roses have always been my favourite flower, along with wild flowers such as poppies, anemones and forget me nots. I love the velvety petals and deep rich scent and not for one moment did I ever stop to judge the English roses rambling in my garden back home as being any less beautiful or complete for their crooked stems or winding, indirect path they took to grow towards the light.

END


The Interview: Building Belief & Inner strength with South Pole trekking Sandra Floate.

I meet Sandra in the beautiful botanical gardens of Bella Tiamantini - a Botanical Gardens set in the humid heat and jungly backdrop of Santo Domingo, Northern Ecuador. The gardens are run by a delightful old couple Don Marcos and his wife Estrella who are committed to rescuing and nurturing over 1000 native plant species from deforested areas of the Amazon, in oder to protect plant diversity in Ecuador.

 

 I have turned up at the gardens by myself and am not sure what I'm letting myself in for. With relief I see there is another English speaker amongst us! 

Sandra is a softly spoken Aussie from Melbourne with a flush of blond curls around her face, twinkly blue eyes and rosy cheeks. She is sitting outside the concrete breeze block guest bedroom on a plastic stool helping Estrella shell corn.

Welcoming me with a warm smile she speaks with an endearing shy humility about herself and quiet enthusiasm for her time volunteering with this delightful family. I'm about to turn 40 and as the conversation drifts to this milestone of a birthday I ask Sandra (now in her mid fifties) how she felt about turning 40. Apparently she felt that she'd lost some of her physical shape and fitness due to being a full time mother. What did she decide to do to regain her fitness? Renew her membership at the local gym? Nope. Sign up for an extra Pilates class? Nope. No ladies, Sandra Floate decided to go to the South Pole....! 

As a sensitive introvert myself I'm fully aware of the magnificent adventures, physical feats and courageous acts us quiet ones are capable of.. .however I have to admit to still reacting with some surprise when this gently self effacing woman drops into the conversation that when she turned 40 she once led an all female expedition of mothers called The Ice Maidens, on a trek to the Antarctic. 

Excuse me, you did what???? 

Time for an interview! 

WW: OK would you like to start by giving me a little bit of background?  a brief life story! You were mainly based in Melbourne is that right? 

SF: Yes I was born and bred in Melbourne and went to school there. After leaving school I did a diploma in advertising and then travelled for 2 years to Asian and Europe and worked in Londo for a year as a nanny, and then to India, Nepal and then in Australia met and worked an Indian.

WW: How old were you when you were married?

SF: I was 25 and I had two children in my mid thirities and worked in our family business cabinet making business, my husband and I had been in business for 30 years.

And then when I was 40 I did an expedition to the Antarctic. Which is 3 years training for 2 weeks on the ice.

WW: And had you done any training, hiking or professional trekking before then?

SF:  No I was a mother! ...I'm a skier and a snow skier and I've done that all my life so I've always loved skiing i learned to do cross country for Antarctica. We went out and found women and they had to be mothers.

WW:  So you decided to do this trek and they had to be women and they had to be mothers!? 

SF: Yes, we found women and they had to be mothers because there are many constraints when you're a mother to be able to go out and train. You need a sympathetic partner, because men can go off and work and then train in the evening but women  can't do that when they've got children, they cant just walk out of the house and say "well i'm off to go train" five nights a week so you needed a certain sort of sympathetic partner as well to accommodate the expedition.

WW: But it was part of the expedition requirements that everyone was mothers? why was that? 

SF: Because the English group that did it (it was first done by an all female group in Britain)  some of them were mothers and some of them were single. We based our group on 5 english women that did it, and one of them was a mother, and there were different problems for mothers, we had to go away at weekends and leave our children or train at 5am or train while eveyone was asleep and that's hard.  If you have a family you've got to find time train. When you are working part time or full time its very difficult to find the training time. So because the three or four of us had kids we all had to realize the dififciulties in having an expedition as well as the constraints around doing it around family, and having the money. It started as 5 but there were 3 in the end because they drop off.

WW: I can imagine! (laughs)

SF: We all started of from zero fitness.

WW: It seeems like an extraordinary thing to suddenly decide to do...what prompted it?

SF: Just one of the women always wanted to do it an expedition to Antarctica and so she asked around and  I said yes and then a couple of others said yes, and then we just went along with the process without really understanding what that process was... 

WW: Did you know it would take 3 years?

SF: No we just knew it was a lot of training. Then we needed to find all the sponsors, doctors, physios, runners, gym membership...we had 40 - 50 sponsors in the end, plus Quantas (major Australian airline) who came on board.

WW: In order to raise the funds to do it? 

SF: To raise the funds to do it, to get us to South America, tro get us to SA to bring our canoes ( we didn't have sleds we had canoes) because they are round so they are very easy to use. Then we had to tap into...because it's  such a small population who had done expeditions we had to tap into that community. So for example we had conversations with Eric Phillips and Peter Hillary to give us guidance on the best way to do it and complete it. 

WW: And did you also do it for charity?

SF: Yes we raised money for the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne. In the end the flights, our gear (sponsored by Mountain Design)  so we probably raised about $300,000. 

WW: That's incredible, what a fantastic achievement.

SF: But the flight costs from Chile to Antarctica is probably about $80,000.

WW: Oh wow, just to fly to Antarctica? 

SF: When you are in the base camp at Antarctica and you go out to the South Pole they've got planes there. If you have a problem they can come and pick you up.

WW: how long did the expedition take? 

SF: It was supposed to be 10 weeks but we didn't get to the south pole just to Antartica, we only lasted 2 weeks. 

SF: We always dreamed to get the South Pole but we didn't get there. We didn't dream it enough... you know you have the image in your brain? It was hard enough just to get to Antarctica, leave our children do all the hard work and the training, get all the money. 

WW: and what happened that meant you had to cut it short after 2 weeks.

SF: At the end of the training there were only 2 of us left out of the 5. We needed one more person and she only joined us 9 months previously. So we didn't have that bond that you needed and she turned inot a bit of a loose cannon. She hadn't as much experience in the snow as us and we had problems with her breathing and her hypothermia. So she was very physical but she hadn't had enough snow and ice training.

WW: Did you have to have another person?

SF: Yes it's best with three. Because if something happens like you fall down a crevasse or something and there's only two people  - you're only leaving one person to make a decision on what to do whether or not to leave you.  Whereas if you have three people you have two people to take that decision.

WW: Oh gosh I see, because of the probability of having to make a  life or death decisions. How do you prepare mentally for that?

SF: We had an Englishman, Roddie, who was a former SAS teacher who would do meditation with us...he was former SAS but turned Buddhist.

WW: Wow he sounds like a good person to talk to. So you would visualize scenarios that could happen?

SF: Yeah we had a lot of discussions around all of the scenarios that could happen, with other people that had done expeditions. Unfortunately also, Quantas airlines lost our gear.

WW: Oh no!

SF: Yeah! So we were 2 weeks in Chile instead of 3 days before we got going, so by that time we were very apprehensive. We had been raring to go so we were really uptight by the time we got going. You only have a certain window of time. Because if you start your expedition too late and you're not quite at the pole they have to come and get you to fly you back to Chile, so we were very stressed by the time we got to Antarctica to do this trip. 

WW: Was there anything at that point in your life that prompted it? Or was it just your friend saying "I'm going to Antarctica do you want to come along?" I'm trying to work out what the appeal was?!

SF: The appeal was, I was reaching 40 and didn't have any fitness because i'd spent all my time looking after children.

WW: How old were your children?

SF: They were 12 and 9. And feeling like I was running out of time and that I might not be able to get fit for something like this. 

WW: I'm turning 40 tomorrow...(laughs)

SF: The possibility of even considering it was way off the planet. But you just start with something and see where it leads to. To know that we actually got there and got onto the ice. We had two trips to New Zealand also in preparation on the Fox Glacier. 

WW: And you were called "The Ice Maidens" - brilliant.

And what lessons did you learn emotionally, how did you overcome challenges in preparation or on the trek? 

SF: Yeah it was very stressful. So it was about being safe because we had children.

And we were looked on differently because we had children. We got emails saying "you shouldn't be leaving your family! blah blah blah" 

Mentally to do these trips -  at 40 and beyond is best. You'll find most expeditions are with older people because you have to have that maturity as an adult to take it on. 

WW: That's interesting isn't it you wouldn't think that would be the case, that you would need to be young and physically fit foremost.

SF: Yeah look at Ralph Fiennes he's just done a night one - he's 65? and he thought he'd do Antarctica in the dark in winter. I mean, that's bizarre!  But there's no limit to your physical age, he's just thinking "I can do that." 

WW: And because he's thinking he can do that he can?

SF: Yeah and because he's older he can, a lot of them are older, late thirties, forties. It's better. 

WW: This is a very small example in comparison but it's made me think of the time that I did Kung Fu in China with a bunch of 18 years. And I did the Shaolin, and it was the same kind of thing, I was really trying to push my myself and I was pretty out of shape and I was crap at it (laughs) but I did it. But lots of people in the 18 - 25 category would come try it for a bit and then drop out because it was too hard and they couldn't be bothered. Just before I joined 7 people dropped out of the Shaolin Kung Fu class so as a then 37 year old woman everyone was expecting me to fold, but out of sheer mental determination (and some may say stubbornness!) I persisted. When you get to a certain point you're proving it to yourself and that mental discipline isn't necessarily always there when you're younger.

WW: Did you learn anything about yourself that you hadn't realized before?

SF: Yeah lots and lots. Mostly mental strength. I"ve had to keep applying that. When I got back my daughter got sick and was very ill for 6 or 7 years. So i had to apply mental strength to keep her well and sane for the years that she was ill.  

WW: And how did what you learnt on the trip help you do that?

SF: Finding that inner strength that I had, that we've all got. Always being tested emotional, physically and needing to push yourself that little bit more. 

SF I had that strength, emotional strength to get through because it was an awful time. If you're children die or get sick its awful.

WW: What did she have?

SF: She had chronic fatigue and then depression because her body shut down and wasn't working.

WW: How did it change you? 

SF: Yes it changed my life.

W: How?

SF: I wasn't ever a team player and never played in teams, so with an expedition you have to rely on your team members because they may have to save your life. And that you can do just about anything if you're physically able and believe it. Believe in wanting something badly enough that you can do it.

And making other people believe that you can do it. So that you're getting that people behind you. There was a group of people behind you another group of people helping you to get to the goal.

WW: And your husband was supportive.

SF: Yes very much. 

WW: Great. So now, we're meeting in Ecuador...so that was 10 years ago for you...I was 45 years when I did it. Did you do any travelling between then and now?

SF: I went skiing in Japan and a brief trip to Vietnam, but otherwise no...no. 

WW: So what prompted you to suddenly go to Ecuador in your mid fifties?

SF: Because I wanted to volunteer in Ecuador and by this time my children were old enough so that I could actually leave them.

WW: And why Ecuador?

SF: The first time was with a friend because it had the Andes, the Amazon and the Galapagos in one country and because it was small. It was supposed to be the 10th year anniversary of our expedition to the Antarctic and i was supposed to come here with Michelle from that trek. We were going to go to Siberia to see lots of volcanoes but we wouldn't have had the culture and in Ecuador we got the culture, the sea, the mountains and the jungle,

WW: And that was a 10 week trip?

SF: No that was a month or 5 weeks and 10 year anniversary celebration of Antarctica. And then  I decided to come back as a volunteer as I felt comfortable here the first time.

WW: And at that point, was that when you were splitting up with your husband ?

SF: No but i was thinking about it, so travel was a way of getting time out from family and friends and husband to think about things.

WW: What advice would you give to women wanting to travel in their forties and fifties who are a bit frightened of going to a country solo.

SF: Sometimes its good to do a quick trip, and then go back. If yo feel comfortable in a country do a quick overview first for a holiday and then go back and see it more in depth. That's what you did isn't it? 

WW: Yeah it wasn't deliberately planned like that, but that is what ended up happening. I started travelling five years ago when I took a month of extended leave off work to travel South America. So I started by doing group tours as well so I wasn't completely by myself. 

 

SF: Yeah i started travelling when I was 21 and did a couple of years by myself so I already had that inner strength and belief at that age that I could do it and knew at this age I could do it again.

WW: And now you're trying to combine your time between Ecuador and Australia?
SF: Yes by helping out here with volunteering.

WW: How do you support yourself when you're travelling?

SF: I work in Australia and save up to travel. I prioritize the money and go without certain things knowing that i'll need to save up for airfare. I met a lady a few years ago and what she said to me really stuck in my mind...I was just turning 50 and she was 65 and she said? 

You are in the best years of your life right now, after you've had children is the best time you've got left. Because you're still relatively fit, Its a time for yourself  again. You get your time back without commitments and family. 

WW: And you took the decision to split from your husband is that right?

SF: Yes I've made the decision to separate because my husband didn't want to back me in this volunteering.  I felt in a marriage when you get to an older age with a  partnership you should be able to take time to explore other things that you want. Life is for living it's not long and you don't have a lot of good years, they go quickly. Soon you won't be able to . 

WW:  You're volunteering for Bella Tiamantini, what has that brought you? Why were you drawn here?

SF: Because of the garden and the family and i thought i could offer western eyes to help with their project and enjoy a different lifestyle. 

WW: And how do you see the next 20 years for you?

SF: One of travel and splitting time between countries and learning new languages.

WW: Perfect! Thank you Sandra! 

 

 

END

 

 

 

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The Interview: Living Legend Lynn Hill on How to tackle fear and achieve the impossible.

Today WanderWomen Club caught up with world legendary rock climber Lynn Hill to talk tackling fear, following your bliss  and how to achieve the impossible….all through the lens of her extraordinary and inspirational climbing career. 

Lynn Hill, Valley Uprising, Discovery Channel

Lynn Hill is a living legend and one of the worlds' best known rock climbers. One of the first women in the sport, by 1986 she had quickly moved into the top ranks.  She redefined what is possible by being the first person (male or female)  to free climb the ascent of the most famous big wall climb in the world  - The Nose on El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California.  A decade before anyone else.  A true wander women she has travelled the world competing and winning over 30 competitions including the “Wimbledon” of the climbing world (Arco Rock Master) five times.  In 1999 Lynn led a small team of women to the island of Madagascar to do a first ascent up a steep, two-thousand-foot wall of granite. She’s been a guest at the White House, appeared on the Letterman show and is four time winner of NBC Wide World of Sports Survival of the Fittest competition.  

Lynn’s remarkable achievements are featured in the Discovery Channel’s award winning premier of their Elevation weekend series this Saturday April 25th. Valley Uprising explores the evolution of the 50 year old sport from its beginnings in Yosemite Valley, California. 

Now 54, Lynn still combines her love of climbing with travelling the world and motherhood.

WW: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat today Lynn, its a huge privilege to get to speak with you.  I love this quote of yours: 

Throughout my life, one of the underlying qualities that has inspired me to pursue my vision of what is possible has to do with trusting in what I truly love and believe in.

That sounds similar to Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss.” I think its great that you believe our success in our chosen field is intrinsically linked to doing what lights us up. 

What advice would you give to women still struggling to try and discover what that is? 

Lynn Hill:  Well fortunately for me it wasn’t a thing that i struggled with, to find what I loved.  I naturally gravitated towards that. If someone hasn’t identified that, they need to reflect on what they enjoy because sometimes we have an interest in something and we don’t acknowledge it, a pastime and hobby, but if they have an interest then follow it , explore it and give it the chance to turn into something more. I know that its something younger people struggle with, perhaps because there is so much choice and also that things get obscured by all the other demands of life. But if you really simplify and reflect on what you WANT to do then that's where you can recognise and start developing your passion.

WW: How did you manage to combine focusing so fiercely on your passion and what you love with bringing a baby into the world and the sacrifice or balance that mother hood has required? 

Lynn Hill: I consider it a juggle because you can’t do everything all at once, if you have a child you have to prioritise, so once you’ve sent children of to school you can start doing things yourself.  There’s a real need to do what I call “me time” and that's something we do ideally for an hour or so on an almost daily basis. I still climb three to four times a week and that’s enough to feed my passion. 

WW: I’d like to talk with you about your relationship with fear and how you tackle it. Fear comes in many forms, when we’re trying something new and taking a step into the unknown - what advice would you give on how to manage that based on your experience climbing.  

Lynn Hill: I  think fear is a good guide to keep us alive, we don’t have it we might not take necessary precautions but its also important to not let fear take over and stop you performing how you want to perform. 

So I focus on the solution to the problem.  I do a mental shift and do not focus on the fear but doing what I need to do to resolve that situation. 

If i’m in a dangerous situation on the rock face, I can either move forward to the next hole or I can move back or down climb (which is precarious.) Those are really the only options. There is a visual process that accompanies this. I imagine my hand going to the next hole and grabbing it. If i see that in my mind very quickly then I know its time to go and that I need to act. If i don’t visualise the next move or if I continue to feel awkward and fearful then I know i need to stop, relax, re evaluate the solution and look for another situation.

WW: So you’ve become very in tune with your instincts, about the timing around when its right to pause and evaluate and when its time to act quickly also which I could definitely apply to decision making process in my own life!

You’ve described your rock climbing as a kind of moving meditation, to what extent has the sport become (or was it always) a type of spiritual practise for you?

Lynn Hill: It could be called a spiritual practise but its not a religious experience, there’s no traditional praying or doing it for a higher purpose. But I am tuning into a universal truth, that’s my idea of spirituality. 

 As a human being we have our interpretations and our perspective of a situation and that determines how we see it, and if you take your ego out of it and see the reality of the situation as it is then you’re better able to manage yourself in that situation. 

Climbing is a practise that makes me feel good and centred and I think that when you feel good and centred we’re better human beings; we feel better about our lives and relate to others better.  I think climbing reinforces that kind of honesty and willingness to look at the truth. There’s no hiding on the rock. Your direct action will determine whether you get to the top or not. 

WW: Let's talk about one of your amazing achievements; being the first person to free climb The Nose (El Capitan in Yosemite). In other interviews you’ve said that everyone in your peer group and the climbing community was telling you it was impossible. 

What was the motivating impulse that took you from hearing everyone saying it was impossible to thinking “right i’m going to do that!” and taking the first step.

Lynn Hill: I figured that my experience and my vision might be unique and that I had a chance of being able to do it if I kept an open mind and had a lot of persistence. I had lots of experience on that climb and different experience with other types of rocks and at a higher level from my climbing in Europe. 

 Valley Uprising, Yosemite, California.

Valley Uprising, Yosemite, California.

I felt like I had a unique combination of skills and vision that others did not have and that gave me the confidence to find a solution, and that's what I did. I think that’s a very important point. If you want to do something,  if you prepare yourself appropriately and believe in the possibility that you are going to find a solution then that approach in itself will give you the best chance possible of actually succeeding.

WW. Wonderful. Believing that your own unique mix of skills, talents and experience will create a possible solution where others have failed or haven’t gone, I think thats a perfect thought to align with when summoning the courage to venture out and do something new. 

WW: Did you have any female role models when you were starting out? 

Lynn Hill: I had a good friend that I climbed with that i’m still friends with, there weren’t that many role models when I started.  There was a woman named Beverly Johnson who passed away in a helicopter accident in 1994. She climbed El Capitan in 1978 by herself for 10 days. You have to take all the equipment you need, supplies, sleeping bag, drinking water, its hard to manage by yourself.  She was an amazing person, very happy go lucky, very approachable and a nice person; but she was about the only female rock climber that I knew.

 Yosemite Valley, California

Yosemite Valley, California

WW:  I know that gender equality issues have been important to you over the years in such a male dominated sport, how has that changed (at least i’m hoping its changed) over the last 40 years!

Lynn Hill: It has, there are a lot more women climbers now, young girls and its a sport for people of all ages. Two people climbing together don’t have to do the same climb you just need followers and rope, you don’t have to climb at the same level. I love that aspect, that everyone brings their own style and we all have different dimensions to our bodies, small, large - and we can create our own route.  

WW: You’ve spent such a large portion of your life in the outdoors, what is your relationship with nature and how has it heightened your sensitivity to environmental concerns and changes. 

Lynn Hill:   I respect nature and to me that has a spiritual side.  Its the truth, its the way the world works and you have to observe it. So obviously I want to protect nature and the large companies that are robbing the earth of all the oil and natural gases… I would like for those companies to be more conscientious about how they are getting the energy out of the earth and what we are doing to our earth, air and water or else we’ll be extinct in a few years time.There is already global climate change and i’m very concerned about future generations and would like to see more laws regulating large companies and their actions. 

WW: The documentary "Valley Uprising" airing on the Discovery Channel this weekend is an homage to rock climbing from its inception in the 1960s through to the present day, focusing on Yosemite. She’s the grand dame of the piece, how have you seen her change over the years with regards to the impact of humans on her environment. 

Lynn Hill:  I’ve seen the direct affects of global warming. California right now - I was there in January and there was hardly any snow, three years running they haven’t had enough water, and so i’ve seen climate change. Its getting warmer and we don’t have enough water, we need water to survive. Clean water! I’m also concerned about all of the things that get flushed into the sea that should be treated first. The effect of the birth control pill is changing our fish because of too much oestrogen entering the water. There are lots of problems. 

WW: How do you manage your own health these days, do those concerns follow through with your diet? 

Lynn Hill: I believe strongly in supporting the organic food industry even if it costs more, its the right thing to do for my body. If I buy meat its organic and eggs are free range. Its both healthy and I make ethical choices on how the animals are raised. 

WW: And to keep fit, you still rock climb and do you do any other kind of exercise?  

Lynn Hill: I like to ski, alpine ski, running, mountain biking, yoga to stretch -  I like to keep up my stretching as I  was a gymnast when i was younger. I also surfed once in the last year!  

WW: Your climbing has taken you all over the world do you still enjoy travelling? what do you get out of it now that you are no longer travelling to compete? 

Lynn: Yes i was in France on my last trip,  its great to see friends and I speak French and Italian.  I do enjoy speaking in another language, I feel like a different person. I enjoy meeting new people and seeing different places and cultures and that gives me a better perspective. Travel allows me to have a different perspective on my life as an American woman and to reflect on my own values.  

WW: Has what motivates you in climbing changed over the years? Is it all about the highest peak, beating other people or how important is the journey to the top?

Lynn Hill: At this point,  yes, its become more about the process.  Its my medicine, my moving meditation and my way of connecting with people. I climb with friends more and more and when I climb I feel like a child. Even though i’ve been climbing for 40 years it doesn’t ever get boring to me. 

Lynn thank you so much for your time its been wonderful talking to you. Lynn stars in Valley Uprising this weekend on the Discovery Channel, April 25th 8pm ET/PT - the award winning premier of channel's Elevation series. 

Watch a sneak preview here...

 

END 


What's going to be your trigger to travel?

For me it wasn’t the boss who I wanted to stab in the eye with a fork (although that helped.)

It wasn’t the increasingly toxic venom with which i’d regard my blackberry before accidentallydropping it and cracking the screen. It wasn’t the “mean girl” at work who bought me an alarm clock and a princess crown as not so subtle form of passive aggressive secret santa presents.

Come January 2012 I was at an all time low. Depressed and feeling like i was failing on all fronts, I had a non existent personal life, a stress rash of excema on my back, my hair was falling out andmy skin had broken out. The brand, new, exciting role i’d taken on heading up the retail marketing team for a premiership soccer team in London had been stripped off all novelty once i’d finished enjoying making the footballers strip off ( to put on clothes forphoto shoots you understand…) 

Whilst the world and his wife was telling me how lucky I wasto have a dream job people would die for - I could only conclude that maybe God had inadvertently got me mixed up with some 22 year old boy called Dominic as I didn’t even like football that much.

In the few days I had off between Christmas and New Year I slunk away to the seaside with an old friend to recuperate. On my return I found another flurry of emails from work, they were round the clock and the fact that  I was on holiday didn’t mean a thing . I started to lie awake at night with an ever increasing sense of panic as the days ticked by  - worrying that I might never get away to do some proper travelling and pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Somehow here I was, 36, single, working a 60 hour week and living up the road from my parents. 

There was only one thing for it, i prayed to the heavens and decided to implore the great gods of the ethernet. I typed into Google: I want to quit my job and travel. And a blog article came up entitled: Why you should quit your job and travel.

Promising! 


It  had been written by a man with an even more ridiculous,  French sounding name than mine .His name was Chris Guillebeau,  a traveller and writer- who had ambitions to visit every country in the world by the time he was 35 and his blog was called The Art of Nonconformity. He’d been making plans to travel for a long time. I’d been putting savings aside for years, i’d accrued holiday and dipped my toe in the water of independent travel with a month in South America, I’d chosen my first flat to buy soley based on the fact it would be easy to let and provide a bit of extra income while I was on the road. It was not bought for the attractiveness of its location which happened to be up the road from my parents. And I was still here. 

Because I was frightened. Of everything.

I was frightened of giving up a regular income, of not being able to find work again, of being single and in my late thirties. 

 

My fearwas enforced by a media obsessed with rising unemployment figures and underlined by the mute incomprehension of my friends all of whom were either happy in careers or marriages or both and none of whom shared my passion to jack it all in and travel the world. 

I was frightened of the unknown. Not the unknown of navigating a chicken bus squashed between a little Tibetan man and a boy with a sack of raw meat - nothing about travelling the world scared me, it was all the stuff that comes before that moment that had me anxious and stuck. 

Change is frightening.  Going against the grain is scary.  Being different, doing different, wanting different from the general population at large is alienating,  difficult, uncomfortable and yes painful.  

But there comes a point when staying stuck is even more painful and as soon as I could see a way out, as soon as i had a little chink of light, the beacon of home and comfort that somewhere out there, there was at least one other person in the world who saw life like I did and I was no longer crazy or alone or on my own; it gave me the confidence I needed. The trigger to travel. 

I lost his site the same day that I found it. But it didn't matter.  A seed had been sown.  

I told my boss that all I really wanted to do was write poetry, travel the world and fall in love - lots. And that’s what i did. I packed my bags for Rio and embarked on a pitstop tour of the world, 13 countries in 19 months. 

I trusted that when i needed to i’d come across his site again. And sure enough just over a year later last July 2013 I found The Art of Nonconformity and discovered that Chris Guillebeau continued to travel and was in Southern Thailand at the same time I was. 

At the grand old age of 37 wrote my first ever fan letter, or at the least a very sincere, thank you email.  The fact that we were at that moment in time, both staring out at a similar strip of turquoise sea was in no small part because of him. 

And this July, 2014? This year I was in Portland, Oregon attending the World Dominatoin Summit a weekend of events, meet ups and inspiratonal talks set up by Chris Guillebeau to gather together remarkable people leading unconventional lives.

Two years ago it was stumbling across one man and his blog, a fellowtraveller and writer that finally helped me say no to what wasn’t working in my life, quit my job and follow my dreams and two years later because of that moment i’m able to write freelance, travel regularly and this July  reach out to not just one but surround myself  2500 other likeminded, positive, uplifting and non judgemental people. 

What’s going to be your trigger to travel? 


The Pain of feeling stuck, The Pain of re-entry and decision making - Thailand

By September 2013 I felt like one of those hoary old travellers you meet on the road: hair dangerously close to dreads; skin a little too sun burnt... feet would hold an intervention if you offered anything more stable a structure to walk in than the humble flip flop. You know the kind -  looks like they haven't had a good wash and a proper home cooked meal for weeks!  

I was expecting to be riddled with mixed emotions, fears and thoughts of the future when it came to returning home to London after 19 months solid of travelling the world.

Yet when it comes to it i'm looking forward to seeing friends and family again after all this time. I'm looking forward to roast dinners and a nice glass of Sauvingon Blanc, and most of all I feel a sense of huge achievement and pride in myself. I had always wanted to travel the world by msyelf and live and work abroad. And by Jove I did! 

But it hasn't all been plain sailing and the last few months basedin Thailand proved to be downright difficult. So what better time than a 13 hour flight to reflect.

I doubt i'll get much sympathy when I do touch down. Somehow explaining you've spent an inordinate amount of time on a beach or tropical paradise to those still slogging it out in the 9 - 5 doesn't really garner much sympathy. And yet as one wise man entitled a book:

"Whereever you go that's where you are,"

I sometimes feel like my trip would have been absolutely wonderful if I hadn't been on holiday with...well... me.  Me and the voice in my head that never seemed to shut up berating, bashing, worrying and analysing. 

By the end of summer I was hamstrung  with indecision. Where to go next? When to go home? 

For some reason I just couldn't decide. (In the end I stayed another couple of months in Chiang Mai to "work" on this site and going freelance.")

I realised a couple of things in that time. 

How to Make Decisions

Sometimes when i'm feeling low I am absolutely unable to make a decision. It was only with a great deal of perspective later that I realised I'd actually become quite lonely living in Thailand. 

Whilst i'd met plenty of people travelling I realise now that the pressure  you feel when you move from the corporate world to the rather more isolated world of a freelancer working from home is ten times harder if done in a country the other side of the world away from your usual support network of friends and family! 

The path is clear why do you throw stones in it?

I decided to stay in Chiang Mai an extra couple of months and put myself under an inordinate amount of pressure to complete the website i'd been working on and start building clients. I also felt a lot of fear around coming home - would there be any work, how would things be with all my friends and family that I left behind over a year and a half ago. It almost felt like i'd been away too long, friends had given up hope of ever seeing me again and just got on with their lives. I suppose it would be incredibly self indulgent for wanting them to be hanging on my every travel tale, but I also missed their support as well.

In the end through all that striving, struggle and effort didn't need to be like that. Sure, doing anything new means recognising internal obstacles and fear as it comes up and working through the discomfort. However I didn't need to keep myself held in an environment that had lost it's novelty for me. I'm a London city girl and as much as I love nature  - a small town like Chiang Mai did loose its draw after a few months. LIkewise many of the expat community in the town can be quite damaged. Either lost souls looking to escape the trials of the western world;  men searching for Thai brides or  those with quite serious alcohol and drug problems

 

As a freelance writer and traveller with all of my life packed up in a 12kg backpack, I could have gone anywhere. I didn't need to hold myself in an environment or around people that weren't a positive influence on me.  Yet somehow I managed to build myself a cage an inch wide of "shoulds" that kept me feeling trapped and stuck.

I think one of the set backs i've experienced trying to  live my life in a conscious manner is this  almost "Buddhist" desire which becomes a pressure to feel happy inside regardless of one's external circumstances. 

I realised a very simple and obvious home truth in my time living in Thailand. Whilst inner happinness is a great goal - we mustn't overlook the obvious. There are things in our external world that we have the power to change - people and place are two of those things. If our immediate environment doesn't feel good we can  change it - and make lives a bit easier for ourselves. 

Finally I understood the true meaning of the AA's Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Likewise the desire to live and make decisions consciously set the voice that likes to worry, analyse and make sure everything's perfect into overdrive. Suddenly I wasn't making conscious decisions, I wasn't listening or hearing my gut intuition I was frozen and overwhelmed. Not making any decisions at all and then berating myself for making the wrong one!


As it came time to take my final flight home the voice went into overdrive with shoulds and shouldn'ts.

"Why didn't you fly here, that ticket was cheap, what a waste not to see this country!" 

And finally another much calmer, kinder voice cut through the nonsense. 

"You've had four hours sleep and you are going home after 19 months. Give yourself a break." 

On my final flight high up in the clouds above Asia I come to another truth, there really is no such thing as a wrong decision. No wonder  we tie ourselves up in knots and not move forward at all if we place so much emphasis on getting it right first time. 

We are not born perfect we are born imperfect. Life is not about getting it right but making mistakes and learning from them.

As I stare out the window of the plane watching the wing hover high above the clouds of a faultless blue sky i realise it's not about the decisions we make but having the presence of mind (or mindfulness) once we've made them, to adjust our course if necessary.

I'm not sure anyone ever got anywhere in a straight line from a to b - life is more like a series of stops, starts and zig zags. But as long as we are able to become aware of how we are feeling and gain the clarity and perspective needed to just adjust our course as we go along.

Becoming aware of the present moment helps us in this, if you are looking to develop more mindfulness in your daily life check out my free Meditation course. It's a beginner's guide to meditating and the exercises only take 10 mins a day.