Against the Wind – Epilogue

Everything changes –
although this may not seem so now.
Listen into silence
– that which is most difficult
is our shy soul’s preparation for
Some new adventure
Far beyond
what we may imagine.

Sarah Frances


This cycle on the WAW took me to many stunning places on the West coast of Ireland, and  more importantly it took me on a journey inwards that I was not expecting.

It is 9 months since I completed the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) cycle in Kinsale, Co.Cork and  can finally acknowledge what an epic trip it was, all 2650KM.

I have spent the last 9 months cycling through my inner Wild Atlantic Way. I have ventured deep into the mountains and valleys of the inner life. And it has been as hard if not harder than the actual physical cycle.

I realise changing a core belief system -even if it does not serve one well- is a profoundly difficult experience.  Wishing life was different is radically different than engaging in the process of making that change happen. It is the difference between looking at a film of a cyclist on the WAW and being the cyclist.

I have gather a number of core beliefs throughout my lifetime, which I may have to tackle before I die,  this time round it was the issue of Doubt.

Doubting myself has been with me for as long as I can remember. Almost every thought, action, decision has been plagued by doubt.

Should I do that? What about this? Why did you say that? You should have said this….You should have taken the other road…the other outfit…the other food, the other job, workshop etc., etc.; people don’t really want to hear your opinion; you should give your opinion; you should join that group, you should not join them, they want you, they don’t want you. They are thinking this they are thinking that… need to be careful; you should be spontaneous….and on and on until at times I have doubted my existence on this planet or my mind was about to explode.

Turning away from this deeply held doubting habit left me at times truly wondering who could I possibly be if I did not doubt my every move/thought/feeling? What was the alternative? It was like cycling without a map or signpost as to the direction I was going in…navigating without a compass.  The only thing I really knew and did not doubt was my need for help and support.

I had physically cycled the WAW on my own and swore I’d never put myself mindlessly through such loneliness again. This time as I embarked on the internal WAW I sought out and found an excellent therapist. One who could help me see new signposts and stay with me especially at the times when I could hardly tolerate being with myself. We delved into my dream life -which is actually quite sparse-, my body sensations -which are very accessible and rich- my thoughts, my feelings and anything else that was deemed helpful for this internal odyssey. I wrote, I danced, I cried, I cycled pedal by pedal, and step by step until I could sense something new and different occurring within my mind and my brain. I was entering the territory of  a new belief system -one based on trust. One where I had to learn a new language and way of being.

I was reminded of a time when I was in Peru years ago and walking in the mountains. We had drunk all our water and were thirsty for some juicy fruit. An old woman gave us a bag of lemons as we passed her house in the middle of nowhere.  My immediate reaction was to thank her and to think “oh no I really don’t want lemons and now we also have to carry them !” A mixed bundle of gratitude.

After awhile the thirst got the better of me and I decided that maybe the bitterness of the lemon juice would cut through my thirst so I bit into a lemon bracing myself for the bitter taste. Instead of bitterness I was met by the most lovely sweetness I could imagine. For a moment I thought I was hallucinating but no I was tasting sweet lemons for the first time in my life. We easily made our way through half the bagful. Each time expecting to meet the bitter lemon taste I knew and expected, yet each lemon produced the surprising sweet taste. I kept looking at the yellow of the lemons expecting it to change to some other colour to reflect the taste. I was totally taken by the familiarity on the outside and the complete surprise on the inside.

That is how I feel a lot of these days. Ostensible on the outside I look the same and the external circumstances of my life are more or less the same . Yet internally all is different most of the time. Like the lemons I still keep expecting the bitterness and am being met over and over by the strange and unfamiliar sweetness.

I know doubt inside out and upside down, I know how it shapes me and rules my thoughts, desires and actions. Now I am getting to know the territory of self trust. How it could shape my movements especially as I learn to feel it strongest in my back; how it adds spaciousness and confidence to my mind and thoughts. How it steers me away from perfectionist thinking into the territory of enoughness, excellence, delight and most importantly joyful relaxation. It is like cycling with the wind at my back.

To undertake the WAW cycle I called on the one resource I have had for as long as I can remember -endurance. And this internal journey has also relied on my endurance.

“Endurance” was the name of the ship that embarked on Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914-1917 where all the sailors survived one of the most incredible adventure stories of all times. I loved reading of these adventures as I grew up and especially of Tom Crean’s involvement on this and many other Antarctic expeditions. And I always loved the name of this ill fated boat, as I had made the name of the ship be the description of the quality these men embodied to live to tell their tale- ENDURANCE.

I am glad to give myself credit for also embodying this quality in my external and internal cycle of the Wild Atlantic Way.

I am ending with this photo from the WAW on the South Connemara coastline. I did not take any photos the day of the real cycle as my head was down battling the wind and heavy rain and there was nothing to be seen. This is it on a day when the sun shines dry and bright:)