In May of 2008 I went on a vacation to Thailand with my dear friend, Nichola. We traveled there without a plan, a hotel room, or any converted dollars to baht. Just a commitment to have an incredible time, and return to Canada with as many unique experiences as possible. By the end of our visit, we accomplished that goal, and more.
Our travels included enjoying the night life and shopping in Bangkok, and the spectacular beaches in Ko Pha-ngan and Ko Samui. The excursion which was most life changing for both Nichola and I was hiking in the northern mountain region of Chiang Mai. It was up in these hills where we each met tribal people, floated down a river on a bamboo raft, and went for a ride in the jungle on the back of an elephant.
Hiking in the back country to meet indigenous tribes still living in their ancient ways, was something that intrigued me for years. I was curious to see their environment, how communicated with one other tribes, and the general feel of what it was like to go back in time. It meant a challenging climb up steep terrain with a backpack, eating unknown food, drinking unknown liquids, sleeping on plywood, being out in the forest with wild animals, all of this with my Thai guide, two men from Paris , and two men from Italy whom were all absolute gentlemen. Two nights and three days in the jungle, I was in my glory! Nichola chose a group that was only one night in the woods. Hence we had very different, unique experiences to share with one and other upon our return.
One my realizations was how the families living in huts, farming the land, and raising animals may have been living in ancient times, one element never changed, their exuberance to enjoy the company of others, and the pride in their families. A presupposition of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is that people are doing the best they can with the resources they have, and they were. I saw communities sharing resources, enjoying social times together, and thriving in the lifestyle they were born into. I discovered we were no different, our cores were the same. In the end, whether we earn a living off of the internet or a farm, drive a car, scooter, or horse, reside in an industrialized mansion, or bamboo hut, we all eat, need shelter, and have an instinctual need for love and companionship.
Even more profound was the conversation I had with my guide, Jip. He had such a kind, gentle nature to his character. It was no surprise to learn he is on a monastic path towards becoming a monk. Our first evening at base camp, he encouraged me over to the second fire pit he sat at with only his mental energy. Sensing an undeniable urge, I joined him. Jip congratulated me on listening to my intuition by how quickly I responded his invitation.
We sat together for at least an hour as he shared the purpose for our being together at that moment. Jip’s mentor advised him he would have three students with which to encourage on a life path; he believed one of them to be me. The words he compassionately shared as we watched the fire dance in its pit were incredibly empowering. I was truly blessed to be in his presence.
These are some thoughts I wrote in a personal blog January 2009.
And the journey begins. I truly believe that my trip to Thailand in May 2008 with Nichola changed me. It was the beginning of my journey of self discovery in doing what it is I want; not what someone thinks, or suggests, I should be. That would normally be what one does from the start, not me. I chose the lazy route and continuously went in the easy direction which was pointed to me. After a lifetime of doing so, I finally stopped. Thank you Jip. The conversation we had, was powerful and left a definite impression on me. I will always cherish it.
Jip helped me trust that I am a strong person, and listen to thy self when seeking guidance. That my intuition is real and respect it. An inner power that is developing in crazy directions since it is growing without guidance. Jip’s mentor advised him that he would receive a student soon, someone to bring along to a next level. He trusted his instinct that it was me, as he shared his wisdom with my intuition. I appreciate, and will honor, the enlightenment you gifted, Kp pr koon.
Nichola had a different, thought-provoking moment to share. It was so heartfelt she emailed this perspective to her circle of friends and family. Shared with permission, this is what she wrote:
The elephants… they are so amazing.
I was riding my elephant through the jungle. The trainer was shouting commands, and pounding him on the head with a blade-like tool. The sound of his hollow skull getting hit was unbearable to me.
At one point the trainer dropped his blade by accident. The elephant was instructed to pick it up. He did, but then threw it into the jungle. He was then instructed, again, to pick it up. He did, and then threw it into the jungle again. And so it continued, several more times, until the trainer was forced to dismount and get it his damn self.
Smart, obedient, but fed up. That was my elephant. OK, maybe I am anthropomorphizing, but I also thought this little guy had a good sense of humor too. I started to think about this elephant, who clearly was unhappy with his life. I wondered what stopped him from running off into the jungle?
They are kept tied up by a tiny chain around their ankles that is barely attached to a small post in the sand. They are socialized from babies to believe they cannot escape, and so eventually, they stop trying. They grow into adults, and they just believe this to be true, even though they can escape at any moment.
I started to think that my elephant experience is like a life experience… aren’t we all just like the elephants? Trapped by societal and social constructs we just believe we cannot escape from?… just thought I should share my madness with the world…
At that time I was not a Master Practitioner of NLP and was dumbfounded at the possibility she may be right and the inspiration I had just received from Jip was fading. How could this be after I felt so enlightened? Is it that we can only be a certain type of person in life? Once on a path we cannot stray to another? If we have a fear, we have it for lifetime. If we are a taxi driver, we are a taxi driver for lifetime? That change is not a realistic dream and freedom to do so is the same as the chain around an elephant’s ankle? That at any time we can break away from what is keeping us tied down and the one thing stopping us is our own mental process labeled belief?
If I could go back to that point with the communication skills I have now, I would ask Nichola a series of questions typical in an NLP Breakthrough Session; what in her life has a similar barrier as the elephant. I would also ask how that barrier is a problem. How long has that been a problem? When did this problem first begin, and does she do this problem now? Who taught her it was OK to have this problem? For what purpose or intent is this belief justified? I would repeat these questions until we discovered together what the root cause of that belief was.
Next, I would use a technique called a decision destroyer by asking Nichola if that is all she thinks she is? Aren’t you more than that? How else are you more than that, and how else again. I would confirm the she is more than that, and be sure by asking that she knows this too. Last, I would ask her how she believes now, that she is truly more than an elephant and to break the chain that she is obviously capable of doing physically, and to do so mentally. How there is nothing to escape from, only one’s self.
Social and societal constructs are labels that trap our beliefs into limiting us away from what we really want to do. I’ve decided to not be an elephant and persevere with the above questions any time I feel the chain around my ankle until I break it with my mental attitude. If I can do it, Nichola can do it. She already has. So can you, can’t you?
When we boarded our plane back to Canada, Nichola and I agreed that Thailand was a mystical place that changed both our perspectives, shifted our thinking, beliefs, and behavior. We arrived without a plan, and interestingly enough, headed home without one too. As we cleared out our limiting beliefs, and suppressing barriers, we had room to formulate new, improved, and exciting ones. It freed us to excel on our life paths. Isn’t that what we all want to aspire to? Begin now.