There are no ceilings. Go outside. Look up. There’s nothing between you and the stars…
It might sound like a few throwaway lines, but most quotes are the finely tuned distillation of broad wisdoms and deep revelations. There were a few key pieces of advice that were said to me before I left that meant everything to me out on the river. In the humdrum of society they sound like cliches, in context, they’re life saving and defining creeds. This was a powerful one of my own I had out on the river, and is one of the messages I’m so passionate about sharing. I thought I’d share the backstory of it to give it some context within the everyday, so it can be similarly useful.
In 2015 when the idea for the paddle came to me, there was so much razor wire around my perception of possibility and what I thought I was capable of. I didn’t fully understand just how high and thick I’d erected those barriers, but once I started cutting them away in the wild and on the water, shedding that skin of conditioning and the robes of projections of others, I came alive in ways I couldn’t believe. Walls and obstacles came crashing down, as I suddenly realised how completely mind created they were. A fish doesn’t know it’s in water, and yet, the water influences the entire existence of the fish. Humans are the same. To live our best, most fulfilled, most passionate lives, to move toward self-actualisation, we need to know what the hell is in the water. What’s influencing and controlling us, because these forces are strong, and we can be completely oblivious to them, finding ourselves easily off course.
I wrote about night number nine of my expedition in my post Shadow of Stars, and the power that overcame me that night, but there’s a prequel to that post and it was three nights earlier on night six. In the tangle of motherhood I dreamed longingly of peace and quiet, of a fire built with my hands, lying beneath the diamond canopy of the night sky. On night six of my expedition I got it. Exactly the way I had dreamed. The nature of the previous six days had been serious navigating, with very little pause for enjoyment. Without realising I had completely slipped into that reptilian brain, that place of survival where instinct and intuition reign supreme, where senses are heightened, and the civilised mind falls silent. Mentally, I had barely come up for air as I fought my way through the thick tangle and gnarled wooden forests of the river.
This night, I had an apprehension of safety, and for what felt like the first time, I could look around and take in my surroundings for enjoyment and not purely survival. When I slowly raised my eyes to the stars, I gasped, dropped my head and immediately covered my eyes. I didn’t look back at the night sky until several nights later, night number nine. The magnanimity of the universe I lay within was too beautiful to take in without my loved ones. In that moment I realised that it is possible to be too wild. I became human again, and I was completely in love with it. In that moment I learnt the meaning of balance, and that regular pattern interrupts can negate radical change.
The following three days were probably the most challenging of the whole trip. Making it safely through to the lower gorge section, through its numerous pounding waterfalls, was euphoric and enormously relieving. That night was the night, after falling asleep at sundown every evening, except for the one night the stars were too beautiful to see, that I laid beneath the night sky unafraid. Worthy. Real. Until the sapphire of the dawn began to glow over the ridge. That was the night I earned the stars. That I let the universe press down upon me, and let every star fall into me. That was the night that I truly realised there are no ceilings.
We can always go outside and look up. No matter how overwhelmed or disempowered we feel, however young or old, however lost or found, there’s nothing between us and the stars. When the myopia of civilised life and the striving to maintain status quo causes us to become caught up and consumed, the magnanimity of the universe is always on hand to remind us that for all our fiascos, we are but a speck. And that even as a collective, when viewed from across space, we are little more than a twinkle among a billion other flickering spasms of glitter. This is precisely why, in a universe of synapse, dust, matter, atom, energy, particle, when the vacuum of insignificance and futility threatens to blackhole us into oblivion, we are as stars. Wondrous, limitless, exploding potentialities. If only we could be less blinded by our own light.