In May 2008 I went on vacation to Thailand with my dear friend, Nichola. We traveled there without a plan, a hotel room or any dollars converted to baht. Just a commitment to have an amazing time and come back to Canada with as many unique experiences as possible. By the end of our visit, we achieved that goal and more.
Our trips included enjoying the nightlife and shopping in Bangkok, and the spectacular beaches of Ko Pha-ngan and Ko Samui. The most life-changing excursion for both Nichola and I was hiking in the mountainous region north of Chiang Mai. It was in these hills that each of us met tribal people, floated down the river on a bamboo raft and went for a ride through the jungle on the back of an elephant.
Walking through the interior of the country to meet indigenous tribes that still lived in their ancient ways, was something that intrigued me for years. I was curious to see their surroundings, how they communicated with other tribes, and the general feeling of what it was like to go back in time. It meant climbing steep terrain with a backpack, eating unknown foods, drinking unknown liquids, sleeping on plywood, being in the woods with wild animals, all this with my Thai guide, two men from Paris and two men from Italy, who were all absolute gentlemen. Two nights and three days in the jungle, I was in my glory! Nichola chose a group that spent only one night in the woods. Thus, we had very different and unique experiences to share with each other on our return.
One of my realizations was how families living in cabins, farming and raising animals may have been living in ancient times, one element never changed, their exuberance to enjoy each other’s company and pride in their families. An assumption of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is that people are doing the best they can with the resources they have, and they did. I saw communities sharing resources, enjoying social times together, and thriving in the lifestyle they were born into. I discovered that we were not different, our cores were the same. In the end, whether we make a living from the internet or a farm, drive a car, motorcycle or horse, reside in an industrialized mansion or a bamboo shack, we all eat, need shelter and have an instinctive need for love. . and fellowship
Even deeper was the conversation I had with my guide, Jip. He had a kind and gentle nature to his character. It was no surprise to learn that he is on a monastic path to become a monk. On our first night at base camp, he encouraged me to go to the second fire pit that he sat on with just his mental energy. Feeling an undeniable impulse, I joined him. Jip complimented me on listening to my intuition and how quickly I responded to his invitation.
We sat together for at least an hour as he shared the purpose of being together at the time. Jip’s mentor advised him that he would have three students to cheer on in life’s journey; he believed that one of them was me. The words he compassionately shared as we watched the fire dance in his pit were incredibly empowering. I was truly blessed to be in his presence.
These are some thoughts I wrote on a personal blog in January 2009.
And the journey begins. I really think my trip to Thailand in May 2008 with Nichola changed me. It was the beginning of my journey of self-discovery in doing what I want; not what someone thinks, or suggests, it should be. That would normally be what one does from the beginning, not me. I chose the lazy route and continually went in the easy direction that was pointed out to me. After a lifetime of doing it, I finally stopped. Thank you Jip. The conversation we had was powerful and left a definite impression on me. I will always appreciate it.
Jip helped me to trust that I am a strong person and to listen to myself when I seek guidance. May my intuition be real and respect it. An inner power that develops in crazy directions as it grows without guidance. Jip’s mentor advised him that he would soon receive a student, someone to take to the next level. He trusted his instinct that he was me, as he shared his wisdom with my intuition. I appreciate and will honor the enlightenment you have gifted me, Kp pr koon.
Nichola had a different and inspiring moment to share. He was so sincere that he emailed this perspective to his circle of friends and family. Shared with permission, this is what she wrote:
Elephants…they are so amazing.
I was riding my elephant through the jungle. The trainer shouted orders and hit him in the head with a knife-like tool. The hollow skull sound of him being hit was unbearable to me.
At one point, the trainer accidentally dropped his sword. The elephant was instructed to pick it up. He did, but then he was thrown into the jungle. He was then instructed, again, to pick it up. He did, and then he threw it into the jungle again. And so it went on, several more times, until the trainer was forced to dismount and take it himself.
Smart, obedient, but fed up. That was my elephant. OK, maybe I’m anthropomorphizing, but I also thought this little guy had a good sense of humor. I started thinking about this elephant, who was clearly unhappy with his life. He asked me what was stopping him from running into the jungle.
They are kept tied with a small chain around their ankles that barely connects to a small post in the sand. They are socialized from infancy to believe that they cannot escape, and eventually they give up trying. They become adults and simply believe this to be true, although they can escape at any time.
I started to think that my experience with the elephants is like a life experience… aren’t we all like the elephants? Trapped by societal and societal constructions that we think we can’t escape?… just thought I should share my madness with the world…
I was not an NLP Master Practitioner at the time and was dumbstruck at the possibility that she might be right and the inspiration I had just received from Jip was fading. How could this be after feeling so enlightened? Is it that we can only be a certain kind of person in life? Once on one path, can’t we turn to another? If we have a fear, we have it for life. If we are taxi drivers, are we taxi drivers for life? That change is not a realistic dream and the freedom to do so is the same as a chain around an elephant’s ankle? That at any moment we can break with what keeps us bound and the only thing that stops us is our own mental process labeled as belief?
If I could get back to that point with the communication skills I have now, I would ask Nichola a series of typical questions in an NLP Breakthrough session; what in her life has a barrier similar to that of the elephant. I would also like to ask how that barrier is a problem. How long has it been a problem? When did this problem first start? Does this problem now? Who taught you that it was okay to have this problem? For what purpose or intention is this belief justified? I would repeat these questions until we discovered together what the root cause of that belief was.
He would then use a technique called a decision buster by asking Nichola if that’s 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 that she is more than that, and I would make sure to ask her that she knows it too. Lastly, she would ask him how she now believes that she really is more than an elephant and how to break the chain that she obviously is capable of physically and mentally. How there is nothing to escape from, only oneself.
Social and societal constructions are labels that trap our beliefs to limit us and keep us from what we really want to do. I have decided not to be an elephant and persevere with the above questions every time I feel the chain around my ankle until I break it with my mental attitude. If I can do it, Nicholas can do it. she already has So you can, right?
As we boarded our plane back to Canada, Nichola and I agreed that Thailand was a mystical place that changed our perspectives, changed our thinking, beliefs, and behavior. We arrived without a plan and oddly enough we headed home without one as well. As we removed our limiting beliefs and suppressive barriers, we had room to formulate new, improved, and exciting ones. It freed us to excel in our life paths. Isn’t that what we all want to aspire to? Start now.