I’m watching the women as they dip their toes into the crystalline, glacier-fed waters of the lake. Their excited shrieks bring a smile to my face as the cold water sends a daring chill through their spines.
We are here early and we have it all to ourselves. It’s day 2 of my retreat for the women in my year-long mastermind, here in Glacier National Park in Montana. There is a misty haze over the mountains that surround us and I can’t tell where the sky ends and the water begins. Everywhere I look, there is a hue of cerulean so beautiful I’m convinced the most skeptical of beings would believe in the divine after one glimpse.
I hear more screeching as they go deeper into the lake. Their legs and arms break the glass-like illusion on the surface with ripples that go on forever.
Half-joking, half-not, I lean over to one of the women who is still standing next to me in a bathing suit, contemplating whether she wants to go in or not. I ask her, if entering that lake equalled the level of dedication you have to your mission, how would you enter it?
That’s all I needed to hear, she says. And now I am watching her run full-force into the frigid waters and dive head-first.
I am smiling big now, half-proud and half-recognizing myself in this passionate, unbridled action.
I would have done the same damn thing, I say to myself, chuckling.
A few seconds later, I say the same thing to woman #2 standing beside me. She’s not sure if she should even put on her bathing suit. Looks cold and I don’t do well with the cold, I hear her thinking.
She has been battling the demon of fear for the last month. Feeling deeply called to the next level of her calling, but afraid of what others will think.
How do you get over the fear?, she asked me just a few weeks ago on a call.
You don’t, I said lovingly, but firmly. You can be led to the water, but no one can make you swim in or drink of the water. It’s always up to you whether you drink or go in. And once you do, you’ll look back and wonder why you were so afraid in the first place.
Here at the lake, I ask her the same question I asked the first woman:
If entering that lake equalled the level of dedication you have to your mission,
how would you enter it?
She wades into the water, hesitantly and finally is waist deep.
I dare you to dunk your whole bodies in the lake!
I am yelling this across the lake as a dare, as their coach, lovingly pushing them to the edge. Wanting them to see that sometimes the uncomfortable things are the most exhilarating.
The human body & soul needs change, needs to experience new edges.
It’s the ego that feels fearful of change.
I want them to get this teaching on a whole other level. A visceral one.
To trust the messages from their soul & their bodies even more deeply, even when the ego says, I can’t do this, it’s too cold, I’m not built for this. Run away.
5 minutes later they are holding hands, wet from head to toe, and emerge shrieking and laughing from their full-bodied dunk under the surface of the water.
That wasn’t so bad, woman #2 says to me later. Once I got in, I realized it was actually nice and I could handle a lot more than I thought I could!
Exactly, I respond, winking.
Later that night, I found out that the original, indigenous name of this lake was “Lake of Sacred Dancing Waters.” The Kootenai tribe performed sacred dancing and singing ceremonies right on the banks where I had stood watching the women with delight.
How perfect, I think to myself, as I close my eyes and drift off into slumber before another day of deep, transformational, leadership work.
I see the ceremonious way the women held hands blessing & washing away their fears with this glacial baptism. I hear the song of their delighted cries as they emerge all anew.
It’s a few days later, the retreat is now over and my friend Sara texts me.
I haven’t seen her in over 18 years. We were roommates in college and good friends. She looks exactly the same as she did 18 years ago. And her pleasant personality, easygoing nature, and big heart have remained intact.
Want to go on an adventure? I can’t tell you what it is yet, but it’s with my friend Denver. He’s a world-famous biologist! You’ll love him. But you’ll have to be ready at 8am.
Ugh, I hear my ego say. I am so exhausted after holding the deepest space for the women who came to my retreat. All weekend I weathered projections & fears, clearing myself out repeatedly. All weekend, I held steady for them as the container, while egos were triggered, and old demons came to the surface to be released. For four days, I have watched them rise more into their leadership, come closer together, laugh, cry, & step it up in a big way. I won’t lie. I can feel my body reaching its threshold of exhaustion.
I was hoping to sleep in until 10, my ego grumbles. What if I’m pushing myself too hard? And it’s going to be 95 degrees today while we are outside. That might be dangerous.
But I know by now to say yes to adventure. Yes to the unknown. Yes to opportunities that may only come around once in a lifetime.
Yes, I text back. I’ll be ready.
The next morning, I am traveling in a beat up truck, being driven by a man who was once on the cover of National Geographic, eating cherries, and spitting the pits out the window, with my friend Sara in the backseat.
I imagine all the cherry trees we are giving birth to as we drive towards the Mission Mountains and marvel at the glaciers in their peaks. These mountains were also used to conduct sacred ceremonies by the Salish and Kootenai tribes, long ago.
One day someone will drive through here, looking for the strength to keep going and there will be cherry trees lining this roadway, welcoming their tired hearts.
It is so hot now, Denver says, I don’t know if we will get to see any wildlife. Let’s hope we do.
If I was an animal, I’d be hiding under a tree by a river by now, I say.
We are driving through the National Bison Range now. I am praying to see a Bison. I’ve never seen one up close, but I have dreamed about them.
I remember a dream my sister told me once. In that dream, she saw a Wooly Mammoth, and she cried as she walked up to him and touched his matted fur. I knew exactly how she felt. This is how I feel about the Bison. There is something ancient there, something that is asking me to remember an important thing that I forgot.
I want to remember.
I want to see a Bison.
I send out my heart’s voice like long tendrils into the yellowed-grass hills.
Come to me, brother Bison. Come to me, please.
Just a few minutes later, we spot one. Just 8 feet away. Hiding behind the grass.
He is a big one. His nose is the size of my head. Half of his fur is missing, a natural process that occurs during the summer to endure the heat.
I jump out of my car.
I want to cry and laugh all at the same time.
My voice grows thick with awe and emotion.
Then, we are seeing so many of them. A mother with two calves. Entire families resting by the river. Two males engaged in a battle of dominance.
And suddenly, I remember what I forgot.
As a totem animal, the bison is a symbol of enduring strength and abundance. I read this on my phone as we drive past the Flathead River for one last goodbye. We are far away from the Bison now.
I close my eyes to feel the hot sauna-like wind on my face. The slight sunburn on my arms.
I see that Bison in my mind’s eye. Walking slowly across the plane. Sun beating down. Breathing heavily. Enduring and pushing ahead with such strength and grace.
Doing what needs to be done because it is his mission. Because it is his sacred calling.
Discomfort is not something he runs from. He moves forward, despite fear, despite discomfort, despite the risk.
He does it because that is how he is built.
That is how we are built.
We were built to endure discomfort for the greater calling of the soul.
We were build to handle so much more than our ego thinks it can handle.
We were built to handle it with grace.
And that is when the path to abundance opens up.
A few days prior I took most of the women in my mastermind to see Wonder Woman. As we are walking out of the movie theatre with wonder and power in our eyes, I tell them the story of Gal Gadot. She was just about to quit acting for good, when she got the part of Wonder Woman.
Most people give up or stop taking risks right before the world opens up to them.
We must be willing to endure some discomfort to get what we want.
If the Bison only ever chooses to stay comfortable, it dies.
I am canoeing across Flathead Lake now. There is a kind man who likes my curly, messy hair, rowing me in his kayak as we talk about spirituality and our favorite books. His open blue eyes draw me in as he tells me the story of his life, the pain he has endured, and all he has overcome.
And now I am surrounded by people with wide, alive eyes, drinking margaritas, and dancing. Little universes with stories of pain and triumph, spinning around, seeking connection.
I am twirling and twirling in my long dress in the middle of the floor.
I am remembering.
We were built for this.
Do not be afraid.