For me this was when I had leukemia when I was 21 years old.
It turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me, that’s for sure.
At the time I’d just finished a year long study abroad program on Java in Indonesia.
The quick story is after the school year finished I was on surf trip to a remote island with my friend Brien. I woke up in the middle of the night with a crazy sore throat and fever, it didn’t get better, over 12 days we island hopped across 4 islands back to Java, an ulcer opened up in my throat, I could barely eat or drink because of the pain, I was in a continual sweat from the high fever, Brien and I left Indonesia early and flew to Hawaii where my parents met me and took me straight to a hospital.
I stayed in that hospital in Honolulu and was diagnosed with leukemia. I was in so sick and in so much pain at the time that it didn’t really compute. I just wanted more demerol.
Then after a week of initial treatment I got just well enough to fly with my parents back to my home town of San Diego. They nursed me back to health. I was in and out of the hospital for 8 months of chemotherapy treatment, and bunch of alternative treatments too.
It sucked. It was scary.
Did you know that moments after chemo enters your blood stream you get a metallic taste in your mouth? And the bone marrow biopsies (where they drill a big old needle deep into the back of your hip bone — had about 7 of those)… I had to use every jedi mind trick I know to take me to a happy place.
And all that time in the hospital. I think it was 63 days in total. As a 21 year old. Not easy mentally.
But man did I wake up.
It was the worst and best period of my life.
And I got better.
I got better than better.
Most people don’t get this SHOCK, they don’t get to see how fragile and temporary our lives really are, how precious this life is. But I did. And at a young age too, with most of my life still ahead of me.
I owe a huge thanks to Dr. Ted Orcutt, a psychologist in San Diego, who counseled me during my treatment. He called himself a spiritual broker because he helps you find the spiritual path that works for you.
He got me to practice being still, asking my Inner Guidance for answers, and listening... and HEAR answers. What a gift.
Facing my mortality was a huge gift in itself.
I became PRESENT. (I would sneak out of the hospital and go for long walks to just breathe and move outside.)
I became FEARLESS. (I stopped being so shy with women.)
I started to EXPRESS MYSELF (and say what I was really thinking and feeling).
I started to pursue MY DREAMS. (I dropped out of university to pursue acting in Los Angeles, which led me to start teaching surfing in Malibu for 4 years to fund my surf travel obsession.)
But something funny started to happen after I’d been healthy for about two years.
I started to go to sleep again in my life. I started to sweat the small stuff again. I started to lose touch with the deeper part of myself. I felt lost.
I went about my life, which was an awesome life, but it’s like I still didn’t quite know who I was. I didn’t have the clarity or courage to take my life to the next level.
13 years went by.
I moved to Australia. Got married. Had two kids. Started a couple businesses. Closed a couple businesses. Had some unfulfilling jobs. Surfed a bit. Traveled a bit. Struggled in marriage. You know, the usual.
But I was missing something important in my life and I could feel it as a sense of frustration. Even anger at myself.
I knew I was capable of more. I knew I had more to give.
There was a dream in my heart. I wanted to run a “spiritual surf trip” for people. It was a calling.
Since my adventure with leukemia I knew that I wanted to help people have a similar awakening experience, but the question was HOW (without a life threatening illness or accident or putting a gun to their head?)
Over the years whenever this dream started to surface in my mind and I would get excited about planning it, my self-doubt would surface too:
- Who are you to lead this?
- Why would people listen to you
- You need more qualifications?
- What if no one comes?
- What if it doesn’t work?
- What will people think of you?
- Your life needs to be more perfect before you can guide others.
And my dream would sink back down somewhere deep inside of me.