Robin Easton is a wonderful writer and blogger (Naked in Eden), with a deep passion for nature. It turns out to be her saving grace, as she recounts in her moment of clarity below and in her new book, Naked in Eden: My Adventure and Awakening in the Australian Rainforest. After reading the book, I was fascinated to know more about what drove her to such extremes – giving up a life in one country to travel halfway around the world to live in an unknown and dangerous environment. I too felt the pressure to fit in during my early adulthood, and so can appreciate the breakout moment when she realized she could listen to her heart.
In last week’s post by Kristin Marquardt, we focused on the characteristics that support inner change. Robin takes this idea to a new level, noting that she has become her own mode of change. In every moment, she is present and alive to the possibilities of adventure and growth in her life. She has made her process an integral and organic one. Just like any practice, repetition creates flow and increased skill. Combining “change traits” with a regular practice can bring about and sustain the process until it becomes natural.
As the U.S. celebrates Thanksgiving Day, a day of gratitude, I would like to thank Robin, and all the participants so far in Insanely Serene’s Moment of Clarity series, for the inspiration they offer. On my blogging journey, I receive daily reinforcement that it is possible to live a joyful life from inner truth and knowledge rather than worry myself through anxiety and fear-based thinking. These stories feed that part of myself that seeks new ideas and growth, and I hope you enjoy Robin’s moment.
1. Can you describe a moment (or several) in your life when you realized you had to change or else you would suffer impossible-to-manage consequences (e.g., deep unhappiness, grief, loss, possible institutionalization, jail, or even death)?
In my early 20s I lived alone in a large city, which I’d never done before. I didn’t know anyone and I had few friends. I wasn’t particularly close to my parents or my siblings, and rarely called them to talk. Adding to this, a doctor told me I needed surgery for a precancerous condition, and that my bladder and kidneys were riddled with infection, which they couldn’t control. At that time in my life I was terrified of everything, particularly death. My fear was so great that I was unable to tell anyone about the precancerous condition. Besides, I didn’t know how to connect with people in an intimate way. Unbeknownst to me I suffered from mild autism.
After working a series of inconsequential jobs I went to modeling school because people kept telling me I’d make a good model. I also signed up for some college courses because that’s what people did; they went to college. Although the modeling agency I worked with told me I could easily “go professional,” and although I got top grades in my college courses, none of it meant anything to me. I felt deeply despaired and didn’t know how to find my place in the world. The only thing that engaged me was being in nature, but that didn’t pay the bills.
I felt completely lost, not that I wanted to take my life, but merely that I had no idea how to be part of life, or what I thought was life. I kept thinking I had to do the “right” thing and somehow fit into my culture. There must be something that I “should” do and I just wasn’t doing it. Yet, in my heart I knew I’d die if I had to continue with college, “become something,” get a stable job, and settle down.
2. What brought you to that moment(s)?
There were several moments that transformed my life. I will share one. One day an older man, a counselor and acquaintance, whom I’d met through a friend, said something to me that changed my whole life. He said, “I’ve been observing you Robin, and you are not like me or most people. There is something different about you, something very special. I don’t think you’re aware of it. You are a free spirit. However, I’ve noticed that when you talk about living your life you always say, ‘I want to do the right thing. What should I do?’ Why don’t you just do what you want, Robin? Live from your heart, and let the rest go. I think it will lead to marvelous things.”
Those simple words set me free. I was shocked that someone thought I was special. Moreover, I was stunned that he thought it was normal that I didn’t fit in. But all I could say was, “No one ever told me that. Do you mean to tell me that I get to do what I want? I could live from my heart? I didn’t know that.”
He said, “That is what makes life worth living, Robin.”
3. What do you think made you able to be aware/pay attention to the warning sign, the moment of needing to change or suffer negative consequences?
I was about as low as I could go. I was in pain, terribly unhappy, dangerously ill, alone, going nowhere, and desperately in need of a whole new reality, one that matched my heart, not the dictates of my society.
4. What did you do after that moment? Did you find or create a process for changing yourself (e.g., religion, meditation, support group, therapy, other system of principles)? How would you describe that process?
I did the opposite. I walked away from all books, structured meditation, spirituality, religion, therapy, and anything else that even hinted at telling me how I might live my life. I realized what I wanted was to live a firsthand, intimate relationship with life, even if I made mistakes, even if I died doing it.
I stopped thinking with my head, started thinking with my heart, and trusted that I could heal my body. I stopped doing everything that didn’t feel like me, or that I didn’t enjoy, even if that left me with nothing. And it did…at first. However, shortly after making this decision, doors started to open in my life. One of these was when I fell in love and married an Australian man and returned to Australia with him to live in one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests. In this ancient forest I was totally enmeshed in the thing I loved most, nature. I went on to heal my body, mind, spirit, and soul.
5. Have you been able to stay committed to the process(es) you’ve found for change?
It’s not even a commitment for me; it’s now who I am. I embrace life with an open heart and mind. I make sure that I’m wide awake every single day. I make sure that I am doing what I love, and I stop doing that which I don’t love.
6. What characteristics in yourself do you think enable you to stay committed?
My great love affair with life. At some point in the rainforest I made a commitment to live life with my eyes and heart open. Today, no matter what life throws at me I use all of it to grow and better understand what it means to be alive. That means committing to life even when things don’t go my way. It means letting go of self-pity, shame, and score keeping. It means always listening to my heart, daring to take risks, daring to be still, vulnerable, alone, unknowing, and confused. It means allowing myself to feel all my emotions without judgment. It means embracing my mistakes as teachers and making sure that each day I forgive and love myself. It means forgiving those whom I feel have hurt me, and even loving those who have hurt me. It means making love the sole focus of my life.
Is there something inside you pushing you toward something different? Can you listen to that inner voice? What is it telling you?
More about Robin
Robin Easton, author of Naked in Eden: My Adventure and Awakening in the Australian Rainforest, is a writer, blogger, nature photographer, musician, and adventurer. She has appeared in magazines and newspapers throughout the U.S. and Canada, and in an award-winning NBC News affiliate piece, Paul Harvey News, KBLA Radio, KSFR, Big Blend Radio, and others. She writes and blogs at Naked in Eden.