connective elements healing

honoring creativity - restoring balance - embracing wholeness

By observing nature, ancient traditions explained all of existence through five elements.  

Connective Elements Healing aims to restore you to your true nature through five healing offerings -

BodyTalk, Coaching, Meditation, Reiki and Yoga. 

To Ufafa, With Love

You welcomed me, tentatively, into your sweet embrace.

Hesitatingly, you let me in.

 

Your beauty captured me at first sight.

And you invited me to behold the beauty within.

I saw you for what you are.

I saw beneath the surface and felt your pain

and you invited me to release

pain

trauma

expectations

heartache

heartbreak.

 

You challenged me to stand my ground

to hold firm to my own Truth.

 

As you revealed more of yourself to me, 

the inevitable colonial powers that be

increasingly asserted their claim.

 

Our light was too bright

for their darkness

held too firmly.

I felt the end was nearing

and I dug my heels in.

One last grip.

I wasn't ready to let go.

 

Tightly.

So tightly

held.

 

In some ways, it felt like we embraced each other.

One final time.

Before we both had to release.

 

To let go.

To exhale.

 

And then I was ready to walk away.

 

Just like that.

 

It was time.

 

It was magic.

It was fate.

It was karma.

 

That brought us together. 

That tore us apart.

That allows us both to walk away.

 

More whole.

More healed. 

More fierce.

Stronger because our paths crossed.

 

I can't explain our connection

but I know it was meant to be.

I am better for it.

I have to believe you are, too.

 

As I walk away, know that

I will carry a piece of you

with me, always.

 

I believe in your promise.

I recognize your pain.

I see you.

And I love you, 

even as it's time to walk away.

 

As I reflect on the emotional and spiritual journey of my Peace Corps service here in South Africa, I am grateful and honored you’ve chosen to join me. ♥

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

Sawubona - I see you

There is no replacement for experience. She is a teacher like no other. We can learn something, read about something, know something all we want but until we experience something, we can never really fully realize it.

It took me a while to acclimate to properly greeting in Zulu. When I first got comfortable with my “sawubona,” hello in Zulu, I excitedly used it as I did my hellos in the US. As someone approached and was close enough to hear my voice, I would offer my “sawubona”. I quickly learned I was actually being rude in Zulu culture and people thought I was offering my greetings in jest.

Here, one waits until you are essentially in someone’s personal space to greet another person. If you are from the West and are reading this, picture yourself in this situation. You’ve made eye contact with someone, are approaching them and you cannot utter a thing until you are in each other’s close proximity. How would you feel? For me, this felt awkward. Despite learning early on in my Zulu language lessons that “sawubona” translates to “I see you,” I didn’t fully understand its meaning until I experienced it this week.

Unfiltered - Taken in Eastern Cape, South Africa

Unfiltered - Taken in Eastern Cape, South Africa

Years ago, I fell in love with photography. I love the concept of capturing a moment in time from one’s unadulterated, inarguable perspective. I prefer not to edit or use filters on my own work, as I relish the purity of a moment as I saw it. I love the notion of not altering an image so that it speaks to the moment as it was. I appreciate other’s photography as an insight into their view of the world, the ideal way to walk in another’s shoes. As a visual learner, I think and learn best through imagery. Photography is a powerful medium of expression and the quintessential time capsule. This past week, it was an incredible tool for my own self-reflection.

I’ve hidden behind the lens for years, as I’m not the biggest fan of having my picture taken. Only recently have I succumbed to selfies and they usually feel more awkward that awaiting a greeting. A friend captured a couple photos of me on a travel adventure last week and I was awed in seeing myself in a different way. In looking at the pictures, I’m elated to say that I saw my own joy and light looking back at me. I saw myself happy.

8 Months In - Taken in Eastern Cape, South Africa

8 Months In - Taken in Eastern Cape, South Africa

I celebrated 8 months in country this week and I’m proud of the woman I see in those pictures. I’m proud of her for working through all the unexpected emotional and spiritual work of these last 8 months. Before coming to South Africa, I questioned my ability to endure the anticipated physical hardships of Peace Corps service. I was unsure that my being in my late 30s would allow me to get used to bucket bathing, pit latrines and living without running water. I feared that I’d never sleep during my service, as villages have a reputation for being loud and I have a reputation for being the world’s lightest sleeper. I’ve pushed through antagonism from sources that should be allies. I’ve dealt with discomfort and not knowing what is happening during nearly 95% of my day. I’ve worked through water and food scarcity, household repairs and cultural misunderstandings with a mindset of self advocacy, preservation and perspective. I’ve practiced radical self care, stretched myself far beyond my comfort zone and intentionally stepped outside myself and a fixed mindset on numerous occasions. I’ve felt deep compassion, empathy and despair, a loneliness I’d never anticipated and growth in ways I didn’t recognize I needed. I’ve witnessed a deep-set resilience among the people of South Africa. Grit conjured through history, the Apartheid and the HIV and poverty epidemics have left wounds that perhaps time, love, acknowledgement, forgiveness and empowerment may heal.

I set out 8 months ago for service. I set out to help, to give of myself and my light. I set out to volunteer. I never realized how much personal development was involved in Peace Corps service. It’s as if I signed up for altruism and instead received a perpetual period of introspection. I describe this Peace Corps experience as a roller coaster. The ups and downs are intense, drastic and frequent. However, I’m finally starting to feel as if I’m buckled in, secure and *gulp* ready for the ride. I’ve extended my support system and regularly identify and implement the tools I need to sustain myself. I’m proud of the woman who’s light I identify in the recent pictures. She recognizes that her liberation is bound to the work she came here to do.

Through experience, I now fully understand the reasoning and meaning behind “sawubona” and waiting to greet until I’m in one’s personal space. Being close and truly seeing is the only way we can witness another being. Forgoing the distance from me to you, I can see you.

It’s as if I’ve awaited this moment for years. Looking at those pictures were akin to that awkward approach, eye contact and all, patiently awaiting myself to enter my own personal space, until I could recognize my own company, my own reflection, my own humanity. Forgoing the distance between me to me, I can truly see myself.

It’s as if I’m finally seeing myself in this moment for the very first time. One of my intentions of my service is to stand with confidence on my own two feet in this great big world of ours. Though I recognize I have a lot more work to do until I can affirm the fulfillment of that intention, I’m proud to say that I’m on my way.

I invite you to explore similar self-inquiry. Though there are many ways to do this, here are two avenues in which to begin:

Gather several pictures of yourself. They may be recent photos or those from various chapters of your life. Feel free to either sit with your favorite journal or in meditative inquiry taking some quiet time to look at yourself in the pictures. Then, ask yourself what is reflected back to you. What you see? What emotions are present? What energy or messages do you hold about yourself?

Mirror work is another option. Stand in front of a mirror and look into your own eyes. This may be extremely uncomfortable at first, but this is some of the most profound work any of us can do. Ask yourself the same questions above. As you gaze into your eyes, what is reflected back to you? What you see? What emotions are present, what energy or messages do you hold about yourself?

At the end of your mirror work, you may practice one of my favorite affirmations from Louise Hay as you continue looking at yourself in your reflection and say: “I love you and I’m beginning to make positive changes in my life right now. Day by day, I will improve the quality of my life. It is safe for me to be happy and fulfilled.” You may notice emotions arising as you engage in mirror work. It may take several attempts before you adjust to mirror work. It’s all perfect and it’s all okay.

Finally, I’ve been sitting with the words of Aboriginal activist Lily Walker. May they likewise inspire you, “if you come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you come here because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us begin.”

I aspire to relay the emotional and spiritual journey of my Peace Corps service here in South Africa. I am grateful and honored you’ve chosen to join me. ♥

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

    

 

An Open Letter to the One who Cheated

I’ve spent so long so angry. So angry, I’ve blocked out love. So angry that it’s clouded the good. So long.

I’ve spent so long trying to punish. Trying to harbor resentment. Blocking my own freedom. Aligning with the dark.

I’ve forfeited so much time trying to punish. Trying to withhold. Any yet, I’ve been the one who has suffered.

 

I’ve spent so long wishing for a fairytale. Wishing for some magical lever to be pushed to make it all better. To start anew.

 

And yet, here I am, as I take a step back and look at my life, I realize that we were destined to walk in the footsteps of our fathers, our mother, their fathers, their mothers. Destined to play out the karma. Destined to live out the story of our ancestral pain and trauma.

 

I am the cheater.

I barely admitted it, but I am.

You are the cheater.

You barely admitted it, but you are.

I am the liar. You are the liar. I am in the wrong. You are in the wrong. The marriage was broken. The engagement was broken. The relationship was broken. I was broken. You were broken. The past was broken.

 

The presence is now.

 

The future is open.

 

How do we move on? How do we let each other go? How have you moved on? How have I moved on?

Where do things stand? What do you want? What do I want?

Who decides? Who forgives? Who moves on?

Why did it happen? Why does it still hurt? What can’t I let go?

Why do I cling to the threads of the past that make it so difficult to forgive?

What will make it better? What do I have to do to move on?

When will I stop hurting? When will I finally be free?

Of the Father. Of the Son. Of the Ex. Of my Burden.

When will the light shine through to illuminate the shadow?

When will absolution and forgiveness, true forgiveness, finally win out?

 

It pains me still to think about the hurt. The denial.

My intuition muted. The lies told.

At some point, it will dissipate, right?

 

I’ve spent too long holding on.

I’ve spent to long clinging to this hope.

I’ve spent too much emotional currency to cash it in on anything that matters.

 

At some point, you let go. At some point, you chose her instead of me. At some point, you chose her instead of my mother. At some point, he chose her instead of your mother. At some point, she chose him instead of your father. At some point, we all let go.

 

Maybe someday

I’ll finally

let go.

 

Gratitude for joining me as I process the emotional and spiritual 27-month journey of Peace Corps Service in South Africa. ♥

 

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

The Possibility in the Present

When I chose present as my Word of the Year for 2017, I envisioned living the word through mindfulness, through the cultivation of awareness of the present, through joy and being open and simply aware of what is here, right now. This morning, through my regular meditation and Morning Pages sessions, I recognized that present means much more than that.

Blooming - Taken September 2017 in KZN Province, South Africa

Blooming - Taken September 2017 in KZN Province, South Africa

In asking myself the question, “can I make space for possibility”? I triggered several epiphanies. I must allow myself to let go of the past to make space for the gifts of the present. I must stop clinging to the stories, to past achievements, hurts, relationships, traumas and histories to truly empty my cup and make room for the present. I must allow the feelings and emotions from the past to dissipate in order to be present for what’s here, in the present.

I asked myself if I’ve told enough of my story to feel as if I’m free of my past. Though I recognize there is rigidity even there, there doesn’t need to be a fixed stop point with regard to my own healing, my own process. Perhaps I am done telling the stories of my past, clinging to the stories of my past. Perhaps I’m not. And it’s all perfect. And it’s all okay. 

I recognized this morning that present is likewise about letting go of the future. I have been conditioned to plan for the future, to know what’s next. As a Social Worker and a Coach, my career has rested on plan-making. My own safety often relied on the generation of solid plans. However, arming myself with the best-laid plans for the future, I realized this morning, robs me of the possibility that exists in the present and perhaps in the future, as well.

It is so much more than mindfulness. It’s so much more than awareness of the present. It is about the ability to be, to truly be in the moment – to truly be present - to surrender to what is without expectation, without stories, without clinging to the past, without obsessively planning for the future. There is ease here, in its purest form.

All these concepts are talked about so commonly in the self help, spiritual, coaching, personal development and helping communities, but until you experience them in real-time, in your own life, you and I fall short of experience and forfeit the present.

Once we empty ourselves of the clinging, of the constant energy of doing, of the gripping, the striving, the proving, we can truly rest, I can truly rest, and be open to the present.

Herein lies the gift, the very rich opportunity for possibility and ease and freedom and breath and space.

Illumination - A gifted candle during a power outage from my Host Mama, KZN, South Africa

Illumination - A gifted candle during a power outage from my Host Mama, KZN, South Africa

May you be present.

May you open to possibility.

May you witness the peace that surrounds you.

May you let go.

 

May I be present.

May I open to possibility.

May I witness the peace that surrounds me.

May I let go.

 

Gratitude for joining me as I process the emotional and spiritual 27-month journey of Peace Corps Service in South Africa. ♥

 

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

 

Africa Soft

My weekends are no longer my own. It took a lot for this American woman to finally relinquish her autonomy. In fact, it took nearly seven months of fighting in country, but today, the light bulb finally illuminated.

I set out with the best of intentions each weekend to live similarly as I did in the US. Weekends in America have always been characterized by sleeping in, vegging out, tackling chores, recuperating from the previous week and preparing for the week ahead. Much room is made for “me time”. Not so here in South Africa.

Peace Corps Volunteers often explain that the first three months of Peace Corps Life, Pre-Service Training (PST), are intended to make volunteers “Africa tough” and prepare one for their subsequent two years of service. PST resulted in my tangible disdain for the phrase Africa tough. My tipping point occurred on a seven-hour van ride traversing some of this country’s most scenic terrain. The smile on my face spoke of my contentment. A fellow volunteer, close to the end of his two years of service, noticed my expression and asked why I was smiling. In explaining the source of my elation, he said, “don’t worry, you’re sure to lose that happiness in the next two years”. Speechless at the time, his words have echoed in my heart and mind many times in the last 5 months since he uttered them.

Gearing Down - KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Gearing Down - KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

I can choose to harden to my life’s experiences, whether here in South Africa or elsewhere. I can choose to meet the jaded and be, likewise, jaded, or I can choose differently.

Years ago in my former life as a Social Worker, colleagues would often remark on how I responded in crisis. When people react and become increasingly geared up emotionally, I tend to gear down. My upbringing, temperament and spirit naturally choose ease. In some instances in my life, that has indeed escalated situations with some people, but I maintain my integrity and my composure. When the out of control are given time and space, they usually calm.

Sure, I can choose to become Africa tough. I can choose to be incensed at the pandemics of poverty, HIV, ignorance and trauma. I can allow them to permeate my spirit, settle in, fester and harden me. I can choose to internalize the events taking place in the States both personally and politically. I can react with anger, spite, jealousy and hatred. I can meet that fear right where it exists. I choose.

I choose to meet that fear with love - it’s the most revolutionary thing I can do. Today, I choose love. Today, I choose to consciously soften.

A dear friend reminded me this week of the importance of softening - the importance of softening to the people in my life who hurt me willingly and those who hurt me unknowingly. It took me a long time to become the vulnerable creature I am today. I’d proudly say she’s anything but Africa tough. I relish the sensitive, vulnerable, empathetic and open woman I’ve worked diligently to become.

Softening to the Experience - KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Softening to the Experience - KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

I sat with all of this this morning and decided that I wish to open and soften to this entire experience of service and the changes taking place, both internally and externally in my life. I finally relinquish control.

So, this morning, when I’d planned to spend the day catching up on my to-do list and my Host Mama told me we were going to a traditional ceremony in 45 minutes and to wear a skirt. I obliged by speed-bathing, donning my new Zulu beads and the requested skirt and proudly stepping forth as Africa soft. 

I invite you to grab your favorite journal and a pen, carve out some me time if you can and reflect on these prompts:

  • In what areas of your life are you feeling hardened? How might you be meeting fear with more fear? Anger with more anger?
  • In what areas of your life might you soften?
  • What are the conscious ways you are willing to soften?
  • Who might be willing to support your softening? Might you enlist them in helping you choose to gear down, rather than amp up?
  • What is one way that you’ll choose to consciously soften today?

This is a collection of writings that chronicles my Peace Corps service. I aspire to relay my emotional and spiritual 27-month journey here in South Africa. I am grateful you’ve chosen to join me. ♥

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

Month Two: The Choice

Your darkness

Nearly shattered my long-held dream.

I nearly allowed your darkness

To shatter my long-held dream.

 

The sound of your darkness

Drowns out the preacher’s voice blaring from the radio each Sunday morning.

The darkness so claustrophobic

I could barely breathe most days.

 

For weeks, I starved physically,

Today I starve emotionally and spiritually.

The eggshells upon which I walk cut through my very soul.

 

The barrage of your attacks is incessant.

I feel myself drowning, fading, my spirit waning,

As an entity meant to keep me safe has fallen short in countless ways.

Looking for someone to rescue me to no avail.

 

Countless ways of not being heard, not given voice, being dismissed, belittled.

All my power relinquished.

All control relinquished.

I feel like nothing.

I feel so small, so betrayed, so heartbroken.

 

What happens to the dream deferred,

That when leapt for,

Doesn’t fit the ideal?

 

Tears shed.

So many tears shed.

I almost walked away.

I almost said goodbye.

To the red earth.

To the smiing children.

To the opportunity of what’s to come.

I get to walk away from your darkness.

 

I choose.

 

I choose to leave your darkness here.

I vow not to take it on.

I vow not to take it into my body.

I vow to leave the anger, disappointment, despair, heartbreak in these lines –

Right here.

The darkness goes no further.

It compromised my learning, my energy, my mood.

Was I my best self most days?

Not really.

For that, I forgive myself.

 

I did the best I could with what I had.

What I have now is a new chapter,

A threshold to step through.

 

I choose to step through.

I choose to save myself.

As I walk through the threshold, I will never

Look

Back.

Farewell.

 

May you fare well.

I. Choose. My. Light.

I choose to step through.

I release you.

May you, too, find your light.

With hope for the next chapter, I choose to step through.

Day's End - Mpumalanga Province, South Africa

 

The “darkness” referred to above speaks to the shadow of Self that exists within us all. Through conscious choice, we may cultivate our inner light. Through conscious action, we may sit with our shadow and understand her better.

 

This work is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my Peace Corps service. Trauma and race have greatly impacted South Africa. Much has been written and processed around both. I may look explore these topics and their intersection with healing in the coming months. I aspire to relay my emotional and spiritual 27-month journey of service in the Peace Corps in South Africa. I am grateful you’ve chosen to join me. ♥

 

 

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

Early Reflections

March 12, 2017

I made a conscious choice to walk away from everything I’ve known. I made a conscious choice to make a contribution of service to a country in which I’d never set foot. Here I am, nearly two months later with the opportunity to reflect, an opportunity to look back, as I hear the sounds of village life drawing me into the present moment. I hear of the neighbor’s children giggling. I hear the cows mooing. I hear the soft breeze rustling through the trees. I hear the sound of my tin roof crackling under the blazing South African sun. I see my just hand-washed laundry blowing in the wind. I gaze over the fields of my village, the hills in the distance, the nearly cloudless sky. It seems so peaceful. From the outside, the view is one of pleasure.

Sets - Mpumalanga Province, South Africa

However, over the last two months, I’ve surfed what seem like relentless and endless waves. Waves of emotion, new experiences, relationships, learnings, mistakes, heartbreaks, angst, despair, grief, excitement, fear, excitement, fear. It is difficult to sum up this experience of walking away from all that is known to venture into the depths of all that is unknown. It’s amazing how much life can change in such a short period of time. As I take a deep breath, fill my lungs with this South African air, I feel the concrete under my seat, I orient back to the scenery and I exhale for I know this reflection is necessary to process all that has occurred over these last seven weeks and six days.

Walking away from a beloved and from the West Coast was heartwrenching. TSA didn’t understand my process and put me through theirs. My bags were wiped down for bombs while I tried to catch my breath amongst the fat tears rolling down my cheeks. I spent 9 days on the East Coast with so many other of my beloveds. My soul sisters, my blood relatives, my adoptive family and teachers. I said goodbye to them all as I Marched on Washington, as I dined and shared tears, as we recollected our collective history, I readied for this new chapter.

Anniversaries and dates of significance are not lost on me. I reported to Philadelphia for Peace Corps orientation on my former partner of nearly 10 year’s birthday. I daydreamed of our home near the ocean that I’d absolutely fallen in love with and recounted the years of memories. Daily in Philadelphia, I could feel anxieties reeling their ugly heads. I tried to put my best foot forward as I waded through the seas of my emotions and those of my 33 fellow cohort members. We broke ice and bread together. We geared up for the journey. Bonding with some on the airplane floor, I felt a wellspring of emotion that an early morning meditation and Morning Pages session gave voice to. Being scheduled to fly to South Africa on what would have been my mom’s 67th birthday was also pressing on my heart and mind.

Making the long flight and then being introduced to 20+ new faces of Peace Corps Staff upon arrival was overwhelming to say the least. Battling fatigue and jetlag, little issues spiraled and the South African ground beneath my feet seemed to virtually disappear. After a myriad of speeches about how these 33 people would become my new family, the scramble to build relationships began. In the last several weeks, some of these relationships have flourished, others have already fizzled out.

Transitioning to a homestay in a semi-rural village, I feel as if I’m replaying my karma by living with a single woman with one daughter who lives in a different part of the country. The overlay of my upbringing is imprinted deeply upon this experience. I’m sorting it out, giving it breath and resisting the storytelling.

In these few weeks in South Africa, I can already feel this country working me. With the country’s trauma lying close to the surface, it reminds me of the soul work and reflections on Cambodia. I’ve awakened and exercised some of my gifts already. I’ve shared meditation, yoga, Reiki and other self care with my new cohort family. I’ve honored my daily meditation and Morning Pages practice. I’ve found a place here, though not yet a home. I’ve used my crystals, Angel cards, and built altars and stones and gifted origami on the days we’ve covered tough topics in the classroom. I’ve shed many tears and had many revelatory conversations.

I’ve become frighteningly comfortable at peeing in a bucket, pooping in a hole and bucket-bathing in a plastic basin. I regularly exterminate the termites in my bedroom and ignore their neighboring spiders of all shapes and sizes. I’ve slaughtered a poor snake, splattering its blood all over my bedroom floor before it was burned and stoned to double-death in the backyard by my host Mama. I’ve been hungry to the point of pain more often than I’ve been satiated. I’ve been fed by those who were strangers only six weeks ago. I’ve found solace amongst my family who were strangers six weeks ago.

 I’ve witnessed gorgeous sunrises, cathartic sunsets and soul-shaking lightning storms. I’ve acquired a new name (Mapule, which translates to “rain” in Setswana, the local language. Rain is seen as a great blessing here.) which every being under 10 years old loves to holler as I meander down the dirt paths of my village. Their smiles and open hearts remind me to return to that inner girl I somehow forget about so many years ago. She begs to tell her story and re-embody herself once again.

IMG_0326.JPG

I’ve rekindled my inner fire in more ways that one, channeling my creativity into developing activities on HIV for young people, mentoring and building relationships with a few local girls and fulfilling a long-held dream of joining the Peace Corps.

Tomorrow, I travel to the site and organization that I’ll serve for the next two years. Adjacent to a renowned Buddhist Retreat Center, I’m trying to enter the experience with an empty cup, ready to learn and grow, letting go of expectations and fear. As I breathe in this new adventure, I consistently remind myself of the importance of the present moment - THIS moment. I constantly remind myself that I am living in Africa. I repeatedly remind myself that I am acting upon a dream that is now my reality.

Through the hardships, I remind myself to return to my body. Through the emotion, I remind myself to breathe and then breathe again and then to, again, breathe.

Time flies when you are disembodied. It flies when you are outside of your precious heart. Through breath, I invite myself to return to this precious heart, this precious body, this precious moment – for it is all we have.

 

How might you remind yourself of this precious moment?

 

Try this simple meditation.

Close your eyes. Feel the ground beneath you.

Take a deep breath through your nose. Fill your lungs completely.

 

Pause.

 

Exhale through pursed lips, as if slowly blowing out a candle. Deeply inhale, again through the nostrils, filling the lungs and your diaphragm completely.

 

Pause.

 

Feel the ground beneath you. Exhale through pursed lips. Take one last deep inhale, filling the lungs.

 

Pause.

 

Exhale through pursed lips. Say to yourself, “THIS moment”.

 

When you are ready, slowly open your eyes.

 

Use this meditation to invite yourself back into your body, back into your breath and back into the present moment. 

 

This is the first in a collection of writings that chronicles my Peace Corps service. I aspire to relay my emotional and spiritual 27-month journey to South Africa. I am grateful you’ve chosen to join me. ♥

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

2017: The Present

"Illuminate" - Gili Air, Indonesia

"Illuminate" - Gili Air, Indonesia

Twelve months ago today, I honored my tradition of the last six years in which I select a word to inspire my year. I literally danced and chanted my way into 2016 while in Bali, setting out to illuminate the last 366 days. Illuminate served as a beacon and she will be remembered for inspiring my decision-making, casting light upon shadow and encouraging massive healing and release. This year, I desired to reflect upon the year's past and prepare for the coming year in a bit different way. 

"Release" - Oceanside, CA

Writing, creative endeavors and retreats invited me to sift through the travel, transitions and resources that emerged throughout this past year. The deep dive into Susannah Conway's Unravel your Year 2017 over the last couple weeks has furthered my examination of the challenges, my embracing of the gifts and has encouraged additional processing of the happenings of 2016. Susannah's thoughtful prompts such as, "what did you embrace in 2016?" combine with visioning exercises, such as describing my favorite moments of the year or imparting forgiveness upon myself and others for certain instances, offered catharsis. Yesterday, on New Year's Eve, I created a ritual in which I set fire to that which still needed to be illuminated, releasing the last remnants of clinging and giving final gratitude to the Year of Illumination. All these efforts were also aimed at making space for 2017. 

"Present" - Oceanside, CA

Working through the rest of Susannah's workbook today, I unravelled the year ahead, confirmed my word for 2017 and powerfully envisioned dreams, plans and possibilities for the next twelve months. Excitingly, I used one of my favorite spiritual tools, Kyle Gray's Angel Prayers Oracle Deck, to draw my monthly forecast, as well as my theme for 2017: New Beginnings! I concluded my year-end-year-beginning rituals in my absolute favorite place - at Mama Ocean.

My word for 2017 is present. I will explore the gift of the present through practice and intention and will surely share more in the coming months about how the present unfolds.  

Perhaps you feel called to choose an intention to guide your 2017? If so, my favorite resources include:

  • Susannah Conway's Find your Word for 2017 
  • Find the time and space to sit quietly and ask for guidance. Spend time in prayer, meditation or journalling and ask, "what intention or word would best serve my highest good in 2017?" This process may take you days or you may intuitively happen upon the perfect word. Provide yourself with time, space and grace to be led to your Word for 2017. 

  

Fighting Spirit

She handed me the envelope with a card and check enclosed. Though years have clouded my memory of the card's exact wording, her sentiments resonated clearly within me as I choked back tears on yesterday's drive. Every fiber of my being recognized the common thread - the connective element.

Many months of reading intended to prepare for my upcoming Peace Corps service, left me, instead, paralyzed by Fear. I sat with this Fear, greeting Her head-on during a recent retreat. As She is not typically my travel companion for ventures abroad, I peeled back Her layers and recognized Her as quite an old friend of mine. I've chosen, since my retreat, to befriend Fear, inviting Her to inspire intentional choices over the last several weeks that have broken cycles and unearthed deep-seated grief, excitement, shame, loneliness, anticipation, regret, despair, much more fear and this memory of my mom from my college graduation. 

Rather than drown in the wellspring of emotion, I've maneuvered through difficult conversations, purged personal belongings, addressed tasks long-overdue, waded (somewhat gracefully) through these emotions and stepped courageously into self defense training.

I'm a yogini. I'm a meditator. I'm a lover of peace. I don't hit. I don't punch. I don't kick. That is, until seven weeks ago. 

I set aside the misgivings I had about my vulnerability's ability to withstand what I'd long-since thought of as aggression-breeding classes. I decided, instead, to approach self defense training in the same way I approach my meditation cushion, with an empty cup - an open mind - and the highest intention of walking alongside Fear and, perhaps, walking through Her.

Early on, my Krav Maga Instructor issued a stern recommendation to tap into our fighting spirit. I left class perplexed, as I'd already worked mightily through my hesitations around hitting, punching and kicking. I latched onto the notion of fighting spirit to mean a physical sense of fight. Aside from faithful class attendance, I wasn't sure sure how else to access this illusive spirit.

A discussion with my Instructor at the next class unveiled that this strictly physical understanding of fighting spirit failed to provide the whole picture. I explained that I felt a hint of fighting spirit beyond physicality, but I wasn't sure how to bring that into my training. He told me, "Krav Maga teaches that technique beats strength. It also teaches that fighting spirit beats strength." He went on to encourage me to draw upon my fighting spirit, in all its forms, within my training.

Sacred Space -  Oceanside, Ca 

This felt like rich territory, ripe for investigation, beyond the confines of my Krav Maga class. So, I took it to the place I take all my sacred inquiries, to my altar. 

In my daily meditation and writing practice, I sat with this idea and feeling of fighting spirit. I immediately recognized Fighting Spirit as another old friend. I recognized Fighting Spirit in the peeling back of my own layers. I recognized Fighting Spirit in the untangling of my shadow. I recognized Fighting Spirit in the revelation of my light. I recognized Fighting Spirit in my grief and my forgiveness and my path. I recognized Fighting Spirit in this leap I'm taking to navigate through Fear. I recognized Fighting Spirit in the pursuit of my dreams of serving in the Peace Corps. I recognized Fighting Spirit in my ability to show up to Krav Maga class when, really, I want to quit because of the overwhelming dissociation and surfacing of trauma that likely isn't even mine.

In front of my altar and at subsequent Krav Maga classes, I realized that Krav Maga was stretching me through practice and philosophy, furthering my physical endurance and, unexpectedly, leading to spiritual and personal growth. I have explored attributes such as courage, happiness, balance, wellness and wholeness. I noticed that I often regarded them as living outside of myself, mostly ephemeral and attained through fleeting acts and passing achievements. In the last 7 weeks, I have started to believe that courage, happiness, balance, wellness, wholeness and Fighting Spirit actually live inside of me physically, emotionally and spiritually. They may be accessed at any time of my choosing. 

As I drove this week, from a financial planning meeting, a session fighting/friending security in the financial form, to my Krav Maga class, a session fighting/friending security in physical form, I recognized the connective element of feeling enough. The sentiments of my mother on my graduation day echoed a feeling of not being enough. Her card uttered a congratulations and stated that she wished the attached check contained another zero, but that life had dealt her a different hand. She, on that day of my college graduation, expressed regret that her gift was inadequate, that she, herself, was inadequate.

At my financial planning meeting, I discovered that my inherited bank account satisfied my student loan debt. In fact, the account equaled, almost exactly, the amount of the check my mom hoped to provide on my graduation day, with that extra zero. Tears sprang forth on the drive from my financial planning meeting to my Krav Maga class unveiling sheer emotion and release. I recognized Fighting Spirit in the form of my mom's resilience, having been a single mom that struggled with the hand that life dealt her, fighting both her own darkness and her own light. Yet, she provided me with a stellar education that served as a springboard for the pursuit of my dreams, the dreams carrying me to South Africa next month.

Tears sprang forth as I wished that my mom recognized even a glimpse of her own light.

Tears sprang forth as I wished that my mom recognized, just for a moment - that moment - the light that she passed along to me as her daughter.

Tears sprang forth at the recognition of her regret on my graduation day.

Tears sprang forth at the recognition of fulfillment, 15 years later, of her very wishes.

Tears sprang forth with recognition that, at the end of the day, she was enough.

Tears in recognition that her dreams were enough.

Tears in recognition that her Fighting Spirit was enough.

Tears in recognition that my Fighting Spirit is enough.

Tears in recognition that my dreams are enough. 

Tears in recognition that I am enough. 

 

I invite you to take a moment, right now, to place your hands on your heart and tell yourself, "I am enough." As you connect with your heart center and the divinity, courage, happiness, balance, wellness and wholeness that lies inherently within you, ask how you might tap into your Fighting Spirit. 

Feel free to share here in the comments below or on Facebook the ways in which you'll exercise your Fighting Spirit. 

 

 

The Work to be Done

It is easy to dissociate. 

It is easy to numb out.

It is easy to be disenchanted.

It is easy to be angry.

It is easy to react.

It is easy to fall into habit.

It is easy to be apathetic. 

Empathy takes work.

Compassion takes work.

Healing takes work.

I am here to do the work.

I am here to cultivate my light, my wisdom, my perspective. 

I am here to illuminate.

I am not here to sit quietly, except on my meditation cushion.

Compassionate activism.

Spiritual and personal inquiry.

Mindful action.

Ebb and Flow #2: Oceanside, Ca

 

 

Every Day is Choosing Day

In a million ways, it seems like yesterday, America's Choosing Day, is a reinforcement of the message, "I am not enough."

I invite a different message, a different process, a different perspective.

Take a breath.

Take a step back.

Place one hand on your heart center.

Place one hand on your belly.

Ask yourself:

What do I know to be true?

About myself? About "my" community? About "them"? About "their community"? About "other"? About "others' communities"? About my country? About the world I live in? 

What is it that I believe?

If I believe this is a message of hate, it is a message of hate.

If I believe this is a cry for help, it is a cry for help.

If I believe this is a message and vehicle for change, it is a message and vehicle for change.

If I believe this is a call for revolution, it is a call for revolution. 

If I believe this begs us to love more, this will beg us to love more.

If I believe this to be an impetus for change, this will be an impetus for change.

I vow not to lose heart.

I vow not to stop working for peace.

I vow to choose love.

I vow to work for peace.

I vow to rise up.

I vow to stand up.

I vow to keep my promises.

I vow to recognize that I am the change I wish to see in the world.

I vow to recognize the change I wish to be in the world.

It starts with me.

It starts with a different message, a different process, a different perspective. It starts with a breath. It starts with one hand on my heart center. It starts with one hand on my belly.

It starts with deep questioning of what lies in my own heart. 

It starts with what lies in my own mind.

It starts with me - right here, right now.

Ebb and Flow - Oceanside, CA

Dissolution in the Desert

It is dawn's first light greeting my tear-filled eyes, as I stand upon the desert sand and recognize my life's purpose.

It is a glimpse of the hole the hammer made on the outside of my locked bedroom door, as I clamored for safety in my bedroom of my childhood home. 

It is the wheezing of the 86 year old, his lungs chasing life-giving oxygen, each noisy breath evolving into a fellow meditator's richest teachings.

It is the palpitations in the chest as one connects with another human being on a level so deep that you hear not only your story in theirs, not only their story in yours, but the story of their lineage, your lineage and the echo of the story of each human throughout time. 

It is the dissolution of tensions in the body so profound that I feel my skeleton shift. It is the calm of my nervous system in a way that feels like lifetimes have been sifted through and healed. It is the stilling of my mind in a way where it feels like I have absorbed with ease the most sacred of knowings and yet let go of everything I've ever known in the very same breath and it is all perfect. It is the softening of my face, my belly and my heart in a way that nothing else - nothing else - has ever been able to evoke. 

This is Vipassana. 

As it is. 

Arising and passing away. Arising and passing away. Arising and passing away.

This is a practice over 2500 years old that transcends religion, transcends the realm of the body, transcends the realm of experience and yet parses everything else in the universe out to allow the practitioner to settle into nothing but their own experience. This is a practice that expands the mind and heart. 

Vipassana retreats in Goenka's tradition take place worldwide and are an incredible way to strengthen your mind, reset your entire life and simply let go. Based on the three tenets of sila (moral conduct), samadhi (concentration of one's mind) and panna (wisdom), Vipassana complements any (or no) spiritual tradition. Regardless of belief systems, we all want to be good people. So in this, Vipassana meets everyone where they are and teaches how to embody presence, compassion and love.  

I am blessed to have just completed another Vipassana retreat. 

I spent 12 days in Joshua Tree at the idyllic Southern California Vipassana Center, meditating about 108 hours with over 50 other meditators. We spent 9 days in silence and adhered to a strict schedule, waking at 4am and working arduously on our Vipassana practice until about 9pm each night.

"The Long, Winding Road" - Southern California Vipassana Center Trail, Joshua Tree, CA

 

About 11 hours each day was spent meditating. A beautiful, winding walking trail welcomed movement and facilitated the release of energy in both the body and mind. We refrained from reading, writing, eye contact and gestures. After the first night, we did not consume dinner, only breakfast and lunch, giving our bodies time to rest and truly digest on all levels. 

Living the lives of Buddhist Monks and Nuns, we relied on the generosity of others, paying nothing for the retreat. Dana, a selfless love-based offering, could be made in the form of service or monetary compensation post-retreat.  

My life has changed in incredible ways a mere day after completing my third Vipassana retreat. The clarity with which I see the world, the past, the future, the present is astounding. This was the toughest retreat I've endured to date. Psychologically, emotionally, physically and spiritually, I was put through the ringer.

However, I wouldn't change a thing. It was a necessary process, a direct experience, that was essential for my growth.

I had moments where I faced the very darkest nights of my soul, where I was literally in the midst of my deepest traumas, feeling them, healing them and releasing them. I had inexplicable moments of incredible sensory perception like hearing the flapping wings of a bird 30 feet away or feeling the atoms, yes, the very atoms, in my arm rearrange in response to someone coughing as they passed by me. Miracles, synchronicities and insights from the mundane to the profound abounded. Vivid previews of the next meal surfaced in my mind's eye. A rainbow appeared in the rainless sky. Soul-knowings about the person on the cushion next to me emerged. In silence and stillness, illusions dissolved.  

I am incredibly grateful for each and every moment I had in the desert. 

Right now, I am enjoying a gentle re-entry back into everyday life. I will likely share more learnings and epiphanies as I assimilate the insights I discovered during this incredibly precious retreat in the desert. 

Seven Months of Illumination

It's hard to believe it's almost August! I've been working with illuminate, my word of the year, for nearly seven whole months. Actually, she has been working me. As I take a step back to reflect, so much has been illuminated. My word of the year has revealed herself little by little, with each passing day, casting light upon light and light even upon the shadows. It is all beautiful. 

From the very first day of 2016 where I was serenaded by Michael Franti as I danced and practiced yoga in Bali to being lovingly celebrated for my birthday last week in the most uniquely-me ways in crazy Las Vegas, this year has been filled with incredible light thus far. Though it seems daunting to sum up the 7 months of life between in just one post, I'm ready to illuminate and reflect.

"Red Rock Asana" - Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas, NV 

Bouncing back from 9 months of travel in Southeast Asia wasn't easy. The highlight of the return home in January was reconnecting with some of my favorite beloveds.

In February, the month of love treated me to both highs and lows. Settling into a home that felt furthest from the bliss I'd just experienced in Bali was a rude, but necessary, awakening. Evading the homelessness I'd unexpectedly found myself in was buffered by the beauty of community, the offering of the beautiful seva practice of Love from Mother Bali sessions to nearly 40 people, Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness Meditation, a synchronistic silent retreat and a powerful healing session which released ancestral pain. These supports illuminated my heart, mind and spirit, allowed me to realize my gifts, still enough to listen the supportive voices of the Universe and open to the prospect of moving across country to sunny Southern California.

Immense healing occurred.

Love prevailed.

March rushed in with a scouting trip to find a new home, the Purpose Fairy's 21 Day Happiness Challenge, reflections on my own healing, Deepak and Oprah's "Shedding the Weight" 21 Day Meditation experience, my "Lovefest 2016" experienced through reconnections and goodbyes throughout the country as I relocated to the West Coast. I completed my application to the Peace Corps on the last day of the month, potentially opening a new chapter of my story beyond even the immediate next chapter here in California. I received great clarity with each connection, practice and reflection in March.

April heralded two opposing energies, settling in and uprooting. As I was settling into a new home and establishing roots, I received word of a Peace Corps interview in May, fruition of a dream I've held for half my life. These opposing energies brought forth many feelings. My regular daily practices aided in sifting through and illuminating the feelings within me, inspiring me to create and share the Journey of the Breath in May. 

The Journey of the Breath illuminated my own patterning and introduced me to new ways of breathing and new ways of being. May also brought illumination through connection via technology, volunteering and travel. Technology gifted me with the Shift Network's "Inspiring Women with Soul" Conference and the Hay House World Summit growing my wisdom and perspective. Service opportunities including volunteering at Wanderlust and taking part in a local Reiki Circle lit me up in May. A visit from my sweet cousin and a new friend invited me to explore and fall in love with my new city, my first visit to Joshua Tree for the ShaktiFest allowed for unexpected reconnection with friends from previous chapters of my life and an invitation to join the Peace Corps in South Africa issued an introduction to the potential next chapter of my life.  

"Illuminated Dancer" - Las Vegas, NV

To welcome June, I signed up for Mama Gena's Self Love Challenge affording me a gentle means of self care during the anniversary of my mom leaving her body. I illuminated my own resistance to receiving during the proceeding Mama Gena's Receiving Challenge, which I'm continuing to sit with. Sounds True's Meditation Summit, a joyful visit from my college roommate and dear friend, a Nahko show, seeing the Dalai Lama and becoming an active part of my new community through more volunteering and activities imparted sweet medicine as I reached the halfway point of this year of illumination. 

My birthday month opened with an illuminated bang that included a labyrinth walk through a volcano, my first local ecstatic dance gathering and a front row seat for the fireworks. I introduced the Monday Minute, live Facebook videos sharing tidbits of connection, which are a big feat for this introvert! Sandcastles, bike rides, ocean time and birthday freebies have made July a true delight. I hadn't planned to participate in Deepak and Oprah's "Getting Unstuck" Meditation Experience, but I'm on Day 17 and have gratefully revealed many hidden corners of my own stuckness. 

As I look back upon these seven full months of transition, travel and vast illumination, I revel in all the fullness.

I am grateful for each moment.

I rest in the present moment. 

In August, I will honor life through the lens, slow down and participate in The August Break. Might you feel called to join me?   

three Years ago Today

Three years ago today, I received the phone call. 

Three years ago today, the Officer made small talk.

Three years ago today, he said you'd been found dead in my childhood home.

Three years ago today, I walked out of my workplace, in shock, without a word to anyone.

 

Three years ago today, I felt more alone in this world than ever before.

I'd spent a lifetime fighting the world alongside you.

 

On auto-pilot, I focused on logistics.

I waded through the legalities.

I boxed everything up. 

I ignored the sympathy, in all its forms, even down to the cards. 

I ignored the grief.

 

I operated for the next year in shock. 

Even when being operated on 6 months later, I was still in shock.

I thought that I, too, was scheduled to die.

 

It's as if you knew.

It's as if you prepared.

 

It's as if I knew. 

It's as if I prepared. 

 

Days before the phone call, I fought hard to get to Wanderlust Chicago. 

A canceled reservation, fully booked rooms, normally I wouldn't have gone. 

Something deep inside drew me there.

A circle, a cycle, unbeknownst to me. 

My heart knew.

My bones knew. 

 

It wasn't until sifting through my childhood home that I discovered my yearning to be in Chicago. 

I was completing a circle, a cycle unbeknownst to me, yet one that I knew.

My heart knew.

My bones knew.

 

I'd been conceived in Chicago. 

You died when I was in Chicago.

Loss.

Gain.

Loss.

Gain.

 

I lost you long before the phone call three years ago. 

I lost you to a lifetime of pain that no one might be able to survive.

Tumultuous upbringing, walking into your father hanging in your childhood home, lost children, infidelity, narcissism, alcohol, struggling to find the manual to create a loving home, awakening one day to find your own tumultuous home had been created. 

A circle, a cycle, unbeknownst to you.

A circle, a cycle, that I'll never know, but that I know.

My heart knows.

My bones know.

 

I lost you in the physical sense, though, long before 3 years ago. 

I lost you in the emotional sense amidst the trauma of my teen years. I lost you each time you lost your mind. I lost you when you lost your hope. I lost you when you lost your light. 

You lost me. You lost me beyond the physical and emotional senses. You lost me on a spiritual level. You lost me when I found my hope. You lost me when I found my light.

 

We slipped away from one another when my path diverted.

We slipped away from one another when I chose.

We slipped away from one another when I started fighting the world on my own.

 

I've learned, since then, to fight through surrender. 

I've learned, since then, to lean into the light.

I've even learned, since then, to peer into the shadow.

 

No, really, it's okay.  

By peering in that shadow, I have gained.

 

I am sorry for my walls. They were necessary. They protected me. They kept me safe. 

I have gained a sense of my own light by examining the cracks. 

These last three years have welcomed experiences that have blown the cracks wide open.

In these last three years, I have gained a sense of my own light, healed and whole. 

 

Angels I associated with God, which I associated with Catholicism, which I associated with harshness.

The last three years have allowed me to soften.

The last three years have allowed me to untether.

 

Three years ago, I gained you as my Angel. 

Since then, you've showed up for me in ways you never could in the physical sense.

I acknowledge your signs, your symbols and your presence. 

Though I miss the gift you had with cooking (it was where you found your light). 

I miss being able to call you (even if it's just the idea of you).

I miss the sheer joy on your face (though seldom seen in your last years on this earth).

 

I have, so very many times over these last three years, felt utterly alone. 

 

I've realized in these last three years that you did the best you could with what you had. 

I now know that your work here in this physically and emotionally-pained body was too much. 

It was hard for you to find love. 

It was hard for you to find light.

 

I've spent many moments in the last three years riding.

Riding the waves of guilt. Riding the waves of grief. Riding the waves of anger.

What I should have done, could have done, didn't do. 

I've ridden the waves and questions out to seek myself, to find the deep ocean of my heart, to bask in the sunshine of my own light, to chase answers I'll never find. 

 

I chose.

I chose this path in which I've unveiled the greatest gifts you imparted that fuel my very light.

You gifted me with an intellectual curiosity in continual pursuit of wisdom.

You gifted me with a kind heart compelled to serve others.

You gifted me with a strong moral compass which always guides me home.

 

In these last three years, I've found my way to forgiveness.

In these last three years, I've unraveled so much mystery.

In these last three years, I've found my way to my own healing - a circle, a cycle, one that's now known to me. 

In these last three years, I've found my way to your light.

 

I love you, Mom.

May all between us become pure light.

Let it be so.

Now. ♥ 

 

The Gift of the Breath

These last 27 days of the Journey of the Breath have been a wild ride! I started the month of May with the intention to explore the breath and share those learnings with you. I expected simple, straightforward facts, tips and techniques to foster improved lung capacity and deeper breathing. What I've received over the last several weeks has been nothing short of miraculous, expanding my heart and mind by the moment. 

As I explored the anatomy of the breath, I realized my own patterns. As I expanded my knowledge of the breath, I expanded my awareness of the breath, my body, my emotions, my limitations and, most importantly, my holding patterns. I've noticed, particularly over this past week, the tension that I hold in my body.

The Journey of the Breath issued an invitation for me to let go.

As I wrote this morning in my Morning Pages, I recognized the process of surrender that I've been undergoing. I've realized that I've struggled so long, that I've fought so long - with myself, the world, situations, entities, my past, the future, my decisions, other people.

"Arms Down, Arms Up" - Dalat, Vietnam

I surrender.

I finally lay down my arms.

As my arms surrender their weapons, I embrace the moment.

I surrender.

I pledge to continue to work with my breath to bring me into the present moment.

One of the most powerful learnings of the Journey of the Breath has been my recognition of the Gift of the Breath. One of Her greatest gifts is to bring us into the present moment.

The Gift of the Breath invites us into the present moment.

 

Over the last 27 days, I experienced many firsts. The breath ushered in awareness and invited me to enjoy these moments. I welcomed my first visitors to my new town. The joy we shared affirmed my decision to move to this beautiful part of the country. I visited Joshua Tree to attend ShaktiFest for breathwork and movement experiences that absolutely rocked my world, which I'm still processing and will likely share more about in the coming weeks. I recognized and released fears around one of the biggest decisions of my life - applying and accepting invitation for the Peace Corps.

Last weekend, I worked with the learnings from the Journey of the Breath to release fear and witness the importance of this long-held aspiration that has meant so much to me for so long. I awoke on Monday morning feeling an indescribable peace after dreaming of my grandmother. I then felt called to engage in a 2 hour breathwork, movement, meditation and writing session that illuminated my entire being. I set out to continue with my morning rituals, about to warm up my lemon water, and I thought to first check my email. As I scrolled down my inbox, the "Congratulations!" lept off the screen. Reflexively, I cried, sobbed, bawled, released. I don't remember feeling such strong emotion and excitement and release.

With the release of that moment and, I believe the work that I'd done over the last several days, came an invitation to serve as a Community HIV Volunteer with the Peace Corps in South Africa in January 2017. It's hard to put into words the rollercoaster I've experienced this week.

I used my breath to process the news, to share and to take a step back. I needed time to sit with my breath. I needed time to process my acceptance of the 27 month commitment and of all the life experiences that have brought me to this point.

I am elated. I am honored. I am humbled, not only by the invitation, but by the outpouring of love and support I've felt from my tribe.

As we we ease into the last 4 days of the Journey of the Breath, together, I welcome the continued expansion, awareness and connection I have to each of you. I know, in my heart, that the gifts of the Journey of the Breath will extend far beyond this month.

I'm grateful for all of you who have ventured with me on the Journey of the Breath! Please share your experiences, questions and revelations below or on Connective Elements' Facebook Page. If you've missed the Journey of the Breath, it's not too late! You've got 4 days of new Facebook posts and I encourage you to scroll up the page to discover a bevy of insights on the breath.

I am incredibly grateful for your love, support and understanding as I transition from my reflections into action, not only today as I answer the neglected texts, calls and messages from this past week, but as I prepare to serve in South Africa.

May this monthlong Journey of the Breath continue to open your heart, mind and body, allowing you to witness the beauty of the breath, explore the magic and mysteries that surround you and embody the wisdom of your inner voice

Learning to Breathe

"Held" - Dalat, Vietnam

I've held my breath.

I'm not sure how long it's been happening. My guess is that it's been years, perhaps even decades, of breath-holding.

As I rolled out my far-too-neglected yoga mat and centered myself earlier today, the personal asana practice I attempted to rekindle quickly took a back seat. As I stilled myself, this breath-holding pattern immediately unveiled itself within my being. The pattern then commanded my attention for the next two hours. 

I sat with my breath, worked with my breath, moved with my breath, gave space for my breath. 

I became absolutely illuminated - physically, emotionally and spiritually. Questions and deep knowings emerged about the connection between breath and life.  

 

Yoga teaches us that breath is life. 

Breath is the foundation of yoga, meditation, exercise, health, wellbeing and balance.

Breath connects us to our life force, our energy, our vitality.

 

 

I yearn to voyage more deeply into this transformative connection between breath and life. I am inspired to embark upon a Journey of the Breath during the month of May and I welcome you to join me!

Throughout May, we'll place intentional focus on the breath. Daily, I'll share research, tidbits, knowings, questions and tips about the breath (and breath-holding) on Connective Elements' Facebook Page to support your practice.

Together, we'll explore breath.

Together, we'll explore life.

I'm not sure where we'll end up, but I look forward to connecting with the beauty of the breath.

I look forward to the inhale.

I look forward to the exhale.

I look forward to the release.

I look forward to learning to breathe again.  

I Saw the Light

I died two years and 11 days ago on the operating table.

I realized it this morning amidst tears upon waking from a night of restless sleep.

As I laid there, I questioned it. I unpacked it. I untangled it.

Two weeks ago, my teacher said she saw me as healed and whole. I didn't believe her.

I didn't believe her until this morning amidst tears upon waking from a night of restless sleep.

Untangling truth.

I find myself in a constant state of untangling truth.

I realized this morning that both my death and my healing/wholeness result from choosing love.

I was raised in fear.

I was raised by a mother who didn't have the privilege of recognizing her own light.

Bipolar Disorder, untangled mental health issues and trauma dimmed any hope she ever had of realizing her own light. Being susceptible to that darkness, that Bipolar Disorder, those mental health issues and that trauma have long since been my biggest fears.

The closer I come to my spiritual Self, the more I dance with Angels, feel Spirit and know the unknowable, the greater my fear is triggered. Am I becoming like my mom? Am I delusional? Have I inherited the darkness she inherited?

I was taught to fear my dad. I haven't seen him in 29 years, but that residual fear was ingrained long ago. I festered hatred for him for many years. Stories of infidelity, instability, mistrust and addiction were relayed. My mother had no choice but to fear him. Her culture, beliefs and past behavior served her up with no choice, with no accessible light.

"Child of the Light" - Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia

 

I forgive my mother.

She did the best she could with what she had.

May all between us become pure light.

 

I forgive my father.

He did the best he could with what he had.

May all between us become pure light.

 

I closely held my parents' darkness as the largest fear of my life until realizing a greater fear two years and 11 days ago, when I thought I was going to die on the operating table.

This morning, I realized Truth.

I realized that I trust no thing. I realized that I trust no one. 

I also recognized, perhaps for the very first time in my life, my Light. 

I acknowledge that I realized my greatest fear. I did die on that operating table.

Benign tumors, my uterus, ancient issues, lineage trauma, parts of my Self, parts of my mother, parts of my father, parts of anyone who ever has or will hurt my heart, parts of my darkness, parts of their darkness were all cut out.

They were sacrificed so that I could realize, in this very moment right here, my own Light.

"Muck Blooms" - Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

I choose to recognize my wholeness.

I choose to recognize that I am healed.

I choose to recognize my Light.

I choose light. 

I choose love.

As an introvert raised by fear, every choice I make to connect takes courage. Every revelation takes courage. Every word of this blog takes courage. Every phone call, text message, email takes courage. Every relationship I enter into takes courage.

Every choice of light over dark takes courage. 

Every choice of love over fear takes courage.

Each and every time I choose to come closer, rather than crawl in a hole, I choose courage. 

Each and every time I choose the light, I choose courage. 

Each and every time I choose love, I choose courage.

Taking/Choosing Giving/Receiving Same/Same

May this ancient prayer of ancestral forgiveness guide you to your healing, your wholeness, your Light, your Dark, your love and your death. Same/same: 

If I, my families, relatives or ancestors have offended you, your families, relatives or ancestors in thoughts, words, or actions from the beginning of our creation to the present, humbly, humbly we ask everyone for forgiveness for all of our errors. We ask that together we now be released from all unwanted bonds and memories, and that all between us become pure light.

Obeisance to you, Oh, gentle ancestors

 May the traumas of all ancestors, living and passed on, be healed.

May it Be So. Now. Shanti Shanti.

Infinite love and gratitude to my teachers, friends, family, relatives, ancestors and every being who has recognized the Light in me. Thank you for inviting me to gracefully seek and find the Light within me. ♥

Growth, Love and Church

As I gaze out at the trees, I am serenaded by the songs of the birds in a small town in North Carolina and I am grateful. Having just completed the most difficult retreat of my life, I reflect on that experience and remind myself how lucky I am to practice, how lucky we all are to carve out time for our growth. 

Upon completion of my retreat, I made the drive from Maryland to North Carolina. When passing through Virginia, I was treated to an impromptu tour of my elementary and middle school. Roaming the halls and stepping into classrooms I hadn't been in in nearly 30 years can't help but conjure up nostalgia. Growing up Catholic, attending parochial school from preschool to 12th grade, I was raised with the doctrine. I went to church twice a week. I believed much of what I was taught. I've learned since then that church comes in many forms. 

When I went to college, everything changed for me. I changed - for me. I learned that the "other" was not to be feared. I stopped attending Mass, much to my mom's dismay. I studied the world. I studied the "other." Majoring in Social Work, I volunteered actively, I sought out the most diverse populations to serve, so I could stretch and grow. I learned to love the "other." Serving others was the closest I'd ever come to God.

18 long years ago, I selected a Yoga course to fulfill one of my college requirements. The class planted seeds that I unknowingly cultivated until my early twenties, when I found my way to spirituality. Spirituality drew me in in the form of a belly dancing class. Church comes in many forms. Illuminating my path since then, my most beloved teacher, RoseMa, has served as a beacon in both my darkest and brightest days. Her practices and unschooling educated me about the goddess that I am. 

This spiritual path has bolstered reflection, forgiveness and spaciousness. I've been open to the myriad of sacred manifestations in my life. Dancing invited community and sisterhood. Movement gave way to meditation. Meditation issued an invitation for self reflection. Heartbreak ushered in the pursuit of refuge in an ashram in Colorado where I fostered my knowledge and practice. I earned my Yoga teacher training and the opportunity to receive training in bodywork. Giving back to others in this kinesthetic way left upon me an indelible mark. 

"Set Free" - Butterfly Release in Monteverde, Costa Rica, 2009

 

 

From Colorado to Costa Rica to North Carolina to Portland, Oregon, I met the embrace of nature. She became my church. I spent time listening and gazing at the beauty around me. I learned to recognize Her as a reflection of the beauty within me.

"Love in the Mountains" - Hike with Indigenous Women in Sapa, Vietnam 2015

 

 

 

In Portland, church took the form of Sunday morning ecstatic dance classes which expanded my heart, mind and boundaries. Returning to dance as the form that first drew me into spirituality felt like a full circle evolution. Evolution gave way to finally stepping directly onto my path as a healer. I found my way to BodyTalk, started facilitating weekly meditation groups, became attuned as a Reiki practitioner and actively worked as a Coach.

Travel and starting over has also been, for me, a form of spiritual practice. I continue to work with the elements and connect with others in my travels. Each new place is an opportunity for a fresh start. Each new place is an opportunity for new connections. From Nashville to Asia and now remotely, healing has become my church, my spiritual practice, the way I see God in myself and others. 

I am awed as I witness the growth around me.

I am awed as I reflect on the growth within me.

I am awed by the love around me.

I am awed by the love within me.