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. 

Filtering by Category: Travel

TB or not TB? That is No Longer the Question

“I have the order here for your chest X-ray,” she says casually. “My what!?” is the only response I can conjure up, as the pit forms in my stomach. The well-meaning Office Assistant quickly realizes her mistake, that I hadn’t yet been told. She then says I have to contact the doctor. As I sit among my peers, I can’t hear their chatter. I can’t eat the sumptuous meal in front of me. Something is wrong. I know it in my bones. I try to reach the doctors. There is no answer. I receive a text during the next training session, “Megan, your blood test came back positive for TB.”

Tears stream down my face as my mind races and I enter go-mode. In the midst of crisis, my nurtured former Social Worker Self joins forces with my natured Planning Self, blazing a million steps ahead. Add to the mix my lack of knowledge about tuberculosis and I am adrift, out of my body, out of the moment. I think of long-term consequences, being labeled with a pre-existing condition. Questions abound, “Is this fatal? Will I live with this for the rest of my life? Am I infecting others? Where did I get this? Does this mean I’ll return to the States?” In the last several weeks, I’ve found answers to these questions. I’ve discovered resources. I’ve regained my grounding in many surprising ways.

  On the Horizon:  Pretoria, South Africa

On the Horizon: Pretoria, South Africa

I set out for my Mid-Service Training (MST) with what I thought was anxiety about seeing my cohort, the group of people with whom I arrived here in South Africa 16 months ago. The purpose of MST is to fuel Peace Corps Volunteers during a notoriously emotional slump, provide a midpoint medical check up and propel us to succeed in the second leg of PC service. In some ways, I look forward to the milestone and anticipated boost, but mostly, I feel I am lagging behind. Struggling to find my fit has been a theme during my service. On my third site, living with my third host family, not feeling like I quite fit into my assigned organizations and not feeling at home amongst my peers has been a challenge. What is supposed to be a time to recognize ourselves and our service quickly devolves for reasons other than the diagnosis I didn’t see coming. Maybe one day, post-service, I’ll speak more freely about MST.

Fast forward several days when I travel to the hospital for the aforementioned chest X-ray. Upon entering the room, I identify my anxiety and the friendly clinician tells me I have nothing to worry about. As I relay my blood result, she exclaims, “oh!” runs out of the room, rightfully returning in a surgical mask with a bit more hesitancy than before. Luckily, my chest X-ray is clear. Two days later, I’m offered a pamphlet on TB and 2 different treatment options. As I read about the symptoms of active TB, the fatigue and labored breathing I’ve been experiencing for the last several months jumps off the page. I urge further testing to determine my TB status, which is thankfully granted. The subsequent days are filled with multiple doctor and hospital visits, the low point being a lab tech pounding on my back for what feels like an hour in an effort to force sputum-producing coughs behind closed doors that earn me unabashed stares from the entire waiting room upon my exit (yes, as anxiety-provoking as wading your way through that sentence). Fortunately, my poor lungs are spared further trauma when I’m sent to the physiotherapist who administers proper sputum-production techniques over the next two days. I await results, which come back negative and point to a diagnosis of latent TB. I opt for the 4-month, rather than the 9-month course of treatment. I take half a dose, as instructed, and awaken at 3am with nausea, vomiting, vertigo and a whole host of misery that makes for one of the scariest experiences of my life.

A desperate call to my second Mama in the States prompts a even more desperate 4am call to the Peace Corps Medical Officer who at first diagnoses food poisoning, then tells me to refrain from my morning dose of the Rifampin and come to the office in a few short hours. I’m sent for a second opinion where we explore some of the other strange symptoms I’ve experienced over the last several months, including night sweats and joint pain. Additional blood tests and another sputum test is ordered.

As I await test results, the days and weeks go by, I am further disconnected from my village, my host family, my current projects and my support systems. My guilt mounts as I can’t effectively communicate my current health status, as I myself don’t have answers. Text, Facebook and WhatsApp messages increase as I press “pause” on my life. I experience some dark days as my fatigue is compounded by a lack of answers.

I bounce in and out of each of the stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, as I clamor to cope. From questioning the validity of medical tests to analyzing interpersonal interactions to feeling as if I’ve made a mistake pursuing the Peace Corps in the first place to finally recognizing the empathy cultivating within me for folks who endure chronic diseases, partner and family notification of medical issues and obstacles of all kinds. I dig deep to remain connected to the light within and around me.

I am diagnosed with shistosomiasis, the second most common tropical disease next to malaria, that somehow no one’s ever really heard of. Shisto, as it’s so lovingly referred to among those of us who now know it well, can live in the body for up to 40 years. The parasite can cause some major damage. Amazingly, the treatment is only one day, but as the worms die, the body can react in a variety of ways. I spend the next several days asleep. Doctors tell me it will be months for my body to adjust to life without the shisto present in my body. Unfortunately, that I have to start the TB meds before then. It's likely I won't feel like I've got my body back until the TB medication finishes. More days pass. During a follow up appointment at which I’m expecting my new TB treatment, I leave with a prescription for a broad-spectrum antibiotic because something is still out of balance. The doctor determines that I’ll try the 9-month treatment for latent TB once I finish the course of antibiotics. I’m told I can return to site.

Panic sets in. Many conversations take place. I decide that starting TB meds back at site, in light of my reaction to the last medication, is a non-negotiable. Living in a rural village several kilometers off a paved road precludes me from accessing proper medical care should another reaction occur. I will start the TB meds in the capital. The antibiotics are uneventful until I get what feels like a cold during the last two days of the therapy. The doctors attribute the symptoms to my body being “drug naïve” and the medication increased my susceptibility to illness. Three days later, symptoms disappear and I start my 9 months of TB medication without incident.

I return to my village this week, I speak with my current and former host families to notify them of my diagnosis, the reasons for my absence and my lack of communication. I fear stigmatization and blame and, instead, am greeted with acceptance, understanding and words of affirmation. The dynamics among myself and others in the village shift positively in the direction of curiosity and appreciation. I look forward to the work to be done, the relationships to be forged and health, wellness and balance to be regained.

Through these illnesses, I’ve learned to recognize my privilege. Many people don’t get treatment for latent TB. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I need to take the prescribed medication to prevent my latent TB from progressing to active TB. After taking the regimen, there is a 90-95% chance that I will never get active TB in my lifetime. I’ve taken an active role in educating myself over these last few weeks. Spending countless hours of internet research combined with conversations with friends who have connected me with friends and relatives who have lived with (and survived) TB has been invaluable. I’ve had the luxury of a second opinion, self-advocacy, additional testing and support and urging others to listen to the wisdom of my body. Had I not had such a severe reaction to the first TB medicine, I would not have discovered the shistosomiasis and remedied symptoms that have been plaguing me for months, maybe years.

  Full : Pretoria, South Africa

Full: Pretoria, South Africa

As the last 50+ days have seen me hyper-focused on what’s wrong with me, Angels greet me along the way, stretch my comfort zone and remind me of what’s good. In an epic, yet very non-Peace Corps kind of day, I fill my belly with Mexican food and tapas, then digest before grooving at my first pole dancing class with two new soul sisters and dance the night away on table tops at a local pub. The level of empowerment from this combo is highly recommended. Why don’t we dance on more table tops, people? Days later, I attend a beer festival, odd for someone who doesn’t drink, I know. I go for the music and sunshine and am given the opportunity to dance my way back into my Self. A dear friend comments that she’s not seen me so happy in the last year and a half. I agree. Both days have been among the best I’ve had since arriving in South Africa. I am gleefully reminded of how much music and dancing juice me up and how much my heart yearns for time with soul sisters.

I’ve claimed that I came to the Peace Corps with tools I didn’t have when I burnt out of the helping profession. Admittedly, I haven’t been employing these tools as much as I could have. The day before I started my TB treatment, I integrated Access, a series of 5 energy healing techniques from BodyTalk, meant to balance the entire system, into my daily routine. I’ve also started listening to this chakra balancing meditation nightly right before bed. The acquisition of TB and shisto has been a wake up call on many levels. As I reground and more readily awaken to the present, I’m increasingly aware of the beauty and culture around me. I’m increasingly aware of the tools and I have at my fingertips, and recognize that it’s up to me to actually utilize them. I’m increasingly grateful for this precious experience that is my Peace Corps service, despite, and quite possibly because of, the twists, turns and myriad of challenges it’s thrown at me. And perhaps I’ve returned to my village from my Mid-Service Training with exactly what was intended, the treatment I didn’t know I needed, a reminder of what’s important and, indeed, the fuel to continue on this journey. ♥

 

This entry feels like a departure from my regular writing style. Gratitude to you for walking this journey with me. I aim to provide honest and vulnerable insights into my emotional and spiritual process that is Peace Corps, this 27 month chapter of my life.  All my love ♥

 

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.

Feeling through the (Festive) Holiday Season

Lately, I’ve felt ungrounded, purposeless, and, at times, angry. I’ve felt beside myself with frustration, questioning my reasons for being here. I’ve spun out so easily. I’ve felt lost.

I’ve felt this way for months. Just as I was finally getting used to my former site and community, the wind was knocked out of me and I had to move. Facing a holding period of 5 weeks in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, felt like a relief in some ways. Pretoria’s hot showers, flushing toilets, the company of fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, smoothies, hot yoga classes and physical therapy offering me daily massages bolstered me physically, emotionally and spiritually, lending to feeling the strongest I’d felt since arriving in South Africa 10 months ago due.

Then, I crashed.

All the grief of leaving the place I embraced as home came rushing over me like a tidal wave. It was compounded by the whirlwind transition to a place so different than my home of the last 6 months. I felt resistance to a new site, a new community, a new family. I felt trepidation about establishing a new home. As timelines entered the picture, I realized the holidays were quickly approaching. Spending my first holiday season alone in a decade furthered the swell. I panicked, yet I had no clue what really lied below the surface.

Today, it emerged.

One of the most painful memories of my childhood occurred during the holiday season, or festive season, as its known here in South Africa. As a single parent, my mom deemed my private, Catholic school education to be worthy of great sacrifice. I was on financial assistance and felt the struggle my mom incurred to meet the remainder of my tuition each month. Education in suburban Washington, DC-area private schools means being surrounded by some of the wealthiest kids in the country.

 "Shielded" - KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa

"Shielded" - KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa

One year during my adolescence, my mom faced a particularly dark period of her bipolar disorder. She holed up in her room nearly my entire holiday break. I felt so incredibly alone, so isolated, so incredibly scared.

After braving my “vacation,” I endured friends describing the gifts they received and the love from family and friends that they’d spent recent weeks surrounded by. I can’t remember how I responded to their accounts, but this morning, I came face to face with how I felt.

For months, fellow Peace Corps Volunteers have been discussing holiday plans detailing upcoming visits from friends and family or planned returns to the US to spend time with loved ones. I named my feelings upon hearing the first itinerary and scrambled to make plans, which have changed and changed and changed again.

These last couple weeks, amidst attempts to acclimate to a new site, a new community, a new host family and a new home, which have been fraught with difficulty, I have been trying to formulate holiday plans. I’ve experienced flights selling out as they are in my cart, accommodations booking and other logistics seemingly shifting abruptly. This morning, I felt at my absolute breaking point as my New Years plans dissolved. After a rush of emotions and a friend lovingly holding space for me, the truth was revealed.

I have been scrambling to keep loneliness at bay.

I have been pushing, pulling and dragging myself (and, unfortunately, others) through this emotional roller coaster of the impending holiday season.

I sit with the questions, what does it mean to spend New Years alone? What would it mean if I spent the holidays alone?

Tears streaming down my face, I sit with the hurt of that dark season of my youth in which I was so frighteningly alone. I sit with the notion that my family composition has always been different, yet feels so raw right now. I sit with the likely reality that no one will visit me here in South Africa. I sit with the fact that I miss my old host family and my former community.

I sit with the truth that my expectations continue to be dismissed, as the reality of this commitment differs so radically from its reality.

I sit with the discomfort of loneliness. I sit with grief.

I sit with all this and recognize it’s temporary. I sit with all this and recognize it’s all necessary.

I sit with the energy and weight of the holiday season because, for many of us, it is intertwined with extremes of grief, joy, obligation, loneliness, overstimulation, contentment, pain, anticipation, gratitude, expectation, disappointment and confusion.

I choose to sit with it all, filling myself so full I feel I could burst.

And, then, I exhale.

I let it all go.

 "Horizon" - KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa

"Horizon" - KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa

In this writing and reflection, my host nieces have knocked on my door twice to relay messages from my host Gogo. Each time, I was drawn back to the present, my Word of the Year for 2017. I’m reminded that there is hope here. There is possibility here. There is a desire for connection here.

I’ve been swept away by emotion these last few months, rudderless and homeless, living out of bags for the last 10 weeks. I was, indeed, at my breaking point this morning. I asked aloud, to myself, to the Universe, to God, “why can’t anything go right?”

Now, in this moment, here in the present, I realize that it’s all right. It is all right in this moment. It will be all right in the future.

As so much of my life right now is up in the air with the newness of site, community, family, home and to be confirmed holiday and vacation plans, I am reminded of the advice of my teacher in our last session before I came to South Africa. She invited me to refer to my inner map.

I realize that since my move, I haven’t been taking good care of myself. The chickens and roosters at my new home wake me throughout the night. My routines of nourishment and exercise are awry. I’m pushing and pulling for integration during a season notorious for inactivity here in South Africa.

Our inner maps yield the tools learned through our struggles with light and dark. We hold the wisdom within. It is our choice to speed through the holiday season in overdrive or pause and sink into the present, taking inventory of what is here.

There may be residue of the past gripping us tightly.

There may be expectations of the future clinging, too.

By anchoring in, slowing down, taking breath and taking pause, we may usher in all that is and live awake and aware here and now.

I invite you to take that moment of pause right now.

Carve out at least two minutes of quiet time. Sit comfortably and feel the stability of the ground beneath you. Close your eyes, if you are comfortable.

Take three deep breaths in through your nose, filling your diaphragm, and release the breath through pursed lips. Notice the rise and fall of your belly. Place your hands on your heart and ask yourself these three questions, giving yourself permission to sit with what is:

  •  What is present, right now, in this moment?
  • What is present for me in this holiday season?
  • What might I need to release from the past, present or future holiday seasons to make room for the fulfillment of my highest purpose?

As you are ready, take three cleansing breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth slowly.

Open your eyes and reacclimate yourself to this time and space.

You may choose to sit further with these questions or journal about them.

 

May you be at peace ♥

 

My deepest gratitude for joining me as I process the emotional and spiritual 27-month journey of Peace Corps Service here 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.

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.

    

 

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.

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 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

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.  

I ♥ Cambodia

Written November 28, 2015

"S 21" - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cambodia has helped me feel again. It's broken me wide open.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps it's from the collective trauma here or from the light reflected in the beautiful childrens' smiles, I don't know what it is I've connected with, but it's broken straight through.

"Angel in the Temple" - Preah Ko Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

I am so very grateful to once again feel the flow of tears. I am so very grateful to again feel the burn of desire.

"Touching Spirit" - Bakong Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

 

 

 

 

 

I'm so very grateful to FEEL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven't felt in so long. I can't explain it. I can't put it into words, but this place is magic. Cambodia has worked its magic on me in ways I may not even recognize. I am so incredibly grateful from the tips of my toes to the top of my head to the entirety of my heart. 

"Love to Cambodia" - Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

I am grateful.

 

 

I ♥ Cambodia is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my current inner journey through Southeast Asia.

My Own Two Feet

Written September 2015

I've spent my entire adulthood in partnership to make up for a childhood of uncertainty. Never having to stand on my own two feet, I'm ready for independence. I'm ready to step forward into my authentic, courageous self. I'm curious about the choices I'll make. I'm curious about how I will survive. I'm curious about how I'll thrive.

"Let Flow" - Gili Air, Indonesia

It is only when I set forth on a journey halfway around the world that I realized my deep need for independence in this way. It is only when I set forth on a journey halfway around the world that I recognized my need for a high degree of enmeshment. I am ready to let go. I am ready to breathe. I am ready to venture forth on my own.

I'm scared. I'm excited. I'm proud of myself. As I glanced at my feet on my yoga mat this morning, I wondered how they will hold up. I breathed into the connection, grounding and stability inherent in my own two feet. I felt the strength and stability in my feet and breathed in groundedness and connection. I breathed in capability and confidence and breathed out fear. I breathed in courage. I released fear.

This opportunity to recreate my life is exciting. It's scary, no doubt, but it's fresh, it's new. I want to live my way to the answers. I want to live the questions. My soul yearns for this choice. My heart trusts that my path serves my highest good. I recognize that it may not be easy. I also recognize I've laid the groundwork for a path filled with ease. As I near my fullest purpose, placing one foot in front of the other, I'm confident that I'm walking the path I was meant to walk, one step at a time.

Invite yourself to try this meditation, linking breath with intention. 

Find a stable, quiet place in which to stand.

Breathe into the connection, grounding and stability inherent in your own two feet. Feel the strength and stability in your feet. Breathe in groundedness and connection.

Feel the groundedness and connection coming up from the earth, seeping into your feet, your legs and spreading up your body all the way to the top of your head. Breathe in capability and confidence and breathe out fear.

Allow capability and confidence to likewise ascend from the earth, to your feet and then up your body.

"The Way" - Mui Ne, Vietnam

Finally, breathe in courage.

Allow it to seep in from the earth through your fee. Allow courage to it fill your entire body.

Exhale and release any and all fear.

Finally, one last time, breathe in courage and exhale fully. 

 

 

 

My Own Two Feet is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my inner journey through Southeast Asia.

My Three Teachers in Luang Prabang

Written August 12, 2015

I stepped to the side to let him pass me on the sidewalk. He approached me and pointed to what I thought was the ground. As the rain steadily fell, my feet stood in a bit of flowing water. I thought, at first, that was what he was pointing to. His eyes met mine. I studied what few teeth he had left in his mouth. His skin was dirty. His clothes were tattered. He had a cloth bag draped over his body, attached was a plastic sack containing some fruit.

As he pointed his crooked finger again, he crouched, lowering his body until his hands made contact with the top of my flip-flopped feet. He touched my big toe, then my little toe, then flattened his hand over the entire top of my foot. I thought at first that the couple of walking meditation rounds I literally just completed a block away at the oldest stupa in Luang Prabang, Laos, had earned a blessing in a very direct way.

"Inspired" - Luang Prabang, Laos

I stood agog, just observing. Then, he started trying to pick my feet up, trying to turn my right foot over while still in my sandal. I wasn't sure what to think at that point. I was simply in the moment, knowing full well that I didn't understand what was happening. 

Things started to shift. All of a sudden, he lowered himself to the soaking wet ground with his back to my lower right leg. At that point, panic set in. I repeated, "no, no, no, no, no" in Laotian, but he didn't budge. Finally, I had to physically remove his fingers, then his right arm from my body. Leaving him on the soaking wet ground wouldn't have been my first option, but as fear set in, I wasn't sure what to do. Had I been able to communicate with him, I would have wanted to help him up. 

As I walked away from him, I noticed 3 young Laotian women standing in the doorway of the nearby shops, taking in the exchange and laughing. In that moment, I experienced shame and was embarrassed about the last five minutes. I kept walking slowly in the rain, turning back time and again to ensure I wasn't being followed. 

My fear dissipated as soon as the saffron robes entered my peripheral vision. As the young monk quickly passed me, I centered back to the present moment, focused on the rain's steady pitter patter on my umbrella and the ground beneath my feet, the monk up ahead and the Nam Khan River to my right.

My soaking wet feet beckoned me to find refuge in one of the nearby temples to process all that just happened. The first temple I reached was closed. The second welcomed me with an empty meditation hall. As I sat down, the message was clear, I was to sit with shame, my own shame, but more so collective shame.

As I sat with the collective shame, images quickly flooded my mind. First, of the man recently at my feet. Then visions of another begging man and a young child at a local Buddhist temple entered my awareness. Three days before, while attending a temple ceremony, an older man sought our attention, squinted one eye, "aimed" his cane to the sky, aligned his face with the rounded handle of the cane and proceeded to "shoot" down what I can only imagine was my likeness. 

"Soles" - Luang Prabang, Laos

Seated next to me during the Buddhist celebration was a young child. As he sat next to me on the ground with his legs folded underneath him and his delicate hands clasping one another resting on his lap, I could feel the tears welling in my eyes. His little three year old body sat incredibly still as he patiently awaited the monks' procession through the temple grounds. He wiggled only his tiny fingers every couple minutes. Something about this little boy immediately etched itself into my mind and heart. 

These three males, their similarities, their differences flashed through my mind as this collective shame settled heavily upon me. Tears again welled in my eyes as I sat alone in the temple. Then, the flick of a light switch, literally snapped me out of my mediation. At two minutes after 12, a monk entered my empty mediation hall to turn off the lights as a gentle sign for me to move on, as it was time for the monks' lunch.

As I exited the temple, the downpour that had started the night before, ceased to a light drizzle and the sun started to emerge from the clouds. I stepped away from the last two hours' events realizing that direct experience is all there is. I experienced all the emotions I utter in my daily metta mediation - fear, anger, guilt, sorrow, shame, anxiety and regret. As I walked the sidewalks of Luang Prabang, careful not splash in puddles, I experienced each of these emotions in my heart, mind and body. With each step, I felt unburdened by each.

I bless each of my three teachers, the man at my feet, the man with the cane and the sweet little soul with the wiggly fingers. I am grateful for their teachings and wish them happiness, health, wellbeing and metta in this moment, and always.

My Three Teachers in Luang Prabang is part of a collection of writings that chronicle my "inner journey" through Southeast Asia.

cocoon

Written July 12, 2015

I am grateful for those experiences that turn my world upside down.

I am grateful for the different viewpoint.

I am grateful for the upheaval, the unburdening. 

I am grateful to have this time to reflect. I have so much light inside me. I have so much soul and heart inside me.

I love my life. 

I am grateful for my perspective. I am grateful for my ability to speak my Truth. I respect myself. I love myself. I am in this place of love. I have a cocoon of love surrounding me, nurturing me and healing me. 

cocoon is part of a series of writings that chronicles my current travels in Southeast Asia. 

Raw

I underestimated the power of vulnerability. With all the therapy and all the Brené Brown, you'd think I'd have known better. 

Instead of the promised revelations about the inner journey, I isolated. I turned inward. It is hard to describe a raw, journey of the heart. It is hard to strip down and be real. It is harder than I ever imagined. 

Circle of Life in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Dockside Rainbow in Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

I envisioned a nine month trip full of rainbows and butterflies. I've seen plenty of both during my travels, but it doesn't characterize the nature of vulnerability or reality - the whole picture, that is.

This has been a hard journey, one of the hardest of my life, but I wouldn't take it back or trade it in. For the lessons I have learned, the choices I have made and the experiences I have had are priceless.

 

There have been many, many difficult times on this trip. There have been many times when my heart has absolutely sung. There have also been many times when my heart has absolutely shattered.  

I'm ready for courage. I'm ready for naked, raw vulnerability. My heart and soul have been crying out for some truth, scratching at the surface for some connection and screaming for some reality outside of that which exists directly in front of me.

Travel is not easy. It changes you, whether you are ready for change or not. Oftentimes, you have no choice. You have to leap. You have to leap and trust there is a net to catch that big, bold, wild and beautiful soul of yours who just had the raw courage to jump.

This is the first in a collection of writings that chronicles my current travels in Southeast Asia.