Life Lessons: The Ride & The Fall

I witnessed a man fall off his motorcycle tonight. He was driving at a much faster pace than the stopped traffic, between the lanes, and drove straight into a car that was turning left, coming from the opposite direction. Some details aside, he plowed into the passenger side door, left his mark on the car, and fell off his bike. After making sure he was okay, I drove off, feeling as if I was involved in the accident, given it all happened right in front of my eyes. My body was trembling. That image is now imprinted in my memory.

Like the motorcycle, I sometimes feel like, in life, I’m gunning full speed ahead, trying to get somewhere faster than everyone else. Traffic, in this instance, is as simple metaphor for the flow of how things work. Moments in life and different stages are like traffic – everything  is based on timing and signals. When these things are saying one thing, trying to get somewhere faster than the situation allows may just lead you straight into a wall (or the passenger door of a Toyota making a left turn).

After replaying the incident and thinking about the motorcycle and this whole metaphor for life during my drive home, I was listening to KROQ, a station I generally don’t play much of. Because I was so stuck in my thoughts, I wasn’t paying attention to the music until the lyrics called out, “I’m falling so I’m taking my time on my ride / I’ve been thinking too much, help me.” I can’t be the only person who takes song lyrics as a message, can I? That song is “Ride” by Twenty One Pilots, in case you were wondering. Right after that song, Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder” came on, with the lyrics “I was uptight, wanna let loose / I was dreaming of bigger things / Not a yes sir, not a follower / Fit the box, fit the mold / I was lightening before the thunder” All the while, I’m contemplating multiple life decisions that will take me on all different trajectories. Life keeps presenting choices. That never stops.

I ended the journey in the clichéd LA traffic, turning right on my home’s street, as a motorcycle turned left. I guess the overanalyzing and overthinking of this whole evening on the road illuminated a few important reminders:

things take time, don’t rush.

And, if you fall down, you can get back up and keep riding.

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If It Just Feels Right, It Is

The mind will talk endlessly, if you let it. Self-talk and thoughts come naturally, it’s effortless. The work is in quieting the mind to hear what you really need to. In a world full of distractions and easily accessible diversions, it takes a concerted effort to be alone in silence.

But, once you make it and spend time in the world where you let thoughts float on by, without judgment, you start to recognize patterns. You can categorize all the strings of words in your mind as “planning, judging, wanting, etc.” and you can watch them as they pass through, like a train carrying cargo. There’s a myth that one can fail at meditation if thoughts arise, but, that’s far from true because thoughts naturally occur. It’s the ability to notice them, let them pass, and make the effort to come back to the breath that makes all the difference.

With practice, you’ll start to feel more at ease during the day, when thoughts are at their peaks and difficult situations arise. And, after some time, your own personal north star will shine brighter, and you’ll have the confidence to follow its light, regardless of outside voices, and even the voice in your own head that can, at times, be discouraging. Because, at this point, the voice of your heart is taking over that of your mind, and it will just feel right, and that means, it is.

You’ll be aligned and able to be courageous in the steps you take to move forward. Once you start stepping on that path, things will fall into place, and it will seem like it’s been there all along waiting for you, but in actuality, the work was forged when you listened and took the chance on yourself for it all to come together. Wherever you’re at, keep going.

Without The Weight of Gravity

I want the dream I don’t believe in
The fairytale without an ending
The truth in the face of a lie
To know the answers without the questions

I want to know why bad things happen to good people
The reason everyone wants what they don’t have

The amount of times it takes to try and fail
And try and fail
And try again
Before you succeed

When it’s right to quit
And when it’s better to continue

I want to know how to right the wrongs
Undo the pain
Kiss the wounds and sew the scars of
Those who feel weak

To glue the world back together again
like the globe I had on my desk back
when I was a kid
when it all spun in unison
from America to Africa
all the way down to Australia

I want to soar like a bird with long wings
Touch my toes in the water and come out for a breath of fresh air
Like a fish hopping out of water
Just to see how it feels on the other side

To embrace the freedom of childlike spirit
The unknowing
To clasp it between my palms
Like the first flower that blooms in the springtime

Opening into a world of newness

without the
weight
of
gravity

To breathe into
Now
Because it’s everything I have
And only that which I
Know

Resilience 

How does love stand in the face of evil

At first she feels hurt, weak and defeated

But she doesn’t give up

Oh no, she can’t

She’s felt loss in her bones

There are no answers to her questions

But she holds on to hope

Like a child’s fingers

Wrapped around a balloon’s string

The world spins madly on

But love remains patient

Waiting to be seen, felt, found and shared

Love remains fearless

Love remains strong

Love remains true

And when everything is else is gone

Love still lives on

Love Does.

“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” – Bob Goff

If you haven’t heard of the book “Love Does,” here you go. Yesterday, I was sitting in a friend’s loft hanging out under her stairs, and I noticed a pile of three books. All looked intriguing, but this one stood as I was drawn to the title. When it comes to books, if I’m not captivated within the first few pages, I likely won’t finish it, so I don’t begin (tough critic, I know – especially for someone with ambitions to write a novel one day).

But, my intuition was right. I read the first line of this book and was immediately hooked. I actually could not put it down and finished it in 1.5 sittings (given I had to sleep). It’s one of those books that you cannot wait to read, but you also never want it to end. Each chapter represents a story from Bob Goff’s life, from the seemingly mundane to the extraordinary, like becoming the counsel for Uganda even though he thought the whole ordeal was his friend playing a practical joke on him. Each story has a message and lesson that resonate universally. Throughout the pages that I couldn’t turn fast enough, I laughed out loud and teared up, ending on the last page with wet eyes. Like people, I think books come into our lives for reasons and if we are lucky, at just the right time.

Despite some of the religious undertones throughout the book, the gist will mean something different to everyone, regardless of your belief system. For me, at this stage of life, it really illuminated the fact that when you do what you love and shed light unto the world, the possibilities and opportunities continue to open and multiply. Here’s the thing, this past week of doing seemingly “nothing” in Costa Rica have probably been the most life-changing and eye-opening as the time has been introspective. And, it’s been introspective with a purpose – the purpose to find what really calls to my heart and soul so that I can create actions that bring this love to my life and others. Small things become the big things when you have the time and energy to notice them.

I could go on and on about all the moments that have become strung together, like a fragments of glass creating a new lens to see, feel and understand the world.

Suffice it to say that the quote above really hit me hard. Growing up, with both school and jobs, I’ve been the hardest on myself. For example, in both high school and university, if I were to get an A-, I wanted to add an extra line to turn that into an A+. When it came to work, I never knew how to leave it at the desk when I went home (or shut down when I worked from home, because I never did shut down). That’s something that seems oddly unique to America. We talk about “work/life” balance, when it shouldn’t be balanced. There’s the cliche “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” But, sometimes we work jobs that actually don’t matter to us personally because we use them as a means to make ends meet [or to buy things we don’t need], yet they consume us. If you’re lucky enough to love what you do because you do what you love, then that is and should be your life – there’s nothing to balance.

It’s all a case by case basis, definitely not a one size fits all mentality that every person with a job should feel forced to subscribe to. That’s why I’ve decided that whatever I do next will be something I love and care about deeply, so that no matter if I’m “taking it home,” it’s because I want to, not because I feel like I have to be available around the clock to build someone else’s dream.

Read this slowly:

The small things (that we should notice and that do really matter) can become the big things (that do really matter) or  the small things (that don’t matter) can become the big things (that don’t matter) – just depends on what we give focus to and our perspective.

Measures of success growing up were written in stone by outside factors, but as you grow up and away from the constraints and definitions that institutions create, you realize how much they really do not matter. You begin defining what matters for yourself and if you follow that path that brings you joy and, in turn, lights the way for others to learn, grow and prosper, then, success is everywhere. Failure is something most people fear, but like failure, fear is not real.

When I return home, I’m going to have a day job that aligns with causes I care about and that way, there will be no way to succeed at things that don’t matter because everything I do will be set with an intention that really does matter. And, it’s not just about my job – it’ll be everything from the mundane to the extraordinary, because that’s what allows us to live fully, and that’s what love does.

Perro Descendente

Last night, I went to a yoga class like never before.

I had zero expectations and was ready to do my downward dogs and chaturangas for the following 60 minutes. Classic of me – I was the first to arrive, even before the studio doors were open (because for me, early is on time and on time is late…except when you’re in Costa Rica and on time is obviously early).

The entire space was solely the room used for the practice, as opposed to having a lounge, shop, locker room, and various rooms like most places in Los Angeles do. There was so much beauty in the space’s simplicity. Form, only for function.

When you open the glass door to enter the studio, you immediately ascend a few stairs and then, there you are, on the wooden floor. Glass windows and doors surround the square floor as trees fill the views. To the left, there’s a sliding door the length of the room that opens to a small deck covered in trees.

This was the first time I was doing yoga in a dim lit room, to the sound of music and pouring rain, and, of course (a small element I had forgotten) in Spanish. The teacher, from the Netherlands, looked at me before beginning class and asked, “Class in Spanish ok?” Who am I to say no?  We are in Costa Rica, plus it’d be good for me to brush up on how to say body parts like chest (pecho), shoulders (hombros) and hips (calderas) in Español.

Midway through the class, the torrential downpour began. That’s how it is here – clear skies and then instantly a storm. It was the most peaceful and beautiful experience. The room would get flashes of brightness from the lightening and as we held each pose, I could focus on the sound of the raindrops, which like the sweat beads dripping down my face, flowed freely.

At the end of class, we ended in the pose that most yoga classes do – shavasana, or “corpse pose”(in Sanskrit, “Shava” means corpse and “Asana” means pose/seat). It’s a balance between relaxation and meditation, where you steady your mind and body completely as you lie in supine position. After the hour of poses, it’s a much appreciated position, and often times for me, the place where I really feel the benefits of the practice and completely mentally succumb. I also appreciate the fact that it is completely different each time.

I was so deeply into it that when the yoga teacher came over and unexpectedly touched my legs, I literally jumped. She did something no teacher has done during this pose. Taking my legs into her arms, she swung them back and forth like the motion of a hammock, then shook them up and down and quickly massaged each foot before laying it back on the floor. Immediately as my legs touched the ground, I could feel the blood rushing upwards, against the flow that comes so naturally with gravity, and felt the sensation moving towards my heart and head. It was magical. I then fell even deeper into the relaxation, so much so that it actually felt like my body was sinking into the floor. With the clapping sound of the rainfall, I imagined myself becoming a puddle of water, and felt almost disconnected from my own body, while still feeling it immensely from the inside out.

Needless to say, from the Spanish instructions (which admittedly made me feel anxious at first) to the nightfall, incense, music, dim lighting, storm outside and entire set up, the class was a magnificent way to end an otherwise mundane day.

 

7 Days Later on an Island in Croatia – Lessons Learned

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And, when you’re in the midst of it all, it’s hard to fully collect your thoughts, feelings, and desires. You’re moving at a fast pace, with roughly 40 pounds of baggage strapped to your back, arms, and innately, your insides. You’re meeting people from all over the world, with hundreds of life stories that they are open to sharing because you’re in a foreign country with people who you may or may not ever see again. And, then, there’s the select few that you know you connect with so strongly that you will make the effort to meet at a another time, in another place.

Sometimes, you’re sitting lazily under a palm tree doing nothing and drifting off to the sound of local kids and a family having a picnic on the waterfront as the wind blows and the sun beats down on your legs. Other times, you’re watching the tourists completely flood the city, gulping down one too many drinks, leaving a trail of their trash as they head into the next pub. You ask the locals how they feel about this, and you know while it’s good for their economy, they’re sick of it, even if it only happens six months out of the 12.

You accept your ignorance of having not known the history of a region so rife with struggle and conflict, and truly understand the impact on personal lives when you become close friends with a girl who was displaced by war and separated from her family for two years. You hear the pain and growth from experiences you’ve been so privileged to have avoided merely by the fortune of being raised elsewhere.

It becomes clear that travel is sometimes glorified and beautified, and not always simple. But, you also realize that all you need to survive is food and water. You can change beds nightly and focus on the beauty of having the opportunity to meet more people because you’re in a constant state of flux. You see that there is a sense of stability in always being open to changing surroundings because you rely on so much less and can be ready for anything, at any time. Things really stop mattering so much. You can be alone and content. You can be surrounded and content.

At times, you’re disconnected technologically, so then, you’re totally connected in real time. As if real time even exists and has meaning. I’ve been consumed by people watching. By endlessly seeing that when people are in big groups and have nothing to say, they bring their phones into the conversation, avoiding eye contact and using their thumb to tap accolades to the edited photos on their screens. Or, they are taking snapchats of what’s live in front of them to broadcast to those back home, showing that they are here and you are there, not experiencing the same thing that they are experiencing behind a screen. I’ve been there. I’m happy I haven’t had the means to be for quite some time. It’s made days longer and connections stronger.

Mental pictures are my oldest and newest currency. They are the ones to cherish because they are becoming a part of my future.

I’ve pulled a splinter out of the toe of a stranger, a bee sting out of the hand of an older man, helped friends to their bed after wild nights that became mornings out, checked in on an acquaintance with low blood pressure, and jumped at any opportunity to help strangers when I have the means. I’ve had multiple nights in a row with no sleep and days of exploration, with days of simply passing the time and avoiding the heat.

I’ve talked about the meaning of life, God, love, desire, goals, fears and challenges with multiple people, mostly men, but also with some women, too. I’ve spent hours inside the busiest club on an island to talk philosophies with a friend. I’ve heard wild stories from wild nights of people who are finding themselves and learning what they seek romantically.

I’ve held onto the fact that many people derive the meaning of life from the relationships they make and the amount of people they can help.

Days roll by and time moves slower because you’re taking it all in. You’re connecting on very deep levels, having serious conversations over drinks and cheap eats while you realize the amount of talent and creativity people possess is broad, extensive and unique. You learn that people discover what they are good at over time, and sometimes later than expected in life, as well as having it come to them by chance. It gives you hope. It makes you realize that life doesn’t happen at ages, it happens in stages. And at various points in time because of the choices you make to take the chances and do the things that have always scared you most.

You see that, while yes, people do the same things to survive all over the world, cultures and norms are vastly different. Ways of talking, value systems, expectations, and actions take different forms. You understand that trusting your intuition is one of the smartest and most necessary tools you can bring to the table. You pick up on ways to know who means well and those that are just floating on by. You can spot the people still finding their way, and you can relate to having been there and then seeing those ahead of you, knowing you’ll get there, too.

You appreciate the inherent goodness in people and learn more about yourself through what people tell you they think of you. And, many times, it’s repetitive, which makes it the “truth”?

It’s not what you do, where you live and what you have. It’s who you are and what you do with the limited time you have here, there, and everywhere.