Fall Forward

It’s the first day of fall. It’s my favorite season, and I’m back in Los Angeles. From the months abroad, if I had to pick one word to define how I’ve returned, I’d choose “liberated.” Liberated from material things, liberated from the desire to have anything new, liberated from the suffocation of self-inflicting anxiety, liberated from wanting to be somewhere I’m not, in terms of a job/career or any general “to do” from life.

I can’t count the physical miles I’ve traveled, nor can I guess the hours of podcasts I’ve listened to, conversations I’ve had, people I’ve met, and pages of books I’ve read. But, what I can count on is the positive change I immensely feel. While it too cannot be quantified, it’s of incomparable quality, and I’m continuing with the conviction to make sure that it multiplies. My hope is that everyone gets to experience what this kind of growth feels like, whether they accomplish it through travel or writing, singing, dancing, painting, or whatever else brings them the joy, flow and time for self-recognition and reflection. It’s a never-ending process and with each day, there is new opportunity for self-discovery. Any obstacle can be an opportunity. I’m aware of my thoughts and stop the negative train in motion when I notice it blowing through my mind at full speed. I come back to the breath and realize it’s all we have. What we do here and now will affect what comes next, but as long as we listen and stay true to the moment, we can handle what’s to come.

As the seasons change, the trees will inevitably shed their green shells from the summer’s sun. Like nature, we as humans go through cycles. Unlike nature, we have distractions that can keep us from embracing the change and processes we are supposed to take for our cycles of growth and rebirth. Let the trees and flowers around you be a reminder to care for yourself and take the time to shed the dead leaves that can no longer serve you. And then, grow again.

 

Advertisements

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.

 

Tiempo Libre y Pura

A coconut falls from a tree. Does anyone hear it? Does it matter?

Like life here in Costa Rica, things happen when they want to and no one cares too much about any one single element of life. Rain or shine, lightening storm or calm skies, surfers fill the ocean tides, people casually stroll the streets, and the town comes alive at night to the sounds of musicians singing and playing the guitar as couples salsa without a worry.

Amidst lush treetops, I sit on the rooftop as the sun beats down and inevitably paints my shoulders bright red. The gentle sound of the ocean waves crashing surrounds me as the tide’s song is disrupted by the sound of construction up ahead. It all comes back to focus. What do you choose to focus your time and energy on?

Yesterday, we bought a plank of wood, a half kilo of nails, and headed to an empty building where friends are starting a school. I grabbed a ruler and hammer and began assembling geoboards for the kids to use to learn fine motor skills and geometry. We spent the day inside, helping to build the school. So many days in my life have been spent working for someone else, valuing my time with a dollar amount that is tied to the hour I put in work, with results measured by superfluous markers of success. Spending time knowing that what I was producing would contribute to the well-being and education of children shows how when you choose to spend time doing things that matter to you and others, it becomes invaluable. When we left at 4PM, we were all shocked at how quickly time had passed.

It’s a much simpler life around these parts. It seems like people prioritize making time for the things they enjoy doing. This makes time move slower. It opens your eyes to realize how many different ways there are to live, and that everything you value and want is simply a choice. Each day grants the opportunity to design the life you want, spending the minutes of each hour filled with purpose, whatever that might mean to you in that very moment.

Stranger Things Have Happened (Pun Intended)

“Other side,” he said. I’ve been in England since Thursday evening, and every time I’ve walked up to my friend Luke’s car, it’s been mistakenly on the driver side. Naturally, it’s understandable given I’ve come from America where our driver side is their passenger side, but it’s still comical to me. It also serves as a reminder that there is no such thing as “normal.” Despite the fact everyone here speaks English and it’s the most like where I come from out of the places I’ve recently been, I can’t help but feel like people just know I’m not from around here, even before I speak with my hard “a’s” and emphasized “-er’s.” Plus, crossing the street is always enjoyable when you look the wrong way first.

After spending at least 10 minutes with Border Patrol promising them I plan to go back to America despite not having booked a flight home, I proceeded on an hour long train/bus journey to meet my friend. It was painless and easy because the public transportation here is really incredible. I met some friendly strangers along the way, one Kiwi girl who actually shared some of her scone with me on the bus because she knew I was really hungry. There’s still good in the world…

I’ve been wanting to see London for quite some time, and timing couldn’t have been better. When I mentioned coming in passing to a really close friend of mine from here, whom I met two years ago in a hostel in Australia, he said I should definitely come and welcomed me into his home. He and his family couldn’t have been more gracious hosts. We explored the country side where he lives, went for delicious meals, and shared serious stories over drinks at the local pub. And, we took part in one of the most British pastimes – a pub quiz (of which I contributed next to nothing).

I was really taken aback by the scenery and my thoughts of how dramatically different the landscape is from what I experienced during my childhood. We literally walked through woods to get into town. Rolling hills, cows, cloudy skies, and brick houses fill the quaint neighborhood. One of my favorite parts about neighborhoods here are the flower pots hanging everywhere because they add so much color to the streets, and of course, the British accents.

Apparently, some people find it quite strange that he was hosting me, considering we only met once in person for a few days across the world two years ago, but when you meet people like that, it forges a friendship for life, and I’m really grateful for this chain of events.

Even better is that it all worked out when it did, as I was here during his 29th birthday weekend, which we celebrated in a treehouse-like pub surrounded by his close, and obviously great friends. I say obvious because I’m a firm believer that you’re the sum of the parts with whom you surround yourself.

And now, for the real kicker. During my travels in Croatia, when I was “stuck” on the island of Hvar waiting for my “new old” iPhone 5 to make its way through customs, I met a woman named Emma in the hostel bar/restaurant. We struck up a conversation when she complimented my laptop case – my laptop which was only out because of my phone being broken (see previous post about being phoneless on an island). Immediately, we began talking with another guy I had previously met (from Georgia) and got into a deep conversation about race, family, culture and more. It was clear that she and I have a lot in common and a lot to learn from one another.

We then spent the next few days together, walking around Hvar, eating and cooking, sharing stories, and going out at night with groups of new friends we made during our hostel stay. (Sidenote: If you’re ever in Hvar and need a hostel to stay at, follow the path to The White Rabbit, where it’ll feel like you’re with family).

And now, I’m here in Twickenham, London in Emma’s apartment,  waiting for her to come back home from her touring some of Europe on a Bus About trip. Then, we’ll see more sights here as she’s welcomed me into her home as if it were the “normal” thing to do.

It’s funny how the world works when you stop planning and believing you have control over what’s to come. Granted, you need to make moves and take steps to accelerate, but you also have to be open to speaking to strangers who, when the timing is right, become your closest friends.

7 Days Later on an Island in Croatia – Lessons Learned

20180302_10159179706245571_589339253_o.jpg   20258122_10102177747443829_6485118325349732670_n.jpg

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.

 

 

Late Night Rambles 

What the fuck am I so afraid of? Every person has a story, a history, a future and the power to act. Every day brings with it millions of opportunities for life to go one way or the other. It’s all about choices we make and the convuluted act of just going for it. 

We (maybe I should say I, but a collective make it easier to swallow) want to do something. Then, we spend so many days, months and years talking about it instead of acting. What is with human nature that makes us this way? We all know that life is finite, yet we procrastinate carelessly until it’s too late. Only then do some of us wake up and wish we could’ve done it all differently. 
Not me. Not anymore. 

I am going for it. I only have small inklings of what it is, but I will know when I’ve done it. I can feel that is the truth. I’m trusting intuition, finally. 

I am going to explore and do things I’ve never done and see what I come back with, or without. Mind games and tricks can put illusionary limits on capabilities. I am learning to quiet those unneeded thoughts. There’s a whole lot of brain power that I won’t allow to be left unused and potential lingering that needs to be ignited. 
T-3 days until takeoff.