Unbroken Dreams

Dreams don’t break.

They grow and change – as you do
They wrap themselves in a cocoon
Of trial and error

And emerge with wings

They can fly and they can crash
You’re the wind that supports their rise
You’re the flame that ignites their fire

Dreams work with you and against you
They are the gloves that take the punch
And you’re the fighter that doesn’t drop your fists

Dreams are the views from the top
The tingling sensation when you look down from new heights

They are
An existence outside of this time and this place
A momentary glimpse of perfection
That feels whole even with cracks

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Finding the Light 

I want to pour the milk in your coffee

And watch it dance in circles 

Round and round it goes

Turning darkness into light 

Drink up the love 

And soak up the sun

Are you still by my side? 

Or have I left you behind? 

We traversed the corners of the nation 

But took a backseat at home 

Like wax dropping down a candle

The moth never survives the flame 

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.

 

Sand, Se(e) and Shorelines

People say the world is small, and that’s an expression to showcase how the seemingly coincidental moments occur. When you really think about it, the world is large, vast and in a way, can be considered infinite. Often when I’m at the beach, I think about all the grains of sand and how there is no way to walk over every piece of sand. And, that’s just one beach. What about the rest of the world? It’s impossible to traverse every inch of ground around the planet, let alone your own city.

We get so caught up in what we are doing in the place we are doing it, without every thinking about what’s happening all over the world. We make our worlds small because it helps to categorize life in buckets of things to do, people to see, new places to try, etc. etc. But, it also adds to the anxiety of making every small decision seem like it’s bigger than it really is. When we live inside these bubbles, everything we do on the daily is magnified, but when you consider the fact that people are living their lives in all different ways a mile, 10,000 miles, and 100,000 miles away, you realize that the world is large, and you are small. While you’re overthinking about the choice of the moment, the world is still turning and no matter what you decide, life will still happen.

It’s like looking up at the stars on a cloudless night or standing on top of a mountain and looking out at the view. It all gives a really good sense of perspective to know that both the good and the bad are small blimps in the timeline of your life. While you need to appreciate each moment and each day as they come, it’s okay to also realize that if it won’t matter in 5 years, it likely also won’t matter in 5 minutes, and you can stop dwelling on the tiny things that cause unnecessary overthinking. The funny thing is people always look to others for advice, from the mundane like “should I wear this shirt or that one?/”what coffee should I order?” to the more dramatic “should I quit my job?/should I move to this city?” when they really know what they want. That’s why so often, when we ask a question and someone gives the answer, we still end up doing the opposite – it just takes the courage to listen and accept what you already know to be your own truth.

I’m making an effort to consider choices like I do a grain of sand – they are infinite, both small and large, and like the waves that come and go to create new grains of sand, I don’t always (and more often don’t at all) control the decisions that will follow after I decide. But, when all is said and done, we still traverse the shoreline of our lives and have the power to sink or swim.

 

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.