nayathe quirky way she laughs is a combination of borrowing observed behaviors and the pure joy she gets in repeating an exaggerated gesture: throwing back her head, a wide smile, eyes brilliant, an occasional hand at the mouth, and hearing the sound of her own voice tickle.

with an absurd rainbow-unicorn towel, she envelops herself in music and movement, uninhibited. here she loses the stifling self-consciousness that often comes with viewing eyes, the recording iphone. a hop here, a twirl there. this is raw experimentation and it’s beautiful.

moments in the backseat of the car, she weaves reality and fantasy in breathless story lines that prompt questioning for clarification. her listeners will never truly understand her three year old truth, one that shape shifts and forms organically without effort.

when asked occasionally if she wants to be four, she shakes her head no.
” I don’t want to be old. I want to be three.”

I wonder, then, where does it go? the rawness of life experience, the one I witness in being with my dear niece.

And then, I’m reminded, listening to poet Paul Muldoon explain simply the loss of our natural poets, children, as they grow:
“I’m afraid that, too often, it gets educated out of us.”

when did we learn so wrongly?

blackbird in copenhagenThe record player spins on a well worn mid century modern dresser, akin to the cafe’s chairs and orb chandeliers. It’s all intentionally unpretentious with framed Hendrix posters and bathroom graffiti. These are pieces from Danish homes, second hand finds found on every other block. The Beatles serenade this 8AM morning, perfect melodies suitable for the melancholic gray outside, the romantic candlelight inside.

This pure artistry of a place, this mingling of quiet conversations in a foreign language with background latte making, this cozy nook where I write…this will forever, I believe, spoil future cafe moments.

Oakland FallThe trees are hinting a seasonal change. Walking around the Mission in a tank top and flip flops on a late October day, you would think otherwise though. You’d think the microclimates once explaining the need for layers in San Francisco are made up. You’d question the use of an umbrella. You’d feel there’s no such thing as seasons in California.

Still, the trees push to tell another story, to encourage the spirit of upcoming holidays, to finally give us the chance to wear boots and a scarf. It is with their dazzling color shifts, that we’re given a sign for what’s ahead. To prepare for darkening days and the upcoming cold with warming hearths and hearty soups. To open our homes and bask in communal gatherings. To add light with candles and window decor and the gift of giving.

Cyclical patterns offer a comfort we crave. Just knowing that day follows night, spring follows winter, high tide follows low, helps us feel thethered to a consistency that feels familiar, that feels like our breath.

This simple fact is important. Because in a world that shows us again and again that we are not in control, we tend to cling to the few consistencies life offers, whether inspired by humanity or nature. The rituals help us make sense of our time here, the sequence of seasons harness the apprenhension that comes with the unknown.

But what if the signs are not evident? What if we’re not notified of what is to come? What if the what we’ve counted on disappears?

Certainly, we’ve all had this experience. After years at a company, the position we had is no longer there. A healthy loved one gets terminally ill. An unexpected expense puts us in debt. A  long-term relationship takes on another form.

The feeling is unsettling.

This spinning of events out of our reach is possibly what causes the most suffering. If doing the “right” thing and showing commitment do not guarantee us the things we thought, how can we trust the path ahead?

I once heard the idea of having “faith in the unfolding” and it struck a chord in me. What if we just let things happen to us without harsh judgement or guilt? What if we embraced our vulnerabilty and lowered expectations? What if we let go of the worry and fear that comes with life’s detours and simply had faith that things were unfolding just the way they were meant to?

What if we stopped looking at the trees to monitor our timelines and just observed them for their simple beauty?

Would we feel more at peace?

FullSizeRenderI received this written meditation some time ago from a beautiful friend. To me, it is a prayer. In a time of change, the change of relationship (with a person, with a work situation, with a life path), it soothes and empowers. I’ve kept it to myself but have been feeling compelled to share it out to others here. It is my hope that healing and new perspective is offered through it. 

Guides & Angels (you can substitute in whatever speaks to you),

The relationship between ________ and me is passing from one phase to the next. It has entered the great mystery of death and rebirth.

O Guides & Angels, give guidance to me. For I am now alone with the joys and sorrows of my past ties. Guide me to see beyond my blindness and to let go of attachments, so that I may move freely through the passage from what was, to what is to be.

May the power of unconditional forgiveness embrace me.

May I be clear and unafraid amid the karmic winds that surround me.

May I know all sounds as my own sound.

May I know all lights as my own light.

May I know all pain and pleasure to be transient.

O Guides & Angels, help my heart to be open. And, may the thought of loving kindness guide me to choose a new path that will benefit myself and others.

May the sound of this prayer emanate in all directions. May these thoughts become my thoughts. My all doubts dissolve. May the power of my love be strong and clear.

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Here in your alone, you will find yourself, a person you may have never thought you were. A person who is capable of so many things you may have never thought possible. The answer always lies within you; your happiness, bliss, joy and nirvana are within you naturally.

-The Difference Between Lonely and Alone.

Behind the counter, the Aegean attendant smiled at my request to check in two bags.

“Are you traveling in Greece alone?”

“Yes, sir!” I beamed with some pride.

“Wow! That’s brave. I don’t think I could do that!” he shared.

In that moment, I squirmed a little; I wondered if he knew something I didn’t. Was it particularly dangerous for a lone woman to travel through Greece? Was I more of a target for theft? Should I heighten my guard?

Given that I had experienced two weeks already on and off with friends as travel companions, I was sure that was not it. From what I could tell, Greece is like walking into a large family reunion celebrated by tables and tables of delicious home-cooked food in a stunning setting. I felt comfortable, welcomed, and appreciated.

Maybe what he was doing was revealing a moment of raw honesty: that traveling alone is scary because it can be lonely.

This lonely vs. alone comparison has come up for me a lot here. I will be the first to admit that I’ve always struggled with being alone. I consistently surround myself with people, have an active social life, have had a history of always having a roommate (until recently). I don’t see this as a flaw per se, but I have wondered if there’s a reason this is my go-to.

This trip has helped shed light on the matter. There has been a correlation for me between being alone and the questions that emerge.

Am I comfortable in my skin?
Can I be with the quiet?
Do I like myself?
Does it matter what others think of me?

The most challenging moments would come up around dinner. Walking along restaurant lined paths, lit candles on the tables, incredible sunset sinking in the Med, hands being held, sessions of dreamy eye-gazing, the evenings were truly the most romantic times in Greece. At first, sitting across from no one was hard for me. I’d lose myself in my iphone just to cope, texting, uploading photos to be seemingly entertained.

But then, something shifted.

Although there were certainly moments I felt lonely, I began to embrace my alone. I enjoyed the world I was framing in my way as I snapped photos. I rested in my breaths as I rediscovered my yoga practice. I treasured serendipitous encounters with others who shared themselves with me. I sat easily. I smiled often. I liked being with me.

It may seem silly that it took a journey of many miles and days to come to this discovery. But, man, was it ever worth it.

SDC10767 I let my yoga practice drop over a year ago now. I’ve felt bad about it because: 1. my body + mind + soul missed it, and 2. I had gotten pretty good at it. Running replaced my time on the mat. It provided me with just enough endorphin release to push forward with all the changes of these past months. But, every now and then, a little voice wondered: when are you gonna get back into it?

Well, the time has come. I may have made my travel more cumbersome, but I carried around my yoga mat with me throughout my 3 week Greece trip. The sun, the sea, the easy pace of life gently nudged me back into a practice I have loved and treasured for some time.

In this journey back to yoga, I’ve new-found gratitude…for the power of intention that surfaces before a practice, for the gift of the learned poses given to me my patient and soulful teacher, for the union my spirit finds with the body that holds it.

There’s a pose at the end of the primary series, right before sinking into restful Shavasana called उत्प्लुतिः  Utplutiḥ, meaning “lift”…also known as Tolasana. In lotus position, spine lengthened and hands placed on the mat, you lift your legs and butt off the mat balancing and holding for 5 breaths. After having done a challenging practice of many poses already, for me it takes every last bit of strength left to hold. To enhance the experience, my teacher would always instruct: ok, lift and breathe…don’t forget to smile. I always wondered if the smiling was part of the pose. When asked, he simply said: Nope, I just add that in. Makes the pose easier, lighter.

It’s true.

A great lesson in a simple act. When life has got you exhausted, stretched, challenged to the point of giving up, the slightest shift (movement, mood, perspective…smile) can really be the lift needed to keep on.

boxes

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“I think you just have to go through it. And I think that if rather than sort of squeeze your eyes shut, you decide that there’s something interesting about it, if only in the kind of spiritual life cycle sense of the word. But also, — you find out what you’re made of if you weren’t already sure you knew the answer to that.” -Jane Gross

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36 boxes stacked strategically in the dark, small, storage space. Black marker scribbled on the sides in large letters, Mrs. Christine. The men from the Vientiane packing company assumed our home’s possessions were all mine, that I was in charge, so they deemed the boxes mine as well. At the time, the logistics were simple. We were parting ways. I was taking the things.

To be fair, I had been the one to accumulate. The rugs from Tunisia, the framed mola from Colombia, the wooden Buddha from Cambodia, the antique console from Korea…each piece marked a time and place we had been and shared, and I treasure them all.

Inside taped up cardboard structures, that life was hushed in paper and bubble wrap. Standing in the hot Hayward sun, many, many months later, I wondered how I would reconcile ownership, what my present self would be able to release. I won’t lie. There was a part of me that wanted to drizzle gasoline over the whole thing and ignite it into the atmosphere. But, the sentimental girl who saved yearbooks and love letters, duplicate photographs (in case I wanted to mail the other to a friend) and tattered journals, felt more like sitting in the middle of a pool of them to conjure up a flood of memories.

Things like art I had no wall space for or lamps that operated on a different voltage…some of those things were easier to let go of. But, things like the photographs that adorned our walls for years or the cigar boxes that stored his coins, the bottles of the Saharan desert we kept as if it were powdered gold, the wedding albums we had tucked away on bookshelves, and the CDs we made with each other in mind…these, these things bore deep holes in my heart.

It’s crazy how quickly an object can send you into a spiral of thoughts:

Riding on the back of his motorcycle in the hills of Medellin. That kid who toured us on his father’s tobacco plantation in Cuba. Having summer backyard dinners eating Bill’s grilled salmon. Getting stuck in Miami before embarking on our Tunisia journey because I let my passport expire. India, visiting India. Sunday walks on along the river in Seoul for our seared tuna dinner. Creating a yoga studio in a Buddhist wat in Luang Prabang. Walking in la ciudad antigua on Cartagena evenings.

Overwhelming.
Could I really do this?
I hated and loved going through those boxes. But, they are me. The journeys, the joys, the changes. They are what I’m made of.

There was a moment when making a trip to the large garbage bin where a warm breeze blew much of the Saharan sand that had piled up at the bottom of a box. So fine, it moved like waves across the sweltering concrete until it totally dispersed.
In ways, this image felt like our story, rolling up and down, moving farther in distance until the grains land in other formations someplace else.

In this process of this separation, I’ve felt like crying my insides out, like I’ve been punched in the stomach, like I’ve been the source of a ruthless self-inquisition, like I wanted to squeeze my eyes shut and make it all go away.

But I could never shut my eyes for long. For one thing, it gets too dark. And for another, the curiosity for what life holds is far too great.

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