Category Archives: journey

Nomad Pitches Tent in Boston

Approximately one year ago, Nomad was living on Long Island and began to feel that familiar itch – the itch to move, to uproot, to find greener pastures, watering holes and new territories to explore..

Nomad began to crave civilization. Intensely. She wanted to eat in new restaurants and navigate new boulevards. She wanted to find her tribe.

The slow lazy days spent on Long Island were a combined mixture of boredom and quiet stillness. The former has been known to drive Nomad insane, but the latter gave her great pleasure. However, Nomad began to struggle more and more with boredom and loneliness and decided it was time to make moves.

And so she set her sights on a city. A city that she had not before considered, and in fact had actually once shirked – Boston. As with all of Nomad’s previous moves, there was first a calling and then a gestation period before packing up her belongings and her tent and relocating it from one pasture to the next.

This particular gestation period seemed interminable. Work was busy as she prepared for someone to take over her position and students flocked in droves to the campus. In July her heart suffered a breaking open, and it was brutally uncomfortable. But Nomad is well practiced in the art of change, and she understood that preparing to move meant shedding the things that no longer served her so that she could travel light and far.

Nomad wanted  a quick fix and a change of pace to mend her broken heart. But as per usual, she had to sit and wait patiently. It felt like an eternity, but finally her plan to move started to pick up momentum in June. She found a place to pitch her tent – a great little spot in Somerville, an up and coming suburb of Boston. A quiet street, a small, cozy apartment, two lovely roommates- it was perfect. Convenient. Affordable. Good energy.  “I’ll take it,” she said without considering any other options. Only 3 months til she could move in. She didn’t want to wait, but didn’t have a choice.

Nomad was excited for her next steps and, as to be expected, a little nervous, too. While she was certain on having a place to call home, she was uncertain what her source of income would be. She fought that fear until she made herself sick with anxiety. One day she made up her mind to let go and trust – a practice that always serves her well.  Her employer had promised to make it work for her if she could go with the flow. And so that is what she did.

She read on the beach all summer, tanned her skin and sought the healing properties of the salted air and water. She centered herself with dance and resolved to move her body as much as possible. It helped draw September nearer to her.

And then it was finally time. Time to say goodbye to the people she loved on Long Island. This part of moving – the goodbye part – is always significantly hard and sad for Nomad. Her tears were metallic and salty as she hugged the people who had become closest to her. But she carries these people in her story and in her heart.

On her last day on the Island she packed the U-haul with her belongings and set off with her best friend by her side for Boston. He was going to deliver her to her new home before heading back to Long Island, and she was eternally grateful that she didn’t have to say that goodbye to him just yet.

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Her excitement outweighed the sadness she felt on leaving. She was anxious to settle in to her new home and to meet a particular man that had peaked her interest in a previous trip to Boston. There was something undeniably different and special about this man and she was excited to find out what.A first date was had as soon as Nomad had unpacked her last box. The best first date she’d ever been on. Needless to say, the two more than hit it off, and Nomad has spent the last four months since she arrived in Boston exploring the city clad in a pair of rose-colored glasses and a very full and happy heart.

She still has yet to learn many things about her new town. She doesn’t know how to get from point A to B without the help of Google Maps. She only has a handful of spots where she frequents for food and drink and has  only just joined a gym. But Nomad is excited to do what she does best — explore the nooks and crannies of her heart and the of the people and places all around her.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in Nomad’s many adventures. This one is sure to be full of excellent people and places.

Happy New Year to you and yours. May it be full of discovery!

Love, Nomad

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It will be worth it.

For the past three years I have been a shepherd, so to speak, for young international students who are leaving home (some for the first time) to come to the United States to spend a year, maybe two, living with an American host family as an au pair. My training school has ushered thousands upon thousands of students through its doors, welcoming and grounding them in preparation for their adventure ahead.

The question “what’s next?”is the common theme that bonds all of the students together, and our facility is a place where transition begins the process of transformation. At the Training School our students are on the precipice of an enormous change, perhaps one so drastic that they may not even recognize their former selves upon returning home to their countries at the end of their program.

And it is this raw energy of change that has fed my heart and soul, and which has driven me to work harder than ever before. Over the past few years I’ve come to discover that I value nothing more than pushing and expanding boundaries, stepping outside of my comfort zone and trusting that the “what’s next?” will be effortlessly handled when and as it is meant to be.

So as I prepare myself for a life transition of my own, I think it’s pertinent to reflect on some of the lessons my students and this school have taught me over the past 3 years.

1. The unknown is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling. I’m literally reminded of this one hundred times a week. When I ask an au pair how they are feeling about meeting their host family for the first time 99.99% of them will say “I’m nervous and excited all at the same time.” And well, duh! That’s because they have only the faintest idea of what their life is going to be like in a mere 48hrs. Nothing is more unsettling than not being able to plan two days in advance. The thrill of it all is the adrenaline pumping through their veins and the realization that, “well, shit, I am here and I’m doing this and soon I will walk through their door and I will figure it out.”

2. Be aware of your point of no return …and embrace the momentum.  Each week as the au pairs fly in from all around the world and arrive to the Training School in New York, I sense they are feeling that they have crossed their point of no return. And while this isn’t exactly accurate, they are autonomous beings who can exercise their free-will and return home at any point, there is some genuine truth to the statement. After all, they got on an airplane. They flew around the world. They’ve now invested both their time and their money into this adventure and turning around feels harder with all the momentum pushing them forward into the next segment of their experience.

The point of no return, however, is where most humans begin to flip out. You’ve set the wheels in motion and guess what baby — physics. An object in motion will remain in motion, so unless you’re going to quickly build a huge brick wall to smash yourself into (which I don’t recommend by the way) your only other option is to hang on for the ride. Let it take you where you are meant to go and trust that you are going to make it to the other side.

I often use the metaphor of a roller coaster to explain my emotions to people, but this situation is quite literally the most accurate time to employ this visual.

You willingly get on the rollercoaster, possibly even choosing the front seat for greater effect. You buckle in for safety and as the roller coaster clicks higher and higher, you realize that return is no longer an option. This is when your heart begins to beat faster, you fear for your life, your stomach drops into your butt and you panic like a small child lost in Costco. But as you peer over the edge you begin to let go into an inexplicable trust that the structure to which you have so willingly entrusted your life has been soundly built. What’s more, in less than two minutes you will be back at the loading station with a few snapshots to purchase of your smiling (more like scream-cry-laughing) windblown face.

3. Know that you are never alone. One of the greatest aspects of the Training School is that everyone is in the same boat. The community of students is strong, even with so few days to get to know each other, the bonds that are formed are very strong because they are able to comprehend in such as deep way the nerves and excitement that their peers are experiencing.

This has served as a reminder to me that in any kind of transition, it is crucial to seek out those who are or who have recently gone through something of similar sorts. Taking care of yourself is your number one priority during any transition, but the task can feel daunting if you are trying to do it alone. Reach out to friends, family and significant others for support and comfort. Let them know that you believe in the process, and that you want them by your side to remind you that the trail you are blazing still leads to Rome.

4. Take off your armor. The most gratifying moments for me at work are when a student will come to me or a member of my team, and wearing their heart on their sleeve, demonstrate their exquisite vulnerability. Just this week I had a lovely girl from France reach out for help with her transition from home to the U.S. In speaking with her she told me that she has always been a pillar of strength for her family, and that being an au pair has always been a dream of hers. As her dream began to turn into reality, the pressure of holding  not just herself, but her family together as well, was weighing heavily on her. She was homesick, she couldn’t stop crying. She felt she needed to be strong and forge ahead.

My advice to her was take off her armor. Be vulnerable. Soften. It takes an incredible amount of energy to put on a face that exclaims, “everything is fine” when you’re actually feeling more like, “holy shit, everything is upside down.” That energy should be conserved and used to process your emotions. Don’t use your valuable energy to cover them up because the ramifications on your mind and body will be grave. Your future-self will thank you for doing the hard work.

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Transitions are super hard and can be incredibly uncomfortable and trying, but they are also pregnant with possibility, excitement and growth. It’s crucial to remember to be mindful. To be where you are. To observe what you are feeling and to give thanks to it. It’s ok to ask for guidance. It’s ok to ask for support. Trust. Soften into the discomfort — it will  be worth it.

 

 

 

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What I’ve Learned by Being Alone

Before sitting down to write I did a quick Google search on the following words: loneliness & alone.

The results were just as I’d expected.

There were tons of posts on the growing public health concern of loneliness, Psychology Today articles on combatting it as well as the human need for socialization. What I didn’t see in my quick search, however, was what I want to write about here — what I’ve learned and the benefits of being alone.

For the past year and half I’ve been contemplating the concept of being alone. I moved to Long Island in 2014 for a dream opportunity. I packed up my belongings and transplanted myself in a locale quite culturally foreign to me. I came here without a network of friends and only some limited family nearby. I was, for all intents and purposes, alone.

Before I came out here I had a vibrant social life and a unique circle of friends of all ages. I’d also never truly been alone before, at least not in the way that I have been in this new setting. Here I have not been able to call up a friend and announce that on a moments notice, I’d be at their door. I’ve always had friends to explore and hangout with. So, as you can imagine, this change was pretty abrupt and harsh for me.

At first I rejected the area and its inhabitants. I assured myself that it was time for me to put my head down and to work hard — harder than ever before. If I threw myself into my work, I wouldn’t have time to feel lonely. This was partially true. The first few months I was here, I worked like a dog. I tried to push the loneliness out by working so hard that the weekends could only be a time for rest, relaxation and recuperation. But as expected, feelings of loneliness would creep up on me when I least expected them. There I was again – at the beach, in random parking lots, in my kitchen, on the phone, in the car – crying. I had never been so lonely, and for so long, in my entire life.

When I sat down with the purpose of writing about being alone out here, my intent was to explain the life lesson that I’ve been learning and not to make anyone feel bad for me…or worse, for ME to feel for myself. Just so I’m clear, loneliness does not necessarily equate to unhappiness for me.

Sure, I have days where I feel melancholy and nostalgic and wish I had my best friends nearby. I’ve even had extended periods of time where I’ve felt this way. However, what I’ve been feeling recently is more balance between being a social butterfly and being alone.

Before I moved here, there were many things I didn’t know about myself. I never needed to ask myself questions like Who am I? What do I want most? Do I love myself? I had a barrage of social reinforcements that I defined myself against, and our collective mentality was supreme. I was able to be a unique part of a whole, but I never felt truly whole myself without my friend group.  But now that’s different, and I am different. I have more insight now that I didn’t have before, and I know myself better.

I have a better understanding of my social patterns and tendencies.  I know that when I feel alone I use Instagram and Facebook as a crutch to to feel connection. Or that I pursue romantic possibilities even when I’m not fully keen on the person.  And I know that I will pick up the phone and dial everyone in my ‘favorites’ in order to hear a voice on the line who can reassure me that I am still awesome.

These patterns and tendencies are hard to admit because they go against one of my core values–give to yourself what you would ask of others to give to you. To simplify what I mean by that would essentially be to say, “Hey, go connect with yourself. Be your own best friend. Fall in love with yourself.”

But I am only human. And I frequently forget that I am one with everyone and everything — I am never truly alone.

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So what, you may ask, is the benefit of being alone for this long? For me, it has been having enough time to take a good look in the mirror. In the past two years I’ve been able to shift some of my most negative patterns in a more positive direction because I’ve had the time to look within. None of this means that I’ve perfected my ways, but I’ve definitely made progress.

I’ve learned to value myself and my time more. I have learned to be non-judgmental and kind to myself when I am having a off day. I’ve learned that meeting new people takes time and requires lots of patience. I’ve learned to be more patient. I’ve learned that connection is all about quality and not about quantity. I’ve learned to be more aware of my time spent on social media and handheld devices. I’ve learned to get out there and do things that interest me. I’ve learned to kick box and to tango. I’ve learned to be more grateful for the things that I do have. I’ve learned to relish a quiet Friday evening at home, and most of all I’ve learned that “me time” is a necessity.

So while it’s been a bumpy ride over the course of the past few years here on Long Island, I’ve learned a great deal about who I am as a person and what I am capable of manifesting all on my very own.

 

 

 

 

 

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 30: The Deep End

This week has been quite an interesting week of work, as it was my first real week acting as director. I’ve finally finished all my training and have been left alone to do what they hired me to do–direct. The reality of how much responsibility I have on my plate began to sink in as 5 o’clock pm rolled around, and today’s to-do list had no end in sight. There was no way I was leaving the office with a mere 8 hours under my belt, 13 was more like it.

I eventually left the office waving a white flag at the finance spreadsheets that thoroughly humbled me. I had to put my hands up and admit that I was tired, and that my brain would need to sleep before it could look at these numbers again. It looks like I’ll be in the office tomorrow as well, because a deadline is a deadline is a deadline.

Nonetheless, I’m grateful.

I’m grateful that today I got to spend some much needed time getting to know my staff.  I’m grateful that they seem to have a deep faith in my ability to “fake it til I make it,” and I’m also grateful to be in the middle of a total blizzard of new tasks.

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve been eyeballs deep in work, and I forgot how much satisfaction, fulfillment and growth I receive from working hard. Granted, today I feel a bit defeated by the finances, but I know that tomorrow when I go back to them, I will figure them out and all will be right with the world (fingers crossed!!!!!).

But most of all, I am grateful to be in the thick of it, because it means that I have a defined purpose. My work gives me a sense of fulfillment that I haven’t felt in a long time, because I’m experiencing an enormous growth spurt. I’ve had so much information thrown at me, and I’m swimming in the deep end. Though I might not be doing the butterfly crawl across the pool, I am certainly doing the caterpillar. In a short time, all of this new information will be digested, I’ll grow my wings, break free from my chrysalis  and fly.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 29: Leggo my ego

Like any self-driven human being, I set standards, expectations and goals. It’s a way for me to measure my successes and to track my personal growth. Though the legitimacy of my progress is evident with just the slightest bit of self-reflection, I often run the risk of not living up to my own expectations. What’s more, I am also frequently let down by the actions of others whose standards, expectations and goals do not match my own.

Today I’m writing this post for multiple reasons, though particularly as a chance for me to acknowledge the fact that yesterday I failed to write. Not writing yesterday isn’t something I feel any panic about, though I do feel a sense of self judgement and disappointment because I didn’t complete my task sans flaw. I know I could just write two posts today and call my guilt good, but I’ve decided against that course of action because I want to reflect on the validity of leniency and letting go.

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Every so often we need to cut ourselves some slack. I once had a yoga teacher who said, “I don’t make my classes hard because I want you to push yourselves beyond your limit. I make them hard so you can recognize where your ego is telling you to do more than you are capable of on this day. When you find your personal limit, you are not weak for backing off, you are strong for telling your ego to let go.”

I remember being wowed by this statement, and it has never left me. I needed this reminder while I was walking the Camino. One day I pushed myself too hard and walked 40km. My tendonitis flared back up and, though it killed me to do so, I had to let go of the idea of walking every kilometer of the trail. It wasn’t going to be possible in the time frame that I had so I took the bus. GASP. But the lesson I learned that day was perhaps more valuable than the walking itself. I had to tell my ego, which wanted to boast that it walked EVERY SINGLE STEP, to be quiet. On that day, I couldn’t physically walk and I was stronger for recognizing this and taking the necessary measures so as not to hurt myself any more.

This lesson can and should be applied to ourselves as often as possible, but it is also very useful in relationships with others. I’ve had relationships, both friendly and romantic, where I’ve pushed myself to my limit in the search for perfection. My ego, is the part of me that registers disappointment in others. It’s a comparison of my desire with theirs that, when unequal, generates hurt. When my ego rears its head, which it does every so often, it takes the strongest part of me  to tell it to back off. My ego wants to attach itself to a story of disappointment, but my higher Self is so much bigger than that.

Letting go in relationships is probably the most challenging thing we, as humans, can do. In an attempt to control and perfect, we fail to see that everyone is on their unique journey through life. I’ve seen this with parents who push their children to be something they don’t want to be for the sake of monetary gain and “success”. I’ve also seen this with friendships and romantic relations where, though their paths have diverged, one or both of the people cling desperately to the past out of fear for the present.

What I’ve learned through both observation and experience is that the healthiest relationships are those grounded in non-attachment. This doesn’t mean that we don’t  care for and communicate to our friends, families, and partners, rather, it recognizes that their journey is transpiring simultaneously alongside our own. In order for them to live out their personal truth, they must go forth, alone, with your blessing, support and love. Attachment stunts those we love. Ego is attachment, love is its opposing force.

So today, my dose of gratitude is for yesterday’s non-post. I am grateful, once again, for the life lessons I’m learning through this writing experience. Sometimes these lessons come from a place of quiet awareness and non-action, and I’m grateful that I was attentive enough today to see this. I am truly grateful to my higher Self, which took the opportunity to learn as opposed to judge, and I am grateful to my ego for letting go of its self expectations.

 

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 26: Health and Well being of the Mind, Body and Spirit

Being kind to ourselves is something that most people need to work on. For me, it’s always been extremely critical to keep a healthy working relationship with my mind and body, because the synchronicity of the physical and mental is astounding. When the body feels bad, the mind responds appropriately. For many women, myself included, we have lived our whole lives subject to the male gaze and under the thumb of advertising companies. Beauty magazines, diet fads, and wounding comments from our peers, both female and male, are internalized by our psyche.

I’ll never forget my first negative realization of my feminine form, when, in the 7th grade, one my male friends told me I was fat. Until that point, I didn’t have that kind of understanding of the fleshy form that my soul moved through life within. But that day, that moment, those words have never gone away. Ever. My adolescent mind played ugly tricks on me and I began to look into the mirror and see what was wrong with me, not what was so perfectly imperfect and beautiful. I began to devour hateful rhetoric against the feminine form, reading magazines like Cosmo and Vogue. I compared myself ceaselessly to others, and my self-satisfaction and esteem suffered as a result of the hate I ingested into my body. Because my mind corresponded so intuitively with my body, somewhere in that vicious cycle, I drew that energy into my bones, my tissue and my cells.

Unlearning all of this is a process–one that I work on thoughtfully almost every single day. A delicate balance of health and wellness must be kept, and if my body is feeling good, my mind feels the same. Healthy eating, exercise and meditation are the tools I use to keep the peace with myself.

Today, I woke up with sore muscles from yesterday’s yoga class. I got up, dressed in the stretchiest clothes available and walked to a Bar Method class. My muscles trembled and my legs shook like there was an earthquake taking place in my body as we pulsed through pliés and relevés, ab curls and arm weights. After class, I could hardly walk down the stairs, and I smiled knowing that I am going to hurt so good for the next 3 days… Honestly, if I can walk tomorrow, it will be an absolute miracle.

But I am grateful—so grateful—for that stiff, sore, achy feeling in my fatigued muscles because it’s a reminder of the hard work that goes into the process of unlearning, which I need to maintain a healthy balance between my body and mind. This year, in particular, I’ve committed to slowly and mindfully breaking down all the barriers to Self-love that were the direct result of various adolesccent traumas. Little by little, I am peeling back the layers of self-dissatisfaction that have built up throughout the infinite lifetime of my soul, and especially in this lifetime, where my poor mind and body have taken a significant bullying from society and, admittedly, from myself.

My soul, however, is more transcendental, and has taken this healing quest upon itself in order to learn some valuable lessons. I’ve learned that comparison is perhaps one of the most useless forms of self-disparagement. Each and every one of us has our own set of trials and triumphs, strengths and weaknesses. It’s more productive to work with each other, than to constantly strive to be like someone else. Our uniqueness is what makes for a more healthy social order.

I’ve also learned that self-awareness is a practice. It’s not something that you achieve, but something that you constantly work towards maintaining. It’s perfectly normal to forget how good you felt after yesterday’s run or the hour-long meditation you did. Life is constantly changing and throwing new situations at us. We have to roll with the punches, because the punches are what makes life a  fun and challenging learning experience. Through constant self check-ins, we can help up keep the fine balance of mind, body and spirit.

Thus today, I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and will inevitably continue to learn. I am also grateful to my body and mind, and for the balance that I have cultivated through exercise and healthy eating in the last two days. (I’ll have to remember to be extra thankful tomorrow when I try to get out of bed and my glutes, traps, biceps, abs, calves, and thighs scream like the chorus of a Slayer song.) And, of course, I am infinitely grateful to my inner guide and closest companion, my spirit.

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 8 : Taking the Time, Savoring the Moment

When I cook myself dinner I usually tend to want the whole meal to miraculously appear before me so I can get my eat on as fast as possible. As a result of my impatience,  I cut corners and toss a whole bunch of vegetables into some oil on the wok, mix in some spices and stir.  The end result is a mildly satisfactory meal, as the zucchini usually over cook or the garlic burns from having to sit on the heat long enough for the squash to soften. Tonight, however, as I cooked, I reflected on a valuable lesson I’ve been learning this year — take your time.

I thought back to a few moments in my life where I was encouraged to take my time. One of them was a day of mindfulness at Thich Nhat Hahn’s Blue Cliff Monastery in New York, the other was my journey along the Camino de Santiago. At the monastery we took our meals in silence, chewing our food slowly, enjoying every bite, savoring every flavor, and reflecting on the hard work and the chain of people it took to get that food onto our plates. A meal that I could have eaten in a few minutes took over an hour. The satisfaction that I got out of every bite was tripled, and I realized how full I became half way through a typical portion. I then thought back to the Camino, where everything from your physical being to your mental and emotional state crucially depended on your slow stride. I specifically remember one evening on the trail that I spent sleeping in a small church called San Nicolas. One of my fellow pilgrims offered up some advice in a form of a song from the musical Brother Sun, Sister Moon. He sang,

If you want your dream to be
Take your time, go slowly
Do few things but do them well
Heartfelt work grows purely
If you want to live life free
Take your time, go slowly
Do few things but do them well
Heartfelt work grows purely

I try to remember these lyrics when I catch myself rushing through things, and seeking  immediate results. I was reminded today, as I slowed myself down and took the time to brown my tofu and cook each vegetable properly, that each moment is a moment worth savoring. And that doing things slowly allows us to be fully present through the action. Not only does it enhance our over all satisfaction, but it also makes the end result more enjoyable as well. The practice of being present is difficult, and I, like many, have a tendency to want the quick route to perfection specifically with relationships, food, body image, work etc.

Thus, today I am grateful to myself for slowing down when my reflex was to speed up. I’m grateful to the beautiful meal that I enjoyed as a result, and I’m also grateful to all the people in my life who have encouraged me to challenge our societies norm regarding perfection and quick results. I will try to incorporate this value into my daily life as much as possible by practicing presence and gratitude for each beautiful moment.

In the words of Tich Nhat Hahn,

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 5: Camino Magic

Today, as I nested in my new apartment, I felt twinges of nostalgia and melancholy. While I neatly organized  7 years of photographs and items I’ve collected in my travels, I thought long and hard about each adventure and its respective boon. The grand picture that came into focus today was of the series of events in my life that have led me to where I am now. Each step and each decision has a cause and effect as well as an alternate reality of what could have been. Looking at all of my things, I recognize that they are not me, just mere symbols of my identity. However, the purpose they serve is to remind me how far I have come. 

To me, though, gathering all my things together is not just about how much I’ve done and how many “successful” moments I’ve lived. I believe, rather, that these belongings are filled with energy, and they release it into my present surroundings in order to elevate my own personal energy field. 

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As I crafted my symbolic ode to one of my life’s most significant experiences, El Camino de Santiago, I began to feel emotions of deep gratitude. El Camino changed my life because it taught me to trust the unknown and to faithfully believe in the mantra, “the Camino provides.” As a metaphor for life, El Camino showed me that it’s crucial to take your time and to open your eyes, ears and heart to the energy of the Universe. The feeling of magic, which pilgrims experience whilst walking the camino is difficult to describe. The only way I can explain it is that each day, the collective energy of past, present and even future pilgrims pulses along the trail bringing to each person a valuable lesson or gift.

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With my shrine put together and the camino on my mind, I began to radiate the magic, and the energy was felt world-wide. 

This afternoon I spoke with a dear friend of mine from the trail. He is someone whose brief sojourn into my life changed everything I knew to be true about life and love. Every discussion we’ve ever had has given me deep insight into my Self. Speaking with him today, we talked about the fact that had I not walked, I wouldn’t be in the exact place I am at this very moment–nesting into my new apartment on the eve of my new job. I explained to him how grateful I was for the series of heart-opening events that has led me here, and how, even though I’ve been feeling a little nervous about this transition, I am confident that I am capable of taking on this huge responsibility. 

As the evening came round, I received an email from a woman whom I had met at the airport departing from Santiago de Compostela. The day after I reached Santiago, I was scheduled to fly. With almost no time to process that I had completed my pilgrimage, I took off for the airport hustling to get to Barcelona. That early September morning, everything seemed like a blur. I couldn’t actually believe that after a year of preparation and 33 days on the trail, that this portion of my journey was coming to an end.

As I stood in line to grab a croissant and a juice, I crossed paths with another pilgrim. I asked her if I could eat breakfast with her. As we began to chat our hearts opened and poured out our stories to each other. Though we were complete strangers, we both desperately needed each other’s company on the brink of transition off of the trail. I told her how I had fallen in love on the camino and was flying to Barcelona, she told me about her son and how he was experiencing a rough patch in his life. Then she showed me photos of the people she walked with and told me stories of her journey. As we walked to security she asked me what seat I had on the plane. “34C,” I said. She was in seat 34D. We laughed at the serendipity, though we both knew it was the Camino’s magic. When we landed in Barcelona, the song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros played softly over the speakers. I hummed along thinking about the times me and my best friends danced in the kitchen to this song and thought about the perfection of their lyrics. 

Upon our arrival in Barcelona, I gave her my email address and we parted ways. 

Every so often I thought about her, wondering how she was, but she had my email, I did not have hers. Today, as my phone chimed to let me know I’d received a message, I imagined it was one of the hundreds of e-newsletters I’m subscribed to. I didn’t recognize the name, and there was no subject message, but when I opened the email, this is what I read: 

Hi Lizzie,

 
You remember…on the airport of Santiago de Compostela… we both had to cry..
Today i was thinking about you, I heard the song from the airplane in Barcelona, you were in love..
How are you?
 
Kind greetings from Ineke (Holland)
 
I burst into tears feeling overwhelmed and in disbelief. Not only had I spent the entire day thinking about the camino, I had also spoken  with my friend from Barcelona for the first time in a long while, and now I was receiving this message from Ineke. It seemed to me, that the energy I was putting out into the Universe was that exact kind of Camino magic we had felt on the trail–pure love. Her message came to me in a time of self-doubt and transition as if to say, “Remember how strong you are? Remember how far you’ve come? Remember all of that trust you’ve cultivated?” Her message shouted to me to keep my heart open and to proceed slowly with alert awareness of my surroundings. If I do, it seems, the magical lessons and gifts will keep presenting themselves for me; there will be more peace, more generosity, more kindness, and above all more love. These are the real things of value I want to gather in around me, because with them, I can make my own magic straight from the divine source . 
 
Grateful to Ineke and her timely reminder of the Camino’s magic. Lots of love to you and your son, my dear! 
 
 

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 3 : Transitions

Today I am grateful for the most uncomfortable and emotional moments of my life — transitions. Embracing the transitions that occur throughout our lives can be challenging, and it’s much easier to resist life’s inevitable changes. But to live within my comfort zone is a lifestyle that I have personally chosen to reject.

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As I transition into my first career job as a school director, I am stepping out of my comfort zone into the unknown. However, the reason that I embrace transitions wholeheartedly is because they are periods of enormous growth and learning. 

I live for the moments in life when I look back and realize how much I have developed. From year to year I continue to reflect on how far I have come. How many friends I have made and how many places I’ve called home. All of these people and places have taught me about my personality; they’ve divulged the light and dark sides of me and taught me a myriad of lessons, which have enfolded with time and a lot of patience. 

So today, though making this new transition feels slightly overwhelming, I take comfort knowing that I’m equipped with self awareness, patience, Spirit, community, and will power to walk through the transition, and for that, I feel so incredibly grateful. 

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40 Days Catholic: My Lenten Promise — Attitude of Gratitude

I’m Catholic.
I’m Catholic?
I grew up Catholic.

Catholicism has been a label attached to my identity since my infantile baptism. It was not a choice I made cognitively. Nor were the wrote memorization of prayers, Sunday school, or First Communion. It wasn’t until the 10th grade that I took any leadership in my Catholic identity. By this point I had been a Catholic for 15 years, and the decision to proceed with my confirmation was one of blind acceptance. No internal questions were asked; I did it because I wanted to, and because it was the next stamp in my Catholic passport.

Church in my family was a regular Sunday event growing up. It was never any fun, but I went and I followed all the rules. I stood up, I sat down, I knelt, I sang, I prayed. After church I got to eat donuts…so that was cool. If I wasn’t scraping the nail polish from my nails, I was playing interior decorator and imagining how the sacred space could house my four-poster bed, comfy plush couches, dressers, lava lamps and a closet that would make Cher from Clueless jealous.

Let’s face it, I was there because I had to be, not because I wanted to be.

As my journey with religion and spirituality progressed I drifted away from the Catholic church. I felt disenfranchised and unsupported. I equated the church with intolerance, patriachy and greed. I disassociated myself with the term Catholic. There was too much guilt attributed with my identity and I wanted to purge myself of it.

This is when I disovered Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco’s Ternderloin District. It was a place of acceptance, tolerance, and most importantly LOVE. Their weekly celebration uplifted the community through song and praise. They talked the talk, and they walked the walk. With liberation theology as their underlying tenet, they work to combat social injustices caused by poverty and social inequality.

Finally feeling connected to spirit and Self for the first time, Glide became my primary sacred space to worship in. As my journey into yoga started around the same time, the two spiritual practices began healing me of my Catholic guilt and began molding me in the spirutal being I am today.

Many years later, the concern about my catholic identity still lingered. Catholicism was my foundation. I can still recite the prayers and take comfort in the hymns, though it has been many years since I’ve stepped foot into my local parish. My journey along El Camino started with the intention of reconnecting to my Catholic identity, and in preparation I attended mass all summer long in France and Spain.

And then I walked.

I walked through all the questions and I came to recognize that my spirit is not Catholic, but that my identity is. My identity is also many other things now. As a result of my travels abroad and my daily practices I now identify as a yogi, a buddhist AND a muslim…and so much more. I see myself as part of everything and follow my own religion, the religion of my heart.

With all that being said, I can now explain my 40 day lenten promise. This practice was something that I grew up with as a Catholic, and I’ve given up everything from chocolates and candy to Facebook over the 40-day fasting period leading up to Easter Sunday.

This year, however, I have a new lenten promise. It’s not to give up anything, but rather to take up something. I racked my brain over and over and came to the conclusion that there are many things I want to do more of. In order to not overwhelm myself and to stick to my promise I’ve decided to write every day for 40 days. But not just to write about anything, I want to write on the theme of gratitude.

So, for the next 40 days I will be posting one blog a day about something that I am grateful for.

Attitude of Gratitude — Day 1: I am grateful for Glide Memorial Church for taking me in, opening my heart and allowing me to see that religion is not about intolerance and greed. Rather, it is about community, solidarity, radical inclusiveness, truth telling, hope, celebration and love. I am eternally grateful for that sacred space of worship as I consider it to be the catalyst of my higher spiritual journey. Thank you Glide, Reverend Cecil Williams, Janice Mirikitani. Rev. Karen Oliveto and all the beautiful souls who regularly accompanied me to Sunday service — Jessica Roach, Allie Thompson, Zannah Herridge Meyer and Erika Myszynski. I am grateful to your sources of inspiriation and your spirit!

lizzie

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