Category Archives: rebirth

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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Today I feel like spring

The cool air touches my face and the apples of my cheeks turn that rosey color that I love so much. Today I feel like spring.

Today I feel ready for bloom. Ready to push up through the ground and burst open my petals. But I know it’s still just a bit too early–I am still a gentle bud and I must take my time. Be patient. Allow it to happen. The time is coming.

The time is always coming and going, going and coming and I will be ready when it is here. I will be ready to display my soft pallet. My graceful hues of green and yellow and rose. I will be ready to sing my sweet song to the world. The song that only I know how to sing, the song of me.

The barren land is rejuvenating itself and signs of growth are all around me.

And today I feel like spring.

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Walking Into Life’s Labyrinth — A Year of Walking With My Heart Open

Today is the one year anniversary of my arrival in St. Jean Pied de Port, France where I began Le Chemin de Saint Jacques, also known as El Camino de Santiago or the Way of Saint James–a Catholic pilgrimage across Northern Spain to the city of Santiago de Compostela. One year ago today, I stood at the entrance to the labyrinth that would guide me within myself and help me to balance my external and internal journeys. 

Huruki Murakami’s book, Kafka on the Shore, sheds some interesting light on the emergence and symbolism of labyrinths.

“The symbol of the labyrinth comes from the ancient Mesopotamians. They pulled out animal intestines–sometimes human intestines, I expect–and used the shape to predict the future, They admired the complex shape of intestines. So the prototype for labyrinths is, in a word, guts. Which means that the principle for the labyrinth is inside you.  And that correlates to the labyrinth outside.” 

The principle of reciprocity lies within the labyrinth. If you step into one outside of you, you are also stepping into the one within you.  

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A natural labyrinth outside of Burgos, Spain along El Camino.

Before I walked my dear friend and fellow pilgrim, James, told me that we’re always walking el camino–the way. The voyage itself is just the physical manifestation of the path within. But the way within is typically a very challenging and risky trail to follow. But like a labyrinth, you slowly wind your way to the center, and then back out again. You release, receive and return, hopefully with some clarity of mind and openness of heart. 

El Camino de Santiago is a giant labyrinth that sets the stage for you to turn within. Marked by yellow arrows and scallop shells, Pilgrims wind their way over mountains, across valleys, through woods, over rivers, and into the center of their hearts. Everything along El Camino is a poignant metaphor for life’s labyrinth. 

El Camino itself, perhaps the most obvious, is the way. The journey of our lives. But it is heavily peppered with many other metaphors. The physical pain a pilgrim endures mark the traumas of our lives. The sunrises and sunsets familiarize pilgrims with the cyclical nature of the soul’s journey. One metaphor I found truly persuasive was the pack I carried on my back. Weighing in at 9 kilos when I started (approximately 18 pounds), my bag was full of the things that I thought I needed. Creams, guidebooks, clothing, food etc. My bag, though not the biggest on the trail, was certainly a burden for my unacquainted frame. Smart pilgrims learn fast, lose the weight or else you suffer. Ditch the things that don’t serve you and trust that your community will provide the things you don’t have when you are in need.

El camino always provides. 

The coming and going of pilgrims was another strong metaphor. You meet someone, you walk with them side by side for days on end, and then one day you realize you will eventually move forward or fall behind. Letting your fellow pilgrims walk their own way, and respecting that you too need to proceed the way you feel best, can be hard. Though you may have known them for two or three or fourteen days, they are your support system, your security blanket. Letting go of people is just as hard on the camino as it is in real life. But it was an important lesson for me to learn. I walk my way, you walk yours. If our paths cross and we exchange lessons, you will remain forever in my heart. I do not need to cling to anyone, because  I can take care of myself– I am whole. 

El Camino taught me lessons about resistance. It taught me to let go, to trust, and to go with the flow. The practice of identifying and then releasing myself from the inner-resistance has served me thoroughly in navigating through life’s challenges and my/society’s heavy-set expectations. 

El camino also taught me about magic. In it’s own special way, that trail makes magic. Whether it is the collective energy of the pilgrims who walk, or the sacred and beautiful land, or both! There is something truly remarkable and indescribable about the magic of El Camino. When I finished I thought the magic would go away. That I would only be able to tap into it if I were there, but really the magic was just with me and lying dormant all along. the labyrinth of El Camino opened up the channels for my good-witchery to flow freely. 

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A labyrinth in Queens, NY at the site of the former sacred 5Pointz graffiti mecca.

Arriving in Santiago was one of the most amazing days of my life. Blistered and swollen, my feet rocked 500 miles of terrain and earned themselves some serious street creds. But what I feared most upon arriving in Santiago was how to keep El Camino alive now that I would no longer be walking its sacred path. But again, like the labyrinth commands you must always return to the external realm. You can not stay forever within, you must emerge. But you’ve touched center and can once again be reassured that it is there. Your equilibrium has been rebalanced and you can go about living your human life until the next time you desire to return to that place. The center remains accessibly where it has always been and forever will be, seek it when you need it. 

El Camino has lived a very vibrant life within me since the day I finished walking the trail. There has not been one time where I have thought of my 33 days on the trail and not had a volcanic eruption of emotions explode from my heart. Happiness, pride, nostalgia, awe and gratitude frequently swirl within me when I think back on this experience. 

So I guess James was right, I was walking the way before, though perhaps with my eyes closed. When I made my pilgrimage to Santiago, I walked straight into the wild labyrinth. Through my journey I opened my soul wide and I touched center. I’ve returned frequently to that place to leave offerings of patience with myself and kindness for others, gratitude for life’s lessons and above all a big bouquet of love upon the altar of my soul. 

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A beautiful labyrinth on Long Island.

 

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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Enough, already! I’m Already, Enough.

The dawning of a New Year seems to spark in everyone a consciousness and awareness of their physical creation – the haves and have-nots of our manifestations. I like to take the time to look back on my year and laud myself for the triumphs and pat myself on the back for wading through the breakdowns, the losses and the “failures.” Each new year, I set goals and intentions, make plans, dream my wildest dreams and then settle back slowly into the present, filled with optimism that this year will be as good, if not better than the last.

However, this year, I’ve decided to go a slightly different route with my New Years intentions. I am starting from a place that I’ve never started from before, and it’s a place that needs nothing. No superlatives! I don’t need more money, I don’t need to be skinnier, and I don’t need more love in my life.

I am simply enough.

With this new mantra in mind, there is one thing that I do want to accomplish this year. I want to let go of old patterns that no longer serve my personal growth.

I plan on doing this with the help of one of my most powerful resources—my awareness.

This year I want to dedicate my focus to my awareness, to the “me” beyond me, to the observer.

But really, how can I get myself to a place where I can actually believe that I am enough? The power of thought is not to be underestimated, but I honestly believe that one needs to dig down deep—to really go there. My inner archaeologist wants to unearth some dinosaur bone patterns.

Consider your life to be like geologic formations. At a granular level, our solid form is but a mere collection of the material possessions, our name and reputation, physical body, and our mental thoughts. These collections build upon our past and make up the solid form we see as our “self”, though no one can claim to be their iPhone5 or their trek through the Andes or their curvy thighs. These are simply our sedimentary identifications, to  some we are very attached, and to others we’d rather pretend they didn’t exist at all. But all these attachments, whether we see them as a positive or a negative are not truly who we are.

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Thus, this year, I will be examining all my attachments: my memories, my physical possessions, my inner dialogues, my relationships, my body, and my health. And I will begin to look at the foundations that they were built on. I can tell you already that some of these attachments seem like they were laid with cement foundations, while others maybe are more talc-like and easily degraded. Where are there cracks in the foundation? Where am I solid and sturdy?

With this one intention of mindfully observing where I am, I must constantly come back to that place of enough. It is the one place that doesn’t need to add any layers of attachment, though paradoxically it allows me to whole-heartedly embrace all of them.

I am who I am, I am love itself, I am Lizzie.

A blessed New Year to you all!

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Burning the Encyclopedia

It’s cold in here.

I want to dance,

Bare it all.

I want to dance round the pagan fire of encyclopedic knowledge.

So, I hack at the trees,

Swinging from their branches,

Pulling their bows down to the earth,

Sweeping away the snow with their wild pines,

I pine for you.

It’s cold in here.

I want to dance,

Bare it all.

I tear the pages from the Britannica

And crumple them into little balls and toss them in to land midst the logs.

I strike the match,

Inhale the sulphur and it stings the insides of my nostrils.

I burn the French Congo.

I Burn the Grand Teton Mountains

I break down barriers of Geopolitik

Set fire to the waters of the Great Barrier Reef

It all goes up in flame.

Thick black smoke fills my lungs as the thousands of words and symbols and people and places all made possible by Mr. Gutenberg ignite, curl in on themselves, burst into a crackling flame and disintegrate into nothingness.  Johan, himself, is not spared.

 I burn habeas corpus and the willing of your body to mine.

I burn Halcyon and hope for days of peace and tranquility to be granted by the Gods.

Halleluiah

Hallucination

The embers of the charred pages burn, but the wood doesn’t catch fire no matter how much I poke and prod. No matter how I feed the cravings the heat of the burning pages is always quick and intense, yet the fire still dies. The kinetic ashes settle back into potential waiting patiently to bring forth a new light.

I strike another match and swallow the flame.

I am the furnace that will stoke the scorched ashes into a passionate blazing inferno.

Slowly, I inhale

The fire burns more brilliantly

Exhale,

Ever more so.

It’s warm in here,

I still want to dance,

Bare it all

Halleluiah!

Halleluiah!

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33 Days of Dying

I awaken in the darkness. A corpse, a living corpse.

The dim stars emit light from the body of the cosmos.  Imperceptibly dead.

The dawn’s first light creeps up on the horizon; the pointed rays of day have come to slay night.

An eternal battle fought between the sun and the moon.

Each day– fearless– sun and moon gracefully embrace death.

In all their wisdom, they understand that death begets life.

Each day I Die with the moon and Awaken with the stars. A living corpse,

I am Reborn anew with the sun.

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