Category Archives: Travel

The Awakening

I am in Flores, Guatemala, writing as the birds awaken and most humans are still asleep. I’ve been doing this every morning and feeling quite like the author of Eat, Pray, Love – 2 years too late. (For those of you who have not heard of that book, it’s about a woman who gets divorced and goes on a spiritual journey by traveling to three countries and processing her divorce.)

I realize in this process that I haven’t given myself a chance to breathe. In the last two years, I’ve been running and doing and hiking and falling in love, but in all of that, I haven’t breathed enough. I haven’t let myself take the time to watch the sunrise without thinking about the next thing I’m doing. I haven’t let myself write all the things in my head, too busy with everything else happening around me.

Since I’ve had no computer to work here, I’ve had no other option in my free time but to do what I most need – writing while others in my group wake up, swim in the lake in the mornings, read and take a siesta in the afternoon at the peak of heat in the day, and have long talks about life and things with C as we experience a new place that doesn’t feel very different from any other place in so many ways.

What I mean is that after traveling so much, I realize that all places are so similar, even in their differences. Sure, I saw some Mayan ruins here and woke up to howler monkeys the other morning – a unique experience for me – and yet, the people here are just people and in their own language, still speak mine (in nonverbals at least), the animals here are just animals, and the beauty here is just…beauty. Don’t get me wrong; I know that I am lucky to experience the diverseness and freedom in my life that I have and do. I chose this. But I guess, as I move around, the more I want to stay put. I realize there are some things you just can’t get by running, some things you can only receive and achieve by staying put and making roots. I suppose it takes a lot of time away to fully appreciate the sights and sounds and people you can see every day.

Namaste ❤
N

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Change: Is it real?

The last few days, I’ve been on one of my many regular road trips. This time, I decided to go to Mesa Verde National Park. It’s the last national park in CO I hadn’t been to yet. This one, though, is a bit different than the usual. Its main focus is education about the structures left by the cave-dwelling people of 600-1200 AD. I’m usually not interested in stories about history or museums, but once I got there, I was fascinated – not by the differences, but by the similarities to the modern human.

The first detail that hit me was their sandals. They made their own sandals out of yucca and human hair and they looked not too unlike Chaco’s (apparently Chaco’s were inspired by the Chaco pueblos). And then – their ideas. They made bread that looks a lot like our version of pie (but with partially chewed materials inside them). They figured out how to make reservoirs and even retaining walls! Their spears and bow and arrows and pottery and even their clothing woven from hair look almost exactly like our current versions of these items. They made extensive villages made of adobe built into caves – sometimes four stories high! Clearly their day to day life was very different than our current rat race (I daresay likely more relaxed and community-oriented/less lonely). And yet, when all is said and done, they were humans very similar to us with similar thought processes and shared activities and goals for survival. The ranger even told me that technically, we could as current-day humans viably live in these structures right now.

And this got me to thinking: I feel like a different person in even the last 2-3 years of my life. But how much have I really changed in reality? A few months ago, I would have said my thought processes and goals for my life changed dramatically. Except that about a month ago, all three of my partners were in a hot tub with me reading from a scrapbook of my writing from senior year back to childhood that I put together in senior year. Everyone commented how I haven’t changed much at all – especially in my beliefs and thought processes.

So what gives? Have I changed in foundational ways or not? Have we as a human race changed dramatically or not? Who are we under all the superficialities? Can we actually change – even and especially when we want to?

I went to a tantra class recently (the only one ever actually) where they separated us into groups and had each of us ask the others: “Who are you?” We each used one word or a small phrase to describe us and then kept going around the circle. Nouns were most typical: “Wife”, “Mother,” “Sister,” “Daughter,” “Friend,” “Dancer.” “Teacher.” It seemed to be consensus that our shallow descriptions of ourselves was satisfactory. And then the next question came: “Who are you really?” A sigh spread around the circle and we looked at each other with a newfound question unspoken: “Can I really trust you with this?” Suddenly, new and bold and vulnerable answers began spewing from us, feeding off each other. “Afraid.” “Lonely.” “A sexual person.” “A sensual person.”

The person who said “Afraid” happened to be my partner at the time. I suddenly saw him in a new light – not because of this word, but because he would share it openly with random strangers, but never with me. I knew he was afraid. In fact, I knew or felt that he was terrified. I tried in every manner that I could to be a safe space for him to be his true self, unedited. No matter how hard I tried, though, it seemed he hid more and more behind a wall of his own making. I think, perhaps, that my desire to be a safe space for him was in part because I’d noticed a pattern – that every one of my friends expressed often how safe it felt to come to me with feelings and thoughts and yet my partners at a certain point would often seem hesitant to share or completely unwilling. And to some extent vice versa.

What is that? This ability to be open, non-judgmental, compassionate people with everyone except the people who matter most to us? As soon as someone means something to us, it’s like we have to make sure there is a space within us that is ours and ours alone. We feel suffocated. At one point, we wanted to share all of us with them and then…eventually…we slowly but surely close doors to our heart one by one.

I insisted when I left D that I would not do this again – because I felt how much it hurt when D did that to me and how much it hurt me and him when I eventually locked myself away from him as well. Really, there was no coming back from it. And so, it was frustrating to feel myself doing it again, even what felt like against my will.

This all, I believe, goes back to the question “Who are you really?” Because *why* we do this to ourselves is, I believe, because of where we’ve come from, who we have been, who we want to change to be, and all the messiness between. All of us have had some sort of trauma – often from relationships (family, friends, romantic, or otherwise). Can you remember back to your first serious relationship? Or at least the one you wholeheartedly felt like you *loved* the person you were with? Was there trepidation or hiding of your self, your heart, your love? For me and for many people I’ve seen examples of, I think the answer is generally no. Why would we hide when we’ve (generally besides our parents perhaps) seen no huge reasons previously to distrust sharing ourselves with someone? It is only over time when we see example upon example of reason to stop sharing ourselves because of the result: being hurt.

It is easy to *say*: I see the pattern and I realize it will not necessarily *always* be the outcome and I wish to be the kind of person who wears my heart on my sleeve and lets potentially hurtful situations roll off of me.

It is not easy to *be* the kind of person who wears my heart on my sleeve and lets potentially hurtful situations roll off of me.

Who am I really? Someone who was opened up at one point like a flower – to her feelings, to love, to adventure. She ran wild with the freedom and her fear kept getting smaller and smaller until it was a small speck in the distance. She consumed the world like a hungry dog who hasn’t eaten in years. And as she consumed, she began to be given bits of poison, bit by bit becoming afraid again, consumed again by worry and doubt that every new morsel might be laced with another dose. Even as she finds more beauty and love in the world, she fears what may come, what feels inevitable: its thorns, its poison, its death. And so she builds walls – to see the beauty from a safe distance. But it is lonely behind these walls.  Numbing,

Who am I really? A person who sometimes feels “big” and often feels “small.” A woman who often sees a lot of different escape routes, but has a hard time seeing the way to stay. She knows how to run, she knows how to hide, and she knows how to fight. She doesn’t know what peace looks like or how to keep it. She knows how to lose, but not how to win. Even when she wins, she focuses on keeping the win safe. She is terrified. She wants to save others because she doesn’t know how to save herself.

Who are you really? I ask this of you because under all the masks you’re wearing, there is at least one that is true and there may be parts of it you don’t want to keep. And you may wonder if you can change them. The stories you tell yourself are just that – stories. My story above is one I wish to discard aspects of. Namely: fear. Again. The most courageous person looks fear in the face and walks right on by it. I want to be that again without destroying everything in my path to get there. I changed once…or thought I did. Would it be that hard to do it again? Maybe I never really changed the way I thought I did.

One of the things humans can do that separates us from many animals is meta-cognition (thinking about thinking). Not all. Rats and monkeys and many other animals can do this too. Meta-cognition supposedly makes us capable of making complex informed decisions and specifically to change our behavioral patterns. What I find interesting for myself, though, is that I often have a disconnect. I can *logically* see incorrect thinking on my part and work to find a new solution. And yet, emotionally, I am incapable of integrating the information I “know” in my head until my heart is damn well ready to hear it. There is no forcing it. There is no convincing it with logic, with words, with anything. Eventually – sometimes months or years down the line – my heart gets what my brain “got” a long time ago.

Being polyamorous has been a long road of this frustration. I can fully understand and agree with the concept of “compersion” for instance (being happy for your partner being happy with someone else), but actually feeling that? Geeze, I’ve only really honestly felt it a couple times. I can fully understand and agree with the idea that I want my partners to be free and happy and autonomous – whether or not it is with me. And yet, my heart will often tell me when they are happy with someone else that they are abandoning me and it makes me hurt so deeply that it feels like it will make me die to be happy for their happiness. I am better at sitting with it, breathing, knowing deep down that I will be okay no matter what. But I wonder every time whether it will ever change – whether my heart will truly know what my brain does. Will my heart ever feel it is not under attack? Will it ever stop watching for danger in the innumerable ways it does?

We live in a world that trains us in the way it wants us to be in the world – including how it wishes us to feel, think, and behave. So it’s a huge simplification to say “Just because we have the ability for meta-cognition, that is enough to change at will.” It’s like telling someone addicted to nicotine that all they need to do is stop picking up the cigarette. It’s not that simple. I’m sure most anyone who smokes would tell you they know it’s not a good idea for them to smoke – for their health, etc. That doesn’t mean it’s as simple as saying it should be so and thus it is.

It seems to actually honestly change something deep inside of us requires a lot of work. And that work often requires tricking and rewiring the brain/un-training it subconsciously or just…time and practice confronting the issues over and over again.

How do you go about changing something you want to be different inside of you? What techniques help you in facing those issues? Do you think you really inherently change you to do that?

How I Had An Ambitious Year Without Any New Years Resolutions

It was June 28, 2016. I woke up in my van in Colorado, still high on the fumes of my very recent vacation to Alaska. I turned 30 there, watching a silly live show cuddled up with my platonic friend followed with chocolate cake in a hotel room in Anchorage. I blew out the candles around 2AM and wished that I could find what I was looking for – and be content when I found it. It turns out one of the “things” I was looking for was literally right in front of the candlelight- staring back at me with loving eyes. I discovered that a few days later in Denali. And the other was the opportunity provided me by losing my job on this day in my van on June 28.

After the call finalizing my exit, I took out my list of what I would do if I ever quit or lost my job. (This wasn’t entirely unexpected and I already had another contracting job mostly lined up.) I made a bazillion calls to cancel a bunch of bills, change a bunch of automatic payments, and put my financial life into a place that felt a little safer with the questionable continued income. Then, I took a deep breath and started driving to the gym. The whole twenty minutes drive to the gym, I cried about the loss – mostly of a stable income, the life I’d gotten used to, the coworkers I would leave behind. When I hit the parking lot, though, I wiped away my tears and started laughing. I called up the aforementioned Alaska man, who was understandably worried about me in my new job status. He asked me how I was feeling and I said “I’M FREE!” I was free of the job I had hated, the boss I couldn’t stand, and suddenly had literally no excuses not to re-write my life in the way I wanted it to look. It almost felt like my house burning down and the subsequent thoughts of “Welp, I’ve got nothing now. Where do I go from here? What do I actually want to acquire?” Needless to say, he thought I was a bit crazy. But he already knew this.

I thought a lot about what I wanted in my life at that point. I knew freedom, cooperation and a feeling like I was working *with* a supervisor and not against them was vital to enjoying my next job. I wanted more variety, a feeling of fulfillment in what I do day to day, and an ability to be myself and be appreciated for it too.

I spent a couple hours over the course of a few days writing down all my skills (personal and career-related) and what kind of jobs I could acquire with those. My main career would still be my main money in the bank, but I didn’t want to work more than 3 days a week doing that. I wanted at least a 3-day weekend and another day working on things that I am passionate about that I could make money off of but not depend on (and see if maybe that could become money I depend on too).

I also made a list of things I wanted to do with my free time besides pursuing career passions. Those included my other hobbies and passions (hiking, dancing, backpacking, photography, writing, self-improvement emotionally and otherwise, etc) and new ones I’d always wanted to begin (or begin again). I still haven’t gotten through all of those, of course (and hope I never will and hope the list gets continuously longer). I also wanted to have the time and space to devote to people I love – those in my life already and any new people I met that I connected with.

Acting from these goals, I ended up meeting my goals above and more- with sacrifices, of course (this just from June of 2016, not the previous year, which also included many adventures):

  • It took two weeks to finalize the contracting job and another back-up contracting position with an old boss. It’s come down to currently working Tuesday-Thursday contracting in the medical field, counseling patients by phone. It’s rewarding, I love my boss and all the people I work with, and have a huge amount of time freedom as long as I don’t have scheduled patients. I am appreciated for who I am, not just what I do, and I am actually using my skills that I went to school for. I also have unlimited vacation time (as long as I can be okay without getting paid that time). I’ve sacrificed money and stability (no benefits, no sure bet I have a job for any amount of time, no consistent income monthly) for time, freedom, and happiness. Totally worth it. And I don’t dread working!
  • I started cuddling for money. And realized I would do it for free. It’s so freaking rewarding. See this post for more on that. Oh and I also started cuddling contests. Ya know, because.
  • I started writing again (aka this blog among other things). I love writing. 🙂 Maybe I’ll make some money off it, maybe I won’t.
  • I entered a relationship that has been amazing in innumerable ways. I never thought I’d be able to have such a healthy, loving, accepting, integrated and yet independent relationship in my life. And I’m lucky enough to have more than one amazing relationship with amazing people in my life – platonic and otherwise.
  • I climbed and hiked and danced a shit ton.
  • I tried a number of activities I always said I wanted to do: Pointe (since I was 8 years old and was told in ballet that my ankles weren’t strong enough), Silks (since I saw my first Cirque Du Soleil show as a teenager), tango, and handbalancing.
  • I went to Japan and Hawaii. I rode a bike in the streets of Japan with the cars and buses. I visited multiple onsen (public bath/hot springs). I blues danced in Japanese gardens. I hiked in bamboo forests. I took a bullet train (then a cable car then a bus) to a mountain with Buddhist temples and stayed in one, served traditional vegetarian breakfast and dinner by Buddhist monks. I hiked mountains in Hawaii and paddled 8 miles synchronously with 50 other people in canoes into the Pacific Ocean. I snorkeled in a coral reef.
  • I traveled all over the US, while still working consistently from wherever I had wifi. I saw/hiked/backpacked more than 30 national parks (I can’t remember the exact number and am too lazy to calculate again). I even took some patient calls from the entrance of Canyonlands. I went dancing in so many different scenes and met so many awesome people. In one day, I hiked in Yosemite, took a soak in a natural hot spring, and danced blindfolded and topless by the light of the moon in a camp between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. I hiked in three slot canyons with amazing people and even had a naked muddy dance party in between two slot canyons. I hiked 100 miles in 7 national parks in 7 days. I climbed naked on the rocks in a national park at the end of a hike. I took my first bath in 4 days in a freaking cold waterfall. I ate breakfast and watched sunrise and sunset in amazing places. I reconnected with a friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years. I rode horses in Sedona. I spent an entire week in Acadia National Park eating ice cream for every single lunch, stargazed cuddled up next to a wonderful friend and her family, watched the sun rise on the first place to see sunrise (Cadillac mountain). I showered in golden light from peak Aspens in Colorado. I learned how to start a fire with a knife and flint.
  • I explored friendships and relationships in all the ways I wanted to – as much or as little as we were both interested in and could afford. I reconnected with people who used to be in my life and ended connections too.
  • I learned how to be frugal, live well on little, have few needs and few wants. When I finally got the few boxes I had left in storage for the time I’ve been traveling, I realized I didn’t need any of it. I gave >50% away to other people or to charity. I furnished my apartment with $40 at Goodwill to get some chairs to have more people over. And my entire bedroom is filled with blankets and pillows for crashing.

The best part about all of this? I feel like I have all the time to explore the things I want to explore without feeling rushed to take advantage of every second of my free time. I sometimes even just hang out and don’t do anything without feeling guilty that I *could* be doing something. A new one for me! Oh, and sleep! Oh glorious sleep. I actually get like a real 7-8 hours a day!

Oddly enough, the more freedom I had and the more I explored it, the more I realized I was more happy settling for less. As I traveled, every new place felt less and less new. I found myself wanting to grow roots and bloom somewhere with others I loved. I even went to Japan- with people I loved and alone at parts- and felt no culture shock. All it felt like was “not home” and everything had become that feeling. I felt more than location-less…I felt homeless.

And so here I am now, trying to create a home – not just a place to rest my head (because that can be anywhere, even my van), not just a place where my stuff resides, not just a place to invite people into. I’m trying to create a place that others *want* to come to for safety, for love, for genuineness, for true “seeing.” A place I can tell people “This is where you can come for family” and mean it.

Then, maybe, the people I love will also find their niche, their freedom, and their perfect place in the world too and we can all live together in our very well-constructed dreams around us.

January 1 has just come and gone and I’ve never felt less interested in making “New Years Resolutions.” The goals I made for myself in June were for my life in the bigger picture and they were positive, things I really honestly *want/wanted*, not just commitments to avoid things I *didn’t* want (like weight gain or managing too much stuff, etc). What I found was that when I’m committed to doing the things I love and committed to avoiding the things I’m not so in love with  (like having stuff, like having a job I hate, like feeling so pressed for time that I can’t even enjoy the small amount of free time I would have with a full-time job even if I was getting more money) all the time, the sacrifices in order to get that are not difficult at all. The things I don’t want…just aren’t really relevant anymore.

Instead of making New Years resolutions (and likely not succeeding at them), I urge you to make lifelong resolutions to yourself. Consider not what you want to avoid, but discover what you really *want*, work towards that actively (while taking informed risks in that direction), and I will bet that the rest of your life will automatically fall into place.

Here’s to wishing you the best, most ambitious, happiest 2017! Don’t look back, only forward.

Namaste