A Brief Introduction to the Mayan Calendar

You may have noticed a few scattered references to the Mayan calendar throughout my blog lately, and I think it’s time to fill you guys in. Here in Bali, I’ve taken a dive into studying this ancient way of time-keeping, and it’s opening a lot of interesting positive psychological area for me. They say the best way to learn is to teach, so I’m going to share with you, what I know.

One of the most beautiful components about the calendar, as I’ve been taught it, is that it isn’t a dogmatic system where information is handed down from above, but rather a path of inquiry, where we each find our own resonance, from deep within our beings.

Thus, I can only speak from my experience with this study – so that’s the version of the story you’ll get. Continue reading “A Brief Introduction to the Mayan Calendar”

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Life Lessons from Island Motorcycling

I recently had the great pleasure of joining a few friends for a weekend on the sparsely populated Balinese island of Nusa Penida. It had been nearly 15 years since I’d piloted a motorbike, but renting myself a scooter to take over on the ferry was the only way to join the adventure, so I went for it.

Along the way, I was reminded just how many metaphors for living well present themselves to you when riding a motorcycle. (I think that’s why motorcycle analogies are the primary language of my good ol’ pop.) Here’s a summary of what I learned over the twists and turns of a few days’ jungle ride. Continue reading “Life Lessons from Island Motorcycling”

But I Don’t Wanna Fly

Acroyoga is awesome. I really enjoyed being hoisted upside-down on someone’s feet for the first time in Puerto Rico, and using my strength to lift friends into the air in Venice Beach. There’s a whole acro community here in Ubud, and lots of opportunities to “fly” (as they call the aerial part of the practice). I keep feeling like I should go join them, but it’s remained just that… a “should”.

The truth is, acro just isn’t pulling me right now. I just simply don’t want to do it. Continue reading “But I Don’t Wanna Fly”

Risking Introversion

Ubud, Bali

A big part of my personality is introverted.

People are often surprised when I tell them that, and I hear… “What, you? Introverted? Ha!” All the time. I’m not antisocial, or misanthropic, or maladjusted. I only have social anxiety when my human-interaction energy stores are depleted (which has happened all to often, in the last 7 years of running a one-on-one service business… hence my retreating to Bali now).

Here’s the definitions that resonate with me: it’s about where your energy comes from – Continue reading “Risking Introversion”

Falling in Love – An Affirmation

Many nights, I have trouble sleeping in Bali.

One night I thought high tourists season came early and all the decent accommodation had been snatched up from under my nose… I’d be left without any place to call home for the next several months.

The night before, I was sure that I’d contracted Japanese encephalitis, or dengue fever, or whatever horrible fatal disease the mosquitoes are carrying this year.

Some nights, my mind spins with excitement about what possibilities may lie ahead in life, working itself into a frenzy as it tries to figure out how to best manage each and every one of them.

Most other nights, I just itch all over, with the worry that little bugs are biting me each moment. (but no, no place I’ve stayed at has bed bugs)

Nights have become challenging for me.

In my struggles with emotional eating and compulsive work, afternoons have generally been my trigger times, but on this journey, I’ve developed a lot of empathy for the midnight snackers and wee hours binge drinkers. The nights can indeed be “dark and full of terrors”.

What are those dark terrors?

For me, they all come back to the same core: The unknown.

It’s so weird. I gave up everything normal in my life, to thrust myself into the unknown. I knew I needed it’s aliveness, its immediacy, its push to grow. I embraced it as a close friend, to take this leap.

But just because I wanted it, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Just because it’s exciting doesn’t mean it’s comfortable.
As my body struggles to maintain immunity and energy with new climate, new food, and now, lack of sleep… the unknown behind it all feels more like an enemy.

I believe my next level of blossoming is available, through becoming comfortable with not knowing.

And so I work.

My potential relies on me falling in love with the unknown.

And love is not always easy.

I work to be with myself through the sleepless nights… through the compulsive search for the next place to call home, through the swatting away of bugs who may or may not exist.

I work to embrace it all.

I work to let go and stop working.

I let go, and sing to let my brain work for me.

About six months ago, I started playing with setting affirmations to song. My coach had encouraged me to work with affirmations, to support me through the beginnings of this major internal and external life shift. I tried, but I just couldn’t get down with spoken affirmations. They always feel corny as hell, and set my inner alarm bells going off. Once I started singing them to myself, though, they really opened up for me. I found that the “catchy” power of music, really helps the affirmation get deeper into my internal “automatic playlist”. I’ve noticed a lot of internal shift since I’ve started singing affirmations.

You know how sometimes you’ll stop being aware of your thoughts for a bit, and then check back in like,
“Oh, hey, mind! What have you been up to?”

During that time, mostly my mind would reply,

Oh, nothing, you know… just worrying about everything that’s about to go horribly wrong and jumping off this anxiety cliff

I knew there was something to this business of singing affirmations, when one day, I checked in –

“Oh, hey, mind! What have you been up to?”

And it replied,

“Just singing this little tune I picked up” – one of my affirmations. My subconscious had been playing it on repeat without my direction. Score. That’s brain re-wiring in action.

I can’t keep all the goodies for myself, so I’ve decided to start sharing them. This recording is about 5 minutes, and if you need some help embracing the unknown, I encourage you to sing along- the point is to get it stuck in your head.

Note: The recording is left imperfect on purpose – to help us all escape the mental traps of perfectionism!

Happy singing and happy living!

.

(Photo credit: Pedro Martin)

Should You Drink the Kool-Aid?

I had a lot of fear.

Fear of letting go of well-conditioned ways.
Fear of opening up to a new path..
What if I dived in so deep, I couldn’t find my way back to the things I cherish now?

What if, immersing in a new language, I lost my ability to speak my mother tongue?

What if I went so far off the deep end, no one could relate to me anymore?
Then I’d be all alone forever.

I mean, on a very practical level, I’ve crafted much of my identity around being a “smart hippie”. Sure, I love to explore all sorts of outlandish and wild practices and ideas, but I think
Others like me because I stay grounded.
Because I like science.
Because I can wear the skeptical hat like a champ, when it serves me.

How would they love me, if all I can talk about when I get back is galactic signatures, and rainbow bodies?

I had my aura photographed the other day.
(and yeah, I’m afraid to tell you that…
Afraid you’ll think I’ve gone off the deep end.)

But turns out according to that system, I have a yellow aura right now,
and work in the realms of information.
I’m told I’m well suited for gathering knowledge from an array of sources,
And compiling it in a way that others can use.

I like that.
It gives me permission to explore widely
And a thread to come back from extremes.

I want to walk the wild roads
I want to see how deep the rabbit holes go
And sure, I’m scared.
Scared that something will change me so much I won’t be able to go back to who I was before.
But then, I have to realize that no matter what I do,
I can never go back to being the person I was yesterday.

I want to trust that a road back to balance is always present.

But I’m no dummy.
I know sometimes a road back isn’t present.
We’ve all met people who have taken one too many trips
We see stories on the news of group suicides following charismatic leaders
We’ve battled to converse with people who simply can’t bring themselves down from the clouds
Enough to speak any of our human languages.

A brother of mine said something that crystalized a kind of safety for me,
In circle today.

He spoke of the “power of choice”.

And, while I won’t right now open the “free-will” can of worms,
I suddenly saw that choice is a precious power to hold on to.

I said yes, I dived in.
In this case, choosing to immerse myself, for several uninterrupted days In the rich world of the Mayan Calendar.
Mind humming with neurons being re-wired
Face buzzing with laughter,
And the surprised eyes of “A-ha!” after “A-ha!”

And when I re-emerged, I found…

People around me are stoked I did it.
The little bits I’ve learned to share are resonating
Fires are being lit, and they want to know more..
I’m endlessly being asked for readings,
And they want to know more
And they want to know more..
To connect more.

This time, I’m the farthest thing from isolated.
My fears were just fears.

The power to discern what’s safe
Made it okay to drink from that well new understanding.

And so I reflect on how we can all have that freedom of discernment.

Ultimately, I remember the wise teachings I received 15 years ago,
Delivered to a group of college students about to engage
In deep exploration of meditation and the mind.
They’ve shifted into my own words over the years,
But they’re alive for me more than ever:

If you’re surrounded by a group of people insisting you cut off contact with your other communities,
You might be better off not to drink their Kool-Aid

If you’re being told joy and fulfillment aren’t possible while you’re on the Earthly plane,
You may not want to drink the Kool-Aid

If drinking requires you to commit the rest of your life to any single path,
You may not want to drink the Kool-Aid

If something in the core of what matters to you would be compromised by drinking,
You probably shouldn’t drink the Kool-Aid.

If anything deep in your gut says “no”,
You might not drink the Kool-Aid

However, if it won’t harm you
Or harm others
In Body, Mind or Spirit

Except for maybe fiercely challenging old beliefs…

If you retain the freedom to choose in every moment,
Or will at least regain the conscious freedom within a short time.

If you keep the support of those you love with you,
Even if they’re half the world away.

If you’re offered new information,
And it’s totally up to you what you do with it.

If you’re offered love,
And you’re encouraged to define and enforce your comfort and boundaries in every moment

If you’re offered something new,
Even when it threatens to rattle lose the old wires, just a bit.

Maybe it’s worth drinking.

It’s probably not Kool-Aid, anyway.

It’s probably Cacao.
And that’s all the rage these days.

(photo credit: Brent Gilliard)

The Eagle and the Condor

“Tell me again what Ken Wilbur had to say about ascending vs descending?”
I asked The Lucid Sage over international iMessage,
Late on another sleepless night in Bali.

Duality had been wracking my brain…
Pressing me to make a choice:
Do I go up, or down?
Do I find divinity inside, or all around? Continue reading “The Eagle and the Condor”

The Space Left Open

Forty brothers and sisters gathered around the ceremonial fire, surrounded in flowers, and bubbling with anticipation.  Modern tribes from several continents had joined to share in the sacred cacao spirit here in Ubud, tonight.

Song after song, rich with wild harmonies and free entranced voices.
Prayer after prayer, from hearts pregnant with love.
Spoken word incantations, calling forth the forces of Earth and the elements.
Eventually the dancing, the hugs, the drinking of the blissful chocolate elixir.

As the circle chanted “Shiva Shiva Shiva Shambo“, therein calling forth the positive forces of destruction, I wrapped my arms around my knee, curling into a little ball as the healing tears emerged like they so often do in Bali.

All afternoon, I’d been talking with expats, getting to know more and more of the local town and how others lived here, and somehow an old mental habit decided to make comparisons out of the lives they shared with me – comparisons that resulted in the crippling internal conclusion: “You’re doing it wrong”.

All of it. Continue reading “The Space Left Open”

Finding Home

(Kintamani, Bali)

Sometimes on the road you get asked: “Where is home?”

The thing is, I’m not sure. Over the last couple months, I’ve left behind an apartment lease, a cohabitating relationship, and the need to sit in the steel and concrete traffic of LA to run my business.  If Southern California is “home”, its only because of history, and because of the people I love there.  There’s no one place that I want to feel permanent in.

Last week in Sanur, once the initial thrill of having arrived in Bali wore off, I found myself filled with growing internal unsettledness.  Dropped in a new place and new culture, I didn’t know how to make myself at home, where to belong.

I wanted the luxurious fruit smoothies of the tourist world, but hated the inflated prices, insulated environments, and “walking ATM” experience. I had a lot of judgment of western tourists who stuck to the corals of curated exploration, and the consumers who said they “did Bali” in 5 days or so.  

I also longed for the village simplicity of an inexpensive banana-leaf wrapped Gado-gado (veggie and egg stir fry with peanut sauce), ordered with intimate conversation of village goings-on,  where they don’t speak English.  I stood out like a bright white sore thumb, in that part of town though, and struggled with my limited command of the Indonesian language.  “Fitting in” wasn’t really an option, there.

Of course, what I wanted was the third path: to somehow be a traveler between those worlds, able to belong in both, and at home moving between them.

I met fellow house-guests who were on that traveler’s path.  As they explained how they navigated that open way, my heart sank. The magic opportunities of the traveler seemed to all come from reflexively giving to those around you, regardless of how much you had.  The traveler’s access arose from prolifically sharing things, of food, and human attention.  A wedge of discouragement thus widdled itself into my ribs.

As someone who recently chose to shift her career and downsize her income (have you tried to live in LA on $1500/month?) and an introvert who was exhausted from years of work in a service business, this all seemed beyond me.  I’d had to watch my budget like a hawk, and learned to scale back on all possible splurges. Food was a precious commodity, to be carefully rationed over time.  And I’d taken this whole sabbatical, in part, to get away from interacting with people at all.  I didn’t see myself as having extra money, food, or attention to give.

The portal to belonging felt sealed shut by a big door of fatigue and isolation.

Exhausted, I headed for the tourist part of town that I’d so adamantly resisted.  I politely refused the throngs of ware-sellers, the endless street massage hawkers, the overpriced, though lovely, beachfront restaurants.  I didn’t know why I was there, except somehow it seemed the path of least resistance.  The tourist side of town felt like failure, but I had myself convinced I didn’t have it in me to find belonging on any other road. I continued walking, unsure what exactly I was even looking for.

As I walked on, I soon began to hear the thump of bass music coming from down the strip.  

Memories of dancing with friends on one of my last nights in Los Angeles filled my mind’s eye.  Swirling and jumping and hugging that night, I had been surprised by a freedom and ease that that I’d long been missing.  There, sweating like crazy to great music with dear friends, I’d felt a version of myself who I’d met on dancefloors before.  She was the one who was quick to laughter and silliness, after charging across the desert from music stage to music stage, at Burningman.  She was the one who had stomped the stress away at endless afternoon psytrance cafes in Vagator Beach, Goa.  She was the one who was comfortable, and free, and at home, wherever she was.

I smiled at those memories, encouraged to followed the beat along the Balinese shore.

 I didn’t know where the music came from, but wherever it was, that’s where I wanted to be.

I arrived at the source to find a sort of “food court” of bamboo shacks serving all sorts of different treats.  I found the shack with the speakers, and quickly found myself drawn to the stall just next door.  I smiled at the couple manning the counter, ready for whatever this experience that called to me was.  It wasn’t sure why I’d been drawn to their counter, until I looked at their menu board and realized what they sold: my personal symbols of both roads – fruit smoothies and Gado-gado.

I was okay.  Following my own internal guidance system led me to my own best of both worlds. I forgave myself for thinking anything was wrong with me.    With each bite of that food, with each measure of that music, something in me healed, and something in me remembered…

 I didn’t need to find someone else’s route onto the traveler’s road… it was already wired in me.  I just had to listen to my own pull from within.  

In this moment,  I found belonging in the bass.

And you know where that inner guidance system led next?  To buy another helping of Gado-gado to bring home to the other traveler who’ I knew had been longing for it too.  The next day, I found myself in a local village market, bumbling through Indonesian price inquiries, to load my bag with snacks to share with others on the next leg of my trip.  The music the night before had told me I was okay just I was, and somehow that acceptance broke open the fear-sealed door to the generous wanderer I wanted to be.  

Now, just a week later, somehow my bag is never empty of snacks to share, and I have a head full of my own magical traveler’s open-door stories to share. The Gods sometimes work fast.

This quiet afternoon in the mountains, I decided to plug my headphones in my ears, and listen to a DJ set that a friend posted from a music festival “back home”.  

I’m surprised when my body starts sobbing as the bass drops.  This… aural reminder of who I am –  this is home.

I empty my pack of the colorful foil remnants of treats I’ve been able to share, along my wanderings this week.  I look over this gorgeous fruit basket just given to me by a hostel worker, as a gift for I don’t know what.  I drink tea from herbs picked for me by new friends who already feel like family.  I welcome the texts from local friends asking if we can get together once more before I go. I am myself, and it’s more than enough. I see my feet firmly planted on the traveler’s road.

I’ll leave soon for Ubud…  I’ve heard there’s an “annoying, ‘untz untz’ place” that’s opened recently there. You can bet my smoothies, Gado-gado, and I, will find our way to its speakers, and dance our butts off – along this traveler’s way we’re coming to call “home”.

 

Box of Tears

Sanur Stories Pt 2
(While this story works as a stand-alone, it’s actually a continuation. You may want to read Part 1)

“So, are you going to tell me about your father?”

The question hung heavy in the air, like the stormclouds that had rolled through the night before.

I’d mentioned my dad the day before, when we talked about the tribal tradition of using tattoos to honor one’s ancestors.

I had told her then: “There’s an image that’s been floating around in my head since I left, and it’s of one of my dad’s tattoos.  It’s a real cool looking old dude, happily walking with a long white beard flowing behind him, and the words ‘just passing through’.  My dad and I have talked about the fact that there’s a possibility he may not be around anymore when I get back from this trip, and I think that image just captures something about a philosophy we share”.

“Ah you already have that tattoo” she said then,“Its your family story. You just wear it under your skin.”

A tear emerged at her response, but the conversation soon shifted in another direction.

Now, the next day, we sat sheltered from the fiery sun; overlooking the midday deep blue ocean, as it peered over yellow-green fields between our patio and the beach.  I’d been strangely tense all morning, maybe from a sense of guilt for being so far removed from the responsibilities I was used to at home.  Or maybe the tension was just lack of sleep, since the two dueling nightclubs down the road had continued blaring, even past the jolting rooster calls started around 3 o’clock.  This moment, though was quiet pleasant.  The view enchanted our eyes, and the sea’s come-hither breezes cooled our sweat-covered bodies.

And here again, the question of my dad hung like fog.

Again, as they did with she and I, hearts opened wide for sharing – joys, pains, fears, everything it was to be alive.  My dad’s had several serious health scares throughout my adult life, and there are a lot of question marks for him following a couple recent strokes.  

He’d shared with me that he’d had a strange mix of intense emotions about my going on this trip, which was new, despite my past travels.  He suspected it had something to do with how unknown this trip was – I had no plans beyond accommodation booked for the first week, but he was experiencing a new strange sort of worry he hadn’t felt before.

I’m sure the uncertainties in his own health and future had to have made up some part of the mix.

“It’s hard… causing discomfort for someone I love so much, who’s going through so much of his own struggle right now… but needing to go anyway.  Needing to take this trip even though it hurts, for so many people.”

My travelling companion just sat with me, holding, and understanding.

“It’s that way with some of my company’s clients, too” I said, finding a road to a quieter, subtler pain within myself.  “I have very tender relationships with them, and some of them I know are quite personally attached to me.  I know it hurts them to see me go.  It aches in my heart that I can’t make that better, by staying put anymore.  I’ve tried really hard to avoid causing pain for anyone else.  I’ve tried really hard for the last 7 years, and slowly boxed up some part of me that needs to live, in the process.”

“Yes, you’ve been working very hard, for a long time.” She said.  “I could see that in you when we first met.  I thought ‘This woman needs to be here.’”

I started to quietly cry – some of my most intimate, most insistent pain being seen, reflected, supported.  She scooted herself closer to me, and wrapped her arm around my back, pulling me into the comfort of her side.

Moments later, my sadness was replaced with a twisting yank of guilt.

“I’m so so sorry”, I blurted out “It’s terribly rude, and I feel so connected to you, and have had the most lovely couple days getting to know you, but I was so tired when we first met that now I don’t know your name.”

“Don’t apologize for that.” She said… “My name doesn’t matter; people call me a hundred different things”, and she shared stories of her name, and its origins, and the labels her family had used, others friends had used.  She told me of when a renowned tribal tatoo artist (really a spiritual storyteller), whom she’d spent days side-by-side with, exploring the depths of the soul, was asked what her name was he’d said ‘I don’t know… I call her girl, or nothing at all.” The name was immaterial to their spiritual understanding of one another.

“Man, its so different from America, where everyone is so so deeply attached to their names.” I said.

“I know; I’m from western culture too. I know how it matters to people.  But it doesn’t matter to me. I know your name, because names just stick with me, but it doesn’t tell me who a person is.  I know you – the person.  The good person.”

Forgiven for the ultimate social transgression of the west, our conversation continued winding through the afternoon.  Exploring intricate nooks and crannies of identity and meaning, as it always did.  Eventually my heart started to swell with gratitude for this striking new friendship.

“I’m glad you’re here.”  I admitted with the timid affection of people who haven’t yet expressed their caring for each other.

“I was just about to say the same” she said. “I’m glad you’re here”.

An surprising burst of emotion kicked my throat from within, and tears welled in my eyes.

“I don’t know why hearing you say that makes me cry” I said.

She sat quietly for a moment, with her hand simply cradling me, on the small of my back.

“Might not be from what we’re talking about now. Tears emptying from another box, maybe.  This place has a way of opening boxes; you’ll do a lot of that here.”

“Ah… we come to Bali to spring clean our insides, then?” I asked.

She threw her head back as she laughed, and then nodded.  Her own many summers of cleaning, emptying, being emptied by this land, shimmered behind the rich brown of her eyes.

As suddenly as it had started, the crying stopped, ushered out by a windy breath of relief from somewhere deep in my belly.  

“That’s a good breath” she said, her hand still on my back, her gaze still far out over the sea.  The box just opened, it seemed, was now emptied. Bali’s medicine for this moment was complete.

We sat silently for a few moments, again transfixed by the immutable beauty in front of us.  Me, the breeze, and the woman with a hundred names, and no name.