There are parts of this journey we are on that will include elation, that feeling of sincerely being held, of genuine worry as you tell the person you love the seemingly daily adventures you get yourself into, that feeling of being deeply connected to nature as though you yourself could grow roots intertwined in its soil. The feeling of total freedom engulfing your physical body as you have decided to let go of all else except that which truly flows from your soul. You let this energy flow out of you as your actions, words, and thoughts. There are also parts of this journey where your heart sinks so deep in your chest you are convinced it has reached the pit of your stomach. That real feeling of being totally lost and utterly directionless. Queasiness and powerlessness as you watch a loved one truly suffer. Stabbing pain in your heart at the realization that your soulmate whom wistfully entered your life seemed to just as quickly be swept away.
,Everything is impermanent, basically yoga philosophy 101 right? Enjoy the moment, there is no time but the present, be kind, compassionate, patient, basically a regurgitation of any preachy yoga class you have ever been to right? Sound Familiar? Well sometimes that shit isn't good enough, sometimes the preaching of impermanence offers me no solace. Sometimes people's words just feel like phonetics falling out of their mouths, lacking the substance of rich words sourced from true empathy and compassion. When we offer ourselves to a suffering being are we doing it from a genuinely empathetic place? Or are we just feeding our egos? Or worse yet can we even bring ourselves to care about another human being on that intimate level?
What about when you have loved someone so deeply you feel you have lived their pain? When you have sang from the depths of your soul as they lay dying, immobile, and brought smiles and tears simultaneously? What if you laid by their bedside and held their hand until their last breath? What if you saw the most beautiful soul move from this physical vessel to another realm? What if you watched the strongest person you know let go of life on this earth?
Sometimes overused inauthentic yoga jargon is not enough to bring true support, love, and real compassion to another being. It is said that the Buddha believes we can free ourselves from suffering. Of course our society is constantly perpetuating unnecessary suffering--traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store, dirty dishes, leaving the toilet seat up... the list goes on for these mundane minuscule inconveniences that matter so little in the grand scheme of our lives and this planet, but these things continue to plague us. These are the things I believe we are capable of freeing ourselves from. These mundane annoyances that we allow to take up valuable space in the miracle I believe to be the human brain. But what about the other stuff? The other stuff that actually warrants suffering?
I've spent the last few years of my life as this carefree spirit, floating around like the air anywhere I was drawn to, I was truly following the ebb and flow of the universe as I believed it to reverberate into my being. Going against what anyone important to me told me I should be doing, I followed my heart. I have surfed waves 2x my height as the current dragged me 2 beaches from where I started onto the shore like a beached whale. I have road tripped across the United States into Canada and climbed the Rocky Mountains. I've sand-boarded down an active volcano, picked coffee in Central America, jumped off waterfalls in Costa Rica, kayaked through mangroves among bioluminescence, got kicked off private property in the Hamptons, explored the streets of the beatnik movement in San Francisco, drank wine at the UN overlooking the NYC skyline at sunset. I've waded through frigid water in the Colombia River Gorge that led to the most majestic waterfalls I have ever seen. I have gotten stranded in the Amazon, climbed Macchu Picchu, lost my passport, and have basically gotten lost or stuck in every country or place I have ever been to, but I have always managed to find my way. I have studied the ancient practices of Tibetan Buddhism, become a certified yoga teacher, explored the practices of Reiki and Thai Massage, completed my Masters in International Relations, I've even worked a 9-to-5. Most importantly, I have fallen in love--fallen out of love, lost the best friends I have ever had only to discover it was to create space for the most amazing community of human beings on this planet.
The truth is, the past few years were nothing but an abundance of light, love, and beauty. Sure I had suffered in my life, we all have, but that is a story for another blog post. It is not until last year that I felt as though I had truly suffered. As each day went by I watched the man I love most wither away with each chemotherapy visit, trip to the emergency room, surgery, procedure, and dose of heavy pain medication. I watched the color slowly drain from his face, the pounds shed leaving little left but bones, his spirit dim as though the strongest fire one has ever known has just had a bucket of water thrown on it, leaving nothing but smoke. With it life swallowed up whatever naivety I had left. Life has in no way left me jaded but it has certainly thrown my spirit into reality, shown me its true ugliness, and the most intense suffering anyone could ever know. Along with it there has also been beauty, laughter, strength, unwavering courage, and the softening of a man who would not so much as acknowledge the existence of a band-aid. Within even the darkest moments of our life there is a light. Being faced with overt impermanence grants one the true realization of the preciousness of each moment. It shows life's unpredictability and that even when we perceive invincibility, we are bound to the realities of impermanence.
When you see someone truly suffering, see if you can reside with them in that pain, if only for a moment. See if you can give the gift of true compassion sourced from authenticity and wisdom, not from books or your Thursday night yoga class (unless it was really great).
Life in its entirety is a journey, but so are each of its parts. I have seen the stark juxtaposition of light and darkness quite overtly, especially in these past few years. I have truly felt the most pain I ever have in my life, and I have changed. I can no longer be who I was when I was floating around country-to-country, yoga festival-to-yoga festival. Don't get me wrong, you will still see me at yoga festivals, traveling, surfing, wherever it is that my heart takes me, but it will be from a place of deeper wisdom, one that knows the feeling of true darkness and pain. It will be from a deeply rich place that includes true freedom and happiness, as well as sadness and suffering.
As I sit here quietly, simultaneously emerging are feelings of gratitude for how deeply I have loved, alongside true sadness for what I have lost. From my uncle I have learned that everyday we wake up is a good day, that happiness lies within even the simplest of moments, the importance of hard work, the amazing sense of fulfillment from doing someone a favor. That zebras can't change their stripes so don't even bother trying. I've learned how much happiness can come from a hot fudge sundae, a slice of pizza, or pancakes with extra whipped cream. From our shared love for the ocean I have realized the dichotomy of lightness and darkness, that we can be as gentle and peaceful as listening to the rising tide or we can be swallowed up like a piece of bubble gum in the midst of a storm.
We all change. Everyday I feel like a different person. I let everything move me, maybe not permanently, unless I want it to. Every experience, every person, every place, I let it enter my soul and reside there for a while, for that moment in time it is a part of me. Then I choose which parts of it I want to keep. I synthesize it into who I want to be or what naturally resonates within me.
Ever been known for something? The way you wear your hair? Your eye color? clothing style? Sarcasm? Quick wit? Relentless pessimism?
Whatever it is, others notice it. They see this thing, or this way about you and then begin to define you by it, place you into a category of people that look like this or people that act like that. Maybe at the time you think it's funny, you embrace it, only to be haunted by it later when you no longer associate or define yourself by whatever this thing was.
Then you cross paths with someone from your past, someone who holds this seemingly cement-like categorization of who you are or what you are supposed to look like, or who you are supposed to be. They imagine you as a physical manifestation of this thing and come to be devastated when you have blown their simplistic assumption.
It is hard for us to realize complexity. All the pieces that make up the human being standing before us. When is the last time you really saw someone? You saw them not just for this thing but you felt them, who they are?
Why are we so unwilling to truly connect with another? On the other hand, why are we simultaneously reluctant to share this real part of ourselves?
I used to wear heels in college, and I don't just mean sometimes, I mean all the time, everyday, everywhere. I was commended for this in many cases. I see or encounter folks who see me wearing simple boots, flats, or usually no shoes at all and the comments are endless. This in no way is meant to demean the beauty in gaining some much needed height, just to highlight there is more to me than my now relinquished shoe collection.
Today I sat meditating by this pond, I woke up and the first thing I saw were my ratty boots. Boots that I loved, boots with lots of stories, that I could not bear to throw away, despite the stuffing escaping their worn tongues. I thought to myself how different I felt and laughed at how I would previously be caught dead in shoes that did not get me to at least 5'4". I thought, I can't even remember the last time I bought a new pair of shoes, and literally tried, without success.
The truth is, the person I am now was always there, parts of me just clouded or lacking in clear expression. We are not our boots, our heels, or any other thing we come to be defined by. We are just who we are, always. We exist here at this moment in time perfectly, with potential for true self expression.
It is up to us whether we allow our true selves to be uncovered, whether we feel courageous enough to share it, raw and unfiltered. Or if we are even willing or capable of finding it for ourselves.
Surround yourselves with others who truly see you, in all of your imperfection with love and compassion. In a society where we mostly connect virtually, when we find someone who can truly see us and experience us, it is a bonafide rarity. Though scattered I have a network of folks that I hold near and dear to my heart. I believe it is our soulmates that are truly capable of seeing us, for all that we are. Gratitude pours from my heart as I think of all the beautiful people who I believe to be my soulmates.
With Love, Light, and Worn Old Boots,