The Mentalist’s Handbook

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On a recent stop to one of my favorite indoor locales, the library (nerd alert!)  I came across the book, “The Mentalist’s Handbook” pretty randomly while I was trying to find a good beginner’s book about meditation for a friend.  As I laid my eyes on the picture that was on the front of the book, which was a girl with eyes connected to a light bulb (as seen above), I was intrigued.  The picture looked eerily familiar to a collage that I had made almost ten years ago.  I thumbed through the first few pages and was instantly hooked when I read the author’s introduction.  It almost felt as if I was reading my own words.

I’d been fascinated with the power of the human mind and it’s purported ability for astral projection, communication with the spirit world, and psychic feats for as long as I could remember, reading any related books I got my hands on and talking to whomever would share with me stories of their own experiences.  I was sure there was a reason for such phenomena to exist, and I had a sense that it was all related somehow.  But no one could explain any of it to my satisfaction.  Could this all be true?  I was insecure too, about being called a fool for questioning the limits of human knowledge in the rational world that we live in today.”  —Excerpt from “The Mentalist’s Handbook.”

As I stood there in the library reading parts out of the book, I lost track of time.  I was so eager to get started on the exercises that the author shares to help you reach the “aetheric” plane (yep, the author spells it with an ‘a’ in front of it, as they did in the 18th and 19th centuries), which the author explains as: “There is another world beyond, yet inside, the material world you and I know and inhabit.  This place is at once different from and the same as ours.  Everything in this other world looks as though it is made of light.  In fact, all things on the aetheric plane are made of a superfine substance known as aether.”   To me, the word “aetheric” is synonymous with “astral” (see definition below) which is the term I am going to use from now on when the author states “aetheric” because to me ,that’s just easier.  What can I say, old habits die hard!

The meaning of the word “Astral” per Oxford Dictionary:

1. {attributive} Relating to or resembling the stars. ‘astral navigation’

1.1 Relating to a supposed non-physical realm of existence to which various psychic and paranormal phenomena are ascribed, and in which the physical human body is said to have a counterpart.  ‘spiritual beings from the astral plane’

After I brought the book home, it stayed on my book shelf for weeks, staring me down.  One rainy afternoon, after moving into a new place that doesn’t have a T.V. or anything else to distract me, I finally took the book down off the shelf and started reading it as eagerly as I had when I first looked at in the library.  I completed the first three exercises that the author recommends, but I didn’t record any of them.  Then I placed the book back on the shelf and another two weeks went by until I picked it up again.  Picking it up this time, I decided that I would actually take the author’s recommendations and record what happened for me doing the exercises.  I downloaded a free recording app on my phone and started the book all over again.

For the first exercise in the book, I recorded what happened for me, I did one recording before the initial exercise and one recording after I performed the exercise.  If you’re interested to hear the recordings, just click the two icons at the bottom of this blog post, they are just a couple minutes each.  In this first exercise the author basically asks that you find a quiet space in your home to sit and strictly focus on nothing except for your breathing as it enters, fills, and exits your body.  The author also recommends that for each documentation that you do for each exercise, you should record a brief play-by-play of your general state of mind, your diet for the past twenty-four hours, any thoughts weighing heavily on your mind, and any abnormal external conditions that may affect your session.

For me, this first exercise was fortunately pretty easy because meditation is something that I try to practice every morning for about twenty minutes.  I had ate a pretty healthy diet for the twenty-four hours leading up to the meditation, although I still wasn’t feeling completely 100% myself because I had drank too much wine the night before.  I notice that when I am slightly hungover or tired when I meditate, my mind constantly wanders and can’t seem to stay focused on the breath.  I had a couple distinct things occur for me in the fifteen minute meditation, the first one was a strong tonal change that I felt on my right ear about ten minutes into the meditation.  The second thing that happened for me was that I felt a ton of activity on the crown of my skull, it felt as if it had opened up and was merging with the air in the room.

I am excited to check out more of this book and see how I do with it.  I understand that me posting about this might come up as controversial to some, but this excites me and I have learned to follow excitement without reservation.  The author asks in the beginning of the book to record what happens for you in the exercises and then to send him your recordings afterwards.  So between my recordings and blogging I plan to eventually send this all in to him.  I plan to still write my regular blog posts in between this, but plan to see more postings about this book in the future and thanks so much for following my journey!

Peace!  🙂  Ohhhhhhh and P.S.  If you do listen to the audio below, I am just warming up to this whole audio thing, so I’m hoping the recordings will get better as I do them more! 🙂

Different Paths Leading to Where We’re Meant to Be.

I scored a day off of work and knew exactly what was calling for me.  That beautiful Columbia River Gorge, the area that first called me to Oregon originally.  Despite not being able to find an adventure buddy for the day and the rain hammering down outside, I knew that nature was needed.  For mental health, I have discovered that I need to get out into nature at least once a week.  So I covered myself up with rain gear, laced up my hiking boots, grabbed some snacks, and jetted down the old familiar Highway 84 to get to the gorge.

 

As I pulled into the parking lot to head up to do the 2-mile Fairy Falls loop, I was surprised that there were a few cars already in the parking lot.  It looked like the rain hadn’t scared others away either.  I got out of the car and took the familiar path up to the first set of falls, Wahkeena Falls.  The path was smooth sails up until about halfway up when I hit the first set of packed snow, which wasn’t difficult to maneuver around and I ran into a group of people coming down so I figured it probably wasn’t too bad.  It was about five minutes after that thought that I realized it was going to be a soggy snow packed trail the rest of the way.  You couldn’t see dry patches of ground anywhere once you reached a certain point.

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I made it all the way up to Fairy Falls, but it was a much slower go than usual.  There were previous boot marks from other people, which made the trail much easier, but at times I had to get creative in my footing to make sure I didn’t fall.  There were several times where I had to forgo a trail made by previous people and start a new one or else I would probably be taking a tumble.  It hit me on that trail that this was so metaphoric to how my life has been over the last two years while going through what I believe has been a spiritual awakening.

 

I am not going to lie.  My life has been pretty chaotic ever since doing my first 10-day silent meditation retreat.  It changed my life and not necessarily for the better.  Over the last two years since doing that retreat: I have quit five jobs, lived in six different places in two different cities, started two different school programs–successfully completing one of them, but in the end didn’t end up doing either of those career changes which was the initial plan when I set my eyes on both school programs.  Yet, here I am, healthy and with so many blessings that I can’t even count them all.

 

We all go through this in so many different ways.  We have intentions to manifest a specific dream, only to be thrown off the path with unforseen road blocks or hiccups.  So then, that initial dream twists and turns, but you still end up okay….you just forge a new path.  You either try again or create a new pathway and see if that one takes, only to have a different curve ball thrown at you.  So you pause, reflect a little maybe, and either keep trying on that one path stubbornly or set your sights on the next dream.  This is living!  Trying out new pathways is what keeps us unstuck and gives us freedom.

 

Hopefully this is resonating with some of you, I just felt like I needed to get it out while it was fresh in my mind.  What I have been discovering is that when I come across a multitude of blockages while attempting a specific dream, those blockages are guiding me to take a different path.  When I let go of the exact dream that I had in mind, it gives space for what’s meant for me to come in.  Being happy and in gratitude with what comes to me helps me to drop the struggle of “but it wasn’t supposed to go this way!”  In the past I would get discouraged, depressed, and felt like a failure when my dream didn’t manifest.  Now I am able to rest in a more present awareness of appreciating the path that I am currently on.

 

Peace out!  🙂

 

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A Short Story from the Paranormal World


My last post was a bit different than my usual posts.  At this juncture in my life, I truly feel as if time is running out and I want to pump out anything that I feel needs to be heard, even if it’s just a few people that end up resonating with what comes out of me.  I have expressed my extreme fascination with all things New Age/metaphysical  (i.e. Yoga, meditation, lucid dreams, astral projections, OBEs, and more) yet I haven’t talked too much about the many paranormal occurrences that have happened in my life.  I have been afraid to tell many people in fear of sounding as if I have lost my mind.  I am now realizing that I shouldn’t feel ashamed about my different take on things, instead I want to share the experiences and people can take it or leave it!

With that, I wanted to share a story that happened to me about two years ago which is of a paranormal nature.  I have shared this story with countless friends and family members and have gotten more positive feedback than negative, most people informing me that they had chills run up and down their bodies after I shared the story with them.  I have had many occurrences in my life, ever since I was a small child of paranormal phenomena, but I closed myself off to it after getting strange looks whenever I tried to share my stories with others.  In my adult life, I have had my fair share of strange otherworldly occurrences, but again, I haven’t been very open to share them in fear of being labeled crazy.  Well, here it goes…if you are still reading, I hope you enjoy this short story :):

I awoke groggy-headed and confused that early morning as I heard my boyfriend at the time rushing around his apartment in a frantic hurry.  I tapped the screen of my cell phone and was annoyed to discover that it was only 5:00 in the morning on a Saturday.  Few things annoy me in life as much as waking up earlier than 8:00am on a Saturday.
“Hey babe,” my boyfriend Chase alerted me,”sorry if I woke you, I’m putting my apartment key on your key chain, k?” I mustered up a confirmation in a frog-like tone and flipped back onto my side to try and fall back asleep.  As I started drifting asleep, I heard Chase lock up his apartment and jet down the stairs rushing to work.  I finally entered a blissful state of sleep, entering into dream-time only to be awoken by someone gently placing their hands on my chest and pushing down on me.  I started giggling “Chase what are you doing back home already?” I asked aloud and opened my eyes.


The room was piercingly quiet, I looked around and there was no one except me and Chase’s dog Achilles sleeping at the end of the bed alongside my feet, where he had been since Chase left for work.  I tapped my cell phone screen again and saw that it was about 6:30, I had only fallen back to sleep for a little more than an hour.  I called out Chase’s name in the apartment and there was nothing but silence.  I brushed off the strange incident and concluded that it must have been remnants of a dream.  It didn’t take long for me to fall right back into a blissful state of sleep.

I was again awoken by someone pressing their hands on my chest, only this time it was a bit more forceful and I could sense them sitting alongside me on the bed.  This time there was laughter coming from the person pushing on my chest and it felt very playful.  I started laughing too and I knew this time for sure it had to be Chase playing a joke.  I started laughing more and peeled open my eyes expecting to see Chase, but the pressure left my chest as soon as I opened my eyes and there was no one there.

I ripped the blankets off of me and ran to the apartment door, pulling at the knob, the dead bolt was locked so no one could have come in.  I went back to the bedroom to find Achilles lying down at the end of the bed where he had always been, only now with his head twisted to the side wondering if I was up for good to put food in his dog bowl.  At this point I texted Chase about what happened in which he freaked out wondering if someone came into his apartment, but I informed him there was no possible way.  When I tried to tell him that his (newish to him) apartment was possibly haunted, he brushed off my remark as he wasn’t into those types of ideas.


Fast forward to about a month later.  I had gone off to my first ever 10-day meditation retreat and when I came out of it, I turned on my cell phone and received a huge confirmation.  Chase informed me that while I was away, he had befriended a new neighbor in his apartment complex that had been living there for years.  After they shared a drink or two one night, the neighbor had brought up a shocking story about a young man who was struck with a hammer in the apartment complex parking lot just a couple years prior.  The blow from the hammer came from an argument he had gotten into, the young man rushed up to his apartment (now Chase’s apartment) and died in his mom’s arms.  I was incredibly shocked and my mind kept going back to that morning that I had felt someone on my chest.  I texted Chase back “will you consider my story again now?!” 😬

Some Notes from the Astral World

Swoosh!  All of a sudden I was up in the sky and not in my bed anymore.  I was comforted in a blanket of light all around me, I was floating and feeling at one with everything.  I realized that somehow, I had been given this opportunity to explore the vastness of the universe while still remembering who I was as a physical body.  I had been given this lucky chance to explore the sky and above.  I realized that I was at one with the stars.  As I started to move about so freely, a loud buzzing similar to the sound of television static overcame my ears and I fell into my body again.  My eyes flipped open and I realized I was lying in my bed.  I closed my eyes again, drifted back to sleep and heard the loud buzzing again.  I was back in the expanse of warm light and stars, but then the buzzing started and I was lying solid in my bed again.

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I grabbed a bottle of water resting next to me on my night stand and chugged down the remainder of it.  I had heard about out-of-body experiences (OBEs) before, in fact I had a few off and on since I was a child, but this one in particular seemed the most lucid.  I got up out of bed and walked on the cold wooden floor toward my bay windows.  I yanked on the curtain cord, dust flew about and streaks of sunlight poured into my large bedroom.  I pulled my notebook off of my black dresser and started writing down the experience that I just had.  I had remembered in one of the lucid dream books that I had checked out from the library years ago, it had mentioned to always write down your dreams when you wake up in the morning, no matter if they are lucid or not.  By writing your dreams down, you have more of a chance to give your subconscious mind opportunities to provide future lucid dreams.

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One month prior I had a different experience with an OBE while I was traveling in Southeast Asia for a month.  It was in a hostel room that I was sharing with Katie, a fellow traveler from the United Kingdom who had tagged along with me and my American friends.  Katie and I were sharing a twin-sized bed, as to make the already thrifty hostel even more of a bargain for us.  I was lying next to the window and Katie was next to the door of the room.  I had been dreaming that I was back in Minnesota visiting family and friends when all of a sudden, as if by a click of a switch, I realized that I was floating above the bed that Katie and I were sleeping on.

As I was floating above the bed, my rational mind was completely lucid, I knew that I resided in Saigon, Vietnam and what my name was.  I knew that my physical body was below me, lying there alongside Katie who was snoring softly with her arm flailed above her head.  I heard the construction work outside of our window, which had been going on since we checked into the hostel two days prior. I saw the white “Zen Plaza” sign on the side of the tall building across from our hostel.  All of a sudden I panicked and a wave of paralysis took over my whole body.  I thought to myself, I don’t want to die in Saigon, Vietnam!  I haven’t lived up to what I have intended!  I can’t die here, this isn’t right.

The view from our first hostel in Phnom PenhThe view from my hostel room in Saigon, Vietnam.

My eyes darted open and I took the deepest breath of my life, as if I was a deep sea diver that had lost her oxygen minutes ago and finally got above water.  My whole body felt so heavy, it hurt to get up.  I looked over to my left, Katie was still snoring and her arm was still resting above her head just as it was when I was viewing it from above.  The construction workers outside were still making noise and the white “Zen Plaza” sign was smack dab in my line of vision as I peered out the hostel’s double windows.

Before that experience in Southeast Asia, the last dream of that kind was in the fall of 2007.  I had rested my eyes as I was lying down reading a book and I drifted off into a dream.  In the first part of my dream, I was running around the cardiology clinic that I worked at in real life.  I was feeling very frazzled as multiple doctors kept asking me to draw blood or to perform electrocardiograms on patients.  I was then in the kitchen of the duplex that I rented at the time and my roommate Rachael was talking with me in the kitchen as she was grabbing food off the bottom shelf of our fridge.  Then something sounded like it snapped in my head and there was a loud buzzing.  I remember the distinct feeling of being very free and comforted by beings whom surrounded me.  They started giving me information about the nature of reality at an alarming rate, they playfully laughed, as in “awwww, she’s just a cute ol’ human being that thinks at a slower vibration than us….”

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Everything started happening incredibly fast, I was traveling through these alternate realities and in between these alternate realities, I was floating in outer space.  I was surrounded by stars and comforting beings, they were palpable and they felt so comforting.  They kept throwing information to me at an alarming rate, telepathically.  It is very difficult to describe in words what had happened to me during this experience as there were no words being communicated—all information was being given to me in what felt like the speed of light, they would think something and in an instant I would feel what they were conveying.  They kept flashing images of my life prior to up to that moment and then they started giving me images of people that I would be meeting in my future.  They kept expressing immense gratitude and love towards me.

When I awoke from this dream, I gasped for air and felt the heavy lump of my body lying in my bed.  I took a few deep breaths and felt stunned, I felt uncomfortable in my body.  My body felt so dense compared to where I just was.  I glanced over at my alarm clock that was resting on my night stand.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, I felt that I was asleep for hours, but I discovered that I had only been asleep for a total of ten minutes.  I felt overwhelmed and went downstairs to be around my roommates, I didn’t tell any of them what happened for fear of being sent to an asylum, but I just knew I wanted to be around people at that moment.  I remember smiling a lot the two days after that experience, I felt in awe and gratitude that I got to experience something so profound.

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Following the Heart; Adventure Part Tres!

 uniquegeology2Along the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim Plateau at The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

 

Thanks for continuing with me as I recall my recent adventures overseas to Iceland and Ireland.  I left off from my last adventure blog-post, Following the Heart, Adventure Part Dos with my take-off from Iceland to Ireland.  My arrival into Dublin airport was quite magical as I was greeted by a rainbow as soon as I got outside and boarded the double deck bus that would scoot me into the city center.  My friends from Portland were not able to get similar dates as mine to Dublin, so I had four days of solo travel until they arrived.  To stay on the cheap side of things I booked one night at a hostel and three nights with a Couchsurfer girl.  I have utilized Couchsurfing many times in the States, both by hosting many travelers and traveling to different states and being a guest, but this would be my first experience with it overseas.

 

rainbowThe first view of Ireland for me from my double deck bus en route to Dublin.

As soon as I arrived to my hostel and dropped off all of my luggage I met up with two Chilean guys that I met from the Couchsurfing “Dublin Travel Board”, we all clicked right off the bat.  They were like-minded adventurous spirits and we instantly shared our similar stories of traveling, it turned out that they were country-hopping and would end their travels a few weeks later in Russia.  They had been in Dublin for a couple days already, so they showed me all of the city’s main hot spots and they knew of cool happenings that night.  My first night in Dublin was spent dancing with my new friends to the talented Daithi O Dronai who is an Irish DJ that incorporates a synthesized fiddle into his set.  I am not really a huge electronic dance music fan, however this kid is wildly talented and if you’re into that type of music, I highly recommend that you check him out!

 

The following morning I parted ways with my new friends and researched directions to get to my Couchsurfer’s apartment as she was expecting me later that morning.  According to my phone’s GPS, it was about a 30-minute walk to her place from the hostel.  Even though I had a pretty heavy backpack, I decided I’d walk to her place.  I wanted to burn some calories from my first night of Dublin debauchery (i.e. more food and drinks than what I normally consume.)  The fresh air as I exited my hostel to walk towards my Couchsurfer’s place was a welcome chill.  The 30-minute jaunt turned into 60-minutes of walking and soon I realized that I was completely lost.  The street signs in Dublin aren’t very user-friendly, most of them are on the buildings of the street and that’s if you’re lucky.

 

I came upon half a dozen people or so that were Dublin locals and they had never heard of the “Marrowbone Lane” that my Coushsurfer lived on, I was starting to believe it was just a make-believe name, as it was kind of comic book sounding anyhow.  Unfortunately my phone had died yet again, but I had my Couchsurfer’s address and phone number written on the palm of my hand. The one hour of being lost turned into two hours, but Dublin’s colors really shone bright to me in that two hours.  Every single person I came across was so incredibly sweet and helpful, truly listening to me as I explained to them my situation and pulled up the handwritten-GPS of my palm to show them the address of my Couchsurfer.  I also discovered that when people asked me where I was from in the States, when I first said “Oregon” I just got me confused looks, so my new story was “I am from California” and I’d get big smiles as people nodded their head with familiarity,  haha.

 

Two elderly Irish men walking their dog helped me find my way for about three blocks and Marrowbone Lane was finally discovered, but the exact number of the address my Couchsurfer gave me was nowhere to be found.  Communicating with the two elderly Irish men wasn’t the most fruitful as their Irish accents were so strong it literally just sounded like a different language to me.  They kindly directed me to a convenience store where the patient clerks behind the counter let me use their phone to call my Couchsurfer.  That was the final success as Cindy, my Couchsurfer, answered her phone right away and informed me to stay put at the convenience store and she would come grab me.

xmasdubChristmas décor in my Couchsurfer’s ‘hood.

 

My first evening with Cindy had a very dreamy feel to it.  It happened to be Christmas Eve and she knew about a gathering from Meetup that was going on at a local neighborhood bar which was called a “Bono” meetup.  Unbeknown to me, Bono (the frontman of the rock band U2) is an Ireland native and apparently Dublin locals are pretty obsessed about it.  Word had it on the street, that he’d possibly be making an appearance near the bar where the Meetup was.  After having a drink and chatting it up with some of the locals at the Meetup, we joined the group to walk a few blocks over to where Bono was supposed to appear.

 

It was a small crowd at first, maybe about 50 of us, but over the next hour it turned into thousands of people waiting on this small street in front of a shoe store where Bono was supposed to appear.  I was perplexed as to why people were so certain that he was going to show up and after chatting with a couple locals, I discovered that he had been at this exact shoe store exactly a year ago on Christmas Eve, so people were more so just living for the past.  There truly was no guarantee that he was even in Dublin at all.  The waiting got a little redundant until some Irish cuties jumped on top of a giant trash dumpster to the left of me and started playing their acoustic instruments.  They started playing some classics which turned into a sing-along with them, one of my favorites being “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley.

 

Cindy and I headed back towards a pub called M.J. O’neill to meet with my two Chilean friends again for Christmas Eve dinner.  As soon as we entered, it was so loud with beer glasses clinking and jolly voices alongside laughter that I could barely hear my friends.  We soon discovered that it was very popular for the Irish locals to attend mass on Christmas Eve and then consume a bunch of calories at the nearest bar afterwards.  M.J. O’neill had three different floors and about three to four different bars within each of those floors.  The main floor had a gigantic buffet of Christmas fixings and of course the classic fish ‘n’ chips if you wanted to do the usual Irish fare.  My friends and I grabbed the only place left to eat, a standing table on the third floor and watched traditional Irish music with dance as we chowed our delicious food down.

oneillsOutside of the lovely M.J. O’neill where my new friends and I spent Christmas Eve.

 

Christmas was chill, lazy and perfect to catch up on relaxing after being on the go constantly as everything was closed in Dublin on Christmas Day.  Cindy and I cooked a home-cooked meal while watching old cheesy Christmas movies.  The days following Chirstmas with my Couchsurfer were pretty solo as she ended up having to work on job- hunting most of the time. I spent a multitude of time getting lost in the city of Dublin by myself, but people were so eager to help the lost “Californian” girl that I had no troubles eventually finding my way.  Irish people are seriously some of the kindest souls I have ever met.

dontbeafraidThis sign appeared to me and calmed my frazzled nerves during one of the many times I got lost :).

I met up with another sweet Couchsurfer from the “Dublin Travel Board” named Mikhail who is from Romania originally, but has been living and working in Dublin for the last six years.  He took me to the famous Temple Bar in Dublin where we had a delicious hot whisky and talked about so many interesting subjects, he is into metaphysical stuff like me so we had a lot to chat about.  He took me on a much needed nature hike alongside Dublin Bay that ends at a beautiful lighthouse with a sweet graffiti message at the end.  The sunset above the water was pure magic and exactly what I needed after having spent so much time in the city.  Afterwards, we met up with some other Couchsurfers from the “Dublin Travel Board” and went on one of the famous pub crawls in the city.

sunsetdublindublincoastrespectandunityThe beautiful walk on Dublin Bay to Poolbeg Lighthouse.

On my last solo day in Dublin I took a tour at the Guinness Storehouse, which just so happened to be in Cindy’s backyard practically.  Even though I am not a fan of stouts what-so-ever, Guinness is the famous beer of Dublin, having been around since 1769.  I figured it would be one last solo adventure on my own before meeting up with my Portland friends later that day.  The tour was mediocore, my A.D.D. kicked in, but luckily it was a self-guided tour where you watched different videos and read plaques on the walls.  I eagerly hopped up the stairs to the last setting of the tour which was a beautiful, circular-windowed bar at the top floor of the building that had perfect views of the city, I turned in my “Redeem One Free Guiness” ticket and chilled at the top, soaking in the wonderful atmosphere.  There were astounding views of Dublin through the wide glassed windows, jolly families chattering around me and one of my favorite tunes “Waiting” by the Devlins   playing on the overhead speakers.  It might have been the beer-buzz that was talking, but that exact moment in time felt so beautiful ….as if it was just a great dream.

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guinesshorseandbirdA dreamy stop at the Guinness Storehouse.

I met up with my Portland friends, Kat and Charlie, later that morning at the airport.  We had planned on Charlie doing the driving because Kat and I were both a bit hesitant about doing the whole “other side of the road” driving, but as soon as they informed me that they were both running off about 1-2 hours of sleep, I realized I needed to face my fear and do the driving.  I was super anxious with the thought of driving the rental car out of the Dublin airport, through Dublin traffic and through the endless roundabouts while driving on a completely different side of the road.  I have slight dyslexia, so I truly was curious if my brain was going to be able to compute this new direction of driving.  I took a few deep breaths, followed signs as they were noted and actually acclimated to the opposite side of the road incredibly fast!  It turned out to be a blessing that I drove first because then I was so comfortable with it that I ended up driving most of the trip.  I get car sickness pretty quickly as a passenger, so it was quite perfect for me to be the driver.

 

ireland5A photo-collage that I made entitled “Irish Animals Like to Give Me the Stare Down.”

Kat, Charlie and I traveled together for almost two weeks and one of my favorite memories ever was from our third day together.  After waking up the earliest that we had ever awoke on that trip, we parted ways with our Air BNB in Cork, Ireland to head a few hours away to Fanore, Ireland.  Kat had done some research a few weeks prior about a 5k run that was going on there.  The 5k was to help rebuild a wall of a cemetery in Fannore, one of the most surreal benefits that I had ever supported, haha…only in Ireland!  Halfway through the run you were able to have views of Fanore beach, on the west coast of Ireland.  All of the animals we came across quietly stared us down as we were getting our run on.  That 5k was the least competitive run that I have ever done, I loved that fact because competition is what I usually dread about races.  There was no huge timer and photographers at the end, just a friendly older Irish man handing us medals and we came back to where we started the race.

ireland4irealnd3On top:  Me, Kat, and Charlie after the 5k, Below: Awesome Irish runners of the 5k.

After the race, we headed another of couple of hours away to our Air BNB in Galway and chilled out for the rest of the day there.  The following day, which happened to be New Year’s Eve day, we decided to venture out to the Hill of Tara in Meath.  The Hill of Tara was at one time the ancient seat of power in Ireland’s historic and pre-historic times.  That afternoon, I was hit with the nastiest cold ever with an incredible fever and body aches.  I really wanted to explore the Hill of Tara though, so I overloaded on Ibuprofen.  Walking around the land on the Hill of Tara was incredibly inspiring.  The energy of the whole area felt very mythical and the historic feeling of it was incredible.  A cemetery is at the entrance as you climb up the hill to get to the top and then rolling hills greet you alongside all of the ancient monuments.  As I quietly strolled the hills, I had to pinch myself to question whether I was dreaming or if I really was spending my last day of 2016 in this magical land.

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fullsizerenderHow my New Year’s Eve went down: The Hill of Tara and then beddy-bye for me.

As the evening drew near on New Year’s Eve, my illness got worse as I realized that my Ibuprofen overload had ripped my stomach apart.  I spent New Year’s Eve night wrapped up in my pajamas watching YouTube videos and reading in bed as Kat and Charlie explored fun in the streets of Meath, Ireland.  My evening of rest had me feeling so much better fortunately that to make up for my dreary New Year’s Eve, we got to spend a magical day at Newgrange.  Newgrange is a prehistoric monument that dates back to 3200 BC, making it older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge.  Walking on this land on my very first day of 2017 was surreal.  As a bus courted us out the the ancient megalithic monuments, I again found myself pinching the skin on the back of my hand questioning if it was all a dream.   My favorite part was when our tour guide did a demonstration of what it looks like inside the monument as the sun rises inside the monument (they mimick what it looks like with a demonstration shining light through the little window inside.)

newgrangeirealnd10Happy Happy 2017, first day of the New Year’s spent at Newgrange!

 

Our last few days in Ireland were spent in Northern Ireland and then back to Dublin for the final night.  Nothern Ireland is considered part of the United Kingdom (the southern part of Ireland is not which means their currency is different as well.)  In Northern Ireland, we hit up The Giant’s Causeway, which is an area of unique geological formations that were built up from and ancient volcanic eruption.  The Giant’s Causeway is in the Northeast coast, with spectacular views of the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim plateau. We also spent some time in Belfast exploring the Titanic exhibit, as this is where the Titanic was built in 1912.  On our final day in Dublin I braved the crazy streets for one last jog before the long plane ride back to the States and witnessed a bicyclist get hit by a car, thank goodness he got away okay with just a few scrapes, but that was an intense last moment of an otherwise blessed trip!

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 ireland12In order from top to bottom: 1) The Giant’s Causeway. 2) Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Cork. 3)Another castle that I don’t remember the name of :/  4) Unique geological formations at The Giant’s Causeway. 5)Walking alongside the water in Belfast (right by where the Titanic was built!) 6) A mural in Dublin.

On the Cheap, a List of Ways to Have Thrifty Fun!

I wanted to do one last quickie post before writing my long adventure story about Ireland.  Two months ago I thought that I had my whole next year planned.  I quit my job to do some adventuring in Iceland and Ireland for a couple months and then had a job lined up for me to teach in China starting on February 9th.  Well, as I am sure all of you have experienced before, sometimes plans don’t always go as they’re supposed to.  In my case, I am still awaiting papers from the government that I need to get authenticated before I can even adventure down to San Francisco where the nearest embassy is located to try and apply for a visa.  At this juncture, the government can’t even give me an estimate of when my papers will be ready as they said that they are 14 weeks behind, so even when they do get to mine….it could still be weeks before they send them back to me.

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In the last three weeks, my meditation practice has centered me full force.  I have definitely had some anxiety and stress as bills are piling on, but my daily 20 minutes of meditation has kept bringing me back to the present, to the breath and to the reminder that there is always something to be grateful for.  With my savings dwindling down and my days being filled with job hunting, I have reached panic-mode a few times in my head. Thank goodness I have found two temporary jobs until I figure out my next move.  I have figured out a multitude of ways to still have fun, despite the fact that I haven’t been able to spend money the last few weeks.  I wanted to share this list because I remember with my post Never Underestimate the Healing Powers of…. I got a lot of feedback from readers who shared their ideas too…so please, if this resonates please share creative ways to enjoy life without moola in the comment box below!  I listed some of my favorites below.

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  1. ) YouTube videos and/or Meetup for free yoga work outs.
  2. ) Attending group meditation sits that are strictly donation-based through The Vipassana Meditation Website
  3. ) Walks in the park.
  4. ) Hiking these gorgeous Oregon mountains (best done when you can carpool with others to save on gas money.)
  5. ) Cooking and baking at home, I have discovered that I suck at making stir-fry and sweet potato burgers, but I am pretty good at black bean with beets burgers :).
  6. ) Inventing new NutriBullet smoothies every morning.  I have come up with some of the weirdest concoctions, but my favorite is: spinach, mixed greens, carrots, bananas, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, mango, peanut butter, coconut flakes and cashew milk……..pure yummmmminessss!
  7. ) Inviting friends over, they bring over wine/weed, I make us snacks, and we watch movies or talk about metaphysical subjects all night long…..this soooooo beats going to the bars!
  8. ) Blogging! 😉
  9. ) Running/walking outside, because let’s face it folks….gyms are freaking expensive, ayeeeee yi yi!!!!!!!!!!!
  10. ) Movies and popcorn at home, yeeeahhhhhh!!!
  11. ) Doing trades with friends, sharing our skills with each other.
  12. ) Checking out a crap-ton of books from the library.  🙂  Current read: Love Hurts

 

 

Adventure Intermission, Let’s Talk Facebook Here

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I  was going to have my next blog post be about my Ireland adventure, but my heart is guiding me to take a little break in the adventures and share something that has been gnawing at me.  I deactivated my Facebook a little over two weeks ago and I wanted to express what has happened for me in doing so.  I have a few blogging friends that have also gone on the Facebook-free wagon and I’ll be featuring those lovely ladies on this post as well.  First and foremost I would like to mention that while this might be a blog post that is bashing Facebook, I don’t want anyone to read this and get upset.  The main reason I wanted to post this was to get thoughts from my blogging friends out there, I’m curious if anyone else has been going through similar experiences with Facebook or if I’m just possibly over thinking it all and I just need to chill out :).

As I was hiking at the beautiful Powell Butte here in Portland the other day, an inspiration hit me to create a questionnaire/survey to be taken by people that have deleted or deactivated their Facebook accounts and when a couple friends expressed interested in it, I decided to get the ball rolling.  I myself answered the questions to the survey, as seen on the first one below.  I also have a few blogging friends that answered the survey following mine and one friend that is not on the blogosphere that answered the survey as well.  Basically I wanted to get a feel for what it might be, collectively, that is driving a lot of us to turn our Facebooks off.  I wanted to get some answers and then share them so that other people out there in the world that might be going through similar feelings can feel less alone in this.    Let’s face it folks, Facebook is everywhere and if you don’t have it there is a serious feel of alienation…well, take a look at my answers and see how I feel!

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join?  I remember my cousin talking about Facebook around 2005-2006, but it seemed to be mostly popular with kids going to big colleges/universities, so I didn’t think it was for me.  I did have a MySpace and was pretty addicted to that, I loved updating my backround songs on MySpace and changing the background designs, I even met my first long-term boyfriend on MySpace, haha.  It was actually that boyfriend that inspired me to create a Facebook account in about 2008 and I got hooked/addicted to it pretty quickly.

How long have you been off of Facebook now?  I deactivated my Facebook about 2 weeks ago, but this isn’t the first time I have done this.  I was without Facebook from about October-January last year, so the longest that I have gone without Facebook is for almost 3 months.

What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook?  Wow, where do I start?! Honestly, I had a lot of reasons that motivated me to finally hit the “deactivate” button on my account.  The biggest reason was that I decided it wasn’t helping me with my mindfulness practice.  When I was traveling with my friends in Ireland, I got completely distracted after I put up a new picture on my Facebook account and got a ton of likes/comments…this in return took my attention away from the fact that, “holy shit I’m in Ireland!”  Instead of being where I was, I was sucked into a screen.  I have an addictive personality by nature, I have given up a lot of addictions, but I was definitely noticing that I was completely addicted to the excitement that I got when my phone lit up with new alerts on Facebook.  I was also motivated to deactivate so that I could focus on my life, with an impending career change and figuring out where I was going to live next, I really had no time for distraction.  Another motivating factor was CONNECTION, I want to feel real, raw in-your-face connection.  I love intimate gatherings, I love going on hikes with friends, I love talking about weird metaphysical stuff with friends and I felt like a good majority of my “connection” on Facebook felt robotic.  And lastly, I felt like my energy was being sucked away on things not for me!  I would have Facebook friends that would air all of their dirty laundry on there, they’d rant about their personal lives and discuss their hatred for certain politicians.  It hit me that when I scrolled down my Facebook feed, it made me physically ill sometimes just taking on other people’s negativity.

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How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook?  It has been incredibly enlightening!  I have gotten a ton accomplished!  I got all of my affairs in order to go teach English overseas, even though it looks like that will be put on hold because Visa paperwork isn’t going through (stay tuned for that future blog post, haha) I have picked up on my writing again–finally completing TWO FULL BLOG POSTS, I found temp work here in Portland until I plan to take off, I have had get-togethers with close friends, I have had deep, soulful chats with friends, hikes/walks/runs in nature.  I have cooked and baked more.  I have had long phone chats with friends/family that live across the country from me.  I have felt energetically clear and I feel like I’m being less pulled into things that were never meant for me.  When I went on Facebook, I’d feel like my mind was kind of static-like…I don’t know how to put it in words I guess,  but basically I just felt like there were too many things pulling at my energy.

What are some things that you miss about Facebook?  There are friends and aquaintances that I definitely miss, people from previous jobs that I have worked at, seeing friends’ kiddos growing up, there were plenty of positive posts that I miss.  But I got to thinking lately, never ever in history have we been able to stay connected with people from our past the way that we can now days….but maybe, just maybe, we aren’t supposed to stay in contact with every single person we meet.  It’s all about vibration, we come in and out of each other’s lives for certain times and then we exit….letting go gives us freedom to move on and forward.  I have so many memories of all of the amazing and sweet souls that I have been blessed to come into contact with in my life, but it doesn’t mean I need to know what they are having for breakfast today.  Instead, I choose to smile at the memories and come fully into where I am and who I am with right now.  Facebook has served it’s purpose for a time in my life, I do have gratitude for the connections it indeed brought me, but just as we have to let go of people in our life…I’m going to let go of my old attachment to Facebook.  I do miss posting my blog posts on Facebook and I should come clean on that–I do have a Facebook page for my blog website, but I can’t see any other people on Facebook, it is strictly for updating my site on there.  I have 111 Facebook followers (thanks guys!) on my page and I didn’t want them to miss my new posts. :). Anyhow, let’s read my blogger friend’s thoughts….

The beautiful Gina from Virtually Gina answered the Facebook survey I sent her, read her thoughts below!

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join? Spring 2008. My then-fuckboi (now-husband) Jeff had just moved to Florida and it seemed like it would be a good way to stay in contact with him.

How long have you been off of Facebook now? This round of deactivation has lasted 16 days. I’ve had a few Facebook-free stints. The longest I’ve gone was four years without it (2009-2013).

What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook? In 2009, I wanted to heal following a particularly nasty break-up. Most recently, though, I have found that an active Facebook life clutters my mind in a way that I don’t appreciate. When I’m off of Facebook, my mind starts to settle. Life becomes quieter. I find it easier to live moment-to-moment without that alluring “pull” of the blue-and-white F-bomb. (Get it? That’s supposed to be funny.)

How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook? Quiet and, at times, fulfilling. I’ve done a lot more baking and reading. I’ve posted one blog, done a few art projects, and even taken to altering a few items of clothing. I like to get crafty with my raiment; it helps me stay fashionable without impinging on my bank account.

What are some things that you miss about Facebook? Seeing thoughtful posts from co-workers and friends, links to interesting articles, photos of my BFF Katy’s kids, and the occasional invite to an event that I would actually attend. I have to keep in mind that in order to access the aforementioned items, I have to sift through tons of ego-based posts, annoying selfies (including my own – haha), photos of people’s kids whom I’ve never even met and probably never will, links to boring articles, and invites to events that I cannot or would not attend in the first place. So, finding items of quality on Facebook sometimes feels like sifting for diamonds in the rubble.

Aleya from Alohaleya shares her answers to the survey below and she wrote a recent article about Facebook as well, read that here: Is Life Better without Facebook?

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join?  I first created a Facebook account in 2006 or 2007. I think it was for curiosity more than anything. Most of my friends were on it so I had to see what all the fuss was about. 🙂 I don’t think I was that addicted to it though – I remember cancelling my account about a year later. 

How long have you been off of Facebook now?  I’ve been off Facebook since June 2016. I’d been on and off a few times in the past few years…but this is definitely the longest I’ve been without it. I seemed to have moved past the temptation phase of reactivating my account.  

What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook? So many reasons, very similar to yours. It was not only eating up my time, but I didn’t like who I was while using Facebook. I was judging and comparing a lot, and feeling bad about myself.

Now, one can argue that Facebook isn’t the cause of those things (i.e., we can’t blame Facebook!). But there’s something about the setup of Facebook, the way it provides a continuous feed of other peoples’ thoughts, opinions, and photos – many of which are negative and fear-based – that it takes a LOT of effort and discipline to not get sucked into all the ego stuff it activates. It just wasn’t worth it to me anymore. I wanted all that gone – I wanted to consciously focus my time and energy on things that were life and soul-affirming. Like reading books! 

How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook? It feels a lot simpler. I have more energy to devote to the things I really enjoy doing. Things feel more authentic – because hardly anyone is truly authentic on Facebook (including me, when I was on it).

What are some things that you miss about Facebook?   Knowing what’s gong on in my city/community – I’ve missed hearing about some fun events, because most people I know communicate them through through Facebook. It’d also be nice to share my writing, blog, etc. with the wide network I had before, but…oh well! Overall, I’m happier without it.

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Nicole from Beninlife shares her answers to the Facebook survey below:

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join?  I joined Facebook in 2005, though I cannot recall the reason why! I suppose MySpace was being phased out and Facebook was becoming more popular so I joined the trend.
How long have you been off of Facebook now?   The first time I deactivated my account, I stayed off for three years! Then in 2009, I bought a house with my former partner and thought we could post home improvement projects for our friends and family to see, so I reactivated it.  The second time I deactivated my account was just recently, in December of 2016.
What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook?  The last year, there has been an intense build up around the recent Presidential elections.  I did not realize at the time, but reading several posts daily that seemed to be dividing society on political, social and environmental issues finally resulted in me being in a constant state of anxiety.  I am currently serving with the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa and I realized I was not being present with my community nor the projects I was working on.  I would constantly check Facebook to see if I missed anything, as this has been my only connection to the states since arriving in Benin in 2015.  This addictive behavior really disturbed me, so I decided deactivating my account was a simple solution to decreasing my anxiety and increasing the level of being present within my daily life.
How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook?  My life has become so much more simple!  I was worried at first that I would lose connection with friends and family back home, but in fact our connection has increased.  I have become more proactive in sending emails, making phone calls, updating my blog, and writing letters.  As far as my community, I have been able to focus more on my projects as well as integrating. I realized that everyone is watching the U.S.A right now, and the biggest action I can take is showing the locals in Benin that Americans can be kind and that we are here to help versus discriminate.
What are some things that you miss about Facebook?  Facebook had become my news source, which is a good and bad thing! As I cannot verify the validity of the news sources that are posted on Facebook, I have a newfound interest in researching credible news sources and staying more informed on world issues objectively.

And last, but certainly not least, Chaya from Chaya Grossberg shares her take on deactivating Facebook:

When social media first became popular, I was going through some major challenges that had me isolated and not able to read, write or use the internet much for a few years. This was in 2000-2003. When I emerged from that, I thought people still used floppy discs. I had been on 7 psychiatric drugs and bedridden from drug induced fatigue and mental impairment for about a year…but was still a writer at heart.

After that I briefly dated a guy who lived across the street from me, who I literally met while I was moongazing one night (quite the opposite of online dating). He talked about Friendster and would use it to invite his friends to events and parties. This seemed very foreign to me. A lot of the time I couldn’t tell if he was talking about his friends or his “Friendsters” since it seemed a lot of the people he was Friendsters with weren’t actual friends, though I couldn’t tell. I eventually tried Friendster in 2006 because another friend suggested it as a way to meet guys to date and I was coming out of a relationship that was hard for me to move on from.
 
This worked poorly to get me a date with a guy I had no interest in!
 
I resisted Facebook, but joined in 2008, I believe. I didn’t get a smartphone until 2014, and didn’t have internet at home, so I would only use Facebook in conjunction with everything else I did online for about an hour at the library, or at an office where I worked. I still found it pretty annoying, and tried to keep most of my interactions off of it. If someone wrote to me on there, I would email them back instead of replying on Facebook, or sometimes even call them instead.
 
I was excited to be able to reconnect with old friends though. I’d had so many powerful connections in childhood, high school and college and in my earlier twenties that I felt sad to lose due to moving away and different life paths and had actually fantasized about some way to be able to stay in contact with all of them. So that part was very exciting to me at first, tracking people down, getting surprise friend requests from old friends, seeing people’s photos and what they were up to. I didn’t get addicted right away, though. I would only use the internet for about an hour a day, so I made lists of things I needed to do (I still do this, but with a smart phone it’s much harder to limit access), and there wasn’t endless time for Facebooking.
 
I have been off Facebook now for about 4-5 months. I deactivated a month and a half before the 2016election and then went back on for one day, right after the election. I’ve gone back on a couple of other times for a few hours, including on my birthday, but even the birthday withes on Facebook had completely lost their charm.

When I first deactivated, I thought it would just be for a week or so, maybe a month tops. Up until then, I knew I was addicted to Facebook, but like many people, I needed it to create events, spread the word about things I was doing, market my business, share my writing, find out about events, stay in touch with new friends…the list was endless.

And then one day… none of those things seemed necessary or relevant, and I had reached a breaking point. Facebook was ruining my life. I felt like I had thousands of Facebook friends but almost no real ones. I realized I was looking for real friends on Facebook, when I needed to leave Facebook to find people who were interested in engaging off of Facebook! Simple logic, but it hadn’t occurred to me before. I thought that if I expressed something on Facebook, my friends on there would want to talk to me about it by phone or meet up in person (which did happen a few times, but more often than not people were on Facebook to engage on Facebook), when in fact they were just as addicted to Facebook as I was, and therefore didn’t have time to engage in real life.
What motivated me to deactivate Facebook was this extreme isolation I was feeling. It actually felt like I had reached a point where I knew it was my only choice for living a “real” life where I was actually present some of the time. I still get addicted to texting, email, and other internet and smartphone related things, but it does feel better now.
I wanted to see who I was without Facebook. It felt like such a powerful addiction that it had taken over my life. The few times I went back on I was flooded with negative emotions such as anxiety, jealousy, sadness, shame, embarrassment and generally feeling competitive with or rejected by others (even when I got a lot of likes and positive comments). All I could think of was who didn’t like me or my posts, and my Facebook friends who were no longer really in my life. I’ve moved around a lot and therefore have lost touch with thousands of friends. Facebook had become a reminder of everyone who was no longer in my life. Being Facebook friends with these people started to feel much worse than not having any contact at all, because it simply reminded me that these people were no longer actually available to me for real connection.
I felt this heaviness around Facebook, like I was expected to keep up with so many people and like it was an unpaid job to keep track of what thousands of people were doing or thinking.
I would also get jealous of people who were more popular than me and always got hundreds of likes on everything they posted. I would literally think there must be something wrong with me or my friends must strongly dislike me or find me annoying if I wasn’t getting as many likes as so and so. But there was no amount of likes that would ever make me feel better and in fact, the more likes I got, the more obsessive I became and the more “rejected” I felt.
Since I deactivated, all of that has fallen away! I no longer feel preoccupied with grief over people who are no longer actively in my life, or jealousy over people who are more popular than me. There are hundreds of people I no longer think about much at all, but when I do it feels more grounded.
 
I realized I was also okay with letting people forget about me, if that would happen due to me not being on Facebook. In fact I feel much lighter and like I’m not holding onto all these people or expecting them to hold me in their consciousness all the time. Then when someone does reach out to me, it feels real, and when I think about people or reach out to them, I know it is because I naturally want to do so. I’m not reacting to Facebook “propaganda” or pressure, or putting any weight on others to respond to me in that way.
 
Everything feels lighter and it took awhile, but I’ve attracted some other friends who don’t use Facebook, or who hardly use it.
 
Everything in my life got better when I left Facebook. For the first few weeks I felt so high, and so pleased with myself for finally kicking my addiction. I don’t miss it at all! It was like night and day how I went from my life revolving around Facebook, to my life revolving around my actual needs and actual real life connections.
 
I do get isolated sometimes, which has always been an issue for me as someone who enjoys a lot of solitude, but now I don’t numb out the isolation with Facebook. I either feel it or reach out in a real way like by making a phone call or going out. I do still sometimes engage in other addictive internet behaviors when I’m isolated, such as excessive reading, but at least I am targeting specific topics that I want to read about rather than scrolling mindlessly and passively on a newsfeed about infinite topics that I’m not actively choosing.
 
Not being on Facebook makes me feel sort of like everyone else is caught in a fake reality, but I don’t judge anyone for using it. I simply pat myself on the back because I know I made the right choice for myself. Every time someone mentions this or that Facebook group, I simply feel relieved that I won’t be checking it out.
 
Now that I’m off I have no idea how I ever had the time or mental space to absorb that much constant mental stimulation. I used to get really curious about certain other people from my past and look them up on Facebook; this was part of my addiction. I was neglecting my own life to passively observe what other people were doing. Now that I don’t do that, it seems so obvious that minding my own business is a healthier and more integrated lifestyle for me.
 
A lot of the activist organizing (and arguing) that took place in my Facebook feed (and in my mind) no longer even seems real. It literally seems like just mental activity in other people’s minds that has no relevance to me whatsoever.
 
I also notice that I use email and texting more, and I sign up for more email lists because I don’t feel bombarded with input.
What do I miss about Facebook? I miss some of the really amazing writing of my friends and even some writers and celebrities who only post their writing on Facebook. I wish they would put them on blogs as well so I could follow them. I even considered emailing some of my favorite Facebook posters to ask them to start blogs, but never got around to it.
 
I miss seeing posts about spontaneous opportunities to meet up with people, and being invited to the private events of new friends who don’t know me well enough to invite me personally when I’m not on Facebook.
 
There’s a website called allevents.in that allows me to see all of the public Facebook events in my area, so that helps a lot (anyone can use it). I don’t miss people constantly marketing to me and inviting me to their workshops and whatnot (except for the very small percentage which actually interested me).
 
I actually don’t even miss asking for advice about practical things on Facebook. But every once in awhile I do. Every once in awhile Facebook seems like it would be the perfect place for me to post a question, a request or share something I wrote. But I know it’s a slippery slope, so I generally refrain and use google or call a friend instead. I post things on Google plus, Patreon, and my own blog, where I don’t get sucked into any rabbit holes of scrolling or obsession or distractions that waste my energy that I could be using to face my own life and address my problems.
One other thing I miss is links to really good articles. But I don’t miss it that much. I get less news for sure, but even that feels pretty healthy so that I can focus my energies more constructively on things I can actually do something about. Reading the news can make me feel powerless. Instead, I’ve mostly been reading things that inspire me or help me improve my health, or interesting stories. I like having less input too, because it allows my imagination more space to find its own realities and solutions.

Following the Heart; Adventure Part Dos.

image6The Northern Lights as seen from Iceland.  Photo Credit: Eyal Saiet

As promised from my previous post, I am going to blog about my adventures overseas that I was blessed with throughout the last half of December and first part of January.  I am currently going on a third day of being cooped up inside after Portland’s worst snowstorm in decades, so it’s forcing me to finally write and I am loving that fact!  Who would of thought that one of the things that I dread most (snow) would bring me to finally working on one of my prized passions (writing)? I will take it. 🙂

So after playing around in the Redwoods for a few days and volunteering at a meditation course for ten days, I headed back to Portland for a quick reorganization of my backpacks before flying overseas to Iceland.  My friend Heather was gracious enough to let me crash at her place in Portland for the couple nights before my flight.  The day I was to fly out of Portland I decided that it would be a good idea to go on a long run at my most favorite park in Portland, Mount Tabor.  As soon as I left her house, my jogging shoes almost stepped on half a globe lying in the street.  I kid you not, how synchronous is that?  I took a picture of it for proof!  I took it as a good indicator that I was on the correct path.

image1-4Signs…

My flight to Reykjavik, Iceland was easygoing, I sat next to a sweet young couple that held hands the whole plane ride and excitedly told me about their plans to rent a car to drive around the whole country of Iceland for nine days of holiday.  The 7 1/2 hour flight from Portland to Reykjavik went incredibly fast as I filled it up with movies, music, reading, and a couple meditation sessions.  We had a smooth landing and arrived at around 8:00 in the morning.  As I embarked on the one hour bus ride from the airport to the main Reykjavik bus hub I noticed that the sun wasn’t even close to coming out.  It hit me that I arrived to a country that is notorious for short winter days and it happened to be December 21st, the shortest day of the year….yikes.

My sweet Air BNB host, Dia, picked me up from the bus terminal and navigated the snowy highways cautiously, she informed me that they hadn’t had any snow up until two days prior to my arrival.  I felt as if I was back in my homeland of Minnesota, the dark day mixed in with the fresh powder of snow was all too familiar.  After arriving at Dia’s house and stashing my stuff, the sun was just starting to come out, around 9:45am.  Dia explained to me how to get into town from her place with the city bus that had a bus stop directly in front of her apartment.  I had been up for almost 36 hours at that point, but I was so excited to explore that I definitely caught a second wind.

The city bus pulled up in front of Dia’s apartment pretty quick after I arrived, I greeted the driver and plopped down on the warm seat.  Hearing all of the Icelandic language being spoken around me along with the grey glow of light peaking through the city bus windows had me pinching the back off my hand to question if I wasn’t just actually dreaming.  To me, being sleep deprived upon entering a foreign land is one of the most surreal experiences ever.  It was really nice being on the bus and taking in the brand new views without having to worry about driving in the massive amounts of snow.

image2-2 A view of Reykjavik harbor in the distance

I got off the bus as soon as it entered the main Downtown area of Reykjavik.  I marveled at the cute European shops and art murals lining the streets.  After walking the streets and just taking in the new culture for about an hour, some hunger pangs hit me.  I realized I hadn’t ate a full meal since lunchtime in Portland the day prior.  My first stop was at an ATM which involved the ATM eating my Icelandic money back into the machine and there was no phone number anywhere listed on the machine.  I went into my head and spiraled a bit thinking, “Damn, it’s colder than Minnesota here and Iceland stole my $80 and I don’t know why I decided to come to Iceland in December, am I crazy?!”

Upon the mini-freak out, I decided to anchor in at a little convenience store and munched on a unique Icelandic cheese panini.  I wrote half a dozen post cards and watched the day-to-day workers and students passing by the front window.  After eating and calming down a bit, I decided to venture back out into the city.  I walked a lot for the rest of that day, getting lost a multitude of times and stopping in to warm up in stores every 20 minutes or so as it had been a while since I have had to deal with below freezing weather.

Anxiety hit me from time to time because it had been a while since I traveled a foreign country on my own.  I tend to have a bit of the good ol’ A.D.D. too and sometimes forget that I need to be paying attention to landmarks and street signs since I didn’t have another set of eyes with me.  At one point I got so in a trance taking pictures of the beautiful graffiti art that encompasses Reykjavik that I got lost, trying to find my bus stop.  It just so happened that a blizzard decided to start at the same time.  I didn’t end up bringing my warm winter jacket to Iceland because I knew I’d only be in Iceland 3 days and I didn’t want to trudge it around for the 2 ½ weeks that I’d be in Ireland.

image2-3image1-5 The trippy artwork that inspired me to get lost in Reykjavik :).

I brought out my paper map of Reykjavik from my backpack and after looking at the street signs, it hit me that I was completely turned around.  I asked a couple that walked past me in the desolate residential neighborhood I was in for directions and they informed me with broken English that they weren’t from Iceland either.  I started to head down what seemed like the correct direction, only to be brought into an even more desolate residential area. The snow was coming down so hard and it was becoming hard to see.  My clothes were completely cold and sopping wet.  I realized that if I were to have another mini-freak out it wouldn’t help me to get drier or find my way out of being lost.

The neighborhood that I found myself lost in was eerily quiet, I could only here the soft patter of snow landing on the ground and parked cars around me.  There wasn’t a store, person or car driving in sight.  It felt slightly as if I was in a nightmare that I had created all on my own.  Again, my inner child started freaking out in my head and that’s when it hit me that I was forgetting to breathe.  I practice meditation not to escape life, but to utilize it as a tool for when difficult situations (such as the one I was in) arise.  The breath centered me and I came back to the logical reasoning of heading back from the direction I came from before going further into the void.  I came back upon the street where I initially realized I was lost and ran into a human angel that stopped, looked at my map and pointed me into the correct streets to get back to the bus stop.

The bus stop had a warm store near it that I got a hot espresso from and warmed up my bone-chilled body the best I could.  I glanced at the clock in the store and it hit me that I had been up officially for 43 hours, instead of further exploring the city, I decided in my sleepless state of mind that would probably be best to head back to Dia’s place.  And it’s good I did because I got lost two more times realizing that I had taken two of the wrong bus transfers to get back to Dia’s place.  When I finally was on the right bus, my head kept nodding off as if I was a heroin junkie and I almost missed my stop because I was half asleep.

After sleeping for 12+ hours at Dia’s, I ended up sleeping through my alarm and missed catching the tour bus that I had signed up for the day prior that was to take off at 10:30 that morning to a few Icelandic nature spots at the famous Golden Circle.  My mind went into spiral mode again “oh mannnnnnnnn, an ATM stole $80 from me, the food has been crazy expensive here, and now they’re probably going to make me pay for a second ticket because I was a slacker that slept through my alarm.”  I came back to my breath yet again, “Chill Ilona!  Chill!  The girl that sold you the ticket yesterday was an absolute sweetheart and she will be a sweetheart about this situation too I’m sure.”  I was completely correct on that accord, the girl was super kind again when I got to the tour bus location and she booked me onto the next bus without any extra fee.

image5 Making peace with the bitter cold in front of Gullfoss waterfall.

The Golden Circle was beautiful and jaw-dropping despite the bitter cold.  The tour consisted of Gullfoss waterfall, Strokkur geyser and Thingvellir National Park, but it was a speed version of it as we only had four hours of daylight, it made me crave thoughts of coming back to Iceland in summer months and driving around on my own.  As we loaded back onto the bus to head back to Reykjavik, the stars looked amazing and the clouds had an other worldy color that for a split second I mistook for possible Northern Lights.  I realized that I had only one last night in Iceland and it would be spent in the city, so my chances of seeing the Northern Lights, I was told by many, was slim to none.  The tour bus driver informed us that some people come to Reykjavik for a whole week and never end up seeing the Northern Lights, it’s truly all about timing, clear skies, and luck.

image4 Strokkur Geyser doing it’s thang!  It goes off every 5-10 minutes.image3-2 Thingvellir National Park, where you get to walk between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates!  They are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimeters per year.

After the bus dropped us off, I walked the city streets unsure of what to do next or where to go, I stumbled upon a delicious Chinese buffet.  As I settled in with my Icelandic beer and first mouth-watering plate, I turned my almost-dead phone on, I had just a little bit of battery juice left.  I noticed a few messages from a fellow traveler that I met through an online traveling website and had been corresponding with the couple weeks leading up to my trip.  He had rented a car and was just coming back from the countryside into the city and wondered if I’d like to go find some hot springs with him?  PERFECT!  What an excellent last idea for my last night in Iceland, I thought to myself.  My new travel buddy, Eyal, arrived to the Chinese buffet at the speed of light and joined me for a drink.  After we talked and gained a rapport, I realized I was with a cool human and we started our hot springs hunting.

The first hot springs that we were trying to get to didn’t end up existing, or if it did it exist, it didn’t want us to find it.  The second hot springs we came about was in a first ring city right outside of Reykjavik and it turned out to be a foot-soaking hot springs.  As we headed back to his car we both looked up and spotted green skies.  Wait what?  Green skies?!!?!  The colors grew thicker and wider and stretched upon the sky as if it was an amusement park light show.  It danced and changed length or size.  Eyal broke out his camera and started taking time lapse photos.  The wind chill was hitting our bones, but at that point the light show above our heads was so wild that I didn’t care if I got frost bite.

By the time the natural light show was over, we attempted to go to one last hot springs, only to find that there was no water in it.  I was so completely elated that I got to see the Northern Lights that I was happy to head back to my air BNB without having a hot springs soak.  Eyal and I agreed to drive to the airport together the next morning since we both had flights around the same time, only his was to Norway and mine was to Ireland. My host and her husband were home and they let Eyal crash their floor impromptu and Dia packed my backpack with chocolate from an Icelandic chocolate factory that she works at, it was a lovely last night in their home.

Stay tuned for the Ireland adventures on my next blog post!  Thanks for reading 🙂

Following the Heart; Adventure Part Uno.

I woke up today with intentions to get all of my “adult” stuff in order.  There are certain forms that I need to fill out, emails that I need to respond to, and passwords that I need to remember.  Then it hit me that all of the paperwork that I need to do is in my car which is miles away from where I am and a record breaking snowstorm that hit Portland two days ago literally has me snowed in.  My egoic mind was very displeased with this “but you have to do that paperwork now, if you don’t get all of that in order now, your world will come crashing down.”  I laughed out loud when I heard that one and then a more gentle feeling came over me.  The knots in my stomach released and a soft voice said “write.”

 

I haven’t touched my blog in months and it has been painful not doing so.  Every time that I leave my writing hanging, it feels as if there is a gaping hole in my soul.  I journal pretty consistently which helps, but there is something about blogging that fulfills that feeling of emptiness that ensues every time I drift away from it for months.  So here I am, showing up to it and it is feeling great so far.

 

The last month and a half has been filled with many adventures that I have been blessed with.  My heart called me to a few different places that I didn’t think I would ever actually get around to going to.  In this was: The Redwoods of Northern California, volunteering at a 10-day meditation retreat, Iceland, Ireland, New York, New Jersey, New York once more and then back to home sweet Portland, Oregon.  All along the way trying to come back to the breath at every moment, despite how uncomfortable it felt at times to be completely out of routine and not knowing where I was going next.

 

The Redwoods of Northern California was a welcome bliss after having worked for the last year in Portland and taking classes simultaneously.  I packed up my car, jetted down south from Portland and arrived at the cutest little Air BNB  in Crescent City.  My first full day was spent at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park hiking the beautiful Boy Scout Tree Trail, a 5.6 mile jaunt through peaceful and quiet Redwoods.  I found the most perfect tree to sit in and meditate halfway through the hike.  Afterwards I opened my eyes to pinch myself and double check to see if I was dreaming up this amazing solitude in the trees, but the pain of the pinch reminded me that this was indeed the material world.

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Two full days were spent hiking different trails in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Tolowa Dunes State Park.  I also had a brief stop into the city of Arcata where I picked up some delicious coffee and some new thrift store threads for the coming winter months.  Between Crescent City and Arcata, as I was speeding along Highway 101, I came across a herd of wild elk that were peacefully gazing to the side of the highway, reminding me to slow down and enjoy the journey.  I had never seen anything like it, it was pure beauty with the sun setting behind them.

 

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After giving a gigantic hug to my Crescent City, amazing Air BNB  host, it was back to the road again to embark on a four hour drive to where a 10-day meditation retreat was awaiting me.  I arrived to the location a bit earlier than everyone else, I set my giant backpack down in the quiet home where us volunteers would sleep.  I had initially signed up to sit the course as a student and not volunteer at it, but I had a sudden inspiration to change my registration to volunteer instead one week prior.  Even though I knew that the next 10 days was going to be a lot of strenuous work, mentally and physically, I had the feeling that I was exactly where I needed to be.

 

This would be my third time at a 10-day silent retreat, my second time as a volunteer.  After sitting quietly and meditating with my fellow bodhisattvas the next morning after my arrival, down to the kitchen we went to unload the first delivery of fresh produce.  We started cooking up the meal that the students would get upon their arrival.  Having had worked the kitchen at that location the year before, everything came back to me with ease and I was able to assist the new volunteers instead of standing around looking confused as I had the first day I ever started.

 

It was intense work as I had remembered before, waking up between 4:30 and 5:30am to get breakfast ready for the students and being on our feet for the whole day besides the three group meditation sits that we sat in with the students.  Despite the madness that can go on in the kitchen, my practice was always in effect at every moment,  always coming back to my breath and centering myself.  We started to get into a groove in the kitchen, with all of us volunteers seemingly floating through all the tasks that needed to get done.  Hiccups came up, of course, but the fact that every single volunteer there had sat a 10-day meditation retreat created an empathy in the kitchen like no other.

 

Halfway through the meditation course, the course female manager/assistant to the meditation teacher fell and had a concussion.  This threw things of course, quite literally as I was catapulted into the position never having done it before.  All of sudden, instead of sitting up front meditating with my fellow volunteers in from of 70 pairs of eyes, I was to keep track of 32 of those 70 pairs of eyes.  Anytime a female meditator cried, made significant noise or walked out of the building I was to open my eyes and get direction from the female meditation teacher on how to comfort the meditator or track down where they went.

 

“A new female manager halfway into a 10-day silent meditation course, there really is no other worse thing that I can think of to happen.  Every student is such in a difficult spot, I really can’t think of a more challenging situation occurring than this” the kitchen female manager stated to me as I walked into the kitchen on my first “official” day of being the female students manager.  I took a deep breath and realized that my meditation practice had prepped me for that exact kind of situation to arise.  And from that moment forward I stayed present with every single situation that arose, including assisting with five ladies over the next few days that made the difficult decision to leave the 10-day retreat early.  I was constantly on my feet and always alert during the group meditation to make sure I wasn’t missing any direction from the meditation teacher.

 

Before I knew it, the last morning of the meditation retreat arrived and I decided to go AWOL as soon as the last group meditation was over.  When the ladies at the retreat were able to talk on the previous day, I graciously accepted a few compliments from them, but I decided I wanted to take off before any more compliments could be said.  It hit me that I completely followed my heart correctly with that retreat, coming in to volunteer instead of being a student was exactly what was needed.  In the spirit of modesty though, I didn’t want to hear any more compliments.

 

Into the foggy clouds I went back up to Portland where I reorganized my backpacks and tied up a few loose ends before taking a flight out to Reykjavik, Iceland.  The flight was booked rather impulsively months prior when a friend invited me to travel with her and her husband throughout Ireland, Reykjavik was a relatively cheap stop-over flight to Ireland.  Reykjavik had been on my radar for a while as some friends had recently told me about how amazing it was and it was a quick stop over flight before Ireland.  I figured that it would be great to have some solo travel before joining them.

 

Cutting this short and will make a part two about Iceland and Ireland, so I hope that you stay tuned :)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synchronicity

I planned on doing a solo, dinner hike this evening after I got out of work.  It is quite lovely that even though I don’t get home from work past 6pm, I still have three hours to get a good hike in at the Columbia River Gorge, with the sunset not happening until a little past 9pm.  As I took the train home from work, I had my head buried in my Smart Phone investigating a new sunset hike in the Gorge that I haven’t tried yet.  I decided on Latourell Falls, a beautiful waterfall hike that I have done in years past, but have never done at sunset.

 

After I got home to my apartment from work, I rushed things.  I dropped out of my scrubs into hiking threads, whipped up a quick dinner on the stove and tossed it into a plastic container.  I grabbed my headlamp, water bottle, notebook, pen, pack and rushed out the door.  I cruised along I-84, took the exit to the historic highway and must have took a wrong turn because after driving for miles, Latourell Falls didn’t show up, but the Wahkeena Falls trail head did.  I didn’t fight it, I turned my vehicle into the lot.  It was nearing 8pm and I was hungry, drooling as I thought about the stove cooked meal still steaming in the plastic container I packed away.

 

As I walked up the beginning of the trailhead, my ego still fought the fact that we weren’t walking up the Latourell Falls trailhead.  “But this hike is laaaaaammmmeeee, it is half the hike that Latourell is and there are tourists every where….look!” My ego whined, but I didn’t acknowledge it, I just kept walking up hill.  Wahkeena Falls showed up in my vision ten minutes later.  I sat down on a bench kitty-corner to it, pulled out my newest book about lucid dreaming (given to me as a birthday present recently 😊) along with my stove cooked dinner and chilled out on the bench, smiling hello at a few passersby that walked by waving at me.

image3 (1)*Wahkeena Falls*

I filled my tummy up, read a few pages of my book, and then continued on.  I decided that I would follow the trail past Wahkeena Falls for at least half an hour, so that I could get a full hour-long hike in.  It turned out that twenty minutes past Wahkeena, one of my favorite view points was up ahead, I didn’t remember the name of it. I just remembered it vividly from when a friend and I meditated on a couple large boulders by it a few years prior, with rain pouring down on us.  I then realized that I wasn’t too far from another set of falls because I remembered that my friend and I were embarking on a hike to Fairy Falls on that day that we meditated.  My ego started to get happy that we would do a longer hike than just Wahkeena Falls.

image1 (3).JPG*The majestic Fairy Falls*

After reaching the majestic Fairy Falls, on my way back down, I kept thinking “I need to write down the name of that viewpoint that is on the way to these falls.”  Earlier on I had noticed that there was a plaque on one of the boulders that my friend and I had meditated on years ago, but I had never read it.  I just felt that it would be something good to know, especially when my fellow kindred hiker-co-worker would inevitably ask me where my most recent hike was. Also, on the way back from Fairy Falls, my monkey-mind was all over the place and a thought came to me about how when I was five years old, I announced that when I grew up, I wanted to be either a “writer or a teacher.”

 

That particular thought came to me because pretty soon I will be taking TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses in Portland and there have been lots of worries in my mind about how it will manifest…such as which country I will end up in?  I thought about how when I was a kid, I truly did know my soul path…as writing is something I have always done, pretty much daily since I was able to figure out how to put a pen to paper.  This teaching thing though, this will be coming to fruition, but not in the typical teaching way that I would have envisioned.  My monkey-mind went to all sorts of thoughts, lots of fears came up…about relocating to a whole new country to teach and what not, but then a thought popped into my mind, it hit my mind so abruptly that it was as if it wasn’t my own.

 

“Yeah, but Ilona!  If you are passionate about something, you will do it regardless of fear or danger–think about firefighters for an example–they do it all the time!!”

 

And then I got back to the viewpoint.  The sunset had the sky looking as if it were on fire.  I sat on the same boulder that I sat on with my friend in years prior.  I decided to meditate there again.  A few minutes into meditating, it felt as if I were surrounded in light, I felt so peaceful and at one with all of the sounds around me.  I opened my eyes, jumped off of the boulder and sat in front of it to finally read the plaque in front of it that I never read years prior.

In memory of Keith L. Lemmons.  Firefighter, who lost his life fighting fire August 1983.  As a native Oregonian, he was proud of the beauty of his state and was dedicated to the protection and preservation of this area for future generations.”

Chills ran up and down my body.  Many argue on the subject of signs and synchronicities. Many chalk it up to coincidences,  but the “woo-woo” in me can’t help but to think there is something more.  We are all SO MUCH MORE CONNECTED THAN WE THINK> what do you say?  I want to hear your stories on synchronicities, if you have some….please do share!!

 

image2 (1)*View from Lemmon’s Viewpoint on the way to Fairy Falls*