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.
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.
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 courses’ 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 front 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 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 small talk/compliments as I truly just wanted to serve and move on.
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 :)!