Reflecting

IMG_6499[1]Recently taken at the beautiful Bryce Canyon National Park just a couple hours from where I now live!

I didn’t intend to write a blog post today.  I actually haven’t been writing a whole lot lately, besides in my journal.  I just had a really intense moment as I hoofed it by foot over to the library this morning (I have been trying to do 1-2 days per week of no driving) and I got inspired.  The moment made me want to write it down as soon as possible before I forgot it.  I thought that this would be the perfect place to share it because I feel like someone out there needs to read it and I haven’t written a post in a while.

Lately I have been stressing out about many different things and it has no doubt been manifesting out into my physical reality.  Just lots of tough, dense, life darkness and yet on the other hand, I know that I have had so many blessings as well.  It’s just that, my monkey mind has been on full-swing and I haven’t been sticking with my meditation practice as strongly as I used to….it truly is amazing to see the difference which occurs when I don’t stick with it.  I don’t want to delve into too many of the details of what is going on in my life, but the best way to put it is that I am finally facing a ton of my crap that I can no longer run away from.

So, as I am walking to the library, with cars whizzing by me, loud sirens and car alarms going off…my mind was doing it’s wandering.  As it was wandering, it was playing out all of these different scenarios, such as “Ohhhh, maybe if I decide to take that path, that will create happiness and peace in my life, ohhhh maybe I shouldn’t have done that and then I wouldn’t have found myself in this situation, etc. etc. etc…” It was creating straight up novels based upon a future that hasn’t happened yet and the past that is no longer.  As the stories built up, the anxiety in my chest got stronger.

I turned the corner to head down the main street that gets me to the library.  Everything went quiet since it’s a residential street and it doesn’t have much traffic usually. All of a sudden, my anxiety dissipated and everything felt just like pure peace.  I looked over to my right and in someone’s house window was a message that simply stated “Enjoy the journey.”  All of my worries, all of my planning just dropped like a giant Jenga tower and again, I just felt the pure peace of the moment.  Not one minute later, I noticed a cemetery to the right of the house that I had never noticed before since I always drive to the library.

As I passed by all the tombstones, the wind gently pushed in the direction towards the library causing a chill up and down my spine. I started reading the messages on the tombstones, one in particular was a man that passed away in 2008, he was almost the exact same age as me. Further on, I kept noticing how unique and personal each tombstone was and how there were so many different ages, from a baby that had only lived a week to a man in his late 90s.  I started nearing towards the end and there was a sign that had a message on it, but it was bent and blocked by a big bush, so the only word that was visible on it was bright lettering that stated:

“NOW.”

It just seemed like a pretty clear message to me, as I was worrying the whole morning and night before. It can all end at any moment, truly, so to stay present with wherever you are is the most important.  I no longer want to dwell on past regrets as there isn’t anything that I can do regarding it, except to accept them as lessons.  I also don’t want to keep projecting a future that is yet to be, as Doris Day sang “whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see.”  While it’s good to do a little bit of planning, it’s also best to adjust to the flow and appreciate what is happening now.  I dunno, just a little musing for this Thursday morning, thanks for reading if ya have thus far.  Peace out!  🙂

Gratitude in Action

“I am so incredibly grateful that you and your car got us from Portland to this trailhead safely,” my friend Mary stated.

And now it was my turn...”I am so incredibly grateful that I have a refrigerator and cupboard stocked full of healthy foods.”

Another steep part of the hike was upon us, we both went back into the solitude of our minds until we reached flat land again.

I am so grateful for the household that I live in,” Mary said.

I am so grateful that I have my health to be able to do this awesome hike,” I said.

My friend Mary and I have been on many hikes throughout the Pacific Northwest together since I started hanging out with her almost three years ago.  A few weeks ago we ventured on a hike and came up with a new way of hiking. Each time we came upon a new incline to hike up, we had to each think of something near and dear to our heart that we were grateful for and then once we reached flat land again, we’d share with each other what we were thinking. We did it in some back lands behind Silver Falls in Silverton, Oregon.  The trail had many inclinations and there were no other souls around.  I felt so light and as if my body was buzzing throughout the hike.

I have always known the power of gratitude as I have seen it work wonders in others’ lives and my own.  Meditation has helped me to further integrate into the wonderful energy of gratitude. By being so completely present in the moment, everything seems like a miracle.  Of course, the monkey mind comes back quite often (dang it, I’m still human!) But for the most part, ever since starting my meditation practice half a decade ago, everything…a spoonful of delicious soup, resting my body on a comfortable bed, or having a meaningful conversation with a dear friend  have all become moments of gold.

A couple different spiritual teachers that I have been listening to lately have inspired me to start a new daily practice, I made up my own term for it, I call it “3 and 3.”  It’s super easy, doesn’t take a lot of time and is incredibly powerful.  I either do it at night or in the morning when I’m having my coffee.  Basically, I list three things in which I am grateful for, but honestly it’s more than just listing them…I actually try to really feel how deep my gratitude is for them.  Then I list three intentions that I have for that day (or if I’m doing this at night, I list three intentions for the next day.) I have found this to be a very powerful practice because more often than not I reach almost all of those intentions that day.

If that seems like a lot of extra activity to your already packed world, maybe just try to do it for the week.  So before the week starts, list three things you intend to get done that week and three things that you are in gratitude of from the last week.  I have found that actually writing them out, with pen and paper really seems to make it happen.  Do whatever works for you yo, I just hope you do give it a shot and see for yourself!

Peace out!

Revamping before 33!

The road to 33 is looking good!

I have gotten so off track from my initial intentions with what I wanted to do with this blog, but that is going to change!  When I started this blog (gasp) almost five years ago I entitled it “Ilona’s Meditation Challenge” because that’s what it was going to be.  My original plan was to write down what I noticed from starting a daily 20-minute meditation practice and it kind of twisted and turned into something completely different, it became a bit more random.  That’s okay though because from it I have gained a ton of blogging friends and acquaintances.  I would like to steer this blog vehicle though back on track and keep at it.

With my 33rd birthday coming around the corner it has hit me that I truly am not getting any younger here.  So with that, I want to work on sharing a blog post at least once a week about all things MIND, BODY, AND SOUL!  I want to inspire others to be the best versions of themselves, to help remind them that WE CAN CHANGE OUR WAYS and that IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.  The only way that we can make that truly happen though is to have the desire to change, that is the first step.

So in the coming weeks, I will be challenging myself (as my blog page is now accurately named) to post one blog post per week that has everything to do with: meditation, healthy eating, exercise, and anything else that you can think of that helps to heal MIND, BODY, AND SOUL.  I am going to release any guilt that I have held onto about wasting time or any ways in which I have been unconscious.  I want to change within, bring it out into the world and inspire others if they too have this similar goal.

Please join me in these coming weeks.  I plan on sharing what I notice with my two daily meditations (I have now been meditating for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening.) I will be sharing book reviews (I am currently reading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.) I will be recording guided meditations for you to listen to and try out. I might even try my hand at making a video or two!

The point is, we are all in this together.  Everything is truly connected and everything we thought we knew is not going to last.  So let’s prepare ourselves now so as not to freak out when the crumbling begins (which it has already started a bit anyhow.). Let’s become more conscious together.  Let’s take a look at our bullshit stories that keep running/ruining our lives and transform them.  Please take my hand and cross this river with me.
Peace!

From my jog this morning:


Amen to that!!!!!

Never Underestimate the Healing Powers of……

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Life can throw curve balls at us, some days are tougher than others. We are all in need of healing as long as we are living in these bodies, in this world. I thought it would be fun to make a list of what has helped me in healing myself from the struggles life can seem to make. I would love if you added activities/actions that have helped you to heal your mind, body and soul in the “comments” section below. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

Never Underestimate the Healing Powers of…..

–Curling up under a blanket and getting lost in a book.
–Waking up in the morning and drinking a full glass of water.
–Getting a back massage from a friend.
–Finding a new park or neighborhood that you have never been to and going for a walk in it.
–Writing three full pages of whatever is on your mind and not stopping until you get to the third page.
–Savoring a warm cup of hot chocolate/tea/coffee, drinking each sip mindfully.
–Sitting for twenty minutes, doing nothing but focusing strictly on each in-breath and each out-breath.
–Volunteering in your community.
–Playing music with others.
–Cooking a meal that you have never cooked before.
–Running/jogging for twenty minutes without stopping.
–Writing down what you dreamt of the night before.
–Drawing a picture.
–Painting a picture.
–Photography (check out my photos from Freak Alley in Boise, Idaho if you have time: Freak Alley.)
–Writing a story.
–Catching up with a friend that lives near you over a bowl of steaming Vietnamese pho.
–Hugging others fully, with two arms and for longer than three seconds.
–Caring for a furry friend.
–Having life conversation with an elderly person.
–Having life conversation with a child.
–Watching a good movie.
–Traveling to a city that you have never been to before, alone.
–Listening to music.
–Being here, NOW, over and over remembering to come back to right here, right NOW.
–Playing a childhood recess game with your adult friends.
–Getting a new haircut.
–Going for a hike in nature.
–Biking.
–Skating (roller skating, roller blading, skateboarding.)
–Working in a garden.
–Sampling new beers or wines.
–Blogging.
–Exploring a new city with friends.
–Walking alongside large bodies of water.
–Writing down three things that you are grateful for on a daily basis.
–Learning a new skill.
–Having a phone date with a friend far away.
–Kissing a good kisser.
–Going on spontaneous road trips/drives/car rides with music blasting out of the car speakers.

Meditation Musings

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My friend and I reached the top of the hilly incline to a viewpoint that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.  The vastness of the ocean view and the sound of the waves was something to meditate on.  I set my maroon colored water bottle on the ground beside me and sat down on a big boulder, asking my friend if she’d mind if I meditated for a few minutes.  She gave me the go ahead, “of course not, that’s a great idea!”  I closed my eyes and became aware of touch points–my bottom on the boulder, my feet planted firmly on the ground, and my right hand cupped in my left hand with the back of my hands on my lap.  When I felt 100% grounded, I started focusing on my breath, the cold air gently moving up through my nostrils and the warm air moving out.  After a few minutes, I opened my eyes again.

“Sooooo, how do you meditate exactly?”  My friend questioned.  I hadn’t realized that my friend of fifteen years didn’t actually know what I was doing on the boulder.  “Do you just try to think of nothing?” She asked.  I felt a surge of excitement in my belly and started telling her about all that I had been learning about meditation since I moved to Oregon six months prior.  Moving to a new state without a job secured and not knowing a single soul was a pretty traumatic shock to my system, but had I not pushed myself to do it, I don’t think I would have landed on the path that brought me to a practice that has brought me the most healing in my life: the practice of meditation.

After stopping a tobacco addiction, an addiction to pills, and ending a long-term relationship with an alcoholic over the course of time between my sixteenth and twenty-sixth years on this planet, coming to Oregon alone was like a re-birth into a new life.  I forced myself to join community groups and among them, found a meditation group that met every Tuesday.  I had been reading a lot of self-help books about meditation and listening to a guided meditation CD that my mom gifted me with before I made my trek from the Midwest to the West Coast.  At the Tuesday night meditation group, I learned so much more about meditation and am forever grateful for the veteran teacher that created the group.

I explained to my friend about what I do during my meditation, that I constantly pay attention to my in-breath and out-breath (I do the Vipassana technique, one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation.)  That thinking about nothing isn’t the purpose of my meditation, the purpose is to become aware.  Stories, ideas, to-do lists, what someone said to me earlier that day that hurt me, someone that I need to contact later, and many other things will come up in my meditation.  The point though is to not get stuck or attached to any of those things, to just be aware of them and continually coming back to breath, to presence.  Eventually, with a daily practice, you truly become aware of the nature of the mind and how easy it is to come back into the moment of NOW with the breath.

The practice of meditation has helped and healed me so much, layers upon layers of my self have been coming off.  Just when I think that I have come to the deepest aspects of my soul, of consciousness, new ideas and concepts come to me.  Out of all the travels that I have done, meditation has been the most intense journey out of all of them.  It hasn’t been easy picking up this practice, but I can definitely tell you that it has been worth it.  I want to help people bring this healing modality into their lives, so anytime a friend asks me about….it’s guaranteed I will turn into a motor mouth and this blog is another avenue in how I want to help people with this.  If this post has helped even just one person in getting interested in meditation….then I have done my job.  🙂

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.

It’s Now or Never

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A friend in recent months told me “I’m not where I want to be in life.” Which is definitely something every human being can relate to. We all have dreams and desires, some going back all the way to when we were a child wanting to be “this” or “that” when we grew up. The only problem with dreams and desires, is that a lot of people want it right now and they don’t want to wait. Patience is for others to do, not for the ones who wants to be at a specific place right now. We are NEVER going to be where we want to be in life though if we aren’t happy with where we are right now in the moment. This is all we have, all we will ever have, this moment of now. The “not being where I want to be” attitude will get us nowhere, because that is a surefire sign that we will NEVER feel that we are where we should be.

I definitely stress and worry about not reaching goals and desires, but meditation has really awoken me to being happy with exactly where I am. For an example, one recent morning I was looking at my bank account and worrying about making ends meet. My rent is becoming much more expensive than I envisioned when I decided to move into a small studio apartment by myself and I have many upcoming travels that people are relying on me to be there for and that I am super excited for. I really started to get into this animalistic, poverty-thinking mode and then I took a deep breath and asked myself “but how am I doing right NOW?” Because really, I could get struck by a vehicle that forgets to stop at a red light tomorrow and then not even be able to go on the travels that I had planned in the coming months. I mean honestly, the more important thing is how am I doing right NOW?

Thinking in terms of being blessed where you are in the moment is a profound experience. It ends up bringing you even more blessings. That morning, I had decided to turn around my anxious thoughts about money and transformed them into being grateful in that “now” moment and it created even more positivity in my day. I went to work that morning and within a few short hours I was provided with an unexpected free lunch from business associates. Another couple hours go by and my manager asked me if I could work more hours in the coming months due to a co-worker leaving. Some could call it a coincidence, but truly I believe it’s the magic of what happens when you count your blessings. What you are thinking on the inside truly will manifest into the outer world, I state this because I have truly seen it happen….multiple times.

I feel absolutely rich this morning, sitting at my little studio kitchenette indulging in cup loads of home-made coffee, a breakfast made with fresh fruit from my fridge and food that’s filled in my cupboards. I have clothing on to keep me warm, fresh water beside me to keep me hydrated. I honestly feel like a queen right NOW in this moment of writing this and to be able to type away on this laptop, with internet connection. I have so much right now, so blessed with all of this right now. I am not concerned at the moment of what’s in my bank account or not being where I want to be in life.

Be happy with what you have right now, be happy with who you are right now, if you can’t do that now….don’t keep wishing for it to happen in the future that is non-existent. The only existence is right NOW.

Transformation Does Occur

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A volunteer acquaintance and I quietly strolled up and down the streets scanning the sidewalk for cigarette butts to clean up and I went into a quiet introspection. It was hard to believe that the road trip my friend and I had embarked on to Portland, OR was ten years ago to the day. Ten years ago, I was a shy, nineteen-year-old gas station clerk that had been living in Minnesota since I was five-years-old. Back then, I smoked cigarettes as if they were going out of style. I had started at sixteen-years-old on clove cigarettes, then moved my way to Marlboro Reds, then to Marlboro Mediums, tried tasting Camel Turkish brands for a bit, then finally settled on Marlboro Lights. I smoked about a pack of Marlboro Lights per day up until I was twenty-four-years old, panicking if I was down to only five cigarettes in a pack. That old familiar panic happened so often that when I think of it now, I still get anxiety in my upper belly and sternum area.

Now here I was, ten years later volunteering with a project called “SOLVE”, cleaning up cigarette butts off the sidewalks in the Old town/Chinatown portion of Portland. The organizer of the volunteer group started the organization because he got the idea to recycle cigarette butts by using the material of the filter to make cigarette receptacles. He said he came up with the idea while disc golfing with a friend who was a smoker and he kept noticing that his friend would just toss the cigarette butt in the grass or pavement. His friend’s bad habit gave him the inspiring idea to do something with the wasted butts.

I had been chatting with a fellow volunteer named Eileen all morning. We were both new to volunteering with the organization and we instantly connected when we both shared to each other that we weren’t originally from Oregon. She was in her 70s, had grayish short hair and wrinkles that beautifully defined her tan face. She had just told me her whole history of stumbling upon Oregon herself, how when she was in her 20s she packed up her car and moved out to San Francisco from Ohio, not knowing a single soul. Soon after, she met her husband in the Haight and Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. They decided on a change a few years later, moving to Southern Oregon with their one and only child, living there for seven years and then up to Portland.

“So let’s hear your ‘falling in love with Portland’ story,” she smiled to me.

“So basically, I was 19 and wanted to do a random road trip adventure with my best friend. For weeks we had been planning on New Orleans, but then in about a three-day period, about three different people told me stories about Portland. A couple of days after that, I saw the movie Drugstore Cowboy, which takes place in Portland. I called my friend and told her that my heart was directing us to change the destination to Portland. My friend didn’t care, just as long as we were leaving Minnesota for a week. As soon as we entered Oregon, I received one of the most profound feelings of deja vu that I had ever had in my life and I looked over to my friend ‘Devona, I am pretty sure I have lived here before.’ There was just something so familiar about the state to me and anytime that I had the sensation of deja vu in the past I had the feeling that it was the universe’s way of telling me I was on the right path. Soon after that, we entered the Columbia River Gorge and I had chills up and down my body, flabbergasted by the beauty. We were both slightly bothered by the fact that no one had ever told us that the Columbia River Gorge exists in our country.”

“Yes, that’s a common occurrence, it’s one of America’s best kept secrets, although…not so much anymore,” my new volunteer buddy stated, with her head turned to the side making sure she didn’t miss any cigarette butts beside her.

I didn’t go on to tell her the even longer story of my history of addiction to cigarettes and pills in the past, how driving into a new state that felt like home inspired me to make major changes in the coming years. Feeling that from that point on that, Oregon would always be there waiting if I ever chose to make a new start for myself. I didn’t tell her about how just five years later, the same friend that I took that road trip with collapsed in front of me with an erupted brain aneurysm. After visiting her for weeks in a dark and dingy old hospital in St. Paul, I reevaluated the health choices I had been making since a teenager. With no family history of aneurysms and no other explanation for a 25-year-old with a burst brain aneurysm, my friend’s neurologist urged her to quit smoking, attributing that as more than likely being the cause. She never touched a cigarette again and I joined her in quitting a short few months later.

The couple of hours of volunteering cleaning up cigarette butts, while sounding daunting and maybe a tad monotonous, was truly inspiring. I got to hear two people’s amazing stories, talk with passersby who were curious what we were doing (the funniest ones were the smokers themselves), got thanked multiple times and even got one “fuck you” from a bum that looked like he just walked out of one of the Mad Max movies. It made for a very interesting day and made me realize how much I love this community I live in. My nineteen-year-old self never would have imagined my twenty-nine-year-old self being a non-smoker, moving halfway across the country not knowing a single soul, and talking to random strangers without being nervous. It’s making me so excited to think of the other future transformations that will occur.

We never have to remain stuck, I can promise you that. There are things that happen that are out of our control, but with our freewill, we can choose in each moment how to react to situations. I feel so grateful that my nineteen-year-old self followed her heart and took a road trip to a seemingly random destination. I am also so blessed that the friend that I took that road trip with, my soul sister, inspired me to quit smoking five years later. There are so many changes yet to come, there are always ways to better the self as long as we’re here. We are all a beautiful work-in-progress.

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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 :)!