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!

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! ūüôā

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.ÔĀ∂
–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.

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¬†‚ÄúDublin 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs apartment as she was expecting me later that morning. ¬†According to my phone‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôt very user-friendly, most of them are on the buildings of the street and that‚Äôs if you‚Äôre lucky.

I came upon half a dozen people or so that were Dublin locals and they had never heard of the ‚ÄúMarrowbone Lane‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs address and phone number written on the palm of my hand. The one hour of being lost turned into two hours, but Dublin‚Äôs 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 d√©cor 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 ‚ÄúBono‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôd 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 ‚ÄúNo Woman No Cry‚ÄĚ 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.

rollinghillsireland6

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!

uniquegeology

ireland2ireland1irealnd9irealnd11

¬†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.

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. ūüôā

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‚Äôt 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‚Äôs colder than Minnesota here and Iceland stole my $80 and I don‚Äôt 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‚Äôt end up bringing my warm winter jacket to Iceland because I knew I‚Äôd only be in Iceland 3 days and I didn‚Äôt want to trudge it around for the 2 ¬Ĺ weeks that I‚Äôd 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‚Äôs, 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 ‚Äúoh mannnnnnnnn, an ATM stole $80 from me, the food has been crazy expensive here, and now they‚Äôre 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, ‚ÄúChill 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.‚Ä̬† 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 ūüôā

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 ūüėä) 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*