Reflection on 2022 – Peace

It’s been a year since my last post. I wanted to write something to wrap up this year.

2022 has been a rollercoaster – of ups and downs, twists and turns, highs and lows, stops and gos. I started off the year with the one-word intention of “peace”. In particular, I wanted to find inner peace, because that to me is the foundation of contentment.

Though I’ve had some wins this year – among them starting a podcast and traveling solo, I’ve also experienced some challenges. For five months of the year, I questioned so much about myself that I became paralyzed. My mental health deteriorated and I honestly didn’t know how to climb out of the dark hole I was in. Thankfully I was able to hold onto lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. I sought help, both from professionals and, as difficult as it was for me, from friends. Through all that, I learned the value of true friendship. I learned patience. I learned … surrender.

I’m in a much better place now. And, reflecting on it recently, remembered my one-word intention. Peace. I think I’ve found it for the moment, for which I am so grateful.

With that, I wanted to share about an experience I recently had in Thailand that helped me continue to return to myself and return to love.

The event, a three day camp, was called Dances of Universal Peace, and was held in a warm and loving space called Gaia Ashram in Northeastern Thailand. It’s difficult to put the experience into words, but if I were to describe what the Dances of Universal Peace are, they are a group dance-and-song offering and celebration of peace. The event was not affiliated with any religion. Rather, we sang and danced to songs from various lineages around the globe.

Through the dances, the songs, our mealtimes and conversations, together we learned about community, vulnerability, compassion, and real connection. What a beautiful gathering of souls it was. We had participants from 15 countries (mostly from Asia), including participants from the Maldives (which I didn’t know was a part of Asia!) and Netherlands. As cheesy as it sounds, we all shared a common soul language: a remembrance of the joy of returning to Mother Gaia, to ourselves, and to each other. We celebrated this together through ceremonies, dance, music, laughter, tears, lots of hugs, and over delicious vegetarian food.

I myself had a transformational experience. The dances and the entire experience must have done something to stir up unresolved shmuck (let’s just call it that) deep within me because after a certain point on day 4, I could not stop crying. It was embarrassing for me to have others witness this side of me, though a dear friend described it as purification. As I purify myself, I am also helping others and purifying Mother Earth. And so I walked out to a place where I could be on my own and really let the tears flow. In those moments, I birthed a song, called Delicate.

Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with all this. It’s been a bit rambly and lacks the usual structure I prefer to have with my posts. I just wanted to share that miraculously, it turns out I have found inner peace this year after all, not realizing when I semi-hesitantly agreed to attend this event that the word was in its very title.

Grateful for this experience, grateful for this year, grateful to continue living this messy, unpredictable, beautiful life.

Wanting to end this post with the lyrics to one of the songs we danced to and sung over and over again at and beyond the camp.

May all beings be well and happy
May all beings be free from strife
May all beings return to Love
Peace be with you, forevermore

Peace be with you –

J

Stay Open

Currently reading The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer which I am very much enjoying. Sharing some excerpts I found powerful:

“Consciousness is one of the great mysteries in life. Inner energy is another. It’s actually a shame how little attention the Western world pays to the laws of inner energy. We study the energy outside, and give great value to energy resources, but we ignore the energy within. People go about their lives thinking, feeling, and acting, without the understanding of what makes these activities take place. The truth is, every movement of your body, every emotion you have, and every thought that passes through your mind is an expenditure of energy. Just as everything that happens outside in the physical world requires energy, everything that happens inside requires an expenditure of energy.

What you’ll see, if you watch carefully, is that you have a phenomenal amount of energy inside of you. It doesn’t come from food and it doesn’t come from sleep. This energy is always available to you. At any moment you can draw upon it. It just wells up and fills you from inside. When you’re filled with this energy, you feel like you could take on the world. When it is flowing strongly, you can actually feel it coursing through you in waves. It gushes up spontaneously from deep inside and restores, replenishes, and recharges you.

The only reason you don’t feel this energy all the time is because you block it. You block it by closing your heart, by closing your mind, and by pulling yourself into a restrictive space inside. This closes you off from all the energy. When you close your heart or close your mind, you hide in the darkness within you. There is no light. There is no energy. There is nothing flowing. The energy is still there but it can’t get in.

You should know about this energy because it’s yours. It’s your birthright, and it’s unlimited. You can call upon it any time you want. It has nothing to do with age. Some eighty-year-old people have the energy and enthusiasm of a child. They can work long hours for seven days a week. It’s just energy. Energy doesn’t get old, it doesn’t get tired, and it doesn’t need food. What it needs is openness and receptivity.

There is a very simple method for staying open. You stay open by never closing. It’s really that simple. All you have to do is decide whether you are willing to stay open, or whether you think it’s worth closing. You can actually train yourself to forget how to close. Closing is a habit, and just like any other habit, it can be broken.

How you learn to stay open is up to you. The ultimate trick is to not close. If you don’t close, you will have learned to stay open. Do not let anything that happens in life be important enough that you’re willing to close your heart over it. When your heart starts to close, just say, “No. I’m not going to close. I’m going to relax. I’m going to let this situation take place and be there with it.” Honor and respect the situation, and deal with it. By all means deal with it. Do the best you can. But deal with it with openness. Deal with it with excitement and enthusiasm. No matter what it is, just let it be the sport of the day. In time, you will find that you forget how to close.

You are only limited by your ability to stay open.”

To hear this in audio form, watch a video I made below:

Stay well, and stay open.

xo

J

May 1

May 1, 2018. Labor Day. May Day. The day we lost my father sixteen years ago.

I’m unsure how to write this post so I’ll just begin. It’s been twelve years yet I feel like in a weird way I am only now accepting that he is no longer with us. It’s definitely been a long journey. But I am ready, open to grieving and sharing more. Speaking about him, telling stories, this is how we keep the memory of our loved ones we’ve lost alive.

There are still many corners within me unexplored, and I do feel like a large part of my journey is to heal that. There are many more tears to be shed, be they happy or sad, but I have begun, and that’s what’s important.

Here’s a song I wrote for my dear father, called River Flow. Surrounded by the lush green of Bali, surrounded by love, there was nothing I could do but to look inward and begin my healing process.

Enjoy –

Loving you eternally dad.

J

Michicant

Filmed a cover while in Bali… which I will write about at some point soon.

Here is Bon Iver’s Michicant, a beauty of a song matched by the beauty of my surroundings singing it.

For best audio, use headphones. Thank you to my lovely videographer Juliet for all her help! Enjoy x

xo

J

Girl from Ipanema

Have been really enjoying singing and posting videos on YouTube lately.

There’s a sense of zen I feel when I sing. It’s wonderful.

Sharing my cover of “The Girl from Ipanema” by Frank Sinatra. Did not realize the original song had Portuguese in it so was fun learning to sing that part – I’ve always found Portuguese to be a beautiful language. Also altered the lyrics a bit to suit my gender.

Enjoy! x

xo

J

We’ll Be Okay

Recorded my first song cover and posted it on YouTube.

Quite new for me to put myself out there in this way, but it feels good. It feels right. It feels time to be seen.

I first encountered this song, “We’ll Be Okay”, by the ever so lovely Imaginary Future & Kina Grannis a few days ago (Original can be found here). Fell in love immediately. Whereas theirs was a love song for each other, I saw in it a love song for my dad.

So here you go. We’ll be Okay.

xo

J

What I Learned Spending New Year’s Solo

Wanted to write a bit about how I spent my New Year’s, and what it’s taught me.

I spent this New Year’s in India. After attending the Learning Societies’ unConference, I went to the countryside a few hours outside Bangalore with my friends A and B. They had planned well in advance to stay in a beautiful treehouse in the jungle for New Year’s. I had tried to arrange to stay in the same area as them, but by the time I was inquiring (just two weeks before New Year’s), their resort was understandably already full. I ended up booking to stay at a forest lodge 18 km away.

I had no idea what to expect. 1) It was my first time in a jungle in India; 2) It was my first time in India period; and 3) As B lovingly welcomed me into his home for the first part of my stay, this would be my first time on my own in a country that, despite having been welcoming to me thus far, was still foreign to me. After a snafu that occurred the day we arrived in the area due to a misunderstanding over not being able to drive through the jungle after sundown (turns out tigers rule jungle territory at night), A and B dropped me off at my lodging the next day.

Here are 3 Lessons I Learned Spending New Year’s Alone in a Foreign Country:

1) Give people the benefit of the doubt. Be wary, but also be open. The way you treat others will be mirrored in the way you feel you are treated.

When I first arrived at my lodge, I was wearing a sweater and leggings. I had just bought the leggings a few days prior and found them to be one of, if not the, most comfortable pair of leggings I’ve ever worn. They are made of a sheer material but I wore them that day solely for comfort.¬†After checking in,¬†I noticed one of the male lodge staff staring and looking me up and down slowly. I felt very uncomfortable, and quickly went into my room to change into pants. I had heard about the male culture in India, and the horrific abuses that can happen to girls. I worried a little about whether I would be safe on my own at night, but remembered B saying he had stayed at the lodge before and that it was a trusted establishment.

That ended up being the only uncomfortable moment during my entire stay. All the other staff were nothing short of friendly and accommodating throughout my stay, answering any questions I had. Once I became aware of my surroundings and the cultural expectations of those around me, and once I let go of my fear and genuinely became curious to learn more about the lodge, its staff, the jungle and animals, my experience changed from one where I could have felt frightened and closed-off the entire time to a smooth, peaceful one filled with wonder.

2) There is no shame in being on your own.

When I was in Middle School, I remember more than a few times sitting alone in the cafeteria after school just having a bite to eat or doing homework. I was completely comfortable doing it. At some point I recall my sister telling me she herself wouldn’t sit at a table on her own, and I started to wonder if it was something others looked down on. Interestingly, when I was a bit older my mom also told me separately that if she was out on her own, she would rather return home to eat than go to a restaurant and sit at a table alone. So perhaps it is an attitude that runs in the family (?). Anyway, since Middle School, I have still had meals on my own in public every now and then. I’ve become more self-conscious during these meals, often looking around to check if I am the only one on my own, but am learning to be more comfortable with it as I do naturally enjoy my own company.

Back to India – At the jungle lodge, all the guests were to follow the same schedule. Meal times were scheduled and buffet style;¬†safari times were scheduled twice a day;¬†even snacks were scheduled to be given at certain times to ensure we didn’t get hungry. Over the course of my stay at the lodge, I had a number of meals on my own in the little dining pagoda that fit all 20 or so of us guests. I became quite conscious of the fact that I was the only one there on my own (others were there as a couple or family), but did my best to enjoy my meals leisurely. On New Year’s Eve, a campfire was set up next to the pagoda. I joined a group at the fire after dinner to warm up from the chill of the night. They turned out to be there as a family and welcomed me into their circle. They asked me where I was from and why I was there alone. I explained my situation – how I had wanted to stay with two friends elsewhere but had booked late. They understood, and we chatted and spent some more time together before the lodge closed up the area by 10pm and we all headed off to bed.

 Full moon on New Year's Eve Full moon on New Year’s Eve

I was quite proud of myself. I don’t typically throw myself into a group of strangers, but I learned that night that, as long as (again)¬†I stay open and true to myself, and, importantly, as long as I don’t judge and reject myself, I won’t experience rejection from others. Thinking back, I wonder if I would have had the same experience that night if I had been there on my own intentionally. If I had decided to go to India on a solo trip and adventure into the jungle for New Year’s. I think if I explained that I was there alone because I wanted to have a solo adventure, they would have probably respected that as well. (And anyway, my newfound perspective is that if they did judge me, it shouldn’t matter as long as I myself was happy with what I was doing.)

3) Without distractions, you are free to think clearly and be creative.

There is value in quiet and peace. There’s a reason writers, artists, and creatives of the past would retreat away to their chosen sanctuary –¬†typically a quiet and secluded space –¬†where they could think and create without disturbance.

I had been toying around with the idea of trying to write a song for a few days before arriving at the lodge. Prior to going to India I had only ever written one song, which happened when I was in Costa Rica,¬†funnily enough also in a jungle. I must have a special connection with jungles, because on New Year’s Eve, I started scribbling the beginnings of a song. During the morning safari the next day, inspiration continued to strike and I came up with the title of my song – “The Road Less Traveled”. Related to the poem by Robert Frost, which my father loved and taught me and my sister when we were young; related to the beautiful paths we were driving down in the forest; related to this Road Less Traveled I wish to continue traveling down this year. I’ve finished the song and may share it at some point.

 Two roads diverge in a wood Two roads diverge in a wood  Sighted fresh tiger paw prints on the morning safari! Sighted fresh tiger paw prints on the morning safari!  With our safari guide and jungle expert With our safari guide and jungle expert  Safari selfie while waiting at a watering hole Safari selfie while waiting at a watering hole

What I hope you take from all of this is that it’s okay to do things in an unconventional way even though you feel others may judge. As long as it’s what you want to do and you are happy with your decision, don’t let anyone else make you feel any differently.

Here’s to cultivating more compassion, strength, and freedom in 2018!

xo

J