Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Faith in Humanity - Restored!

On this trip I found something I didn't even know I needed or was looking for....a renewal of my faith in human beings. I have a feeling that even just that first line has made my dad already start to cringe (love ya, Pa!). His last words of wisdom before I set out on this journey in October were "Have fun, honey...and DON'T TRUST ANYONE - even for a minute." Wise words (from one of the best people on this planet) to guide his youngest as she set out half way around the world....

At some point (often very quickly), however, taking this advice while traveling becomes impractical. Take landing in a new foreign city like Kathmandu, for example. You leave the airport, get in a taxi and ask them to take you somewhere. You have NO idea where you are, where you're going or if you've even been understood because you don't speak the cab driver's language. The guy could drive in circles for hours and you wouldn't be able to tell because there are no street signs (you couldn't read them if they did exist), no distinct landmarks, no traffic rules and you can't really communicate with him anyway. Granted, you are paying this guy to bring you somewhere so he has some motivation to help you, but you are also putting a level of trust in the fact that he will bring you where you ask despite the fact that he knows you have no clue....

Further on down the road in traveling, the opportunity to put your trust in others comes and goes and to varying extremes. I've found that how I choose to respond to these opportunities and what I use to guide these decisions can make or break my trip. If you've read any entries before this one you know that I rely on my gut, my instinct, the palpable feeling that arises in my belly - to guide such decisions. For me, trusting others all depends on trusting myself.

As I get ready to get on a plane back to the states in just about 36 hours (yikes!), it hit me that one of the greatest things i've learned is that there ARE good people in this world! I knew that, of course, because I have a lot of them in my life - my friends and my family are exceptional - but at times I get down on humanity as a whole and start to doubt if people are generally, by their nature, good. (It's tough to stay enamored with the human race when you look around the world and see such mindless and rampant violence, oppression and harm that we inflict on people and our planet.) What I have been astonished by these last few months is the kindness of strangers who had no motivation for their kindness except just this: to be kind.

The examples from the past few months are endless, but here's a recent one. A few days ago I traveled to a town on the coast of eastern Bali and stayed at a bungalow that had been recommended by a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend I met in Bali (friend 4 times removed :-)) ...The afternoon I arrived I was sitting on the patio of the place watching the sun set over the ocean and eating a mango (idyllic, i know!) when a Balinese couple with a baby came up and asked if I was Chris...Ends up that my friend 4 times removed (who I had met the day before, mind you) had called these friends (= my friend 5 times removed) and asked that they drop in on me and see how I was. I was floored... but it doesn't stop there. The next day (which happened to be Christmas - not much of an event in this Hindu country) they came to get me and the husband and his 9 year old son took me trekking through gorgeous rice fields, pristine forest and a few small villages. We hiked for a few hours from where we got dropped off and ended up back in their village - one of the last truly traditional villages in Bali - where my new friends work as basket weavers and artists. They fed me an amazing homemade lunch despite clearly not having that much themselves and insisted that I take fruit and food with me when i left. They were generous with their time, their resources and their love. Although our communication via words was somewhat limited, I could truly feel that this was not an inconvenience or an act of seemed they just couldn't imagine acting any other way and were happy to share with a complete stranger. Although it's just coincidence that this happened on Christmas, it sure seems like a real manifestation of the Christmas spirit.

This day is certainly one of the highlights of an incredible trip and is just one example of the abundance which I've encountered over the past few months. People, most who have less than I do (less in terms of material things only - most of them are wealthy beyond belief in love, faith, family and spirit), have been extremely generous with their time, their talents, kind words, a helping hand, smiles, love, hugs and so much more...Even just writing about this has made me so overwhelmed with gratitude and has reinstilled in me a belief in the generosity and overall goodness of the human spirit...just another lesson that traveling and being open has taught me...

One last thing - for my dad and all you other naysayers - I want to reassure you, I'm not naive and I realize there are still bad people in this world - lots of them. My new-found belief in human beings isn't blinding and it doesn't mean I'm going to run into the middle of New York City at 3 am with a wad of cash and expect that something bad won't happen. What it does mean is that at times (I know when it's right if I really listen) I have to open up and take a leap of faith if I'm going to receive the incredible gifts the universe has waiting for me...otherwise I risk missing out on beautiful interactions and experiences that make traveling and everyday life truly fantastic.

love, light and faith

Friday, December 18, 2009

Movement through Stillness.....

and Stillness through Movement. This is what I've been experiencing the past 17 days. I didn't mean to spend this long on this one island in Thailand. I thought I'd stop in for a couple days, do some yoga and then head north for trekking and exploring....but after a couple days my intuition was screaming for me to stay here and because it is not wise to ignore the force that is “my gut”, it happened. Actually nothing “just happens” - I consciously chose to make it happen.

I didn’t realize the impact that this decision would have. It ends up that in this stillness, in this seeming cessation of forward movement, I have moved forward on my path by leaps and bounds…when I least expected it. Apparently, it was more important that I explore some more internal terrain than the jungles and mountains of northern Thailand.

I spent this time going through a yoga intensive - lectures, practice, meditations, more practice, more lectures and it has been incredible. I have never heard yoga explained in this manner and it's been really interesting, eye-opening and challenging mentally and emotionally. I did my best to approach this experience with a beginner's mind - surrendering all I thought I knew so I could be open to this new way of thinking and practicing and being...What I've learned about myself would not have been possible without this surrender, but it also required a good deal of effort, extra work and courage to open up – all of this required some serious strength…Strength through surrender and surrender through strength…

But, I digress - Getting back to movement and stillness. A good deal of my past few weeks have been spent in stillness – stillness holding a pose for what sometimes seems like an eternity, sitting in meditation at a waterfall, sitting in meditation on the beach, sitting in meditation in the classroom (you get it - lots of stillness). The internal movement that this kind of stillness encourages is overwhelming and truly awe-some. I don’t mean the kind of stillness we find when we sit in front of a TV all day or even when we read a book, but the kind of stillness you find when you sit with yourself – facing your internal being, watching your heart and mind and just letting it all come and go on its own. It’s intense, it’s scary and it’s beauty beyond words….movement through stillness. But, in yoga and in life there are also those sublime moments when your monkey mind stops going, when you are in the moment completely, when you are here, right now….during a yoga flow, on a long run, in the midst of a sweet kiss, walking through the ocean. You lose yourself in the movement and as a result you find yourself. It’s not the same as getting caught up in the moment, but it is being completely mindful IN the moment without even noticing…stillness through movement.

Don’t get me wrong. Not every moment of the last few weeks has been this intense. I’ve had my share of frolicking on the beach and in the ocean, collecting shells, getting Oceanside massages, exploring waterfalls, taking long hilly bike rides, cruising around on the back of a motor bike enjoying the wind on my face, dancing in the dumping rain, laughing, crying and eating lots of good food. I’ve seen some of the most amazing sunsets and sunrises of my life and have enjoyed my roommates – a few geckos, a HUGE lizard and the occasional frog or bird who gets in through an open window.

An integral part of the last few weeks have been the people I’ve met here – each seeking something different, but each kind, open, honest and loving. One in particular has touched my heart and mind and spirit in a way I haven't experienced that often in this life (much gratitude,MN). But, it seems it’s time for me to take what I’ve learned here and move forward, literally and figuratively, with both strength and surrender for whatever lies ahead... so with that, I’m Bali-bound….

love, light and a happy solstice