Central America: Letting Go

The time has come to close one of the most exciting and memorable chapters in my life. Traveling through Central America, (a journey I didn’t think would ever happen) allowed me the opportunity to grow and open my heart in ways I never thought possible. One of the most important lessons on this trip, as cliche as it may sound, was learning to let go. Releasing. Whether a person, thing(s) or emotion. And I had to let go of all three. You can imagine how many times I’ve sang the song “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen to myself.

Somewhere along the way I read, that to love and let go can be the same thing. And letting go means diving in. But if your love has attachment, discrimination, prejudice or clinging in it, it is not true love. Ex squeeze me? Wherever it is I was supposed to be diving into with letting go, I should back away right now! It sounds way too complicated. It’s much easier to just attach yourself and cling to the idea of love. Isn’t that what we’re conditioned to do? Connect ourselves to someone. Partner, parent, friend. Looking for some sort of indication that we too are loved.

I wondered. What exactly is love? And how can it be the same as letting go? Love by definition is an intense feeling of deep affection. Mmm.. it sure feels to be more than that. I decided to explore this more.

A lot of movies, songs, art and poems talk about love as a need for possessing. As if by not having it you can’t survive. Or that by admitting to love someone you admit to having a lot to lose (as one TedTalk speaker noted). I disagree. It is the complete opposite for me. By admitting you love someone knowing you may have to let them go someday, helps you obtain an unrestricted freedom. Don’t you see. By knowing and accepting that that person may not be with you tomorrow. Allows you to cherish every moment even more. You possess nothing, and gain everything.

That’s not to say letting go can’t be a sorrowful experience. Because it is and it hurts for a bit. The first time I realized the difference between attachment and non attachment. Was the first time I decided to trust someone with my whole self, the good and the bad. Allowing them in, through the process of losing everything I owned and other very emotional moments. In addition to letting them go as well. After many cookies later, ok and pie. Maybe some ice cream too. I realized that it’s not how much you trust the other person with your love. But how much you trust yourself to love unconditionally. Letting go of every attachment, discrimination, prejudice or clinging you may have for others or oneself.

Love is not just a deep affection. It is a limitless connection to and complete acceptance of myself and others. A boundless reserve of empathy. Expanding with every new experience. I now close this chapter and eagerly await the beginning of the next. The adventure continues. 

Rapture: Accepting Stillness

It’s hard sometimes to remain in one place for a longer period of time. The mind starts playing tricks on me. Whispering, “Keep moving. What if you miss something important in the next place. It could be your last chance.” So began my experiment of accepting the situation and exploring a different way to manage circumstances such as this. 

The hypothesis for the experiment? By surrendering to my external conditions and saying yes to the experience I would be able to find joy and accept the stillness. Calming the mind and momentarily pausing my travels to finish the job.

Because of certain financial necessities. (Meaning, I have to stay in one place to make money to move on to the next.) The decision that I have to remain somewhat stationary is made for me. Wanting to travel more and explore Costa Rica, before ending my Central American adventure. I took a job at Rapture SurfCamp in Avellanas Beach. The first week was rough. The restlessness took over. I began concentrating on the things I didn’t like. Saying to myself, I’m sure if I leave the next place will be better. Immediately looking for an escape. This time, I decided to stay and take a closer look at what I was going through. Instead of packing up and moving on.

These past two months have been hugely transformative. Both physically and emotionally. Certain situations altered the whispers in my brain to screams. Anxiety, tears, fear all came knocking at my door. I questioned (and almost became ashamed of) every decision I have made so far, my age, my ability to commit, my going with the flow lifestyle. One morning as I was struggling through meditation, curiosity took hold. And it interested me to find out the definition of the Surfcamp’s name, Rapture. I had heard the word used before, thinking I understood the emotion behind it. Clueless as to its actual meaning. I typed it in and the aha moment lit up my brain as I read the dictionary. Rapture: a feeling of intense pleasure and joy. I giggled. You have to be fucking kidding me. Universe, you have a wicked sense of humor. I’m in a place that in essence is supposed to be joyful. And I’m making it seem like a retreat into the underworld. Hades Surfcamp, I thought it should be called. 

Questions started coming up. How do I measure joy? What is stillness, really? What is my true motivation for wanting to move so much? All very good questions that will take more than this essay to answer. But I will share this: The moment you decide to sit with yourself and accept where you are. Little by little, things start getting clearer. Allow yourself the space to go cathartic! Release, give up on grasping that which you think might be ahead of you. I day dream about it, sure. That’s where I find the joy. To experience the wonderful feeling I will go through when my day dream becomes a reality. When it happens, is not up to me. I can only remain still and wait for the next inspired action to guide me. 

As for the reason why, I was so anxious to keep moving? I don’t have a complete answer for that yet. For now, I’ll continue working on the reasons to stay.

Avellanas: Moon Magic

The new moon in August happened last week. The sky goes dark, in preparation for the next lunar cycle. I have always been fascinated by the moon. When I was very little, we lived in a very tall apartment building on the 18th floor. On the days there was a full moon, it lit up the sky in such a way it seemed like you could just stretch out my arms and touch it. Using my brother’s telescope made it so real that If I close my eyes today, the image of my favorite crater easily comes to mind. Mare Serenitas. The Sea of Serenity.

New moons bring a sense of renewal, change, beginnings, transformation. Since I began my travels, whenever there is a new moon I try my best to take a moment. Think about where I am, where I’ve been. And where I want to go. It’s been a transformative journey. Learning things about myself I would have never had the chance to explore had I stayed in California, 10 months ago.

The adventure has guided me to Costa Rica. Where I will spend one more month before embarking on a new chapter across the ocean to Europe. I have been staying at a surf camp on the pacific coast, in Avellanas beach. As part of my new moon intention, I decided to try and get over my fear of big ocean waves (at least big for me, others would argue differently 😆). And learn how to surf. I have tried before with a couple of “almost pop ups” but haven’t had a chance to experience a wave while standing on a board. Gliding with the ocean to the shore. Today was a different story! I set a goal. I was going to pop up, and stand on the board at least two times. If the waves got big I would just stay calm and trust I could do this. Have fun. Breathe, look at the wave and say: “I am Moana of Motunui. I will board this soft top and ride the wave to shore. Restore the heart of Tafiti, and get over my fear”. Ok, Moana is one of my favorite movies. (Don’t judge.)

Yes, it was difficult. The waves were breaking hard. Even the instructor said, if you can get up in these conditions. You can do it anywhere. We got in the water. He said jump on, there’s one coming. I got ready. For one minute, everything went silent. He pushed me. I followed his instructions and popped up on the board. All of a sudden, I was standing. What?! On the first try? I couldn’t believe it. The feeling is hard to describe as I am thinking back on it. My mind went silent. The sound of the wave under me was the only background noise I heard. The happiness of accomplishment and peace I felt just for that short moment. Is something I’d like to experience again everyday. I was surfing. Drifting, on the Sea of Serenity.

I may not remember directions. Or the names of some of the cities I’ve visited. But I will always remember the time and place where I was able to stand up on a surfboard for the first time. Allowing myself to be guided by something bigger than me. Enjoying the ocean for what it is. A wise body of water that partners with the gravity of the moon. Teaching us to overcome. Challenging you to the brink of giving up. Later, allowing you to come up for a fresh breath of air. To discover how truly happy life can be.

Marbella: Naming My Fear

I can’t really remember when I became so insecure and scared of high ocean waves. Being born and raised in an island you would think I am an excellent swimmer with no fear of the big blue ocean. Well, let me tell you. I’m not. In my case, fear has been passed down generation through generation. My father lost a niece when she was about thirteen years old, a strong rip current claimed her life. I always thought that was the reason my parents decided never to take me to swim class. Maybe they’d figure, if I didn’t know how to swim then I wouldn’t try to go deep into the water? I really wasn’t asking for lessons either. I liked other sports when I was little. But the interesting thing is. As a teenager I cannonballed into pools, played in the waves (some of them relatively big) and jumped from boats into the deep. What happened? Why, as an adult have I become afraid of the high waves and deep water?

Traveling now for some time. I decided to try surfing. I love the sport. I have been following it since high school. Cutting class to go see competitions. The sea has always called me (cue the song from Moana!). If I had a choice between living in the mountains, city or ocean. I would quickly answer, ocean. Call me a romantic. But I think William Shakespeare’s Juliet was right when she said:

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,

My love as deep; the more I give to thee,

The more I have, for both are infinite (Act 2, Scene 2)

The sea feeds dreamers, in my opinion. With its immensity, it’s infiniteness, it’s mystery. Making you feel as full of possibility as the ocean is of the unknown. I have been lucky enough to have some great friends on this adventure who have tried to teach me how to surf. In Popoyo, Nicaragua and now here in Costa Rica. But every time the panic wins. Yesterday, it felt worse than ever before. I got caught in the rip current. The storm and the tide coming in, made the waves wild and choppy and over my head. I felt helpless. Trying my best to swim back out. I couldn’t. Everything became darker and I allowed the panic attack to take over. Again (trying to say that with some compassion for myself).

I hope, dear reader. You never experience one. You lose all sense of control. The throat closes up, making it hard to breathe and concentrate. Your body has a mind of it’s own. I’m still practicing how to use the breath to regain control. It’ll be a long time before I master that. 

My friend knew I was struggling. Thankfully he reached out and with a soothing tone reassured me, I would be ok. He pulled me out and helped me onto the board. As I rode the wave back to the shore, part of me wanted to go back. Face the fear. Easier said than done. I’m not giving up yet. Today I am naming my fear. No longer referring to it as something “that shall not be named”. Though it’s embarrassing sometimes. Knowing I love the sea so much but cannot fully enjoy it’s company. Naming it makes it something tangible. It is no longer stored in the unconscious. Waiting to surprise me. A wise friend once told me back in Popoyo, “you can’t let the ocean control you. You have to control the ocean.” Well, not literally. There’s no way I can control anything, really. Only my reaction to it. But that’s the point! The ocean of thought doesn’t control me anymore. I know who the fear is. It doesn’t matter where it came from. I see it now. It’s habits are predictable and I will make every attempt I can while at this Surfcamp, to calm the monster. With patience, compassion and deep breaths. This beautiful beach I call home, for now will be my training ground.

The search for the reason why I’m so afraid is less important. The main key lies in practicing empathy towards my inner being when I feel afraid. And to surround myself with courageous people who brave the ocean everyday and are caring and open to helping me when I lose it out there. A life jacket of sorts or maybe just a really cute surfer 😉.

Puerto Rico: Reflections of Home

I was twenty-one years old when I left the island. I remember opening my parent’s door one night after making the decision to leave, to say: “I’m moving to New Orleans”. They stared as I closed the door. When I heard my mom say. “Wait, what!?”

I thought that leaving was the only answer to the constant angst I felt everyday. There had to be more out there. The world is so big. I needed to experience something else. I dreamt of living in Europe. Following the footsteps of my favorite heroines, Jane Eyre from Charlotte Brontë’s novel of the same name. And Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. New Orleans, with its European history was close enough to my dream and home. In case my adventure into the wild, wild world out there didn’t go as planned. I remember the day I left, like it was yesterday. Walking down the stairs to the street, crying, waving goodbye to my mother. A weird feeling. I wonder if it’s the same feeling baby animals have when they finally leave the mom behind to find their independence through the wilderness. Off I went. With no idea of where I was going or what was going to happen.

Now almost seventeen years later. I still think about the reasons why I left and why I may not go back to live there full time. But I adore my home. The people, the food, the music, the spirit. And of course, the beautiful beaches that surround our little island. It’s funny, the beaches I’ve been lucky enough to visit on my travels always remind me of home. Yesterday, the nostalgia was amplified ten fold. When I saw the thousands of people marching down the biggest highway in San Juan. Protesting our governor. Urging him to step down for being an unethical and awful leader. I agree with them all! And I am very sad that I can’t be there to scream at the top of my lungs and dance in the rain with everyone. Demanding they give us back the respect and freedom they have slowly chipped away from the people living on the island for 121 years.

A couple of months ago, my mom sent me a picture of my dad walking our lovely puppy down by the beach. Every time I look at it, I know he’s walking down that shore thinking how good it feels to be free. And I hope every single one of us Puerto Ricans on the island or somewhere else in the world can experience the same.

As I get ready to finally make one of my dreams come true, and move to Poland in the fall to teach English and Spanish; I want the people from my country to fulfill there’s too. To be sovereign, free. I truly believe that it will be possible. Our people have a spirit and a will so strong it can move mountains (and US armies off our land). And no matter where I am. I’m taking my little island with me, sharing the magic and passion for life everywhere I go! Like the song from Fiel a la Vega (a band from my youth) says: “I would be Puerto Rican even if I were born on the moon”.

In Spanish it goes like this:

Y así yo le grito al villano

Yo sería borincano

Aunque naciera en la luna.

In solidarity ALWAYS!

Costa Rica: Pura Vida

Pura vida, goes the saying here in Costa Rica. Pure life. At first, I thought it was just a marketing strategy created by the tourism industry to attract more tourists. It turns out, it is the way of living for the Costa Rican people. To reflect their perspective on how to live a truly untroubled life. In a state of just going with the flow, always. No matter what may be happening to you or around you.

Spending some time at a surf camp here, in the beautifully expansive (and blue!) Pacific coast. I can say that it has been difficult to adjust to this lifestyle. And I ask myself, why? This is the life I have been pursuing for most of my adulthood. Now that I have finally committed to it, I have been questioning myself everyday this past week. Feeling restless. Overthinking everything. Wanting to give up. Wanting to scream and say: fine ego, you fucking win! Doing my best to reel myself back to the good place I was in before. A place where the true, happy, full of love self was floating in a cloud of excitement and perseverance.

How do we keep ourselves motivated when life gets weird? How do we recognize our true voice in the midst of confusion and emotional blurriness? After sometime of practicing meditation, it is still very hard for me to acknowledge, that the negative emotions I am feeling are not my true self. I must confess, I know how to indulge in emotion very well. A habit that is very hard to break. That I have been fostering for decades. Early traumas that I’m still trying to breakthrough. And It feels easier than being happy. Sounds odd doesn’t it? Because being happy (at least for me) means that I have to let shit go.

Pura Vida my way out of it. Leave the baggage behind. Or take the baggage someone else gives me and throw it out the fucking window. You, I, we, are not responsible for it. We are only responsible for ourselves and our own emotions. Take Pura Vida and roll with it down the mountain. Straight out of the blurriness and on to a path of equanimity. It’s been hard. But on those moments, I show compassion to myself. Acknowledging that I am confused and sad and allow myself a minute. Just A minute. As I walk (or drag) myself back to equanimity road. Taking a deep breath. Thinking of good moment filled with joy and love, then getting back up and continuing down the path towards true peace and a life lived with heart.

All of a sudden the path seems clearer and golden with endless possibilities around me. Butterflies, hummingbirds, wind, rain, trees. All seem to be walking with me cheering me on. Pura vida they say, Pura Vida!

PS After writing this. I stumbled upon this lovely passage from Zen poet Ryokan, that is worth sharing:

The rain has stopped, the clouds have drifted away, and the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in you world are pure…
Then the moon and the flowers will guide you along the Way.

Magic is real!

Nicaragua: The Magic Is Real

Once upon a time, there lived a little girl so afraid of her sensitivity that she decided to create shields that would protect her from being too vulnerable. Decades later as that girl grew up to the woman I am today, the shields became more of a hindrance than a protection mechanism. My mind would go over and over conversations I should be having with people. Conversations about boundaries, love, sex, you name it. My mind went through it. But then came the outward silence. I would say nothing. That all changed in Nicaragua. A fertile land full of vast jungles, volcanoes, lakes, stretches of beaches that seemed to reach the other side of the world. And ocean waves thundering down so heavily you could feel the sand shake. This is where the new story begins.

Nicaragua, a country going through their own transformation. As they try to recover from a crisis created by individuals who are trying to impose the same shields I have been trying to rid myself of. Only on a bigger, more oppressive scale. I am not one to talk about their experience in their country, only my own.

In this case, the adventure took me on a heart-expanding journey I wasn’t expecting. Where I had to show up, be brave and courageously say what I had been wanting to say to the amazing soul I had been traveling with for almost a year. Never had I said “I love you” to someone I cared so deeply for. Intuitively I felt my time running out. Perhaps ignoring it a little, hoping the outcome I had played out in my head was magically going to happen. In my mind the story went like this: I would say “I love you” and he would say “I love you too, we should keep traveling together and you should move back home with me when I return back to Europe.”

We came to Ometepe. The incredible island on Lake Nicaragua that is home to two volcanoes. Concepcion is the biggest of the two and we decided to climb that one. The toughest most grueling hike I’ve experienced in a while. After the difficult uphill climb, we came out of the great jungle to a clearing in the clouds with winds so powerful I felt as if it was going to lift me off the ground and take me into the sky. Grey, cold, and a bit scary. We turned around and came back down. A day after the climb I decided I was going to take the leap and say what I wanted to say. I went in, knee deep in anxiety with a knot in my chest when I blurted out “you know, I love you” what came next took me back to the top of the volcano. A grey, cold, scary place where I felt my heart get sucked into the dark whirlwind leaving me behind empty. He decided we should go our separate ways.

During our time together he would lovingly call me a witchy woman who believed in the magical realm of fairies, Forest spirits, and whispers of the wild. I have always relied on my connection with that. To understand what may be happening in my life or where I should go next. The morning after, we said our farewells with love and compassion for each other in tears as I walked out the door in direction to the other side of the island. To a place within the woods, steps from the lake called El Pital: a chocolate paradise. After a tearful walk to the entrance, I look up and find a big colorful sign with fairies that said: “MAGIC IS REAL”. I laughed and sighed knowing we would be ok and well taken care of by that which we perhaps cannot see.

Out of this experience, I learned a few things. One, being courageous is NOT easy but worth it. Now, I feel weightless and more in tune with my true self than ever before. Shedding perhaps the toughest shield of them all. Two, always love first. No matter what. Walk into the space or situation in love. Then walk out in and with love. Every time I feel the sadness coming up, I tell myself “love and expand”. Going back to a place inside time where I can remember how amazing it felt to be together. This exercise has made the biggest difference. As I go through this transformation to a more truthful version of myself. And three, magic is real! For all of us. We just have to try to be open and willing to embrace it.

P.S. To you, dear friend and former traveling buddy. Thank you for being compassionate, caring and loving all the way through. May you find some magic everywhere you go!