New Year: New Life before me, Now!

My life before me now feels like a blank slate: endless in its possibilities, its potential for magnificent, overwhelming joy, greatness, laughter, and abundance! I am now open to receiving this tidal wave of blessings that is heading my way. Thank you!

I am entering this New Year, and really this next portion of my life, with a new sense of knowing. I have lived a life that has helped guide me on a path to greater clarity and ease. It’s also something I wanted.

IMG_0232.JPGThis sense of ease was something that was once missing in my life. I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t let go of my struggle or need to control. I couldn’t let go of my fighting against conditions, others, but mostly myself. I couldn’t let go of my disallowance. I held fast to my insecurities, my fears, my comparisons, my separations, and my judgments. I held myself apart from who I truly was, but I didn’t know that I was doing that. I didn’t consciously know I was doing that, anyway. And I hadn’t yet discovered for myself that there was another way to LIVE my life…

Despite this initial separation with my inner truth, there was something out there calling for me, beckoning me, welcoming me back home to the ease and comfort of my joyful life experience. So, here I am! I’m here for the fun that life has in store for me NOW!

I first opened up to my inner voice (inner listening) three years ago at a yoga and meditation retreat in Indonesia. At the retreat, we were gifted 32 hours of silence over the New Year leading into 2015. After spending just 5 of these hours in wakeful silence, I began discovering this voice within that had something to say to me. The voice surprised me for three reasons: 1) it was quite active, relentless, you could say; 2) it held very clear and strong opinions; 3) I had never really given it the time of day, before this point in my life.

As I listened to my inner dialogue, I felt exposed. I started writing down what this voice was saying, the thoughts I was thinking. I began having a written conversation with this voice within. There were areas within me that were hurting: these unprocessed, unresolved parts of me. These hurts had been etched on my heart for some time, taking up life energy and space.

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My first step was to bring awareness to these hurts, these thoughts, these feelings, these parts of me I had pushed down, buried, and tried to ignore for a large part of my life. Integral to this awareness was to offer my response a compassionate coloring. One of my greatest spiritual teacher’s Louise Hay liked to say, “But you didn’t know.” She’s right! I didn’t know that I held these beliefs that were untrue. Or maybe I didn’t know I was holding onto old hurts, feelings of judgment, distrust, or resentments. The reason these parts of me felt so bad, life draining, was that they were untrue. Oh so blessedly untrue!

My next step was to slowly allow the abundance of love, compassion, and connection back IN. To open myself up to receiving the love that I so freely gave out and saw in others. It was time to start seeing the good in me, too! I started to bring kinder, more loving, and compassionate care to myself, more still with each and every day.

In the process, I discovered that this feeling of love had never actually ‘left me’ (as I had once thought). Instead, I had just closed myself off to it without knowing my own agency in that. Gladly, this feeling of love and utter wellbeing busted through the armor I had placed around my heart.

Another spiritual teacher who’s helped guide me, Gabby Bernstein, had written at the start of last year that, “The times we are living in require our commitment to love.” I am here to LIVE my life fully, freely, and magnificently from my loving, tender, radiant, and compassionate heart. I choose to lead from love and be guided by my own love. I am ready!

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One thing I love is writing. I’ve always enjoyed it. It also feels really good to share my writing, my voice, and my perspective with others. This is what brings me to the page today: to write, to create, to explore, to connect, to share, to listen, to learn, to discover, to inspire, and to spread this overflowing feeling I have, one of tenderness, compassion, love, joy, and ease as we enter into this new year.

Through this incredible journey of life I’ve lived thus far, what I now know in life is this:

  1. I am perfectly created. So are you!
  2. We are all doing the best we can with our level of awareness and understanding. Show yourself more compassion. Do it now! Show others compassion, too! Not a one of us has it ‘all figured out’ [that would be B-O-R-I-N-G!]. Would you really want to read a book from finish to start? We are ALL learning along the way….and the best part of all, we can choose to feel excited by the not knowing, the unfolding that is before us now [my current mood of choice: gleeful!].
  3. Life reinforces what we believe, so think thoughts that feel good to you. Allow yourself to dream out loud: outrageously, ridiculously, crazily. Dreams are limitless! You deserve the wildness of your heart and the wildness of your dreams.
  4. Start with you first, bringing more love, compassion, and understanding to your inner experience of life. Start noticing how you talk to yourself: inner dialogue or in conversation with other people. You are oh so precious and worthy! One of my favorite practices to remember this love for myself is to simply place my hand over my heart, feeling into the warmth, connection and energy here.
  5. We all want to feel good. And we are meant to feel good! Let this good feeling be your daily guide.
  6. Our emotions are amongst the greatest gifts we’ve been given in this lifetime. Listen to them. Honor them. Be oh so kind to yourself as you process your moment-by-moment experience of life. Allow your emotions to guide you: Home.
  7. We are built to connect.
  8. We are more alike than different.
  9. Our life is a precious gift we’ve been given—not just for ourselves to remember this truth, but also to discover and share our life’s gift with others.
  10. Relax more. Listen more. Bask more. Pay greater attention to the flow—in and out—of your breath. Remember: there is no “doing” in human being. Allow space. Be you. The world needs one of you, that’s why there is *only* one!

Happy New Year! Wishing you overflowing amounts of joy, laughter, love, and ease.

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Thanks for reading & playing along,

Alicia

Fire Energy!

Over the course of my lifetime, I have felt a lot of fear around my passionate, fiery energy I feel from within. There have been many times where I have followed this excited energy to the point of exhaustion, feeling burnt out or overwhelmed by this ignited, excitable, fast-burning energy. This energy scared me. I didn’t feel like I could trust it, nor did I feel like I could trust my body’s response to this energy. This passionate energy, or even anger, left me feeling scared and hesitant to encourage it.

I’ve made the connection these last few days that the greatest transformations that have taken place in my life occurred while living on islands in warmer climates (Cuba, Indonesia, and now Hawai’i). There’s something about the combination of me + a warm environment that stirs something up, deep from within.

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Pelehonuamea: Pele of the Sacred Lands (Hawaiian Goddess of Fire and Volcanoes)

Three years ago, in December 2015, I attended a yoga and meditation retreat in Indonesia that has since altered the course of my life. It’s set me on a course, which now includes a lot more inner listening, introspection, and self-discovery. One of my friends who I met on retreat reminded me that it wasn’t being at the retreat that changed things for me, it was the showing up and the intention I had for myself in going to the retreat. I was ready to show up for me.

I’ll tell you what, this type of growth ain’t for the faint of heart! BUT, I am infinitely appreciative of every step in my journey that has led me to ‘exactly’ here and now.

At the yoga and meditation retreat, we talked about the 5 elements in Nature: earth, wind, water, fire, and ether. For the fire element, we discussed its ability to transform and renew. At the time, I remember being puzzled by these qualities of fire. I only viewed fire as a destructive, consumptive process. And when I considered fire in that light, my friends, it felt pretty fearful.

This year, through my master teacher, Mother Nature herself, and the experience of living in two different National Parks, I have learned a thing or two about fire. At Glacier National Park, I learned through observation and listening how wildfires are a natural part of the lifecycle of a forest’s regrowth and regenerative process. Now here at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the volcanoes are teaching me that the eruption process is similarly life giving. Both (natural) wildfires and volcanic eruptions are part of the earth’s renewal, rebirth, and regrowth process.

Now if I take what Mother Nature has been teaching me this year in very poignant and powerful ways and apply it to my own life, then this fiery energy I feel from within can be equally life giving and regenerative. BUT…just as the fires in Glacier have now been extinguished for the wintertime and the once active molten lava flow at Hawai’i Volcanoes is now dormant, I, too, must remember this balance by sustaining my own fire through periods of R-E-S-T. The inner fire is only a gift so long as you can sustain it.

I wanted to end this post by responding to the question: What sparks my passion? Below is just a start! What sparks yours?

I love being a student of life, open to new experiences, out of my comfort zone, willing to learn and to listen. I love encouraging others and feeling connected and inspired by others. I love being a teacher, learning something new every day, being open to the process of learning, inspiring others, and believing in others. I love believing in me, too! I love working on projects with others and the collaborative process. I love feeling inspired by a podcast, or a book, or what someone’s doing, or seeing a yellow bird delighting in the morning dew. I love the power of words and learning new languages (world views). I love how there are concepts in another language that are not available in English. I really love that there are feelings that cannot be described in ANY language. I love traveling, living in, and exploring new cultures and places. I love the dance of life. I like being new at things. I love feeling like I’m on another planet or like I’m in another world, not knowing what’s up from down, and being okay with it. I love feeling at home, surrounded by people who are speaking a language I do not understand. I love the open road for its possibilities. The same, too, for the horizon. I love the mountains and the ocean waves and sunsets and the feeling of expansion the moment I step outside. I love looking up at the twinkly sky and feeling connected and expanded and appreciating. I love the feeling of listening to a beautiful, soulful piece of music and feeling the energy coursing through my body, especially my spine, and the energy swirling up and down and all around. I love feeling mesmerized or fascinated by something simple like the wind moving through the ferns against the night sky. I love the creative inspiration to hold my hand up to the moon and take a photo, as though I were holding the moon in the palm of my hand. I love the inspiration to cook without a recipe, just following my intuition of what sounds good and trusting that guidance. I love listening to what inspires other people. I love the inspiration to put a lime in a coconut! I love smelling passion fruit. I literally could smell passion fruit all day long! Yum! I love basking in the rhythm and sound of silence. I love feeling that my heart was broken wide open by this beautiful little girl who was hula dancing with such graceful pleasure in a vibrant red dress. I love Feeling! I love allowing myself to feel, to be moved, to be surprised and delighted by Life! I love reading something or connecting with someone I don’t personally know, have never met before, yet feeling such loving appreciation and energy pulsating throughout my entire body for them. I love how the more I think about my passions, the more passionate I feel, and the more I light up to the things I love!

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Hawaii’s gifts: Passion fruit, mango, and red dragonfruit with mint garnish.

In Light,

Alicia

 

 

Hawai’i reflection: Allowing the flow of our experience

I’ve stepped into another world. It’s a world filled with plants I’m unfamiliar with, lava rock cascading all around me, vibrant sea creatures, frog calls masquerading as birdcalls to my untrained ear, and white tropicbirds soaring gracefully above me.

The weather ranges from hot to cool to humid to rain to rainbows. The frequent weather shifts are their own form of non-attachment. It’s almost as if Mother Nature were saying: Don’t get too attached to that sunshine, there might be a storm in the near future. You put on a rain jacket? That’s nice. But if you wait just a sec, you won’t need it.

For me personally, I am embracing it all. I’m excited with the changes. And it’s easier for me to embrace all of these changes—all of this life—like never before. It’s a result of my own gradual process of turning towards this ease, inviting in soulful wellbeing for my life.

I am currently sitting in the grounds of an outdoor garden and café. The closest feeling I have to this energy, this moment, was when I was living in Indonesia, especially traveling in Bali. I am experiencing a feeling of peaceful tranquility, an appreciation for the elements, for nature, this moment, for life itself.

 

This feeling feels one of overwhelming love, pure joy, a feeling of reverence for this life before me now. My heart swells and is captivated by it all. When my heart is this full, tears tend to spring forward.

In these gardens, something captures my attention and I focus lovingly on it. Then, sure enough, something else sparks my interest, igniting my imagination, so my focus shifts to this new fascination. A gecko makes it way like a stealth bandit through the grasses. The wind expands lazily about. The non-committal rain dampens the earth. The leaves absorb the movement of the winds as they dance and return to their calm stillness. The clouds have now decided to send down more liquid nourishment. The rain spatters about more forcefully. Subsiding once again, just 5 minutes have passed.

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I notice how my emotions follow this same fluidity of the weather. The sun comes out and my heart swells; a smile dashes immediately to my face. The clouds roll through and my mood shifts. The rain picks up and I feel this crescendo. I start to feel the power and the energy of this more forceful patterning of weather.

I think now of how quickly the storms pass, the moods shift, the weather turns. It’s the same with our emotions, our blessed, tender emotions. We may feel one particular mood in one moment, like anger or fear or overwhelmed or love or contentment, and then something happens, something changes, and that emotion can shift quite suddenly.

I’ve come to realize how our emotions can be viewed as a gift in our lives. Rather than fighting or resisting our emotions, can we, like my recollection of the weather, simply allow the range of emotions to pass through our lives? Can we acknowledge an emotion we are currently feeling with utter compassion? Can we treat our emotions as loving guidance in our lives, allowing for the “okayness” of the full spectrum of emotions that we feel?

Grant and I recently hiked the Keauhou Desert Trail in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. If you saw our photos from this hike, you might think: Wow what an amazing place to be! And it is an incredible place, but a photo can’t capture an individual’s personal experience of a lived event. For this hike, there were some really beautiful moments along it, but there was also some personal suffering. It was really hot and we were, quite frankly, unprepared for that kind of heat. We were out of our element, to say the very least.

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Keauhou and Puna Coast Trail

As we were walking across the old lava flow areas, my mind was feeling in a rebellious state. Having placed some resistance on my trail, my mind was feeling rather dissatisfied, over it, and ready to be done with the hike, with the heat. I tried my old stand in trick of telling myself, Your life is right now Alicia, not some future moment. Embrace your Now. Well, that advice wasn’t working for me.

So another little nugget of advice came to mind by way of Vincent van Gogh: “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” I found myself taking photos of the old volcanic lava flow, appreciating the rock cairns along the path like never before (signs of civilization and other people had also traveled this path; we were not alone!), and breathing expansively into the area of my belly. This advice worked slightly but when my body gets overly heated, my mind dwells in a melodramatic, fear-based state: I’m going to die! I’m not going to make it out alive! Yeeeah, I went there. 😉

I’ve learned enough about my mind to understand this part of me. I know that my mind is simply doing whatever it can to keep me safe. So thank you to my mind for your constant vigilance! However, I do not choose to live my life from a fear-based stance, so more often, I am surrendering to this feeling of trust in life, trust in my own inner wisdom, and trust in the universe to take care of me along the way.

The personal value I gained from this hike was to take care of myself, to honor how I’m feeling in the moment, and to listen to whatever it is that my mind/body/spirit needs at the time. One of the bigger takeaways from this hike was to not judge myself for my fears or my resistance and to be unconditionally okay.

Despite our first hike here feeling like a personal suck fest at times (which Grant will attest to also!) there was still beauty to be found both around me and, importantly, within me. So thank you, Van Gogh, for your timely advice as I continue to train myself to see the beauty everywhere, and especially within.

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Keauhou: photo taken before it really got hot!

Next stop, Hawai’i!

Welcoming Hawaiian Spirit!!

Tomorrow, Grant and I will fly to Hawaii for the winter season (November-April). Grant got a job as a Law Enforcement Park Ranger at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and I will be working in the Public Affairs office.

Grant and I have both been to Hawaii before but it will be our first time traveling there together. Neither of us have been to this national park before, nor stayed in Hawaii for this long.

So what’s happening with our cat Clyde, you might ask, or our RV?

We’ve learned that there is a 4-month quarantine on pets to Hawaii so unfortunately Clyde cannot join us. Instead, my mother-in-law and her husband have graciously welcomed Clyde into their home for the 6 months. Clyde will be wintering in Idaho!

As for our RV, it is tucked away in a storage facility for the next 6 months.

Throughout these past few months of coordinating this move from Glacier National Park to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, with all of the logistics involved with it, it’s been crystal clear to me the generous amount of love, support, and enthusiasm we’ve received from others to help facilitate our move.

This move in particular has reminded of the African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child. While Grant and I are not raising a child, it seems we are together birthing our dream. I can see how much we are not alone in creating this dream of ours, so with all my heart, Thank You! Mahalo!

How our first 6 months of RV living went

We’ve now completed our first summer at Glacier National Park. We began this journey back in April, but perhaps long before we actually arrived here.

First arriving in Glacier, we’d paused by Lake McDonald witnessing the snow glistening on those mountain peaks. With our last morning in the park, I found myself returning to that same place for a moment’s reflection. Our journey began in April with clear skies and cool spring weather. We are now ending our time here with some light rain, low-lying clouds and a cornucopia patterning of fall leaves.

As I stood by Lake McDonald, walking amongst the trees, I noticed the fullness of breath that was entering my body. Breathing in, I felt the breath travel easily through my nostrils, reaching down into my belly. Without conscious thought, that breath was making its way to each cell in my body, filling it with that loving, revitalized energy that our bodies need and our souls crave. I want to remember this feeling—this fullness of energy—as it carries us forward away from Glacier to our next adventure to come.

IMG_3669 copy.jpgAfter one summer spent in Glacier, it is my chance to say thank you. I have renewed my appreciation for the land, the spirit of adventure, and the astounding abundance that Mother Nature gifts us with each day.

This adventurous spirit reminds me with a whisper: Let go and feel the thrill of the life that is before you now!

To me, it’s felt like a summer of letting go even more, even more. This letting go process might ask you to let go of one specific way of living your life. It might ask you to let go of the things you think you need in your life in order to be happy. It also might ask you let go of one right way of doing or being or showing up in this world. It might ask you to let go of trying to control the conditions and relax into your greatest joys. “Be easy about it.” “Have more fun.” I remind myself daily.

Grant, our cat Clyde, and I moved from our home in Seattle to a 31’ RV in Glacier National Park, Montana. There were many new things for us to adjust to over this six-month stretch such as:

1) Living full time in an RV

2) Experiencing dry camping for an extended time with no electricity or water

3) Sharing a smaller space together

4) Driving an RV (Grant!)

5) Living in Glacier National Park

6) Working for the National Park Service

7) Installing solar panels on an RV (Grant!)

8) De-micing an RV (Grant!)

I’ll openly tell you that we are discovering this new lifestyle as we go.

Looking over this list, I realize that the easiest transition for us has been to live in Glacier National Park. It’s been easy to live where we love, amongst “the most care-killing scenery on the continent” (John Muir, 1901).

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Another fun part of this experience has been welcoming and sharing Glacier with many friends and family who came to visit us here over the summer. Grant and I realized that we’ve had more guests visit us in just one summer in Glacier than we’ve had in probably the past 10 years combined. Outstanding! I’ve loved welcoming guests to our home and sharing our love for the outdoors and adventure.

For the other items on this list, the learning is still underway but we are certainly more seasoned than we were 6 months ago. Ha!

This summer has seemed significant in terms of learning and growth. I consider myself a pretty flexible, adventurous soul yet there were plenty of aspects that have challenged me.

Amongst the greater challenges happened when we experienced the Howe Ridge fire that began in our Lake McDonald district in Glacier in August. Grant and I happened to be at the head of the lake the night we helped evacuate the private landowners and other park visitors from this area of the park. The fire moved quickly in ways that we didn’t expect. Fortunately, there were no casualties or injuries at the time of the fire. It was unique to witness varied responses to the fire and how the park adjusted to this devastation as best it could.

Before this season here, and despite how much time we’ve spent hiking or enjoying the outdoors, I had never given much thought to the amount of commitment and care it takes to manage and preserve our public lands, as well as ensure the safety of park visitors. It’s now something I feel a greater sense of appreciation for and respect. Thank you!

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Another challenge has been getting used to living in an RV. We have experienced various forms of newness from it, which has asked us to adapt to this new lifestyle we chose. We spent our first two months in Glacier dry camping, where we had no hook ups for water or electricity. At the beginning of October, our water was shut off to prevent the pipes from potentially freezing. So once again, we were adapting to an RV without water hookups.

Once the fall hit, we discovered that mice had found their way into the crawlspace equivalents of our RV. Grant has spent a significant amount of time playing an adult version of cat and mouse (it’s not as fun as the cartoons!).

Finally, simply getting used to such limited space has seemed very challenging at times. I usually recognize when I need to step out of the RV and go for a walk or be outdoors in some way. The limited space has led us to be more organized with our stuff and try to be more mindful of putting things away.

On the upside, with such limited space I have the desire to downsize even more. Does the stuff I have bring me a sense of joy? Do I actually use it? Do I really need it? If not, then I am ready to lighten my load. In such small quarters, I can see how much I crave space more than I do material things, so it becomes a simple decision to let something go.

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A final challenge I will mention is the nature of seasonal employment. Grant and I had never taken jobs quite like this before, where you know at the outset that the job you’ve accepted is not a permanent position. However, we didn’t know how we would personally feel about this status. There’s a part of me that still likes the ‘idea’ of seasonal employment, where you spend the summer season working in one of the northern parks. Then come fall, you simply head south for a winter seasonal job at a southern park.

We’ve since learned that hopping from park to park isn’t as seamless as we’d initially thought. For instance, there are certain permanent jobs that we cannot apply for because we aren’t already permanent employees. Also, you are not guaranteed an automatic rehire status year after year between parks. So while we may very well love to come back to Glacier next summer, as it stands, we have no guarantee of jobs here for next summer. These have been unexpected discoveries for us as this journey unfolds.

I will say that our hiring status with the National Park Service is bolstered by the fact that Grant and I are both military veterans. We also think we are more flexible by owning an RV, but we’re still learning if this proves true between parks.

As my seasonal employment in the Public Affairs office ended here at Glacier, I started thinking about how I have missed certain aspects of my teaching profession—for instance, the creativity, inspiring ideas, and the connection with my students. This is the first year I haven’t taught (ESL or yoga) since 2009! By not teaching, it’s helped me to realize that you do not have to be in the role of a ‘teacher’ to influence, uplift, or inspire those around you. Teaching can take the form of anything you desire. I believe my writings are helping to cultivate the creativity, inspiration, and connection I found through teaching.

As the dust settles on our season in Glacier, I allow my heart to expand in the direction I want to go—towards love, passion, joy, creativity, connection and flow. Despite the learning curve we faced during our 6 months of RV living, I remain open to the experience and discovery of where this might go. May our adventures to come feel deliciously satisfying, easeful, and thrilling!

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Body love: inspired writings from a Fall hike

It’s an often told story to share what ails us, the parts of our body that we feel a certain sense of discomfort or pain.

But what if tell the story of what’s going right with our body? What systems are working? What’s working easily, effortlessly and without thought. What parts of the body feel good. What parts of the body are neutral and so on.

This is the story I opt to share with you now.

This morning I woke up. Now this is my first point of appreciation. I woke up into consciousness, awake, A-L-I-V-E(!!), breathing, and aware for the day. I stayed in bed for a moment feeling into my feet and legs and belly, feeling the expansion of breath moving through my body.

I sat up in bed and I stretched, moving my torso slowly from side to side. Feeling into my ribs. Feeling the full extension of the arms overhead, the stretch of the shoulder girdle and the lengthening of the muscles.

I then went pee, eliminating my fluids without thought and with great ease. I looked into the mirror and noticed my eyes. I made eye contact with myself, if that makes sense. I noticed the sparkle in my eyes, the twinkle, their light reflecting back at me. I smoothed some coconut oil over my face, rubbing the oil around in slow circles, savoring the feeling of my skin beneath my hands. Feeling such reverence during the act. I washed the oil off my face with warm water savoring the feel of the warmth on my skin. I moved my tongue scraper across my tongue for a couple of swipes, removing the gunk that had accumulated there over the day and night prior.

Moving to the kitchen, I heated some warm lemon water and drank this down in slow, savory sips. My belly felt satisfied with this cleansing heat, this renewal.

Ready to face the day, I got dressed for a fall hike with my hubby. Moving easily to get dressed, putting on underwear, socks, pants, shirts, jacket, and warm layers. Protecting my body from the elements. Feeling into the comfort and weight of the clothes over me.

On our way to Avalanche hike, easily finding a parking spot we began on the trail. My body immediately sensed the cooler fall air. Snow beginning to accumulate in the higher elevations. The trees showing their magical unearthing of colors, a cornucopia of reds, oranges, yellows, purples, and greens. So festive. So welcome. What a beautiful offering to the earth and for our senses. Watching the delicate, hearty leaves gently taking flight on that next mountain breeze. Taking care as they move effortlessly to the earth below.

A witness to nature’s effortless ability to change—to let go—I absorb this reminder through every cell of my being. It’s time for me, too, to move on to the next phase of my life.

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The hike continued uphill past a gently moving stream, amidst the solid trees and mountains all around. Tucked into the valley, the trail meanders uphill towards Avalanche Lake. The breath begins to exert itself with greater energy. The blood is pumping and flowing. Oxygen is moving of its own accord throughout the body, nourishing and providing energy to every cell in the body. We think of this exertion as effort and yet the body is so wise, so intelligent, doing so much for us simultaneously and instantly, without conscious thought.

What a magnificent body I am in! I celebrate the fine-tuning of my body. I celebrate its strength, its flexibility, its adaptability, how it provides a container for all of my organs, and muscles, and bones, and cells. I appreciate my body’s ability to seek balance and protection and safety and alignment, always.

I appreciate the wholeness of my body. I appreciate the wisdom of my body. I allow for this glorious body of mine to do its thing, to SHINE! I am getting out of my own way. My head has been in it for way too long.

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I now feel into my body. I savor the feeling of my body. I know what it wants. Most of all, my body wants to feel loved, and accepted, and cared for, and allowed for, and appreciated. Feeling into my body’s inner perfection: its magnificent, shining glory. I can see it in my mind’s eye. I imagine this feeling of wellbeing passing through every cell of my body. Each cell is alive with energy, vitality, love, and flow. I am pulsating with love and wellbeing. I radiate prosperity and JOY. 

My time is NOW. I know it. I feel it. I allow it. Each cell is receiving this overwhelming tiding of blessings. I am safe. I have always been safe. I am loved. I have always been loved. I know that now. I know that now. Thank you!!! Thank you for the contrast in my life that has brought me powerfully and irrevocably to this point of clarity. There is no going back from this new knowing. Thank you!

I appreciate my now moment and I love where I’m going next. I feel excitement coursing through my veins. This feels energetic, exciting, pulsating, ALIVE!!!!

Thank you.

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Embracing our RV life

I am here to check in and share an update about where we’re at with our RV living.

Grant (hubby!), Clyde (cat!), and I have been fulltime RV’ing in West Glacier, Montana for almost three months now. We’re adapting to this new lifestyle in what seems like fun and exciting ways.

I started this blog post a few times now, but I recognized that I needed to give myself more room to experience our life here first before writing about it. I also waited for the inspiration to write.

For our first 2+ months here, we were dry camping. We used an external generator to charge our battery for electricity. Grant also installed solar panels on the roof of our RV as we set our sights on living [mostly] off the grid. We had filled up our water tank once in April, and managed to only use this water for our kitchen sink for two months. No showers. No toilet. We showered at the employee fitness center and used the campground’s restrooms. It worked.

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But alas, those days without hook ups are behind us (for now). Temperatures are hovering in the 80’s and we are quickly appreciating our new RV hook ups, with the use of AC.

In my blog post from May 5th, I had shared that I was still figuring out a job here and was unemployed. At the start of June, I began a full time, seasonal job with the National Park Service as an assistant to the Public Affairs Officer. It was a fortuitous job opening and I feel very fortunate to have it. I am brand new to the National Park Service, but not to federal employment.

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Already, my job has provided some unique opportunities. During my first week, I traveled with the local media crew up to Logan’s Pass on the Going to the Sun Road to see the snow plows in action, learn about the current snow conditions, and discuss the potential road opening for the season.

Through work (can I call it play?!?), I was invited to attend a Blackfeet Native American Blessing Ceremony dedicated to the opening of the road and the safety of all visitors who will pass through this area. The ceremony tradition first began with the initial opening of the road on July 15, 1933. However, the tradition was lost for many years. Fortunately, the ceremony was reintroduced in 2016 and has been held every year since. This year, only tribal members and park employees were invited to attend.

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Another cool work-related opportunity was to attend an outdoor education class offered through the Glacier Institute. Fittingly, the Glacier Institute’s motto is Learning Gone Wild. I attended their High Country Exploration course where we walked the Scenic Point trail in Two Medicine. Attending the class felt like a dream come true; it’s been something I have always wanted to do but never did. It felt thrilling to be guided by a woman who is a botanist, outdoor educator, and writer who after 30 years of teaching was still as exuberant as a 5-year old in sharing her love, fascination and knowledge of the flora, fauna, and history of the park!

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The Glacier Institute hike inspired Grant and I to travel back to Two Medicine over this past weekend for another hike. One thing we’ve both realized in living here is that neither of us are itching for a vacation. It’s a new feeling for us. I’ve always been inspired by the quote, “Create a life you don’t need a vacation from”. I know that this is exactly what we’re doing here. I may want a vacation, but that’s a different energy than one of need.

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What I notice the most about living in Glacier is how spacious I feel. I’m eager to learn and experience the park, yet also to simply relax and enjoy the simple pleasure of a sunset, a bird song, or a crackling campfire. I sense the reverence people hold for this place. It’s compelling to live immersed in a place that so many people appreciate and hold sacred.

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I didn’t really know how we would adapt to this lifestyle, how we would like it, but it’s been clear to both Grant and I for many years how much value we place on being in the outdoors and in the mountains; a daily renewal with Mother Nature.

Last weekend, we kayaked on the north side of Lake McDonald. At one point, I paused in the water and simply looked around, breathing in fully, deeply and expansively. I was feeling appreciation for the abundance of it all. Throwing my head back, I giggled aloud from sheer delight. YES! This feeling—this love, this connection, this celebration of all of life, this feeling of magnificent appreciation, this sense of wonder and true pleasure—now this is who I truly am, and what I’m here for.

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If I could offer you one gift, Meditation would be it

Sitting down to write this, I take a deliberate peek out the window. My eyes immediately light up as they take in the gentle sway of the tree branches outside our RV window. Pausing in stillness, my ears dance to the sound of the morning birdsong. Placing my feet firmly on the floor, my back resting upright against the seat cushion behind me, I set an intention for my writing, to share from my heart the value I have personally experienced through a daily meditation practice.

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Morning meditation

It was never my intention to become someone who meditates. A meditator, if you will (ha!). Meditation simply fell outside my scope of interest. First off, it seemed pretty obscure. I personally didn’t know anyone who actually meditated on the regular. Second, I didn’t understand its purpose or value. I had all sorts of other activities I loved to do that helped me to decompress (hiking, yoga, biking, lifting weights, running or walking). I felt like that was all I needed. So what was the point of meditation, exactly?

During my teaching fellowship in Indonesia, I ventured solo to a weeklong yoga and meditation retreat over the New Year leading into 2016. I came for the yoga part of the retreat; I’ve been forever changed by the meditation.

Stopping in Ubud, Bali for one night prior to the retreat, I attended my first yin yoga class. Do you know what yin yoga is? It’s a practice where you hold each pose for approximately 3-5 minutes. The class was in a beautiful open studio with a bubbly creek right outside. It was idyllic, paradise really. But my mind screamed restlessly at me throughout the practice. I thought it was really hard. I didn’t realize at the time how much slowing down my body would stir up my mind. My mind felt cantankerous, unwilling to play this new game.

The next day, I arrived at my retreat. Our mornings began with a silent walk together to the beach on the east side of the island, Gili Air. Arriving at the beach, each of us spread out continuing our silence through a morning sunrise meditation practice. The setting was indescribable, but my mind was still so restless. I could hardly sit still for 2 minutes, let alone the allotted 40. Yeesh!

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Sunrise meditation Gili Air, Indonesia

Fortunately, our teacher had given us three meditation options: seated, standing or walking meditation. It was clear to me that I could not do the seated meditation; I wasn’t ready for that. So instead, I opted to either stand in the sea with the water dancing about me or walk a slowed, intentional pace along the beach. Ah much better than seated meditation, said my mind.

After the retreat ended, it had affirmed how much I loved my yoga practice but I still wasn’t certain how I felt about meditation.

I returned to Padang, Indonesia where I was teaching English, and in February 2016 I decided to try out Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness 28-day Meditation Challenge. One of the most valuable lessons I took from her teachings had to do with my relationship with sound. Sharon offered up this teaching: when you observe a sound, the sound is simply happening—it comes, it goes. It is our relationship with that sound—giving it value or rejecting it (especially rejecting it)—where we struggle. Instead, might we allow the sound to simply be there without overly identifying with it or pushing it away? [At this point, can you see how this teaching on sound might apply to any condition you’re struggling with in life?]

For a long time, I had been overly stimulated by noise, by sound. I would often feel overwhelmed in crowds of people or with a lot of talking. When my husband and I were in graduate school in California, I had a hard time walking down a busy street with him, as the traffic noise would distract me to the point that I couldn’t concentrate on our conversation.

This same pattern of being disturbed by traffic and a lot of noise had traveled with me to Indonesia. But through Sharon’s teachings, I learned about my own agency in improving my relationship with sound. I learned that it’s about how you focus on what’s happening that matters. In this scenario, by rejecting certain sounds (esp. traffic) I had unknowingly created a lot of unnecessary suffering in my life by trying to change or alter something I couldn’t control. I couldn’t change that these sounds were happening, but I could change how much attention I gave to these sounds, how I perceived them, and their value.

After discovering this important teaching, I began taking my meditation practice to the streets, incorporating it in small ways throughout my day.

For fun, I began challenging myself on my daily commutes to campus. I had about a 30-minute walk, mostly uphill, to my office. My commute took me next to a busy road with many cars, motorbikes, buses, music blaring, horns beeping, car exhaust and heat swelling all around me. It was a perfect blending of seeming chaos. And yet, I was having the time of my life! I started focusing on things to appreciate. I started noticing the plants and the animals and the sky, feeling into the wind, and breathing deeply and intentionally to calm and cool my body. I would slow down my walk to keep cool in the heat, but also take time to appreciate the feel of my hip joints or the stretch of my legs as they moved at this slower, more intentional pace. I would savor the feel of my body moving steadily, rhythmically uphill. Essentially, I had introduced my own walking meditation in that busy hustle of life.

In March 2016, I decided I wanted to start a daily meditation practice, which I’ve been doing pretty consistently ever since. Two years later, meditation is the most valuable thing I do each day. And the funny thing is that it’s not about doing anything other than being intentionally silent and with my present moment experience.

Right now my meditation consists of a 15-minute meditation practice followed by 15-minutes of journal writing. And trust me, I am not overly rigid about what this routine looks like. I know myself well enough by now that if my practice starts to feel too disciplined (read: not fun) I-won’t-do-it. Period. So instead, I give myself grace each morning as I listen IN and feel for what I want to do for my meditation practice. For the time being, 15 minutes feels right. Sometimes, I want to sit on my yoga mat, or in a chair, or lie on my yoga mat and breathe, or sit outside with my back against a tree, or listen to a guided meditation, or pet my cat. I love to take my practice outdoors. Other times, I want to do a walking meditation or simply look up at the sky, out towards the mountains or the water and just breathe, soaking it all in.

The most valuable gift I’ve received through my meditation practice has been to show up for myself every day with kindness and compassion. It’s allowed me to care about how I feel, listening inward as I honor and allow for my inner experience of life. I have an increased capacity to notice and appreciate my life like never before.

So much of what I had previously struggled with has since dissolved. In its place, I feel an overwhelming amount of love, connection, inner stillness and peace. As I sit down to meditate, I still wonder how a practice that is so simple can bring me such overwhelming amounts of joy. Yet, it never fails to give me the spacious inner feeling I need each day.

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Listening IN, with love

Namaste,

Alicia

Free Meditation Resources:

Sharon Salzberg 28-Day Meditation Challenge https://www.sharonsalzberg.com/28-day-meditation-challenge-2018/

30-Minute Awareness Meditation with Katie Dutcher, Monterey Bay Meditation Studio  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbOzZ5awZ4Q

Palouse Mindfulness: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Online course  https://palousemindfulness.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaping Our Dream: Opting for a Fulltime RV Lifestyle

Thank you to my friend Jacqui for suggesting a blog post about the decision to RV, the logistics, thoughts, blockages, our plan, etc. Here goes:

I cannot seem to pinpoint the ‘exact’ moment we decided to transition to an RV full time. It’s more like it’s been our long-lasting love affair with the outdoors, leading us to try and figure out how to live more closely connected with nature.

In 2013-15, we lived in Boise, Idaho. At the time, we made a point of getting out into the mountains nearly every weekend. We had a Subaru Outback with a mattress in the back. I loved the freedom and ease to sleep anywhere! The weekends always turned into epic adventures.

However, as each weekend expired, I felt reluctant to return to Boise, back to the ‘big city’ (haha—such different interpretations of ‘city’!). Instead, I wanted to somehow make it work for us to live out there, surrounded by the mountains and intimately immersed in nature. But at the time, neither Grant nor I could envision what we would do for work—or how we would make that lifestyle work for us—so we continued our weekly trek: city-mountains; mountains-city.

We left Idaho in 2015; I had accepted a teaching fellowship in Indonesia and Grant had accepted a new job in law enforcement and would be training in Georgia. Completing his training, Grant moved to and began working in Seattle, Washington. After my teaching fellowship ended, I joined him in Seattle.

Our initial plan had been to live in Seattle for 3-5 years. This would have been our version of “settling down” since we had moved 15 times over the previous decade. However, life isn’t such a stickler for plans and so you roll with it as best you can.

Grant enjoyed his new job, but thrived on being busy and proactive. When he was placed in a more reactive group, he started to feel antsy, lacking meaningful work and began questioning the longevity of his career track. This led to a polarizing decision between a career that he had enjoyed and committed himself to, or our love for the outdoors. Grant is not someone who you can pay to sit around idly, and I am not willing to sacrifice his—or our—overall happiness and wellbeing for the sake of a paycheck. So, we needed a change; it’s turned into a fairly drastic one!

Combining his love for the outdoors with protection, Grant applied to a National Parks Law Enforcement Academy. At the same time, we started looking into purchasing an RV.

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Grant quit his job in November and started his new academy training this January. In March, Grant was offered a job as a seasonal Park Ranger at Glacier National Park, Montana, which we happily accepted. We’ve lived in Montana before, but this area is a first for us.

On April 26th, Grant and I finished packing up our belongings, deposited our cat Clyde in our new truck, and began our caravan drive out to Glacier.

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We arrived in West Glacier last Saturday morning. The closer we got to the mountains, the more excited I felt. A part of me felt like we would only be out here for a few days, only to return home, back to the city. But nope, we are in it for the long haul—and no, we do not know how long our ‘long haul’ is. We also don’t know where we will go in October, at the end of the park season.

So now that we know what Grant’s up to, what about me? Well, I am still figuring that out. I’ve been applying for jobs here. I will continue my writing and creating. Maybe I will get an opportunity to teach, I don’t know yet. Long term, I would also like to work for the National Parks, becoming an Interpretative Park Ranger or teach some form of outdoor education, yoga, nature therapy combo (how fun would it be to share my love and enthusiasm for the outdoors with others?!). Mostly, I am seeing what turns up for me along the way and following the path of my greatest joy.

IMG_2476.JPGFirst time writing from a campground!

Arriving in West Glacier, we moved into a park-provided campsite. We don’t currently have electricity or water hook ups, so we are using an external generator (limited use to three, two-hour windows each day) for electricity and heat. We have access to the park employee showers, laundry facility and campsite bathrooms. We will move into a site with power and water in June so until then, we get the full immersion into this RV lifestyle.

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I’ve literally pinched myself a few times since arriving here. Is this my life? Is this where I get to live for the summer? It feels breathtaking, serene, and expansive all in one breath. But then I get locked out of our RV, nibble on a frozen egg, and wait for the next generator-usage window to arrive so that I can turn on the heat in our RV. It’s an adjustment for sure, but the adventure of it enlivens me, presents me with life’s surprises and humor, and helps me to slow down enough to appreciate the truly miraculous moments of life.

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Over the years, people have asked me where I want to live and I’ve never had one clear answer. There is so much beauty and space to explore that my answer may never be one place. I suppose living in an RV allows me the flexibility to live everywhere—or wherever we can maneuver this 30’ RV!

Admittedly, we’ve had a lot to adjust to through all of these changes, but I think the stronger your desires, the more quickly you must learn to adjust the sails.

We’ve had to let go of the familiarity of what we knew, for a lifestyle that seems more compatible with who we both are. I won’t tell you that this transition process has been all sunshine and rainbows. But perhaps our most authentic path requires our greatest faith?

Wayne Dyer offers this important reminder: “You’ll see it when you believe it.” Belief comes first. Drastically changing our lifestyle has come at the cost of believing in something we cannot [yet] see.

This quietly persistent dream of ours is still taking shape, but I relax in the knowing that it is through the molding of our dreams that we will discover our greatest joys.

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Rooted Wings: I Believe I Can Fly, But I Also Want to Believe In Me

Alicia Brill

I’ve always felt a strong pull to travel and experience the world. As a child, my imagination transported me to the far off reaches of the world dreaming of what it would be like to travel to a foreign place.

I was forever traveling to exciting or exotic locations. I never imagined my travels including any of those humdrum, daily happenings of life.

Nope. I was off to bigger and better and more fanciful destinations. At least that’s how my mind imagined the world, the unknown.

At 6 years old, I cried when I first learned about the Persian Gulf War. I felt scared. My mom comforted me as she showed me a world map. Orienting us to the map, my mom pointed out where we lived (USA) and where the war was taking place (Persian Gulf). She did her best to assure me that we were “safe”, that the war was taking place far away from where we lived.

It was the first time I remember feeling impacted by world events.

This memory left a vivid imprint. My heart expanded that day. I began to care about people I didn’t know, and places I’d never been.

Along the way, my dream of merely seeing the world had morphed into my desire to be of service in this crazy beautiful world.

Following this desire has led me to some unique life experiences including: joining the US Army, a marriage proposal at 18k feet in Mexico, studying abroad in Morocco, graduate school in California, teaching English in Indonesia, completing a yoga teacher training, teaching yoga to military veterans, enrolling in Elephant Journal’s apprenticeship program, and now transitioning to living in an RV full time.

Insert pause.

I share my background with you, dear reader, so you’ll have a sense of my varied interests fueled by a relentless drive for “more”.

And here is where my story really begins.

My wings took me to far off places with many exceptional life experiences. But the truth is, I could no longer see it. What I was discovering was that you could be doing the most amazing things in the world, really following your passions and living life to the extreme, and yet still not be able to fully see or appreciate your life.

So, what was I missing?

I have always been a person who followed her passions, but there was a hidden cost: my relentless self-judgment and doubt. More devastating than feeling alone on my multipotentialite path was one of doubting my inherent sense of worthiness, value, and unique contribution in this world.

Let me give you some backstory that led me here.

In 2015-16, I accepted a teaching fellowship in Indonesia. This experience stretched the limit of my wings. Halfway through my fellowship, things were not going well for me. I wasn’t sleeping. I’d developed a chronic cough and felt completely run down. I hadn’t experienced these symptoms before and I felt scared and alone.

I had arrived at a juncture in my life where I had a choice to make. One option was to speak up, voice vulnerability, make changes, and prioritize my health and wellbeing above all else. My second option was to continue to suffer in silence, not ask for help, feel mentally defeated, or even quit my fellowship.

I chose option one.

Suddenly, my lifelong aspirations evaporated. In its place, I had to get real. And vulnerable. I had to place me first—inviting in my emotions, uncovering the stories I had been telling myself, and bringing curiosity to my thoughts and beliefs. I also needed to start appreciating the wisdom of my body.

Somehow, hidden under all of my layers of bullshit and untruths, there was this deep knowing that there had to be another way, an easier way. And so, I began inviting that easier way into my life.

That initial decision to ask for help, has led me along this continued opening and discovery of the joy to be found within and ultimately a coming home to me, in love and grace.

I began a daily meditation practice. Introducing this practice allowed me to become a compassionate observer of my thoughts and a more mindful participant in my life.

I started journaling, where writing became my friend, therapist, and mirror reflection. I wrote myself advice like: “You are going to take time out every day to appreciate you” and “You are no longer going to be so disciplined, not having fun, and relentlessly pursuing your goals where you miss out on life.” Huh. That still seems like some wicked good advice.

I’ve done a lot of brave things in my life. But by far, the bravest thing I’ve ever done is to open up to a new way of being in this world.

What I’ve learned through my inner experience of struggle, disallowance, and this seeming ‘battle’ with life was that I needed to infuse myself with the love, compassion and acceptance that I had so freely given to others.

My own story will tell you that you are of greatest benefit to this world when you honor your own story, who you uniquely are, and exactly where you’re at right now. That’s right. Right. Now.

Returning to my childhood home after Indonesia, I felt this new sense of peace steal over me. I thanked my 18-year-old self for the initial courage I had to follow my dreams. I then thanked the courage of my 31-year-old self who first turned towards her suffering with compassion and curiosity. This bird had quietly come home.

Photo credit: Sara Berglands