Space Needed For Integration

         For the past several weeks, I have been travelling non-stop.  It was an intentional trip to my homeland to see friends, attend an energy psychology training, and take care of some personal things.  As usual, it was full.  I visited 5 states in less than three weeks.  Every moment went as well as planned, but it felt as if I was checking things off a list to ensure the process ran smoothly.  Moments of downtime were embraced, as there was few that existed along the way.  

         And this is one of them.  Arrival at the airport.  After checking in, going through security, the bathroom, and having a special treat.  I no longer feel the sweat from the hurried rush of going from one point to another.  My breath has slowed down as I sit at my gate.  I can relax.  Although I am surrounded by others, I am briefly alone.  There’s still so much to process of what has occurred, but simultaneously it is prepping for what is next. I will only have one day in my new home of Malaga, before a several day excursion to another land. Therefore each moment of free time is freedom.  

         I am reminded how often we travel like this.  If we have a regular “job,” we may have limited vacation days.  We fit in so much, that there is little time to integrate.  And this is necessary to see, appreciate, and re-live in the beauty of the trip you just took. 

         Parallel to this, I recently attended a sound healing workshop, where infamous sound healer Jonathan Goldman shared several of his secrets to sound healing.  One was the value of silence.  Silence is where the healing occurs.  Goldman stated “silence is the yin to sound’s yang.”  He gave an example, that if we hum for five minutes, we must leave five minutes of silence for it to integrate into our bodies. We think sound is what heals, but it is sound linked with silence.  They need each other.

         And so as we gear up for our summer travel plans, it’s not just visiting a new land that is important.  It is also taking time after travel to process what occurs.  Perhaps you do this at then end of one’s trip, on arrival home, or journaling on a daily basis in one’s hotel room breaking up what is learned day by day.  

         What will be the yin to your yang? 

Helpers Along the Way

What makes a trip memorable isn’t always the destination one arrives at, but the assistance one receives from strangers along the way.  This was the case for me this past week.  I have been in America for two weeks.  Although I am from America, I haven’t lived here in nearly 10 years.  This trip had many facets to it, and was tightly booked.  I had planned that each component would go according to plan.  Family visits in NYC and Philly, an energy psychology conference in Maryland.  In addition, part of my journey included heading to Arizona to empty out my storage via donations and preparation for shipment to Spain.  Going through one’s belongings of items you have put aside for years is a difficult feat.  It’s physically and psychologically draining.  But I had assistance from some strangers.  

I was lucky enough to have my mom join me for this adventure, and used miles for our flight from Philly to Phoenix.  Because we were using miles, the layover I landed was a 6 hour wait! I reckoned this would be do-able with my annual one day passes to use with United, but when we got to the United Club a sign was posted stating “no one day passes.”  I thought I would risk it, and an exception would be made.  A staff member obliged and offered a simple “why not?”  He let us in.  As we sat in the lounge and grabbed breakfast, I conjured to further chance my luck.  I asked a staff member if we could be bumped to an earlier flight, and she squeezed down our six hour layover to 90 minutes.  She warned us there was a possibility our luggage wouldn’t make it.  But luck continued and our luggage arrived on time.  Travel blessings were abound. With each small level of assistance, I thanked the universe for all the help along the way from these everyday angels.  

After landing in Phoenix, grabbing lunch, we headed straight to work at a storage facility in Tempe.  I had zero plan of where we were going to donate all these belongings and furniture.  Our hybrid rental car was only mid size.  The local Goodwill took all donations, but they did not have the availability pick items up.  I didn’t know how people sold or gave away items anymore.  Craigslist?  Facebook Marketplace?  There wasn’t enough time to list each item and sell it.

But on our first day at the storage facility, a fellow storage neighbor walked by and chatted with us.  My mom offered her a massage chair I was donating.   She responded with a quick and exuberant “yes!”  We informed her, I had numerous other items I would be giving away.  She said she would take all of them, and she did.  Throughout the week, Roberta was there at moments when we needed her.  My mom said in some ways she was like an angel, you asked for her and she was right there in the storage facility ready to pick up an item.  In total we spent 20 hours in three days sorting through this storage, and this would have been even longer if we didn’t have Roberta’s assistance.  

It amazes me how help can be there when you need it, and it comes from the unexpected.  With each person we met and assisted us along the journey, I gave them one of these Gratitude Puzo/Bella Cards.  It’s a small simple way to offer gratitude, but it is tangible and memorable.  I stayed in that positive zone: offering kindness, receiving kindness, offering gratitude.  The cycle continues.  

Life may not always work out as smoothly and seamlessly as this, but sometimes the kindness of strangers may surprise us.  All we have to do is ask, be willing to receive.  And also know that it is our mission as humans to pay that back forward with others, in one way or another. 

Returning to Your Homeland

         I am embarking on a several week trip to America.  It’s my first time going to the states since I moved to Spain, and probably the longest period I haven’t travelled anywhere since the pandemic.  Six months.  I can’t help but wonder, where is home?

         This summer marks ten years that I have lived outside of America, via the United Kingdom, France, and now Spain.  A new friend I met in Europe reminded me that “you are not American, you are a world citizen.”  At first, I wanted to disagree with him.  My upbringing was in America, I have an American accent, my family is there, I own a home there.  Of course I am American, a multiracial American.  But as I got on the plane in Lisbon today (my layover from Malaga), I am surrounded by American accents.  It’s awkward.  I feel I don’t fit in.  Do these people understand me?  Were they just on holiday, taking a dream vacation?  Or  are they like me just visiting America too?  This is my life.  Staff members and passport control are asking how long I have been in Europe.  I respond by pulling out my visa.  Perhaps I am a global citizen.  

         I realize maybe we don’t have to choose.  We are not one or the other.  We can be all.  My friend recently bought a home in Michigan.  We are from the Midwest, and I asked her will she give up her home in New York and totally move to this new home in Michigan.  She doesn’t know.   She too, also feels both are home: East Coast and the Midwest.  You don’t have to choose one or the other.  There is reality you can be both.  It reminds me of my racial identity.  Years ago, when growing up and taking standardized tests, I had to choose my race when filling out the form. I informed the teacher, I wasn’t just one answer.  But there was little cultural sensitivity at the time and in small time Ohio.  She forced me to choose one.  Do I choose how others define me?  Do I change the response each time, letting each parent be represented?  Do I opt out and not answer?  Why must we conform?  

         After ten years of living overseas, and for ten years prior to that living in various parts of America, I realize all parts are me.  An Ohio Cali Hawaiian Philly New York American citizen.  That is okay.  Do not allow others to define you. You have a choice in this.  I am returning to the country I was born in, but now I realize it’s part of me.  Not all of me. 

My Current Life Courses

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

―  Henry Ford

This week, I found myself enrolled in 3 courses, facilitating 1, and have paused 1.  No, I’m not a graduate student.  I am a 44 year old female who is transitioning out of my field of being a clinical psychologist and stepping into the unknown world of creating my own path. Although I received my doctorate nearly 20 years ago, I am continuously learning.  I realize in the past my learning was about the attainment of a degree.  I took various classes that would afford me a spot in college, then graduate school, then the right internship.   After getting my license in clinical psychology and having full time employment, it was all about getting certificates in everything from hypnosis, reiki, sound healing, EMDR, executive coaching, labyrinth facilitation, Internal Family Systems, Gottman trained marital therapy, Diversity and Inclusion, 500 hour yoga certificates.  The list goes on, and although I admit initially I did it because my jobs had so much funding in ongoing education and continuing credits, I maxed it out annually.  Today I have no job, and find myself seeking more knowledge. 

But now I have the freedom to choose, without a job paying for it, what am I enrolled in? 

A course about the Black Madonna by Dr. Christena Cleveland.  It’s described as a virtual pilgrimage to explore how the Dark Divine Mother can heal and help us, and how we can view ourselves as sacred.  It’s taught by a female social psychologist and theologian. 

Another course I am getting psychology credit for is Self-Compassion, a class created by Dr. Kristen Neff, a clinical psychologist.  This includes Buddhist and mindfulness principles as a way to make friends and care for ourselves.

In the midst of this, I signed up for a pilgrimage course e-course by Phil Cousineau who is a filmmaker, mythologist, and retreat facilitator.  He previously was mentored by my favorite mythologist Joseph Campbell and therefore this class is focused on how to be intentional with each trip we take and facilitate these types of reflective spiritual inquires when leading others.  

The course I am facilitating, which I seem to do annually, is The Artist Way by Julia Cameron.  This is all about reclaiming our creativity, and although I facilitate it, I also participate in it and the majority of the exercises.   My only class on pause, due to scheduling, is Flamenco , taught by a local Malguena in complete Spanish. 

Black Madonna, Pilgrimage, Compassion, Art, and a tad of Flamenco.  

If I were to capture who I am right now in five classes this would be it.  But the thing is, I am not doing these classes right now to check  them off a list.  I want to embed the lessons in my body.  It’s the integration that takes time.  

What classes in life are you currently enrolled in?  How would you sum up who you are in five classes? 

Lessons on the Path to 44

This week I turn 44.  The older I get, the more intrigued I am of what will arise in my life.  When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to be a teenager, get my driver’s license, legally go to bars.  Then after 21, the zest momentarily dissipated.  I come from a culture in America, where there seems to be a fear of getting older.  Greeting cards exist that are decorated with gravestones on the front. These cards remind the birthday recipient they are “over the hill.”  We are told, it’s all downhill from here.  But I am curious, could the path continue to be uphill or simply another part of the journey?  And so I created a list of lessons on the path to 44.  

This year’s life lessons

  1. The beauty of grief lies in compassion and common humanity
  2. Allow endings to make space for beginnings
  3. Cherish those you love and make time for them
  4. You can always pivot
  5. Recognize and live in gratitude when your dreams become real
  6. Listen to the internal guidance
  7. I’m a forever pilgrim
  8. Struggle is part of the story
  9. Those who have died are still with you
  10. The answer is an open heart
  11. Learn to trust you will be supported.  

Dreams Become Reality 

One year ago to the day, I was living in Paris and filming an episode for HGTV’s House Hunters International.  It was one of my favorite television shows, and I dreamed of being on it.  The director was a documentarian, and I felt when filming the episode it was as if it was a commercial for my life.  It was a snapshot of me, after I left my job in the UK, moved with my two dogs to Paris, and embarked on the life of being a writer and sound healer.  All rental properties I looked at were on the Left Bank, and I wanted to live the life of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, and Anais Nin.  For a moment in time, I did.

Months after filming, my beloved 15 year old English Bulldog Puzo died.  If you watched the show, much of my life and where I chose to live was dependent on Puzo and his limited mobility.  I experienced the greatest grief of my life during that time, but people reminded me there was beauty in this.  My heart proved it had so much capacity to love another and his loss was a mirror to this.  Friends and acquaintances from all over the world offered condolences, even high school classmates who I hadn’t seen in over twenty years.  It served as a reminder that all of us suffer and we are here to walk each other home through the suffering.

Dreams Pivot

Shortly prior to Puzo dying, I had intuitive guidance from my deceased great-grandmother that Puzo would die, it would be okay, and I would move to Spain in regards to my ancestry.  I didn’t expect this.  But after he died, I felt the urge and push to move to Malaga.  Signs began popping up everywhere, and I trusted this.  Dreams can pivot.  

There was much drama and strife to attain this visa, which included needing to go to America for six weeks to the Spanish Consulate in NYC.  Friends and family were supportive, as I stressed out, cried with grief, confusion, and frustration. It was unclear where I was going in life, but all of them reminded me it would be okay regardless of the results.  There were internal doubts that this would work out.  I was going to give up, and simply return to Paris and enjoy my final weeks there before returning to America.  As I left for the airport, my visa was being processed. 

The Wanderlust Continues

Now that I am here in Malaga Spain, I look at my rental apartment.  The New York style I thought I would have years ago when I dreamed of purchasing a place in this city.  When I first visited this town nearly ten years ago, I thought it would be an ideal place to live.  But I viewed it as more of a retirement dream, not somewhere to live in my 40s.  But for some reason Malaga is pulling me now. 

 As I walk by this Spanish guitar player daily on my stroll with Bella (my 14 year old chug), he plays this romantic Spanish song which is familiar.  It was one of the few songs I used to know on the guitar 20 years ago.  Each time I walk by him, I wonder am I pulled to that song now because I know it?  Did part of me know then I would end up here?  Or was there a multiverse where I would have always ended up here?  Who is to say?  

I am grateful for where I am at 44, and look forward to what lessons are in store for me in this next year. 

Resources

For a peak into my episode on HGTV it was titled Oh La La Woof check this out https://m.facebook.com/HGTVHouseHunters/videos/paris-is-callinghouse-hunters-internationalpremiereparis-france1030930c-hgtvauth/453602243537526/?refsrc=deprecated&_rdr

To read about previous reflections and lessons learned about viewing my life as a tourist check out this blog post https://amodernpilgrimage.com/how-to-live-life-like-a-tourist/

A Trip to the local Buddhist Stupa

Last week, my mom and I had visited a Buddhist Stupa in the town of Benalmadena.  I had heard so much about it over the past several months of living in Spain, but finally we had a car rental and so it was easily accessible.  This Stupa is high in the hills of Benalmadena, surrounded by expensive newly built modern white homes.  

As I left the parked car, I passed a tiny gift shop.  The shop attendee stood outside holding her mala beads, repeating silently prayers. I knew her presence here was an act of service.   My gaze was then are pulled to the Tibetan flags that surround the exterior of the temple.  The flags blow in the wind as you are mesmerized by the view of the sea, town, and temple.  

My mom was with me, as was my 14 year old dog Bella.  We had planned to take turns holding Bella outside as we visited quickly the Stupa.  Another volunteer monitoring the visitors noted our struggle and signified we could both come in with the dog.  I thought of what an act of kindness this was and appreciated the gesture of brining my pet to this sacred space unannounced.  After a doing meditation, giving an offering, and walking around the Stupa, we left.  I headed back to the gift shop, and wanted to buy a beautiful shawl I saw inside the Stupa.  The volunteer noted this could only be purchased inside the Stupa.  I ventured back in, this time leaving the dog with my mom.  I thought it would be a quick money exchange.  

As I entered, the volunteer was talking to another woman about the Stupa and the history of it.  There were several other visitors present, this included one woman there with a young child around age 4-5.  This child began to cry, and automatically the mother headed out of the door.  I knew she felt shame, embarrassment, and didn’t want to disrupt the other visitors.  Yet, the volunteer walked towards them and welcomed them back in.  She gave the crying child two oranges, she said one could be for her and one was to be offered to the Buddha in front of the temple.  The child stopped crying, and made her offering.  She then began asking for a piece of chocolate, she saw by the offering area.  The mother and volunteer laughed, as she offered the child a piece of chocolate.  

I witnessed the essence of Buddha with this volunteer who was so welcoming towards this child, mother, me, and my dog.  She was exemplifying Buddhism versus trying to follow “rules” of being the keeper of the Stupa.  I knew with me entering the temple again and purchasing that prayer shawl, I was meant to observe this act of kindness that was so beautiful.  It will stay etched in my mind.  

If we are slow enough to observe our atmosphere, we may start to notice acts of kindness popping up everyday.  What have you seen recently? 

“An encounter with a Stupa is an encounter with myth – or as Carl Jung and Joseph Campell might have phrased it, an archetypal truth. What may at first seem only to be an artistic and perhaps nostalgic arrangement of brick, stone or wood may eventually come to be seen as an elaborate vessel, transporting the teachings of the Buddha – Buddhadharma – across three millennia.”

– Buddhist Stupas in Asia: The Shape of Perfection. 2001

Synchronicity in Sound Healing

Two years ago, while in Colorado with a friend, we stumbled upon a gem show.  As we searched through which gemstones we may find, there were people selling Tibetan bowls.  I was new to the world of sound healing and in the process of ongoing training.  Many of the bowls I found were overpriced, but we ended up finding one booth by a company called Serenity Tibet.  There was a woman discussing the bowls that were available, and were at an affordable price.  A man was seated at the booth, I assumed it was this woman’s husband and he was dragged to this expo event.  As I began talking to him, I discovered he himself was a sound healer from Tibet.  He actually was Suren Shrestha, well known teacher, author, and healer.  We briefly shared our experiences about sound, took some photos, and we bought some lovely instruments from them.  

Later that week, I informed my teacher Maggie in Wales about this “random” event.  She said to me, “weird things happen when you enter the world of sound.”  She continued to share that there will be moments of synchronicity on this path of sound healing.  This was true in her life, and now it was working it’s magic in mine.  

And she was right, more is slowly being revealed.  Little by little.  I had been featured on the show House Hunters International, as I searched for a place in Paris. They highlighted me doing sound healing, even though this was very new to my life. It was demonstrated for the world to see. As a trained clinical psychologist, I can share knowledge gained from theories I know, but I cannot have friends or family as clientele.  In yoga, although I have led a mini class or two with family members or friends, many don’t want to stay in an entire yoga class with me facilitating it.  But sound healing has been different.  It’s one area where I can offer the beauty and transmission of sound, regardless of the relationship to the being in front of me.  In addition, I can do this with more than one person in the room.

I was watching a show the other day which talked of manifestations, and when they discussed synchronicities as moments where various things align in our lives, the host said “we also call these things weird.”  These are moments when things can’t be explained, and I have had many of these in my life.  According to Jung and the website www.artsofthoughts.com

“Jung believed that many occurrences labeled as “coincidences,” are not actually due to chance. Instead, he believed that these occurrences are directly related to the observer’s mind, and serve to provide powerful insight, direction and guidance.”

 Right now, it seems to be headed in the direction of sound, pilgrimage, and the Black Madonna.  Interestingly, I am embarking on a pilgrimage that will incorporate all of these this summer.  More later on this.  I’m leading my first public sound bath in Malaga, and I’m intrigued to see where this is going.  I am new-ish to this world, but have already led sound healing sessions in America, England, Wales, France, and now Spain.  Let’s see what “weird” things arise next.  

What “weird” moments of synchronicity are arising in your life now? They are there if you are willing to see them.  Put away the distractions, be, see what arises, and note them down so you don’t forget.  

Hearts Everywhere I See

Today, as I sat on the beach with Bella.  I reflected on creating a video on manifestation.  I was thinking of all the ways things have shifted in me throughout the past week, when I opened up my heart more.  It was the final missing piece for manifestation, that I didn’t realize I was lacking.  I have been focusing on my heart chakra through doing heart opening yoga sequences and mantras, but also felt a sense of it being broken open the other day.  This was from the mere thought of fostering a dog.   I have yet to decide if and when I will do this, but the mere thought of this act of love shifted something in me.  After the grief of losing one dog, and being an emotional caretaker for numerous people and a psychologist, I felt there was no space in my heart for anyone and anything else.  This was a catalyst. 

After that thought occurred, I began to see changes in my reality.  The Law of Attraction was at work.  I received scholarships for two online courses I have been eyeing.  One is on the Black Madonna and the other is on Self Compassion.  Both I had applied for various scholarships from these organizations before and never received it.  And several other positive events occurred during the week.  It was a week filled of joyous unexpected abundance.  I wanted to share this news with others.  I had my bikini on, and was going to put my shirt back on to film the video. I looked down and saw this.

A bird had pooped on it, during the minutes my shirt was off.  And it wasn’t just any poop, it was in the shape of a heart.  It was hilarious to me.  I am already the type of person to believe that a bird pooping on you can be good luck.  It’s all in the reframing.   But  the fact it pooped on my shirt that was  in the shape of a heart, was more comedic.  

I posted this on social media, and my father noted “have fun getting the stain off.”  I had to share with him, you are missing the point.  It doesn’t matter what happens with the shirt.  It was seeing the blessing and humor in this situation versus getting upset.  In letting it go, perhaps it would create more space in my life for the next thing.  

Our Beach Personalities

“At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides and follow the sun. “ – Sandy Gingras

I am lucky enough to currently live walking distance to the port and beach.  Bella and I go nearly everyday.  And one thing I love to do is watch people as they engage with the sun and beach.  The area I am in is the Costa del Sol, entitled this after an excessive amount of days of sun per year.  Due to the fact that the average is around 325 days of sun, there are many tourists, retirees, and transplants from colder countries during the winter months.  

I witness people first walk onto the port, seeing the Mediterranean and the sun on a winter day. They seem stunned by the beauty.  Selfies are taken.  People sit at the first restaurant at the port to take in the local musicians, and drink a sangria or cana.  Their shoulders relax.  People then continue their stroll down the port, and eventually head to the beach.

It’s here I observe the moment they have been waiting for.  Although the sea is too cold to swim in at the moment, some still do.  It’s normal to see children get excited when arriving at the beach, because this is what children do.  But oftentimes, the adults become childlike as well.  I noticed a woman who seemed so happy being here on a weekday, that she started to slow dance with the ocean.  I saw another woman playing tag with the ocean waves that came to shore, she was in jeans and tried to run away as they came close to her.  Of course the ocean won that round, as they generally win the majority of rounds.  But the other day I saw something that will be etched in my memory.

The weather was warm, it was in the 80s (or 25 plus celsius), therefore more people were in the water.  It was the first weekend, I was in a bikini.  This is how warm it is.   There was a man who looked like a local with his son, he seemed to have just gotten out of the water.  His son laid on a towel in the sand.  This man rolled in the sand like he was a sushi roll being wrapped.  He did it with joy.  With his arms up and showed his child how great he was feeling.  Generally the sand is something everyone I know avoids, but he embraced it.  He left it on for at least ten minutes, maybe it served as an exfoliator as one does in the Dead Sea or in the spas.  Eventually he took another dip in the Mediterranean and appeared refreshed.  This was actually a joy to witness. 

I’m sharing this on the blog because it made me smile.  It served as a reminder that I need to be present to find pleasure and appreciation in another’s joy.  I wouldn’t have witnessed it if I was on my phone, and no I wasn’t quick enough to capture it on camera.  But it’s etched in my mind.  I want to encourage you to be present each time you are outside, not only to be with all of nature, people, and animals that are around you, but to observe the little things in strangers around you.  Happiness is all around.

Observe Love

It’s a time of dating apps, where one can swipe right or left to determine your worth to them.  Love seems elusive.  It’s a time where people can unmatch or ghost you if you don’t fit their ideal in the moment.  One feels disposable.  Love is a condition so many of us strive for, but feels far from reach.  

And all we need to do to witness love is put down our phones and observe it.  This is a new practice I have been trying.  If I am striving for love and all the aspects of it, not just romantic, but also communal, friendship, familial, and universal, then I am practicing witnessing and being love.  It requires one’s presence.

Today, as I sat in a local town square to be in the sun with my dog, I was present.  I observed a woman crawling on her knees to move a cigarette butt so her baby wouldn’t grasp for it as he crawled the same park.  I saw a single father, pushing his slightly tween daughter on a makeshift swing.  I observed two friends catching up, as they were on holiday.  I saw how I shielded the eyes of my dog when a razor scooter zoomed by so her bark wouldn’t ruin the mood of the moment for those around me.  I interacted with a stranger as our dogs met, and although her dog was barking, she knew her pet was curious and only wanted to smell out my dog and greet it.  None of these people were on their phones.  They were present and patient.  And this is where I observe the lines repeated so often in weddings from the Corinthians: “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs.”   

We don’t have to wait to hear those words to be read as people exchange their vows, to see them play into action.  It’s a reminder that love is more than one’s romantic partner.  Love is how we interact with other beings in the world.  Love does not have to be saved for special moments, it is possible in every moment.  So in a time of swiping, impatience, and greed, we can remind ourselves love still exists and is all around.  But it requires us to observe.  And when we can observe love wholeheartedly, there’s a contagion to that.  We want to pass it on.  Don’t pass on the bitterness, frustration, or stress.  Pass on the love in the little acts you engage in with those in your atmosphere.

Today take note of the love you witness.  Pass it on.

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