Becoming Uncivilized

animals of costa rica

I grew up in the shiny years of American life. Cut my teeth on James Dean movies, the Mouseketeers and a boat load of pie in the sky thinking. I was there when the indoor shopping mall was a concept that would define Americans. I was there when I Love Lucy started being broadcast in color and the fable of Cinderella started dictating the entire value system for girls growing into women. Consumerism, telecommunications, fast food, stress and Starbucks became a definition for living the American dream.

And, admittedly, I went after the picket fence, higher education, financial success and bought the whole nine yards of civilized American life, hook line and sinker. But what I did not know when I became one of the sheep, following the herd, was this: There are profound tradeoffs for having a platinum Visa. Following the norm, the subliminal and not so subtle dictates of a society means that you do not follow other things, namely; intuition, spiritual values, living in the rhythm of nature and following the heart. The two value systems are like oil and water.

But I hear you say: “That’s not true at all! You can rack up credit card debt, climb the ladder of success, shop till you drop and watch reality TV till your eyeballs fall out but you still can be living a passionate, joyful, stress-free and creative spiritual life”. Not.

And although I opted out of the normal American life decades ago, downsized, chose art over money, valued my spiritual beliefs over collective thinking, I still had no idea what tradeoffs my soul was really making to live inside of a culture that is so mesmerizing.   I had no idea what an illusion it all is.

When I came to Costa Rica I arrived as an observer. An observer of a culture not my own. An observer of nature and how subservient to the natural environment we all are. But what I did not know is how the constant presence of nature and beauty can change how you vibrate, think, feel and act. In the USA I was cut off from my natural rhythm, I was a late to sleep and late to rise person, jolting myself into a day with coffee. I was bombarded 24/7 by cell phone towers, electromagnetic overload, unnatural light, traffic, stress and the power coursing through city life left me sleepless all too often. Take all that out of my equation here in a third world country and what’s left is…space. Energetic space. Room for the heart to breath.

So the observer in me watched people living an unhurried life, eat large meals in the morning, take naps in the afternoon. Indigenous people here are never, ever in a hurry and where I am on the Pacific coast there are no traffic lights and simply no traffic. You have to go to bed with sundown and get up at sunrise. Nature gives you no choice. The animals are all living their true nature. Just watch the iguana, the parrot, the cicadas, monkey or jaguar to know that they are true to what makes them unique. Simplicity is Costa Rica. A downsized, small footprint is all there is room for in the jungle and if you listen, watch, feel and smell the reality all around there is no choice but to adapt, flow and merge with the pace and the values inherent in the natural environment.

So people ask why I am still here in Costa Rica, why I stay, why there is nothing about the civilized world I miss (except ice cream). My answer is that living a more uncivilized life has returned me to myself.

sloth

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Your Bucket List

Follow your heart

As a modern day gypsy living from pillar to post was not on my top ten Bucket List items.  I had the following dreams instead: I had things on my list like getting an Oscar, writing a bestseller, seeing the caves of Damanhur, going to Antarctica, and winning the lottery, of course.  But I won the lottery the minute I said yes to my heart and left normal life, as most of us know it.

I have been having a life on the road that is dotted with awe-inspiring, jaw dropping beauty, kind-hearted people, challenging culture shocks, language barriers and physical limitations. I chronicle how different I feel when I live in the city versus what my body changes into when I live in the jungle here in Costa Rica. Not a day anywhere is the same as the day before.

I have grown to know two certainties in my life: That all you can count on is change. And secondly, that love is the only real human currency. Money can in fact, not matter. When I can focus on these two things then fear can’t take a foothold. If every encounter I have is rooted in love and each moment of change is embraced then there is no way to contract from what life dishes out on a daily basis. Everything becomes a way of learning about self and other, about having and not having, about what the soul truly needs in order to thrive.

This is why I am a gypsy. I value experience far above stability and job security. As a result, my mind cannot become entrenched in the cultural mind, cannot feed on bad news, or really run the show in my life at all. Living and navigating by intuition and a spirit of “Yes” is a heart-based matter. Living in the heart takes courage and is a bit like “spelunking” into caves that are dark and unclear with the full knowledge that you are tethered to a large Universe that has only your wellbeing and growth in mind.

But one of the hidden benefits of living a nomadic life with few possession and estimating real wealth as beauty, spirit, new friends, new opportunity and an adventurous spirit, is it changes your physical chemistry. The body is not a vehicle just to get me from one country to the next, but is completely tuned to the vibration at which I live when I am inspired and challenged. Those experiences raise endorphins, change brain chemistry, metabolism, and virtually every cell in the body.

Living as a modern gypsy insists on total integration of mind, body and heart humming forward as one unit with the life battery being the soul. I don’t know how I could go back to living any other way.

bucket list

Waking Up

I woke up this morning , cats perched on my chest purring so loudly who needs an alarm clock.  I had great plans for my day.  The sun was finally out after a few days of torrential rain and I had plotted out my next installment of writing to be done on the screenplay I am involved in, a screenplay that tests my very metal.  I would get up and then reward myself with watching the Golden Globes. So, I got up and did the usual.  Brushed my teeth, fed the now yowling cats, poured a cup of Masala tea and headed to my desk.  But I got waylaid.  Something tugged on my heart from the inner realms and stopped my trajectory toward the computer.

It was a large purple and white orchid I had sitting in the window.  The sun was streaming in behind the  spider veined  petals and they seemed to be lit from the inside out.  Suddenly, nothing seemed relevant at all except to drink in the beauty of the petals and the cosmic design of it’s very unique personality.  No orchid is the same.  No petal the exact mirror or design.  Humans are just like that even if they are twins there is one mole or a different shape to the smile that makes them one of a kind.

Already my day was traveling down a different road.  In the past, I had my list, my “to do’s” numbered one through infinity and would start the day by reminding myself what I was up against and then like my exercise regime, I would just do one rep at a time till I was done.  Sometimes that would take me till after midnight.  But, my life has changed since those days. Living in the flow of life makes living by lists a bit obsolete.  And you may ask, ” If you live in the flow how do you get anything done”.  Well that is truly a mystery.

Somehow, even when distracted from an original intent to sit at my computer and answer emails, and instead sitting with the orchid as it vibrates its neon colors, as the sun pours in the window one minute, illuminating shapes and hues that I have no name for and then a cloud mutes it all into an impressionistic painting, my vibrational frequency rises to the experience.  My field of the heart opens, I am more in a feeling state, feeling my life, I am more joyful and happy.  I am changed for those moments I INTENTIONALLY allow myself to “wake up” to what is right in front of me. To slow down to notice life.  My heart is met with a kind of energetic communication that changes how I hum through the day.  And subsequently, how I hum through my to do list.

I know you.  You and I are very similar.  We each have a habit of thinking just the opposite:  “If I get everything else I need to do today out of the way I will feel satisfied, less stressed, more productive and then I will have the time to sit and really look at the flowers in front of me, the ones that have been there all the time.”  And I am here to tell you that this is an illusion.  When was the last time that really did happen in just that way?  What really happens is we believe the illusion, start ticking away at a list that is filled with not terribly inspiring things like calling the insurance company, taking out the trash, answering emails, vacuuming, that oil change etc etc etc.   And before we know it we have little time left for anything creative, joy filled or contemplative.  Right?  We are simply too busy to be happy.

Well here is the truth.  Somehow, very much a mystery to me  (and the mystery is what makes my life worth living), somehow when I am awake enough in my own body and my own intentional life, and I make the room to let myself be surprised by joy, interrupted by the unknown and the unplanned, then my to do list gets done and then some.  Because you see, when I vibrate at the level of love and joy, I hum along in an open posture to life, not reactive to it and I draw in a total experience of every thing else humming along and vibrating at the same rate I am:  Faster.

Everything is done with efficiency, every call to people who I usually have to struggle with like a credit card person or a tech person for my computer are all in good moods and get the job done for me in a blink.  And I just find myself un-flustered, and just a more pleasant person all the way around.  Then what happens is I draw in more very pleasant people, more inspired experiences, more surprises to throw me off my game on getting things done and I “flow” toward those new and wonderful interruptions to my day….and it still all gets done because I am feeling happy and creative.

“If you want to make god laugh…tell him your plans.”

And there is a caveat to this truth.   Sometimes those interruptions are hard, sad, filled with crisis and a demand to do something that feels entirely unpleasant or unwanted.  A car accident, a friend suddenly dies, a husband cheats with his secretary, a foreclosure, lost job, illness.  These harder aspects to living still require the very same posture.  Move with the flow, feel it all, see the opportunity to be a bigger, better, less reactive you.

And in the contrast of this difficult moment is its opposite:  In the pain there is the joy you would rather feel, in the shock is a calm place inside of you that you can reside, in the anger is a compassion available at all times.  The bumps and bruising of life is only a contrasting experience that reminds us of what we truly do want,  what we are capable of and what we desire.  It is our business and our choice to decide where we focus.  Do we want the pain or the place of relief.

We are in total control of our experience.  If we panic and rush headlong into finding a solution to the crisis we will certainly be met with the same energy; chaos, reactivity and confusion.  If we can take a breath and step out of the crisis for one split second and see the other side, see the beauty of our lives, the design, the people who love us and will give a hug freely, the dog still centered and waiting for you, the opportunity to be a stronger version of yourself, then you will find quickly, the appreciation you have for the crisis and the pain.  It is a choice.  And what’s the worst thing that can happen?  Really?   You die.  Isn’t that liberating.

So. I have yet to do my exercises this morning, make my breakfast and sit to write the next scene.  I am a few of hours behind schedule.  And that’s ok.  I have had such a lovely experience communing with my orchid and my cats and now with you, that my writing will be the better for it.  And about those flowers right in front of us.  Look around.  There are “flowers” blooming everywhere.  Those little faces of the people we love, with children inside of them, that just simply want someone to say, “come out and play”.  Then there are our dogs who need that brushing we have been putting off or that walk with you, without you being on the cell phone, but paying total attention to this being who is the most unconditional love you will ever experience.  Or that clerk at the coffee shop that you have meant to speak to and thank for helping you every day, but you are in too much of a hurry.  The trees blowing in a rhythmic dance outside your window, decorated with singing birds that are there for you to notice and appreciate, the feel the water pouring over of you in the shower, the smell of the roasted coffee in the kitchen, it is endless.

Wake up!  Are you paying attention to everything around you so that you can then FEEL everything inside of you?    The universe supplies you with endless opportunity to stop and smell the roses, hug the loved ones, see, and I mean truly see the sky and breath in this new day you have been given a chance to truly live.  This is the only day you have right now.  The to do list will wait and in fact it will all get done.  I promise.

 

Angels on the Highway

No journey is truly as rich as it can be without the experiences we have with total strangers along the way.  Those “chance meetings”, paths crossing in surprising ways and angels disguised as the homeless man, the bartender, convenience store cashier or the lost dog needing your help, that makes you change course.  These strangers are part of my navigational system as I attempt to live in the flow and they have everything to do with how my river moves.  Every meeting carefully placed on my path by that which is so much bigger than anyone can fathom.  All we need to do is pay attention.

My journey thus far has been a remarkable confluence of meetings that has already changed the course of my plans and my designs of what this year is about.  So, as I can, I want to introduce you to some of the wonderful people who are becoming the “sign posts” along my way , pointing out the possibilities and already etching themselves into my heart.

My new outpost in Asheville fills the senses with the pungent smell of spice and jasmine, is littered with dimly lit nooks with small tables, harem cushions and blazing colors of orange silk and saffron.  Locals are in the shadows, all hiding low whispers of conversations over a pot of tea from the tea bible filled with a hundred teas from all over the globe. I spent hours  in joyful sharing at the Dobra Tea House here in Asheville with a remarkable artist and musician who is inspiring a deeper experience  of my own joyful expression.  Here is one of Richard Gannaway’s many videos from his album entitled “…And Love Rages On“.  Visit his website http://www.richardgannaway.com/rg/blog/wordpress/…be moved, be lite on fire.  As one of the lyrics says “I am another you, and you are another me”.  Oh so true.

And then there is Mary Long, who I do think is very aware of her angelic presence on this planet.  She is motivating me to create an internet presence that is long overdue and is part of a wonderful community here in Asheville that revolves around the Sacred Fire.   http://www.ivaluva.com/

Design from the heart. Designing differently in the world. Building relationship. Reaching out. Listening. It’s all about what you bring. It’s all about community. Honoring your gifts. Offering them to the world. {and a little bit of business therapy, too} Communicating in a new way. Connecting. With heart. Believe it.