This Little Light of Mine

GetLit
Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light. -Yogi Bhajan
I know many people are feeling overwhelmed with everything they are reading and hearing about in the news.  Whether I am discussing the natural disasters, or the latest events in the United States, every conversation I have with friends revolves around what we can do, how we can help.  I had tea with a friend of mine, a retired attorney and fellow yogi, who said “I didn’t used to believe in evil.” and paused for a moment, calmly picking up croissant crumbs with his fingers, “Now I do.”  Things are feeling pretty dire – more than usual. Is this just me?  I wonder…   I am deeply saddened by recent happenings in the world (both natural and human) and I also believe that we are greater than this and that LOVE conquers all.
I have written before about Yogi Bhajan‘s prophecy that the world’s hectic pace will only continue to increase and many people will be overwhelmed – on all levels – and not know how to keep up with the chaotic energies.  He went on to say that a third of the world’s population would die, a third would go nuts and the last third would be left to hold it all together.  There are times when this prophecy feels like it has come true and it’s my choice to decide which third of the population I want to be a part of.
The day this picture (above) was taken, I had just driven 500+ miles in very challenging driving conditions: high winds, forest fires and driving rain for several hours.  I was driving a 22 feet van that I was not wholly comfortable with and even hydroplaned a few times.  When I finally pulled into the RV park, my legs were shaking.  I then proceeded to get into a huge argument with my daughter who left to stay with a friend for the evening.  I called a friend and sobbed.  After the cry, I felt…so much better.  Lighter.  Less alone.  Normally, I like to cry in private and talk to friends after I’ve had my breakdown.  I made a conscious decision to let myself be seen in my tenderness and it was a personal stretch.   I am grateful I made the decision to be vulnerable and reach out vs. keep it all to myself.  Thank god for loving friends that are lifelines!
When the darkness befalls me (whether because of what’s happening out in the world, or because of whatever is going inside of my own psyche) it’s time for me to reach into my Self Care tool box and use whatever is appropriate for the situation at hand.   I don’t intend to be Pollyanna or to sound naive, but don’t underestimate the power of Self Care!  When the world feels overwhelming, I turn inwards and listen closely.  “What do I need right now?” I ask myself.  Usually an answer pops right in.  Othertimes, I have to just use trial and error to see what helps.  Getting out in nature is always a great place to start for me.
Spending the last month on the road, in a van, living with a 15 year old boy, has challenged my self care routines. There is very little alone time (something that I normally rely on heavily for self-sourcing), there is limited wifi (connecting with friends/lifelines is almost nil), the weather was initially very challenging (exercise was not happening for days.)  I wasn’t meditating, I wasn’t practicing yoga, I was feeling isolated from adults and totally catering to another human 24/7.  Thankfully, I am remembering my own teachings on Self Care and Self Love from LOVELUTION! and putting my oxygen mask on first again.  Phew!
What does that look like?  Have you heard that expression “If Mama Aint Happy, Aint Nobody Happy”?  I’ve started making sure that I am doing something for myself each day that fills up my tank.  Whether that’s a solo run, a tea date with a friend, making time to write at a wifi cafe or bringing back my meditation practice (why oh why do I ever let this go?)  The expression “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” is my simple prayer and intention.  I want to shine as brightly as I can so I can add my light to all the other brilliant lights in the world and we can shine light in all corners, dispelling the darkness and love it up so that it doesn’t need to spread.
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.  All things break.  And all things can be mended.  Not with time, as they say, but with intention.  So go.  Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.  The broken world waits in darkness for the LIGHT that is you.    -L.R. Knost

Welcome Home

IMG_1555

All my life I’ve been traveling.  I was born in Maine and at one and a half, moved to Beirut, Lebanon.  Another country, another culture, another climate.  At four, in the middle of winter, my mother and I left the Meditteranean and moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, newly divorced in the late 60’s.  At eight, my mother re-married and we moved to Oberlin, OH where academia coexisted with rural poverty and racial tensions of the early 70’s.  After two years, we moved to Lake Forest, IL,  listed in the “Preppie Handbook” as one of the 10 preppiest towns in the United States.  I moved from place to place feeling like an alien.  This is a pattern that has repeated itself my entire life.  Always moving, trying on the new customs, reinventing myself.

One of the things I have always loved about traveling to India is the feeling that I am so far from anything familiar that it forces me to let go of any outward identity my ego may cling to to define myself:  parent, wife, hospice volunteer, runner, home owner, etc.  The only thing I have in India is the over-arching requirement to stay present.

I read somewhere that gold fish grow to the size of their bowl.  If they’re swimming around in a tiny glass, they will stay that size, if they’re put in an aquarium, they will grow larger.  The Bay Area is a much bigger fish bowl than the the one I’ve been living in.    And I feel…free.  I feel anonymous.  I feel alive with possibility.

The past several days have been jam-packed with moving and arriving and storing and unpacking.  It’s been exhausting.  Yesterday was the first day I had a glimpse of the ocean.  I forced myself to drive in afternoon traffic and when I got out of the car, the wind whipped my hat off.  I stood at the shore, turned off my music and consciously welcomed myself home.  In that moment, I knew that this land isn’t home.  I know it’s cliche, but still I want to share.  I am home.  I am my home.  Wherever I choose to go,  I will always be home.

That said, I also had the realization (for ME) that 16 years is too long to yearn to be somewhere else.  I feel a peaceful joy to be back, this multi-cultured holy land where I am both completely unknown and deeply loved.

My kids are having some last adventures with family this month and in September we will all meet up and take my daughter to college and then Harlan and I will begin Road School 2017 for the fall semester.  Just like a blank canvas can inspire the painter, the open road calls to my soul – it always has. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler,  I look forward to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” me, mile by mile.

 

Road School 2017

This Spring, my son announced that he had two life goals: quitting school and living in a van.  His love of learning has been with him from infancy, but ever since 6th grade, he’s slowly and progressively been losing interest in school. Over the past four years, I’ve watched the light go out of his eyes while in the traditional educational system.

By April, things had spiraled rapidly downward; my son was depressed, uninspired and feeling powerless to change his life.  Uncharacteristically, he wasn’t getting up in the morning, he was isolating from friends and was refusing to go to school.  I had no idea what to do or how to help him.  Finally, at a crisis point, Harlan opened up to me.  What I heard more than anything was that he really and truly doesn’t want to go back to school and wants to “drop out”.

As I listened to him, I had an “Aha!” moment.  What if we “Dropped In” and hit the road?  What if we took this Fall Semester of 2017 and he got to live and learn in real time, in the real world, seeing life through the eyes of a traveler?  As a mother, I knew I needed to act quickly to come up with a creative solution that might serve to inspire my son into not giving up.  Since nothing traditional has worked (and we’ve tried it all), I wanted to come up with an out-of-the-box learning opportunity that would spark his innate curiosity.

Without knowing exactly how I could pull it off, I proposed the idea of living on the road this Fall to Harlan.   Almost instantly, like pumping a bicycle tire with air, I watched him come back to life.  He became motivated and finished 9th grade.  He joined a gym and is working out daily.  He’s working with an inspiring mentor who is teaching him about meditation and healthy living.  We’re training for our first Sprint Triathlon in October.  He has a summer job and is saving money for the trip.  We’re working with an educational consultant to design a personalized curriculum for Harlan.

We’re plotting our itinerary on the map:

Vancouver to Baja from September through December.

Along this route, we will be researching people and places that inspire us, in order to learn from these interactions. Together with an educational consultant, we will design a curriculum that Harlan resonates with; creating projects that involve writing, music, photography, and natural science – all with the rich backdrop of the Pacific West to support his education.

Since I have announced our decision to hit the road this August, miracles are happening.  People are reaching out with places to stay, well wishers are offering words of support, and we are packing up and moving out of our home on July 31!  Finances are an issue.  I’m a single mom navigating work, life, and parenting two teenagers, the oldest of which is heading off to college in September.

I’m a grief counselor. I work with people who have lost a loved one and are navigating life without the person they love. I have teenagers. I know angst. I have lost family members to suicide. I have close relatives that struggle with clinical depression. I know life is short. And mysterious and powerful and awe-inspiring. I know that I love my son with all my heart and will do anything within my power – anything – to help him get the light back in his beautiful brown eyes.  And yes, that means even asking for money, something I’ve been raised never to do.  I’ve started a Go Fund Me Campaign, called Road School 2017, to help with our costs.

Donations will go toward:

  • Online Educational Consultant
  • Used laptop
  • School Supplies
  • Educational Experiences (e.g. Museums, State Parks)
  • Gas
  • Campgrounds

NOTE:  5% of what we receive in donations will go to Pacific Sands Academy, a program that offers an accredited, interest-led, passion-driven independent studies program for teens.  This money will help families afford an alternative choice for children who may be struggling with the traditional educational system.

There is no training manual for what Harlan and I will are about to embark on, but there is a road map – the one he and I will follow along the highway.  As a parent, my job is not to mold him into a smaller, younger version of myself, but to hold a safe container large enough for him to expand his wings.  To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I want to introduce my son to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” him.   Stay tuned, Road School starts late August 2017!  #roadschool2017

 

Grandfather, India

Grandfather, India

I was twenty six years old when I saw

the Himalayan Mountain range for the first time.

I remember how abruptly

it rose from the rice paddies like

a row of hands signaling “STOP!”

“You shall not pass here.”

There is a reason the Hindus believe

their gods reside in the these mountains.

IMG_0101

Only gods would smash a subcontinent into Asia

in an attempt to get the sky’s attention.

Only gods would pull the ether so close

and insist to be kissed by her.

It is the nature of gods to seek residence

in the openness of sky

and there I was flying in it,

IMG_5660

catching a bird’s eye peek of peaks

that seemed to stretch all the way back

to my grandfather’s gaze

the first time he told me these things existted.

In those days his eyes

were my airplane windows

and I, a limb of his Bodhi tree

understood that he had grown up

where the Buddha breathed.

He had lotus blossom hands

IMG_5290

His stories were prayer beads

he strung around my neck

so that he could pull me back

when he saw me drifting

too far from my purpose

For whatever reason,

he saw in me a need;

and aching for the sky

IMG_4741so he produced photo albums

full of beings who knew her best,

Sepia toned images of hands pressed

together in prayer

IMG_5051

Black and white photographs of monks

whose eyes arced like raven wings

gleefully taking to the wind

prayer wheels spinning

to the backdrop of India.

India

the cough of car horns choking

on exhaust, exhausting jaunts

through mazes of people

amazing in their arrangements

flowers arranged in doorsteps

IMG_9735

side stepping copious piles of cow shit

squatting to shit over holes that belched urine smells

smelling jasmine and sandalwood

would travel by rickshaw, plane, train, and taxi

IMG_9664

to watch Himalayan spine

unfurl in long stretches, morning stretching

over my yoga practice, bending over the jumbled

jenga of shoddy construction,

huddling over construction paper

giving crayons to children who’d never colored before

IMG_9743

The color of saris bleeding into vision

like high definition dye, homeless man

dying on the street corner, dead guy by the piss wall,

the 5am call to prayer, the prayer beads, beads of sweat

protesting intense humidity, the soft

swirl of the pilgrim’s hands in the Ganges

IMG_0239

stirring my memory

toward my grandfather

who came to me as if in a dream,

a beam of light planting a seed

that would grow to lead my back

to the land

of my awakening.

-Lyndsey McGuire

IMG_5024

True Confessions – Part 2

Vunerability and Truth…two of the most potent spaces to be in – combined anything is possible.  It was in this spirit that my relationship with Nancy West McGuire was started.  On this day, at this cafe, it was the right time for us to connect.  Do you have any friends like that?  Where you know each other peripherally, or see each other around, but for some reason you finally connect and you wonder “Why did this take so long?”  Ahhh the mystery of life.  I love it.

One of my absolute joys in life, and a reason I believe I’m here in human form, is to deeply connect with other human beings – on a heart level.  Sitting down with a “stranger” and finding common ground with each other energizes me and makes me glad to be alive.  It fills me up on a soul level.  And guess what?  Nancy loves that too!  The more we shared, the more excited we got to recognize a kindred spirit in each other.  We both had been event planners in past lives, we had gone to high school within 7 miles of each other, for decades each of one us has been drawn to different trainings and teachings to improve ourselves.  We each have a reverence and curiosity for death and dying.  It was a such a treat to meet and spend hours (!) talking and enjoying myself.  The items to be discussed kept growing and tumbling out, it felt as natural and comfortable as seeing a friend after many years – a sister…a best friend from childhood…where had she been all my life?

The cherry on top of the sundae was that Nancy was passionate about India.  Not only had she traveled there solo and lived there, but she was familiar with the one city that has been calling to me – Varanasi.  The one city on the “Journey to India” itinerary that I haven’t been to, yet feel called to see.  Nancy told me story after story about her days in Varanasi, about impromptu dance parties with women in the slums, about chartering a boat to take families down the Ganges to a park for an afternoon of play, of paying for children to go to the dentist for the first time and have their teeth cleaned and filled.  To hear Nancy speak of Varanasi, is to see her come alive.  She’s a strong woman with a large heart and she exudes confidence, competence and gregariousness.  But the nectar is to watch Nancy soften when she speaks of Varanasi and the people there.  She looks like a young girl, delighted with life, and sweet with vulnerability and truth.  See for yourself:

Journey to India – a view behind the veil

Krishna - embodiment of love

I am so excited to announce that Nancy West McGuire and I have planned a women’s retreat to India.  There are many incredible events planned as we visit New Delhi, Varanasi and Rishikesh as well as daily yoga and meditation classes.  We’ve organized this event in collaboration with a known and trusted, professional Indian guide who brings us access to many experiences the average traveler wouldn’t be privy to.  Click here for a detailed itinerary.

The trip dates are:  October 12 – 22, 2013.  For more information, please go to our Journey to India website.  We would love to have you join us!

Namaste