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United we stand Boston

I am a Bostonian. And my heart is breaking. There are no words to adequately express how I feel about yesterday’s tragedy in my home city of Boston. Though I have lived outside of Boston for a decade now, I spent the first 28 years of my life in the Boston area, and several years after college right in the heart of Boston, walking regularly through the area where this tragedy occurred. Boston was the city that raised me into the adult that I am today. No matter where else I go, Boston is always the home in my heart.

When I learned of the horrific news yesterday, I immediately turned on the TV to see what was happening. I am an avid news junkie, so normally I can watch these sort of events very objectively without having to internalize the emotions. But I could not have anticipated the visceral and personal response that I had yesterday. I immediately called my brother, who also instantly welled up with anger and sadness at the news. He too has lived outside of Boston for years, but like me, he too is a true Bostonian through and through. His first response to me, “They picked the wrong city to mess with. You do not mess with Bostonians.” I concurred, comforting myself for a moment with the knowledge that Bostonians are as tough and resilient as they come.

As more of the horror unfolded, I found myself spending the day in tears, shaking. And when I stopped crying, I would just start again. These were cathartic tears, tears of grief that needed to flow. This was my home, these were my people. This beautiful city and her amazing people had shaped the person that I am today, and although I have lived in many other places, I always identify first as a Bostonian. And I do so proudly. Bostonians are such good, kind, real, honest, straight-forward, down-to-earth people. They will give you the shirts of their backs if need be, and many Bostonians did just that yesterday, as they desperately tried to make turnicates to stop the bleeding of their fellow Bostonian brothers and sisters.

And though the news was graphic and devastating to watch, I knew I had to watch it. I had to watch it to honor those who were experiencing such unthinkable horror. But I felt so helpless. I wished I could be in Boston at that moment, helping out my fellow Bostonians. And if I could not be there in person, then I had to watch and be a part of their pain. I had to share in it and stand in solidarity with my people.

As more and more news of the casualties and war-like injuries were reported, my heart shattered further for the poor families of the victims and for the indescribable and inconsolable grief that I knew they were all feeling. And I prayed for the survivors, knowing how tragically their lives had been changed in an instant, knowing the grief and post-traumatic stress which they will carry for years, if not the rest of their lives.

Boston Marathon image

In the midst of all of this it suddenly occurred to me that a dear family friend of ours had planned to go to the Marathon that day, to watch one of his friends running. I immediately ran to my computer to check his Facebook wall and my heart immediately sank when I saw friend after friend posting, asking William if  he was ok. No response. Hours passed, more people posted and at this point some of us were frantically calling hospitals and posting his info on the Google People finder. Still no response from William. I feared the worst and the tears resumed.

We are so fortunate that eventually someone was able to get a hold of my friend and we learned that he was safe and sound. A sigh of relief. But I was so sad for all of the other families who would also be frantically searching and who would not be so lucky to receive the good news that I had. I shed more tears for their pain and anguish.

As I listened to the ER doctors talking about the horror that came through their doors and of how many limbs they had to amputate, I tried to imagine the unthinkable reality of having one of your limbs blown off, something we tragically expect in war, but something that nobody could ever expect on the sidelines of the Boston Marathon, one of the most celebrated days in Boston. I began thinking of how much we take our limbs for granted, something that our brave war veterans know all too well. We walk about on a daily basis, never really thinking about what life would be life without a leg, or God forbid, without two legs.

In honor of those who were facing this devastating reality, I forced myself to stop and think about that. I am an avid yogi. Yoga changed my life. Yoga gave me back my life after a very dark depression. I depend on having two arms and two legs to be able to do this practice which has been so critically important for health and well-being in my life. How on earth would I survive if I were to tragically lose a limb, as was now happening to these people? I honestly don’t know how or if I could survive such a devastating blow. Life as you know it changes in an instant, in one horrific blink of an eye.

So as I was walking over to the cafe today to write this, and I heard the tragic news about the little 6-year old girl named Jane, who is an Irish Step Dancer and has tragically lost her leg, my heart sank into my stomach. As I thought about my own legs and my yoga practice, my heart bled for this little girl. Only 6-years old with a whole life ahead of her, and now she has to face a life with this disability, and likely without her beloved Irish Step Dancing.

I searched for her name, wanting to pay her proper tribute here and as I did so, my heart sank even further upon discovering that she was the sister of the little 8-year old boy, Martin Richard, who was the first to lose his life in the incident. As I read further I discovered that their mother too had undergone emergency surgery to save her life and she was still recovering from her injuries. And I felt so sad for this poor little girl, who not only lost her leg, but now had to face life without her big brother. Unthinkable. Unspeakable.

Martin Richard family

The Richard family.

And then my thoughts turned to that poor father. Too much loss, too much incomprehensible tragedy for one family to endure. This poor man, with one son lost, a daughter with a devastating amputation and a wife reportedly with brain injury. What parent would not be thinking to themselves, “It should have been me.” There is nothing worse than losing a child. On top of that, having to cope with the tragic injuries of his wife and daughter. One can only imagine the endless scripts that will be running through his head, “What if we hadn’t gone that day? Why didn’t we stand on the other side of the street?” etc, etc. No human should ever have to bear those wounds and live with such torment.

There is too much tragedy, too much loss, too much debilitating grief, too many broken hearts, too many forever-changed lives in this story. And it is a story that shouldn’t be told. It did not need to happen. This was such a senseless act of violence, aimed at entirely innocent victims, who were happily celebrating a wonderful day. And though we do not yet know who is responsible, it really doesn’t matter. Whether domestic or international terrorists, whoever it is should and will be brought to justice. That will have to happen to provide if only a moment of peace. But there is nothing that can be said or done to take away the pain and anguish that these people are enduring and will continue to endure for a lifetime.

So where do we go from here? How do we make sense of this heinous and cowardly act? How do we view the world? Well, we do bring the guilty parties to justice, yes. But should we retaliate and seek revenge in anger? No. As much as that is the reaction of people in pain, it does not bring peace. It only creates more anger and hatred in a world that already has too much of both. I believe that Gandhi was right when he said,

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

And I also wholeheartedly believe in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said,

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Poignant words from Martin Richard, may he rest in peace.

Poignant words from Martin Richard, may he rest in peace.

Love is the only answer. It is love and human connection that caused so many first responders and bystanders to run towards the bomb blast yesterday, instead of away from it. It is love that caused several runners to cross the finish line and run straight to Mass General Hospital to give blood. It is love that allowed complete strangers to be tearing off their clothes in order to stop the bleeding of a complete stranger. It is love that allowed volunteer workers and random passers-by to stay by the side of someone they don’t know, holding their hand until they got into the ambulance and on their way to a hospital. It is love that has caused the outpouring of grief and support of a community, a nation, and a world. It is love that causes my own tears to flow, in empathy and solidarity for my fellow Bostonians.

I am so encouraged by all of the beautiful, moving stories of heroism and humanity that are coming out of this tragedy; people coming together with their neighbors, people helping and crying with strangers, people putting their own lives at risk to help save the lives of others. However horrific the event, there is always beauty and grace that comes out of these horrible events. There are always powerful personal missions and new life paths forged out of such personal tragedies. There is always so much more good that prevails and selfless service to mankind that comes out of these stories. There is always light that comes out of the darkness.

And I also take comfort in this: Bostonians do come from very tough stock. They, we, are people who will not be knocked down, who will not live in fear. We are a strong, proud people who will stand boldly and fearlessly in the face of terror and fear. We will not be overcome. We will stand united, in love and brotherhood.

This post is dedicated to all of those who have so tragically had their lives cut short, to those survivors whose lives are forever changed in an instant and to the families and loved ones of all the victims. This post is dedicated to a brave and beautiful city that I am proud to call “home.”

 

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Photo by Flickr user: wolfsoul.

Photo by Flickr user: wolfsoul.

As I see it, there is an epidemic occurring in our society; it is an epidemic of people being terrified to be alone and as a result remaining stuck in the wrong relationships. Sadly, I see examples of this around me on a daily basis. And unfortunately I see far more examples of that than of the opposite. Should it be any surprise, then, that 50% of marriages end in divorce? It isn’t to me.

One of the benefits to growing older is that as you experience [and learn] more, and as you observe more, you are [hopefully] much more clearly able to see when a relationship is right…and when it is wrong.

If the 20s were the decade of friends getting married, the 30s have proven to be the decade of friends getting divorced. I think it was around the age of 35 when I noticed that what had once been the “summer wedding season” had instead turned into the “summer divorce season.” And all of the couples that I saw in my 20s and thought to myself “those two are so wrong for each other!”, those couples have in my 30s ended up divorced: almost without fail.

Image by Flickr user: donkeyhotey.

Image by Flickr user: donkeyhotey.

Conversely, I’m sure we’ve all seen the couples that when you look at them, you think to yourself “Yes, that is how love is supposed to look!” and it is just so obvious that the pair are so in love; they show mutual respect, admiration, and affection; and they show it over years, regardless of the passage of time. Such couples reveal such a beautiful, powerful energetic connection, and they complement each other so well, truly embodying the spirit of yin and yang. They are simply a joy and an inspiration to be around. I am grateful that growing up I had a friend whose parents exemplified this for me, even after 25 years of marriage. So even from a young age, I knew what love could look like. And today I am so grateful to have even a small handful of such couples in my life, for they remind me over and over again of the kind of love that I want in my life and why I choose to not settle for any less than that.

And I am by no means under the illusion that a relationship should be easy all the time, nor am I espousing that. I am the first to know that love can be messy and that it takes real work to keep a relationship intact. But what I can say, from experience and from keen observation, is that the right relationship should be much easier than the wrong one. And if the relationship is a constant uphill battle, a constant struggle, then it’s not the right one. We can choose to have something better, more easeful.

Unfortunately, for every one of the couples that exemplify what love can be, I have known twice as many couples who exemplify the opposite of that. I have known the couples who fight all the time and who you just dread to be around. I have known the couples where it’s just so obvious to an outside observer that one of the people is in love, but not the other. I have known the couples where the woman is so desperate to get married and make babies, that she ignores all of the signs that scream that he is not the proverbial “one.” I have known the couples that break up and get back together, over and over again (Oh wait, that was me!). I have known the couples where one partner wants to have kids and the other does not, and they stay together for years, one partner clinging onto hope that the other will change their mind.

I have known the couples that are simply tolerating each other, out of some sort of misguided sense of obligation, rather than showing or feeling anything resembling love. I have known couples where the man only got married because of pressure (or even an ultimatum!) from the woman. I have been in the weddings where you are biting your tongue as the bride walks down the aisle, because you just know with every fiber of your being that they are making a mistake (incidentally I’ve been in three such weddings, and ALL have ended (happily) in divorce). Heck, I have even known multiple couples who themselves admit that they knew it was a mistake, but they walked down the aisle anyway. I have seen people engaged in extramarital affairs and in circumstances that are far too “complicated” to be “right,” people who are clinging to the unhealthiest of situations in a desperate attempt to find happiness.

And when I speak of such couples, I do so with deep empathy and understanding, for I too have lived through my own version of the “wrong” relationship. And I know that these souls are on the same powerful journey of growth and learning on which I reluctantly found myself (that is if they are open to such growth and learning). I spent years with the wrong person, trying to convince myself that it was right. I have always said that one of the cruelest aspects of life is that we have the ability to fall in love with the wrong person. Frankly, it’s brutal and there are few things more painful than star-crossed lovers. And I know how difficult, how painful, and how seemingly “impossible” it can be to extricate ourselves from the wrong relationships; I know all too well how paralyzed we can become, how stuck we can get. I know the feeling of having the constant pit in your stomach and of your head trying to rationalize that it’s caused by something else, when deep down in your heart, you know the real reason but don’t want to admit it.

I have also learned that love is not enough, and that of equal importance are timing and compatibility. You can love someone with every fiber of your being, with every breath of air in your body, but if it’s not right, if they are not the right match for you, it won’t matter. Of this I personally know all too well.

So why is it that so many people stay together for all the wrong reasons? Why are people so afraid to be alone? Fear. Society. Expectations. As I’ve observed people and relationships over the years, it has become clear that so many people are terrified of being alone; terrified of ending up alone, and of dying alone. I once shared this fear, so it is one I relate to and understand well. And as I already said, I understand how it feels to be stuck with the wrong person, and in the wrong relationship, for all of the wrong reasons. I have been there and I am fortunate that my partner had the guts to release me from it, as I’m not sure I ever would have had the courage on my own; for I too was living in fear.

Society tells us that we are meant to follow a very specific formula for life: college, career, love, marriage, and babies… only in that order! We do not even realize how brainwashed we have been as a society. And what society teaches us, our friends and families only reinforce. Everyone has an opinion about what we should be doing. When we see our friends getting married and having kids, we feel even more pressure to be doing the same. If we do not follow that formula, our parents disapprove, people think there is something wrong with us. We all have the aunt who asks, “So when are you going to get married?” There is so much pressure to conform, to fulfill the expectations of society.

I spent the first half of my 30s gripped in sadness and despair, because I too felt that I had to fulfill that formula, and it just wasn’t working out for me. I found myself 32 (and then 33, 34, 35…), single, and childless and that had never been the plan. I should have had three kids by that age. For all of my life I had planned to get married and raise a family. And I am such a passionate, open-hearted woman with so much love to give; how could I not be finding a beautiful soul to complement my heart?

Well, if life has taught me one thing, it’s that the most difficult times are the most valuable and that by walking through each one of them, there are invaluable lessons to learn. I had to walk through an extremely dark time of loneliness, of being completely on my own, for years, before I could come to understand the importance and value of being happy on our own. It was only by walking through my own darkness that I was able to find the light, and in doing so I realized that the light comes from within. The true joy, the absolute bliss is only to be found within us, never outside of us.

And if there’s one universal truth, it’s this: Before you can ever be happy with someone else, you must first be happy with yourself.

And I have not only made full peace with the fact that I am now 38, single, and childless, but I have fully embraced it and the truth is that I have never lived more happily, more vibrantly, more fulfilled. I love my life and there is nothing missing. I now could care less about having children (If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be saying that now, I’d have thought you were c-c-c-crazy!) Does this mean I am cynical and do not believe that true love exists? Not at all. I have the gift of having experienced it with my own heart, so I know it’s out there. And if I happen to find it, well great, because that would just be the cherry on top of an already wonderful life. But I know it’s not necessary for my happiness. I know I already am, and will continue to be, happy and fulfilled no matter what comes into my life.

The moment we release the expectation that we can only complete ourselves with another, the moment we can release the idea that we have to adhere to society’s mold, is the moment we find freedom. And in freedom, we can find true happiness.

Photo by Flickr user Chema Escarcega.

Photo by Flickr user Chema Escarcega.

It’s funny, I suspect that many of my friends might pity me for being alone, for not yet having had the “fortune” of getting married and having children. But what they may not realize is that I choose to be single. I could easily have been in relationships over the years, but I knew they would be with the wrong person, and I have no interest in getting myself embroiled in something wrong, when instead I can be keeping myself open for something right.

And I’m happy to say that I have absolutely learned the valuable lesson that it is far better to be single than to be with the wrong person.

So, yes, some people may feel sorry for me that I am alone. But the irony of that is that when I look around me and observe so many unhappy, dissatisfied relationships and I see so many people who are stuck, all I can think to myself is, “Thank God I’m single!”

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Enjoying the sun

On the eve of my 38th birthday, I sit here in a cafe, wanting to sing out at the top of my lungs, bursting with passion and light. There are hardly words powerful enough to express how much I love my life, how much happiness I feel inside. On a daily basis, my spirit is overflowing with radiant joy and I am forever in search of the right words, words compelling and powerful enough to do it justice. And I realize this is a good challenge to have! But it wasn’t always this way. I fought a long, hard, soul-wrenching journey to arrive in this place.

As is so often the case on one’s birthday, I too find myself in deep reflection of my past journey: each choice made, every road taken, to get me to the place where I am today. When I was a teenager I said to my friends that when I was older I wanted to move around and live in different places. Somehow I knew I wasn’t meant to stay where I was. It seems I always had a wanderlust inside of me, and I could never have imagined what a self-fulfilling prophecy that statement would become. I first dipped my exploratory toes in the water by leaving my home town to move to the summer beach town of York Beach, Maine. This first spreading of my wings would allow me to take flight, and fly I did… straight across the ocean to spend a full year of living in Spain. After that year abroad, there was no going back. I knew it was only full steam ahead.

But the real meat of my journey began when I left college and stepped boldly into adulthood, venturing out on my own as an independent, self-sufficient, fearless adult. And that was the beginning of the journey to fulfilling my childhood prophecy.

I’ve been thinking about the scene in Eat, Pray, Love where Elizabeth Gilbert is contemplating the meaning of her own journey and what the city of Rome represents to her. This got me to thinking of each of the incredible, distinctive cities in which I have lived and worked as an adult, and what they represented to me. And I asked myself, “If I could find one word to define what each city meant to me, what would it be?” Somehow the answers came to me almost instantly.

The first city on my journey was Boston. And the word:

Foundation.

Paul Revere Boston

Photo by Flickr User NathanF.

In my senior year of college I was determined to end up anywhere but Boston, as I was already eager to soar to more distant shores. But it seemed that there in Boston I was meant to stay (at least for then), so that I could build the strong foundations under my feet. No matter where else I have lived, Boston is always the home in my heart, the place where I was able to develop into a strong adult, the place that forged the fire of my inner identity. Boston and her people would have a powerful influence over how I would see the world, over my political ideology, my values, and my manner of interacting in the world. This city, so real and down to earth, would encourage in me my open and direct, “tell it like it is” nature, my high energy and fast-paced, sarcastic wit… oh and of course a superior driving ability. ;-)

During my six years in Boston, I had the fortune of experiencing what it truly means to be fulfilled by a career, and to love going to work every day. My work in international educational travel allowed students to open their eyes and see the world. This work took me overseas multiple times per year, using my Spanish, connecting with foreign souls, learning about the world…building the foundation of who I would become.

Boston would also teach me about the highest and lowest experiences of the heart, connecting me with my first true love, my first passionate soul connection, and in turn my first debilitating broken heart and my first sobering bout of depression. And though I could never have imagined it at the time, this was all part of building a solid foundation, it was laying the building blocks of a strong heart.

When my despair began to overshadow the beauty in my life, when I could no longer bear to look at sights of memories gone by, without being torn apart by the pain, that is when I knew it was time to move on. After six years of exploring her historic cobblestone streets, meandering past her gas lanterns, and taking in the salty sea air, it was my time to leave Boston.

My next destination was Washington, DC, a city to which, only a few years prior, I had stubbornly stated that I would never move. And yet here I was. And the word for DC:

Exploration.

After 911 decimated the student travel industry, I left behind the career I had loved and the only life I had known, to explore being a new version of myself. Passionate about foreign affairs and spurred on by the events taking place in the world, I enrolled in a Master’s of International Affairs program at George Washington University. I remember my first weeks in DC, being so excited to explore a new place. I ventured out around her quaint neighborhoods, admiring her majestic Ambassadorial residences, and charmed by her tree-lined streets, this time with colorful row-houses, a contrast to the dark brownstones of Boston. I was enchanted by her vibrant cherry blossoms, her colorful tulips and daffodils sprouting out from every corner. I was captivated by her diversity, her rich cultural and international identity; and by so many amazing and idealistic causes, initiatives, and events unfolding across the city. Engaged and mentally stimulated at every turn, I was exploring a completely different life than the one I had known in Boston.

DC cherry blossoms

It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that my exploration into graduate school was not in fact the right path. Turned off by bureaucracy and red-tape, this fast-talking, fast-moving Bostonian needed something that was much more dynamic, much more fluid. After one semester, I decided to take a leave of absence to explore other options.

The sages say “Ask and you shall receive.” If I wanted fast-moving and dynamic, that was exactly what I would get when I suddenly found myself in my very first start-up role. Here in a city known for government and politics, I had found a tiny slice of the dot-com world. And the exploration continued. As I developed into my first ever management role, building out an entire department, team, and infrastructure from scratch, and working infinite hours to do so, at the same time there was a deep exploration of the heart taking place. I was involved (or perhaps “entangled” would be a better word) with my next love, a man who now lived 3,000 miles across the country, in Los Angeles; a man that had “accidentally” become my best friend, a man that could complete my sentences, a man that understood ever fiber of my being. But with this exploration came great challenge and confusion, for this man and I had several years between us, and we were in decidedly different phases of our lives, both ready for different things, and seemingly heading in different directions. And so all good things shall come to an end.

I loved my time living in Washington, DC, but from the moment I arrived, I somehow knew it was only temporary. There was a deep calling within me, an inner knowing that I must one day move to the west coast. When this man suddenly met another woman and chose her to walk beside, I knew that this period of exploration was over, and that instead it was time for decisive action. Around the same time, my start-up had gotten acquired, and I knew it was becoming time to move on from Washington, DC. After four years of walking past the White House and the great halls of Congress, biking the shores of the Potomac River, sitting next to the magnificent seat of Abraham Lincoln and looking out over the National Mall in deep contemplation, I knew it was time to leave the nation’s great capital. And it was the time to take the next step towards my destiny path of moving to the west coast.

It is safe to say that had it not been for this man, Los Angeles would never in a million years have been on my radar. In fact ask him at the time and he would have told you that I hated Los Angeles. And yet the next thing I knew I was loaded up in my 1997 Saturn, with a friend and my loyal feline companion, and I was going for broke. I knew I had to fight for love.

Photo by Flickr user victoriabernal.

Photo by Flickr user victoriabernal.

3,000 miles later I drove into the city of Los Angeles, the blazing sunset lighting up the palm trees and sparkling with possibility over the sea before me. And so began my new life on the west coast. And the word that would come to represent Los Angeles:

Awakening.

It was here in Los Angeles that the man for whom I had risked it all, rejected me and wrote me out of his story. He was moving on and in the blink of an eye, he was out of my life forever. Forget about him having been my best friend, forget about him having known my soul more deeply than any other being, forget about all of the sincere promises to be in my life forever. None of that seemed to matter. He disappeared into the night. And here begins the “dark night of the soul.” Having just given up a high-paying, stable job and great friends in DC, I now found myself jobless, friendless, and virtually alone in the City of Angels. Despite the name, I felt no angels by my side. I felt completely alone in a vast sea of emptiness, left with nothing but a gaping hole in my heart.

Looking back with hindsight, I can now see that what I’ve described above are the perfect conditions to launch one into a powerful spiritual awakening; when one hits the true rock bottom and when there is nowhere deeper to go, I believe that this is when we are perfectly prepared to crack wide open. And crack open I did.

There were angels in Los Angeles, and those angels guided me to yoga.

The practice of yoga would change my life forever and in ways of which I could never dare dream. The yoga created a profound energetic shift within me and magic began to stir. Psychic dreams began to occur, my empathic abilities became incredibly heightened. I could feel the Kundalini energy awakening within me. In one of my darkest moments, all of these swirling energies culminated for me in a powerful out of body experience. My spirit left my body and in an instant I was embraced in the warm light of the Divine. When I came back into my body, my life would never again be the same. I knew for certain the immortality of my own soul, I knew that I was part of a greater sea of energy, of a collective consciousness. And I  knew that I would never again be alone. “Awakening” truly is the only word that I have been able to identify that comes close to describing what I experienced.

After this experience, my connection with Los Angeles was never the same. I would hike regularly in the Hollywood Hills and each time I did, I would be overcome with emotion when I would reach the top and look down on the breathtaking, expansive city below. And I understood in an instant why the Spaniards had named it “The City of Angels.” They too must have felt what I felt. Love poured down from the heavens and into my soul. I now knew that there were angels all around me. I felt them. I sensed them. It is somewhat ironic given the negative stereotypes of Los Angeles, but to this day, Los Angeles remains the place on this Earth where I have felt the most spiritually connected.

As I continued down the yogic path, my life began to align in crazy and undeniable ways. My intuition and inner guidance grew stronger and stronger and signs appeared to me, left and right, guiding me along my path, showing me which way to go. And the signs were very clearly pointing in one direction, and one direction only: to San Francisco. And the word that has come to encapsulate San Francisco for me:

Expansion.

How do I even begin to describe the magic, the sheer expansion that has occurred in my life since moving to San Francisco? There is so much: So much beauty, so much Grace, so much of the right person showing up at the right time, so much of the perfect opportunity falling in my lap at exactly the moment that I needed it, so much unexplainable mystery and synchronicity that defies all reason and logic. And it happens on a regular basis.

I moved to San Francisco on the tails of another dot-com job, thus continuing on the career path previously started in Washington, DC. But it became quickly clear to me that this job was merely a catalyst to get me to San Francisco. The job that brought me here eventually let me go, releasing me into the perfect storm of freedom and opportunity, a culmination of all of my different life experiences coming together in a singular moment; a moment that I don’t even remember, the moment when I chose be a writer. Looking back, I truthfully have no recollection of this precise moment, of the how, the why, the when. It just happened. It was as if the Divine hand of Grace reached down and took me over and I was simply on auto-pilot.

San Francisco golden Gate view

From that moment on my life has expanded beyond my wildest dreams. I am blown away and humbled on a daily basis by the large audience that has gathered in support around me, from all around the world; people who are actually interested in hearing what I have to say: ME. This still astonishes me. My writing has been featured in various online publications; I appeared in my first print magazine, as Martha Stewart’s Blogger of the Month in her Whole Living Magazine (I still have to pinch myself over this one!), and I am honored for my next, upcoming appearance in Origin Magazine. I have been interviewed by the most wonderful people, truly beautiful souls who are aligning with their true paths. And I know, with such clarity, that I too have aligned with my true purpose: to help people to heal, by sharing my experiences of triumph over darkness, and by sharing stories of the healing power of yoga, as I do weekly in my blog, The Yoga Diaries™. I believe that yoga has the power to heal the world and I am on a personal mission to share that message.

As I marvel at the unbelievable blessings that occur in my life on a daily basis, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for these gifts. And through the ongoing expression and practice of gratitude, I see even more of it flow into my life. The beauty continues to compound upon itself. I have met the most incredible people on this journey: beautiful friends who walk beside me on this soul path; amazing connections around every corner, people who are living from the heart and following their passions to do good for the world. All of this has amazingly even led to me working with a best-selling author, who has become a good friend. And I continue to be blown away. I stand in awe, every single day, of the wonderful souls that surround me, that support me, and that help my spirit and my life to expand beyond all wonder.

I often have younger people express to me their confusion about their paths, struggling to make sense of where it’s all going. And I always assure them that one day they will reach a point where they will be able to look back and realize that all the dots connected. As I reflect on my own journey, I am once again able to see the same thing. Not only do the dots connect, but if we are open and paying attention to the signs around us, they do so in miraculous and mind-blowing ways.

I stand on the many hilltops of San Francisco, looking out at the spectacular beauty all around me, and all I see are limitless possibilities. And I feel my spirit expand towards the heavens.

Heart Wide Open Cropped

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Today I am honored and humbled to be featured on “Transformation Talk,” a new blog series where each Thursday Alana Sheeren will interview people who have deepened their passion or found their calling after experiencing a loss, trauma or diagnosis. I am truly honored to be a part of this project.

To all of you out there who are suffering from grief and loss, I hope that you will tune in each Thursday to Alana’s blog. She has many incredible and inspiring stories to share, the least of which is her own. ♥

*****

Can you share a little about your grief journey and a specific experience that had a profound effect on your path?

In 2007 I lost the best friend I had ever had in my life, a man who had been my rock and with whom I shared every aspect of my heart and soul, for almost four years. He did not die or anything that dramatic, but after he met a new woman, he chose to cut me completely from his life. As he truly was my best friend, and I was certain that this was a soul-connected being, for me this felt worse than death. I gave up a great job and a well-established life and moved 3,000 miles across the country to fight for him. But sadly I was met with only more anger and hatred from him.  He tossed me to the curb like a piece of garbage. That was 5 years ago, he has since married that woman, and I’ve never heard from him since.

Though I had lost other best friends and had lived through devastating broken hearts in the past, nothing in my life could ever have prepared me for the grief that I felt when this man walked right out of my life and acted as if I’d never mattered at all to him. The person I had most trusted on this Earth, betrayed that trust, broke all of his promises to me, and abandoned me. Everything I had ever known and believed came crashing down around me. I had entered my “dark night of the soul.”

To continue reading the interview, click here.

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Photo attributed to Flickr User flydown.

For years I could not visit Boston. The pain was too great, the ghosts too many. Haunted by the memories of failed relationships, of devastating broken hearts, and of shattered dreams, the thought of returning to the scene of the crime simply filled me with too much dread. I had moved forward to new cities, new adventures with new lives and new friends, where I was living new memories and trying to forget the tragedy of fore. I was attempting, determinedly and desperately, to birth a new Jeannie.

But over time, the pull of family obligations and unexpected job opportunities would find me back in Boston, walking reluctantly through my old closets, trying to dodge the skeletons. Try as I might to avoid my old haunts, the pull of unresolved emotion would sometimes be too great to resist. I would find myself walking in a fog of mental haze through old neighborhoods, past old apartments, and stepping right through time portals that would carry me straight back to the scene of so many memories, so many palpable emotions. I tasted them, more bitter than sweet. I smelled them, more sour than succulent. Though they were done and dead, I relived them, painfully and tragically, over and over.

I couldn’t go to that restaurant, for that was where I met “him.” That patch of grass was where we lay looking for shooting stars. That video store was where I mustered up the guts to talk to “him.” That park was where we broke up. That subway was what we would ride, holding hands. That store was where we walked by the sweet kitty in the window. That bar was where we shared our first kiss. And that stoop was where I said good-bye, wiping the tears from “his” eyes. It seemed everywhere I looked there were reminders of love lost, of best friends tragically ripped from my life.

Photo attributed to Flickr User Helmut Kaczmarek.

But the years went by and as it always does, time began to heal all wounds, little by little. One city, then another city, and then a third city, and I had created three new versions of Jeannie, each a little different than the first. I was slowly becoming a different person. I was meeting new people, having new experiences, creating new memories, making new friends, living entirely different lives. Eventually, I was no longer that same Jeannie who had lain on that patch of grass or stood on that stoop. Though that person would always be a part of me, she had transformed and blossomed into a new creature, a stronger and more resilient being, shaped by the landscape of life.

This year, family would find me returning to Boston, now a hard-to-imagine 9 years since I’d left. And I unexpectedly found myself excited to return. I was excited to visit with family, to smell the salty sea air, to walk around the quaint cobblestone streets with their charming colonial houses. I looked forward to creating new memories.

Boston Public Garden

Once there, my family and I set right out to experience all that the beautiful city of Boston has to offer: walks through the Boston Public Garden, under my favorite weeping willow trees; strolling past the old row-houses of Back Bay; romping through the historic streets of Beacon Hill with their adorable gas lanterns; walking along the waterfront taking in the sweet smell of salty air as we watched the boats come and go. I felt no need to re-visit my old haunts, I somehow knew that those graves did not need to be walked on.

But as we strolled about, all over the city, we inevitably happened upon several of the spots of my past trials. Not sure how I would feel, I was somewhat surprised and delighted to find myself smiling. Those memories that had once been painful, were no longer. What had once filled my heart with deep, debilitating pain, now instead filled my heart with peace and love. I thought about the memories, and the people behind them, and to my shock I found myself filled with nothing but fondness for them. I realized in that instant that the old Jeannie had integrated with the new Jeannie.

I remember the feeling that I had that first day that I landed in Boston. As the old Jeannie collided with the new Jeannie, I felt a sense of strangeness; how surreal it was to have to consider and attempt to reconcile these two completely different people. They were so different: one was young, innocent, and vulnerable; while the other was mature, graceful and wise. They knew such different experiences, such distinct lives.

But now as I sit on the airplane heading back to San Francisco, the city of my current life, I realize that I am happily and peacefully integrated. The new Jeannie met the old Jeannie, thanked her for all of the powerful lessons learned, recognizing that she could not exist without her former self. And the old Jeannie smiled proudly at the new Jeannie, patted her on the back for a job well done and sent her off on her way, into the new adventures and lessons that would await…and transform her once again.

Photo attributed to Flickr User h.koppdelaney.

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Photo attributed to Flickr User: CaptPiper.

It was with every ounce of energy that I could muster from the deep recesses of my soul, that I dragged myself into my neighborhood yoga studio. I hadn’t set foot on a yoga mat in years, and as I was still relatively new to Los Angeles, I didn’t know a soul at this yoga studio. But despite that, something compelled me to enter the studio that day. That day was the first day of the rest of my life…

It was February of 2008 and I was living through the deepest, most paralyzing depression of my life. It was not by any accident that I had found myself suddenly living in Los Angeles, after having spent my entire life living on the East Coast. All of my life I had dreamed of moving to the West Coast, but at this particular time in my life, there was a love in Los Angeles…a love for which I needed to fight…and fight I did, with every breath in my body.

To continue reading, please visit The Yoga Diaries.

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Over recent weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with several different friends from out of town, all friends who came from different cities and from previous lives of mine. Not only was it wonderful to catch up with these old friends and reminisce about times gone by, but it was a compelling opportunity to look back on my journey, to see all of the dots that have connected, and to reflect on all of the wonderful souls who have touched and shaped my path along this winding road of life.

Boston, MA

The first of these friends, Simone, was visiting from my home city of Boston. We began working together when I was a mere 23 years old, fairly fresh out of college and wet behind the ears. Looking back on that young age, now 14 years later, it is hard to even recognize the person that I once was. I was just barely beginning my journey into adulthood and I had so much to learn, and so many tough lessons that were still ahead of me. In my wildest imagination (or nightmares!), I could not have conceived of what was yet to come. I was, however, fortunate enough to land the job of a lifetime. For several years we organized student tours abroad and got to reap the benefit of traveling to exciting, foreign lands. This was a professional life filled with wonderful friends, laughter, hilarious travel stories and adventures and simply joyful and rewarding times. These were the days of our lives.

Fast forward five years and I would find myself a new resident of the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, and a newly enrolled graduate student. Having left behind a broken heart and dark clouds in Boston, I was starting over in a new life, preparing to embark on a career of international diplomacy and peace-keeping. However, a semester of confusion, dissatisfaction and feeling like a fish out of water, would eventually lead to my leaving graduate school and landing serendipitously in a job working for an International Human Rights organization. This is where I would meet Lauren, the second visitor to San Francisco in recent weeks.

Washington, DC

Lauren and I would become part of what I coined the “The Sex and the City” foursome of ladies who would get together regularly for dinner and girl talk. These friends were the rocks that kept me grounded during my four years in Washington. Lauren would witness me evolve into my first management role in the .com world, she would see me grapple with the stresses of a high-pressure, long-hour career, and she would see me struggle through a confusing yet painfully beautiful long-distance “relationship,” a relationship which would eventually leave me completely shattered, turned inside out and gasping for air. About to embark on what would turn out to be my “dark night of the soul,” Lauren would be part of the good group of friends that would send me off on my forever-destined journey to the west coast, leaving behind my east coast life and friends, leaving behind a part of myself.

The journey west would take me to Los Angeles, a city that would unwittingly become home to the deepest depression, the most gripping pain and the most intense struggle of my life. But simultaneously, and somewhat ironically, it would become the most bewitching and magical place I have ever lived, deeply connecting with the fibers of my spirit. Filling me up with her bittersweet nectar, Los Angeles would eventually become the gateway to a profound spiritual awakening, a complete transformation and a brand new Jeannie, alchemized by the fire of life.

Magical Los Angeles

Enter Garrett. A childhood friend of the family, Garrett had known me since I was a young girl and he had seen me grow into a woman. He had known me through various lives and several different versions of myself. Upon my arrival in Los Angeles, he was one of the only people I knew and was often the only shoulder to cry on during a very dark time. Garrett was witness to the darkest years of my life, the most profound turmoil through which I have walked, and for this I am grateful.

I am grateful because today when I met Garrett and his girlfriend for coffee in downtown San Francisco, while they were visiting from Los Angeles, I was able to shine brightly and tell Garrett how happy I am, how much joy, wonder and magic I experience on a daily basis. Had Garrett not been there to witness my lowest point, I’m not sure anyone would truly know how extraordinary and powerful my transformation has been, and how grateful I am for all of the trials and tribulations that have led me to this place.

As I look back on these friends, and the many others who have laughed with me, cried with me, fought with me and walked alongside me, I am deeply touched by the indelible marks that each one has left on my soul. It is often said that we should not look back to the past, but I profoundly disagree. There is so much grace and beauty in putting the pieces together and making sense of how the journey unfolded. Some of the most important lessons, and even revelations, of our lives come from time reflecting back on our previous journeys. It is all a beautiful, and necessary, part of our evolution.

It is true that however we might plan and plot, in large part we have no idea where are journeys will take us next, or where each path will lead; but what I am sure of is that there will be beautiful souls along the way, souls who will come into our lives to help us along our journey. There will be souls who help us, souls who hurt us, and there will be souls who crack us wide open, but each one of these souls has a purpose and a powerful lesson to teach us. And as we walk along our path, however much it twists and turns, and however dark, scary and painful it may become at times… we should embrace the journey.

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