I am coming to the end of The Artist’s Way, a creative self help book by Julia Cameron. There is a part of me that does not want to finish it. I get that way with books, feeling attached to them like a person, not wanting the relationship to be over. I remember reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a child wanting so badly to know the end, but not quite ready to say good-bye to the characters. Those last pages go so fast, and before you know it, the story is finished. The Artist’s Way is not a novel but a book to help you explore and embrace your creative potential, and while there are no characters to say good-bye to, ending this book is kind of like saying good-bye to myself as it is the story of my creative journey that will soon be coming to an end. I started reading this book after my travels in Europe, the recommendation of a young Irish woman about my age that I met at Dzogchen Beara Buddhist retreat center. Each week, the book contains reflections and tasks to be done to help you on “a spiritual path to higher creativity.” My weeks looked more like months, and I adapted the exercises to my own schedule pulling away from the book and returning to it as I felt drawn, but it always seemed that when I did come back to The Artist’s Way I found myself in a section that fit my current experiences perfectly giving me new insights. Reading this book was a spiritual journey for me of looking at my life and experiences honestly so that I could learn from them and get rid of the road blocks I had placed around me. I tapped into an unknown creative resource, drawing, and found that my writing opportunities blossomed as well. Most importantly though I realized that “discovering and recovering” my “creative self” was more than just an artistic experience but a spiritual path to healing and self love, an opportunity to forgive myself and those who had hurt me and let all the bitterness seep away. Part of the process towards the end of the book is rereading the daily “morning pages,” stream of consciousness writings done every day upon waking. Looking back on them, I am forced to come to terms with feelings and thoughts easily forgotten or left behind when traveling, but in reading them, I also come to realize how my travels have transformed me and helped me along the way as well helping me see things clearer and faster. I find myself wanting to return to Dzogchen Beara to send a thank you to this magical place and the people who inspired me there, especially the one who introduced such a wonderful source of growth and inspiration into my life. The Artist’s Way has become my daily companion, and I do not think ending the book will be the end of our relationship. I am sure this book will continue to encourage and shape me as I refer back to it and write my morning pages in the years to come.
I had my first visitor in Honduras! My lovely sister came to visit me, and it was nice to be a tourist again for a week. I ended up visiting places I didn’t even know existed and learning a lot both about myself and this little town I now call my home. It is hard to believe that it has now been a year since I quit my job, and I have been away from Portland, OR traveling and living abroad for that long. I hope others will come to visit me too!
The drive from San Pedro Sula to Copán Ruinas.
The Mayan Ruins.
Waiting for our bus to the Hot Springs.
The Spiritual Baths at the hot springs.
Met a new friend at the hot springs!
Our good luck charm to start the day off right before we hiked around Copán to all the Mayan sites.
The first stop on an all day trek circling Copán and visiting the sacred check points of the ancient Mayan city.
Notorious for my problems with customs, this is before I almost got sent to Mexico and after a delicious breakfast in Guatemala. Turns out at the airport they stamped my passport but didn’t say how many days I could stay, and I almost got deported even though it was an error on their part and not my fault. Just my luck. Good thing our guide was able to work his magic, or I might have been coming back to the United States sooner than I expected.
Yoga and meditation spot at San Lucas.
Walking up switchbacks to get an amazing view of the city.
Our guide’s little helper hanging out in the tree.
From the top of the mountain.
Walking through cornfields to return to the city.
At Rastrojón, a newly excavated Mayan site. Incredible this sculpture is still intact.
Horseback ride in the night.
My sister and I having a relaxing late breakfast at Café San Rafael.
My sister was rather popular with the kids at Casita Copán! It was so special to introduce her to all the important people in my life here, and we spent a whole day just hanging out with my Copán friends and family. It made me realize how far my Spanish has come as I was actually able to translate between English and Spanish for a whole day.
Two years ago, I would not have thought that my life would take me where I am now. I am nursing, not as a career, but as a volunteer, writing professionally and creatively, living in Honduras, speaking in Spanish more than English, and all together, living a more fulfilling and enjoyable life. Want to learn how to quit your own job and travel the world for a year while pursuing your dreams? Check out the first of a series of my articles on traveling the world for a year without a job at Endless Trek Magazine.
Feeling a deep frustration today with the world. I am quickly realizing how lucky I am to be able to travel and discovering how little opportunity Hondurans have to do so. For the average Honduran, it is difficult to leave Honduras to visit another country for fun, let alone work. Immigration laws and VISA and passport requirements are so easy for Americans but so complicated for others. I like to imagine a world where people can come and go as they please, if anything, just to be able to explore. Maybe then humanity would have some understanding and compassion when it could see we are more similar than the differences that keep us at war.
Americans can do things so easily, but their government constricts the rest of the world. The people of the USA have no clue just how lucky they are to have the opportunities they do. Instead, they sit in front of their TVs watching the world go by and judging it without ever exploring it. Some Americans give themselves a pat on the back for donating $20 a month to a child in some third world country, and these programs do help. But what is the root of the problems in these countries? It might be worth it to look a little deeper at the history of America and find out, to see how willful ignorance is causing much of the suffering in the world. Programs like this make Americans feel they are so generous but don’t give them the perspective they need to see what is at the base of true and positive change for the world. If anything these programs give Americans the sense they are somehow better than the rest of the world because they are so giving with their money to those less fortunate. This results in an “Oh those poor starving children in Africa.” mentality instead of a “How can this be happening?” and “Why?” mentality.
The USA’s immigration laws keep families separated and punishes desperate people who need understanding and opportunity to follow their dreams. The US government spends about 5 billion dollars per year detaining and deporting immigrants, most who want the same opportunity American ancestors had just one hundred years ago. If undocumented immigrants who needed work were allowed to enter legally and easily, that is 5 billion per year the USA could be putting into more jobs and using to pay off it’s outrageous debt. Three months of minimum wage work in the USA would be about what a Honduran makes in a whole year. The USA could be helping these people, who typically have families, feed their children, build a house, get an education and have the basic things Americans take for granted. Meanwhile, that money could be taxed if these immigrants were legal, adding to the cash flow for the economy. The truth is big businesses and farmers in the USA don’t want immigrants to get legal status because that would mean they would have to pay them minimum wage and/or benefits. Obama has given large sums of money to the Honduran government and the USA is training its military. If the Honduran government is so intertwined with drug trafficking in Honduras, why would the USA be supporting them under the guise of fighting the war against drugs. It is contradictory no? Shouldn’t that money be going directly to the people of Honduras to help improve their education system and living conditions giving Hondurans the opportunity to make their own country better for all their friends and family? The truth is keeping Hondurans uneducated and poor benefits the Honduran government and its few rich landowners who can take advantage of powerless people while also allowing the USA to have a stronghold in Central America and a place where American businesses can take advantage of cheap labor. American foreign policy continues to rape poorer countries so that the USA can take advantage of these people while Americans live rich lives disconnected from the rest of the world. This only drives more immigrants to the United States where the cycle of abuse continues with poor working conditions and separation from family, living every day in fear of deportation.
Many immigrants have no desire to stay in the USA. They want to return to their families and culture, but they don’t have the resources to have the future they dream of in their country so come without papers to the USA. Often, undocumented immigrants end up staying instead of returning to their families because the risk of being caught is too great to return to Honduras. If lucky enough to get in, people try to stay in the USA as long as they can to save as much as possible for their families back home. But families can only survive so long when separated, and they are destroyed by this system. Undocumented workers in the USA find themselves lost in a new culture and language, never fully able to absorb into the culture because there is always a level of fear of deportation or jail. They are away from those they love and often lonely. When they return to Honduras, sometimes it is to divorce, death, and heart break.
I challenge others to look at the process for a work or visitors VISA from Honduras and see for yourself why people come illegally. Imagine if you had limited funds to travel to a big city to visit an embassy or limited access to internet, how would you apply, especially if you can only apply in English? If you made on average of $3000-4000 a year, working six or seven days a week, and had a family to support, when would you find time? If all your parents could afford was a high school education for you, and for a VISA, a person needed to have a skilled job requiring a university degree, how could you even begin to imagine leaving Honduras legally? If most of the work illegal immigrants do isn’t even work that requires a university degree, why is the US government keeping these people out who are doing jobs educated Americans don’t want to do? This year is an opportunity for immigration reform in the USA. I challenge people for just one day to put on the shoes of an undocumented immigrant and see how your perspective might change. I am amazed every day at how my ideas of the USA and the world transform while being here in Honduras. It is a lot harder to judge people when you are sitting right across from them at your dinner table.
The Road Less Traveled
On the road less traveled
There are no footprints to guide
Transcending the typical human experience
We can create.
There are no footprints on this beach
Before light touches the sky
No memories to remind us
Washed away in the night
The past cannot be transferred to the present
There is only now.
Find inspiration in the solitude
In this moment
We are one.
Love is when you can say
I know you are suffering
That is why I am here for you
I am no longer I
You are no longer you
He is no longer he
She is no longer she
It is no longer it.
When all is one
We will truly be something
We will truly be nothing
In that moment
I have been doing a lot of thinking about my travels this past year as it is almost my one year anniversary after leaving my job in the states to start a new path within my life journey. I wrote this poem before my travels contemplating the duality and complexity we create as humans that makes everything so muddy. Clarity seems to come when we finally decide to sit still and let the mud settle to the bottom, an image I will always remember from meditations at Dzogchen Beara in Ireland. I have come back to daily yoga and meditation practice, and it is amazing how much it helps me focus myself in such a way that life just flows easier allowing me to see things as they come together instead of separate. In life, humans are constantly defining and categorizing things, myself included, all in an attempt to better understand them, but it is interesting how this black and white way of looking at the world that is supposed to provide clarity only actually does if things fit into the black and white mold. When they don’t, people get upset because they don’t feel they have the tools to understand these foreign models of life that don’t mirror what life is supposed to look like. As a result, instead of reaching beyond the black and white, people have a tendency to dismiss what they can’t understand based on their standards of right and wrong. Whether the standards of black and white and right or wrong are religious, race related, familial, cultural, political, or superstitious, they very apparently separate people from understanding the truth and beauty in those people and things they cannot understand or define. It becomes very clear to me that desire to have everything fit into a mold is one of the biggest factors in our suffering as human beings.
The Obvious Choice
“He was unacceptable to the infinite bright blankness, the clarity without edge which only selfishness fears.” ~ Lanark
Restless in calm stability
Confused amongst endless possibility
Is freedom to choose
Only a barrier to simple truth
Is the obvious choice
Really the right one
What makes it obvious?
If I am restless,
It is obvious I must free myself from that which holds me back.
If I am confused,
It is obvious I must ground myself.
Perhaps, I should do the opposite
Obvious choice is subjective to situation
Will going against the flow
Choosing what appears less obvious
Will the less obvious become obvious once the path is chosen?
Perhaps, I am restless because I am confused
I am confused because I am restless
The dissatisfaction comes from the desire to be satisfied
Are they not all one
How do I choose an obvious path when indeed it is not obvious?
Laughable this life we try to lead
The complexity we create out of simplicity
The grass is always greener.
The beauty will be found when it can be seen in the ugly
Peace will find us when we can see it waiting amongst the war within
Destiny is found when choice becomes fate
The obvious choice becomes the less obvious.
You are an Electrical Engineer: You now know how to strip the protective sheath around wires if they don’t have plugs and create your own plug, and you no longer get electrocuted when you stick it in the wall!
You are a Doctor: As a nurse, you used to get frustrated with those doctors that just wouldn’t let their patients go when it was time to go. Well, now you understand. A dead fan can always be fixed if you have medical tape.
You are a Procrastinator: Laundry or hammocks? Laundry or hammocks? It really is a very easy decision.
You are a Gardner: You have successfully bought, planted (let’s be honest here. Someone helped you…a lot), and are tending things that are growing and edible. Now, if only you could remember which plants are weeds and which ones are food. Lessons learned: Next time use plant markers, and seeds need to be more spread out if you expect anything to grow underneath (Although, the greenery on top looks nice right?)
You are a Contemporary Artist: You almost broke your leg trying to move the old giant washboard for the pila someone decided to dump in your yard, but then realized because of the experience of being pinned to the ground by this massive slab of cement, that it was really an artistic representation of power and strength and would be a great modern art piece in your garden. If you had not almost had your leg broken by this amazing piece of art, you would have never realized its true potential to inspire the soul.
You are a Foster Parent: You always have dog food and water available for dogs who need a home. They are just so cute and cuddly. How could you resist?
You are a Garbage Collector: You now finally realize what your neighbors have been trying to tell you all along; your true potential lies in garbage collecting. If only you had caught on sooner, you wouldn’t have gotten so grumpy every time your neighbors put their trash in your yard and you went around picking it up. Who knew that you were learning to embrace your life’s calling?
You are a Productivity Manager: You now know that having two bottles for water exchanges, you can wait until both are empty before exchanging for new bottles of water. This gives you more time and energy to complete other tasks. Also, someone usually offers to carry one or both of the bottles more often than they did with one. One less trip each week and a lot less unnecessary weight lifting. Awesome!
You are an Environmentally Friendly Security Specialist: You know that keeping your home free from burglars can be done cheaply and sustainably. Because of your innovative thinking, you now realize you can turn trash into highly effective weapons to improve the safety and security of your home.
You are a Survivor: Although the “widow-maker” has tried to kill you many times, you are resilient, and the times you have been electrocuted have only made you stronger.
You are a Mighty Warrior: You have battled the ice monster and won. You keep the stick around just to remind it who’s boss and keep it in line. For those fighting their own battles against these formidable beasts, wood has been found to be more efficient than knives. In fact, I STRONGLY ADVISE not using knives to avoid unnecessary losses. Wooden sticks. That’s where it’s at. Trust me.
You are an Undercover Investigator: You are investigating “Peeping Tom” occurrences in Honduras. You came upon an interesting finding when you had the fence repaired in your back yard thinking it would be a kindness to your neighbor for who the fence belonged. But only a couple days later the board and its nails were again ripped away which seemed very unlikely done by accident. This is a major finding in the investigation as the open slot provides a convenient passage of entry for someone who might want to look into your window. Now you can narrow down the suspects to the neighbors next door.
You are a Tourist Advisor for Honduras: Two most important do nots are DO NOT drink the water and DO NOT put toilet paper in the toilet! It goes in the garbage can! Please and thank you.
You are a Water Conservationist: After living two weeks without water readily available, you are now determined to save every single drop. Next professional goal: Become a Plumber so you can fix the leaky faucet.