Archive

Tag Archives: human connection

Image

Living in two countries that are so starkly different, I have found it difficult to really put into words how having a life between the two feels. I love both Honduras and the United States for different reasons, but each time I leave one for the other, I feel like it is a betrayal. When I go to the United States, I feel a huge sense of guilt that I can go there and back to Honduras so easily when so many in Honduras want to do the same and cannot. When I leave the United States for Honduras, I don’t know how to explain to my friends and family in the states who love me so much that something about the American system and bureaucracy stifles me and makes me feel like an outsider. It is hard to see the repercussions of American government and businesses in Honduras and not feel nauseous about how rich Americans live at the cost of other countries living in poverty. I have had the education and the opportunities to do the things I do because of being an American. I feel so blessed, but at the same time, I feel guilty that someone else in the world did not have my education and opportunities. In a lot of ways, my knowledge about American foreign policy has made me hate, not only my country, but myself for belonging to it. When I travel, I try to adapt to the countries I go, pretending I am not American, or that I am somehow different than other Americans. I have an embarrassment for the privilege I have had and for how my fellow countryman act when they do travel to other countries. I am not the only one; I read in an article by Business Insider that American tourists are repeatedly voted the worst in the world, not only by other countries, but by other Americans. These thoughts have consumed me for years now, to the point they unhealthily seep into my interactions with other Americans who I judge and condemn. I find myself wanting to detach completely from this country, to forge a new identity, and yet, I am drawn back to it because it is my home. It is hard to explain this feeling of being outside, not really fitting in anywhere as a native.

Several times I have asked others about my sense of guilt. How to deal with it, what it means, what I should do, etc. I recently received the answer from a stranger leading a women’s discussion group on sacred silence who responded to my question without me even asking it. This stunning women with beautiful curly white/blonde hair framing a heart shaped face of wisdom saw inside me a struggle and dissolved the pain it was causing me in only a few minutes. Her words made me see that we are all beautiful and unique in our individual worlds, that it is appreciating privilege that is important, not whether you have it or not, that Honduras is a place for me to find satisfaction and joy in what I am doing, and the United States is a place to refill doing the things I love I am unable to do there, like dancing, so I can go back. Each country provides what I need so that I can feel full. I do not have to choose one over the other or feel bad when I am in the states. Living two different lives is a blessing that I can be grateful for. I am American, and I can be proud of the American I have become, a woman who enjoys traveling and loving others all over the world.

Advertisements

Image

I was standing in water with a stranger from Paraguay who was quickly becoming my friend over blueberry ice cream and travel stories when peppers started coming my way. Reds, greens, big ones, small ones floating along the river. Too fast to be rescued as they bobbed along. “There’s one!” I grabbed it and held it like a precious jewel. Yes, I had a treasure in my hand, a bright green pepper. I was determined to catch another. “Don’t do it. You can’t get it. Your going to slip,” she said. But I was determined, and that is how I lost my pink flip flops in the river floating along with the reds and the greens far far away.

Image

I walk along side a world I do not feel I fit into. Sometimes I think I am a foreigner in my own body. I have never really melded in quite right, a little too much or too little this or that. I live in a world of utopian ideals which when burst too many times lead me to be a bit grouchy at the world retreating within my shell to regroup. “Why don’t you just cooperate?!” I often cry out in frustration shaking my fist at an unknown source. I find the most peace in watching trees, and I feel like they are my friends waiting for me to die some day so I can nourish their roots and become part of them growing towards the sun. Human life seems small and unimportant to me when I look at myself as separate from everything in the world, but when I start to see my connection to the trees, birds, nature, the universe, I begin to feel an important part of a beautiful whole.

Image

(Photo borrowed from Naomi Hattaway)

When you are a traveler you do become a bit of a foreigner to those who choose to stay put either in the places you came from or those you go to. You are a rebel to the normal flow of things. You can connect, but you will soon also detach, and when you settle, you will be changed from the person you were, a foreigner in your own home town or to the place you end up. I recently read a blog post by Naomi Hattaway titled I Am a Triangle and Other Thoughts on Repatriation about ex-patriots and travelers being triangles in a world of circles and squares. It clicked with me this idea of me being a triangle. I like all the different shapes we make, the characteristics that make us each unique.

Image

I enjoyed the company of interesting, thoughtful people from all over the globe this week opening my mind to new reflections and perspectives and reminding me to enjoy simple things like walking barefoot with a pepper in my hand. One of the most enjoyable moments for me was sitting over a homemade dinner with three girls from such different cultural backgrounds from me, from Paraguay, China, and the southern United States, which might as well be a different country when comparing it to the United State’s northwest where I grew up. Each of these girls were so beautiful and thoughtful, and they shared a night with me that reminded me why change is good. Opening up to change is learning at light speed, and as an old couchsurfing friend used to say, “Beth Ann, you are on the fast train.” So here I go again…I am hopping on the train.

Image

Image

(Photo borrowed from Society of Biology)

As a young girl, I used to go to a horse camp during the summer. Occasionally, I would receive mail, and as part of camp fun, those who received letters or packages would have to do embarrassing things like sing in front of everybody before they would be given their mail. One thing you might be asked to do is lie on your back and pretend to be a dying cockroach. I was often asked to do this never really knowing what a cockroach looked like or how it died, only observing others and doing the same. Here in Honduras, I have witnessed not only cockroaches dying, but several different varieties of beetles. These insects all dying with their legs in the air that used to terrify me have now become a source of fascination to me, especially the dung beetle.

I see dung beetles’ too heavy bodies trying to fly through the air, running into walls, without any clear destination, often crash landing in the most dangerous and inconvenient locations, their bodies too heavy to fly efficiently. They struggle to move from one area to another, completely chaotic in their journey. Most often, I will see the beetle a day later lying on its back in the dying cockroach form, legs frantically scrambling, hopelessly trying to flip back on its feet. As the hours pass, eventually the movement slows, the beetle too tired to make any further effort, but if you just nudge it, again the legs will be moving as though that touch rekindled a sense of hope.

At first, I used to sweep these bugs out the door, but after watching them on a daily basis, I have begun to see how they struggle, sometimes taking days to die, and I have developed empathy for them. Yes, empathy. These hard-shelled bugs that look so tough seem to be rendered helpless so easily. Several times I have flipped them back over on their stomachs hoping they would crawl away, but once they have been vulnerable and on their back their chances of survival are slim. No matter how many times I flip them over, sometimes every few seconds, they will eventually fall onto their backs again, legs in the air struggling. Yet, I cannot help but try to flip them over again even knowing their fate. Sometimes I wonder if it would be kinder to kill them knowing they will inevitably die, but I cannot bring myself to do it, so I just keep flipping them over, hoping one of them will walk away.

It is amazing to me that the dung beetle, which can pull 1,141 times its own weight, making it the strongest insect and animal on earth in comparison to body weight, can be so incredibly weak. It makes it hard to believe they can live for a year or more as I look at them in this state. Supposedly, they are so vulnerable in a house because of the lack of things to grab onto. In the wild, with plants surrounding them, they can right themselves by grabbing on to leaves and branches, so I have started returning them back to their natural habitat hoping then they might have a chance.

I see their struggle very human. I feel we too, once damaged or set back, flail with our feet in the air, maybe not literally, but definitely figuratively. We flounder about trying to balance ourselves. A beetle may take several days to die in this state, but we as humans take years, decades, sometimes recovering, but very often slowly dying, unable to see a way out. Once back on our feet, we then have to rebuild the muscles and learn again how to walk, sometimes making embarrassing mistakes, feeling like a child, vulnerable. I often wonder if I turned a beetle onto its feet again enough times if it would eventually regain the strength to hold itself up and walk away, or if I am too late and the lack of effective leg use while on its back has rendered the dung beetle helpless.

Observing the dung beetle makes me think of humans and their own suffering thresholds, their own living and dying. I believe there is a threshold of human suffering for each individual which if reached can render them helpless and dead spiritually, emotionally and/or physically, but there is always that last minute spark that can save them as well. Each person is different, but I feel we all have this threshold, and so I ask myself several questions which I now propose to you. What is that threshold that renders you helpless? How many times must people be supported after rendered helpless before they can stand on their own again? How many people will observe someone suffering and do nothing? Who will be the one to do something? What is that threshold where empathy and compassion turn to effective action and the people of the world truly live out their full potential? I think of these questions as I look at the dung beetle, and I wonder what my own thresholds are and how much support I need to regain my strength once I fall. Life’s struggles and its purpose are a mystery to me, but I feel the answers lie in reconnecting with the nature that surrounds us which humans so often claim to be above or better than. When you look deeply at the nature around you, you will find honest reflections of yourself.

Other blog post on suffering threshold I found interesting: The Value of Suffering and the Importance of Suffering Thresholds

Image

Love That Whispers Smiles Through Trees

I sat noticing only the passing of time
Lost in the chatter of a world unable to be silent and listen
I longed to stand to ease the discomfort of sitting
My body atrophied by lack of motion

Her little heart connected to mine
A pulsating surge of blood
Muscle memory remembered
The love that whispers smiles through trees

Wings reached out
Touching the wind that carries the soul
Stranded leaves floated amongst sunlit dreams
Waiting for death’s release

To return as a tree
Rooted in the knowledge of it is
Strong in the wisdom that it was
Growing steadily towards the hope of it will be

I wrote this thinking about one of my journeys back to Copán by bus after a long flight. I couldn’t stand sitting any longer, and so I stood for the last two hours, my head hanging out the window, truly feeling for the first time a sense of appreciation for the journey that I had so often dreaded due to its length. Looking outside the bus, I could see a different world than I had seen before when I had only viewed the outside looking through dirty windows. The beautiful lush greenery came alive, the rustling of the wind was a steady white noise invoking a sense of peace like running water. I turned around at one point, to look back into the bus I had perceived my prison, and I saw a little girl smiling so completely, so honestly at me that I smiled back, and our two hearts connected. She continued to watch me several minutes, standing in the isle instead of sitting with her parents. Each time I looked back, she was smiling.

One time I searched for her, and she was no longer there, and I felt something missing without her bright, joyous presence. I turned my head to peer back out through the window at the rolling landscape only to see a little heart shaped face looking at me a few windows down with an even more luminous smile, filled with pride that she too was now part of a world beyond the confines of the old man-made bus. Together we smiled at the nature surrounding us, the wind thanking us with its cooling breeze, occasionally looking to each other and widening both our smiles two-fold with the happiness of knowing another was feeling what each of us was feeling, to be so sure that in this moment, we were as humans should be, a part of nature instead of separate within our metal box.

Eventually, we did not look to each other as much. Instead we looked to the trees and mountains, satisfied enough to sense the other presence and wanting to soak it all in. The time came for the little girl to leave, only a few stops before my own, and as she left the bus, she turned to me and smiled again, as did her parents, waving to me as they left. Every few steps she would look back, smile, and wave as the bus slowly pulled away, continuing on its journey, and I would do the same. As she disappeared from view, I felt a part of me was left with her and a part of her left with me to fill the space. Together, we had shared the peace of true being, a moment of pure happiness I would never forget nor would she.

Image

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.

Image

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
Bring peace.
Hold answers.
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.

image

A man running, a gun shot, life stops for a moment, then starts again. A new shirt, the blood stained one discarded in another life, he keeps running, only to be shot again. Will he ever get where he is trying to go? Is he running away from something or towards something? It seems that his efforts are futile. History continues to repeat itself. Is this not the sad story of all humans? Our past is always chasing us and our future is always leaving us behind. It is only when he stops and emotion takes over that the now becomes the key to this madness. Anger, sadness, joy, passion. The animal within lets loose, a cacaphony of colorful sound vibrates through the floor. A desire to reach out to honest beauty raises timid fingers to feel connection. She touches my hand through a water barrier, but her eyes tell me we are closer than I have ever been with another human being. Her heart speaks to mine and I am free to dance, to embrace life and explore without inhibition.

%d bloggers like this: