Saturday, September 1, 2012

What is "real life?"

Well, I'm back in Colorado and decided to provide a little closure on this trip for my blog. First off, the final part of my trip in France was amazing! Those French folks really know how to do it right! Delicious breads, cheese, wines, stunning flower arrangements, exceptionally clean quaint villages, combining ancient ruins with modern buildings while maintaining the beautiful antiquated look, lack of modesty, and passionate personalities!
After taking the ferry from Ireland, we had a long scenic drive to Southern France where I then spent 10 days camping by a beautiful river with 9 amazing people for the Sangha Holiday event. It took place in a spectacular environment with space for cooking, playing, meditating, and deep relaxation. The facilitators Denis and Lydia were grace filled hosts and teachers! If I could afford it, I would return every year! I highly recommend checking it out if you are interested in a mindful, fun and relaxing holiday event.
Then I participated in the 10 day yatra or pilgrimage through the southern countryside of France. This was a combination of guided single file silent walks in the AM and PM, community building in coming together to build the camp sites on permitted farm land, for example, constructing the meditation hall, kitchen area, shower areas, and digging ditches for toileting, cooking together, and engaging in meaningful reflective conversations.  There were optional guided or individual meditations scheduled, small group sharing, workshops, time for sharing music and playfulness which culminated in a celebration of amazing talent on the final evening. It is very family friendly and it is really brilliant to see how the community comes together to support parents’ full participation by carrying their kids on their backs when someone got tiered, toting backpacks or supplies, staying back from a walk to provide child care, or distracting the children while the parents are attempting to pack up camp. Again, I highly suggest considering this consciousness building vacation as a family or individual if this format peaks your interest at all!
I ended my international journey in Paris visiting a long time friend from Colorado that is now in the diplomatic service there. Finally, I flew to Florida to visit family and then drove to NY with my parents and one of my nephews to visit more family and have now landed in Boulder!
Being home is a little bitter sweet. I am excited about seeing family and friends but am grieving the loss of the pace, sense of adventure, and lack of feeling pulled by responsibilities that being on the road offers.
I find myself already feeling a little struggle to stay centered and am noticing how my reactions to people’s suffering feels more suffocating and oppressive at home verses the suffering I witnessed abroad which included extreme poverty, street kids with drug addictions, traumatic stories of children in orphanages, people with crippling deformities from leprosy and other conditions with limited resource. All scenes which affected me deeply and caused reason to reflect!
And yet at home, hearing or witnessing friends and family’s stories about personal struggles I feel a little more overwhelmed and disempowered. Watching people in my inner circle in their daily lives, with real stress about money, health, and/or family strife has a slightly different feel than when there is a little separation.
Then on top of it, watching the news with repetitive images of  people in their extreme suffering feels even more traumatic. Such as, “N.J. Mother Who Decapitated Son, Committed Suicide, 2 Dead, 9 Wounded in Empire State Building Shootings, Maryland School Shooter Assembled Shotgun in School Before Attack.” And don’t even get me started about the political race… disgusting slander attacks with outright lies of one side against the other, radical agendas, women’s rights being assaulted and attacks on the most disenfranchised populations with continued support of putting our noses and causing a lot of damage where we don’t belong. A certain guilt or sense of responsibility comes with the political scene when I am home. Like, because I live here, I am personally responsible for what is happening on the news. I feel a little enmeshed in my country’s actions, as if my inertia in any given moment, the fact that I am not out picketing, writing scathing letters or even engaging in debate with people I am close with that support opposing agendas, that I am somehow contributing to the direction my country is moving in and the guilt grows. Somehow, I can watch in disbelief, like I am watching a bad movie and recognize how little control I have over the world’s dysfunction and distance myself from it more from afar. In India and Nepal, as there is anywhere, there were many stories about political corruption but somehow I find easy to disentangle without feeling any sense of overwhelming responsibility. And it is not an apathetic stance either… it is more of a perspective… Like there is a trajectory happening in the world that I can’t personally take on or change on a grand scale… but, it encourages me to figure out what I can do in my daily experience to promote my own inner peace and well being and reach out in manageable ways to things and people around me. Interesting to see how that feels more challenging on my own turf. And how I feel more sucked in to the drama.
I also find it interesting to pay attention to the boxes we appear to put ourselves in and how easy it is to feel stuck in the habits and routines even if they are causing us pain. As if the comfort of the familiarity wins over the dysfunction and finding creative solutions out. Again, much easier to avoid from afar when routine is not a common part of your current life style.
So here I am in "real life" attemtping to get back on health insurance, reinstating my car insurance and student loan, opening 10 months worth of mail, preparing to return to work while trying to maintain an expansive awareness and sense of calm that this journey sometimes gifted me. Wish me luck!!!!! Thanks again for following! I really appreciated all of your comments, support, and enthusiasm! Until the next time!!!!!!!!!

By the way, if any of these events interested you and you have more questions, feel free to inquire and I would be happy to provide more info... as well you can visit to get a comprehensive look at upcoming retreats and events mostly throughout Europe and India with the groups I have participated in and some others.

Denis, Lydia and Lanza: Organizers/teachers of the Sangha Holiday

Food was mostly organic and locally grown with regular fresh bread and cheese delivered! Mmmmmmm!

Belting out Arethra Franklin while cooking!

My favorite spot to relax in the morning.

Aerial fabric practice

Rolling down the river...

Sangha member's yurt which can be used for self retreats.

The view from the yurt.

Some of the walks on the yatra

Arriving at one campsite

Kitchen area

Playing in the mud

Christopher Titmus, the lead teacher jamming out.

Group massage after a long day's walk.

Sneaking away for coffee and ice cream!

Bucket bath

The star of the evening performance!

The walled city of Carcassone

This is how the Parisians build their pyramids!