Build Your Foundation on Love: Chapter 1

I wrapped my arms around him, held him tight against my body; the warmth, the comfort and security…I wouldn’t be back in these arms for 30 days, so I etched this very moment on the forefront of my mind to carry with me, along with the love I carry in my heart as I drove away in the taxi, staring back at the man I love who got smaller and smaller as I looked back in the distance. And then I was alone, on the other side of the world, 7,457 miles away from home.
Through the streets of Bangkok, I had tuk-tuks and motorbikes flying by me, as I watched the blurs of color, lights and sounds pass me by, it had me feeling like I was in a trancelike state. The last 32 days in Thailand came rushing through my mind, moments flashing in front of me like an old movie reel, rolling, spinning and projecting pictures, all flowing into a collaborative of one big story.

From the racing heart of Bangkok, to the laid back beaches of Krabi, to the reggae island of Koh Phi Phi, to the lively fish markets in Phuket, up to the mountainous lands of Chiang Mai & into the Hilltribes of Chiang Rai. Each place holds its own differentiating characteristics, full of vibrancy & culture. A month long honeymoon that was full of immense amounts of adventure, romantic days and nights, fun memories, haggling, laughing, fighting, barfing, teaching, learning, and most of all LOVING. 

Build your foundation on LOVE. This is the premise of our story. 

I could give you the ole, “Once upon a time…” but that’s typically followed by a series of events that are left shoved under the rug until you reach your, “happily ever after”. Our story goes much different. We set out on a trip that we could give more, find more; where we could put life between those lines, where we will be challenged, pushed, and found true, not just in our individual lives, but within our marriage…

So now, to rewind back to when those wheels first touched down and we were dropped into the smorgasbord of a city, Bangkok! Wriggling our way through the mobs of people, clinging onto our bags, arguing with Tuk-Tuk drivers, all while inhaling the black cloud of soot, smog and stink of the city. Ahhhh paradise! The griminess is what gives this place its charm. 

We made no agendas for how to spend our days on this honeymoon. We left it open solely to walk and be guided by our wonder, which made it easy for open spontaneity and live in the moment decisions. 

We never could have expected or planned to spend our first night out in Thailand sharing a street meal with the locals. While moseying around, we stumbled onto busy sidewalks full of Thai people dressed in all black, handing out full meals to everyone walking by, along with candies, juices, crackers, waters, and all other types of miscellaneous goodies. At first we were so apprehensive to take anything at all, not knowing what we had just walked into. But several women insisted that we share a homemade spicy Thai basil chicken with them. So we ate! 

Still trying to figure out WHY was all of this happening, we walked and walked and walked through the crowds of what ended up being tens of thousands of people, we finally got some answers. Since the King (King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand) had very recently passed, we had walked ourselves straight into a candle lighting ceremony, that was hosted for about 8 hours, where at 10pm all of those tens of thousands of Thai people lit a candle to signify the light and love of their beloved King and sang the royal anthem in his honor. Talk about a way of being thrown straight into a culture rich country.

With our heads still spinning, we hopped onto our plane the next day to land in Krabi! The sun and sand ranging from Aonang to Railay Beach quickly had us mesmerized. From the aqua colored water, the enormous limestone rocks shooting out of the ocean, to the plethora of Thai women following us around calling, “Massage! Massage! Massage! You want massage?”

We spent our first day there praying for the sun during this rainy season we had arrived in…

(To be continued in further chapters 😘🙏🏽)

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What’s the Cost of a Free Heart?

If you give your heart for free, does that make you cheap?Or does it make you invaluable?

Or does it make you worthless?

…OR does it make you Priceless?

When you give your heart, your worth isn’t contingent upon the consumer, the worth that is revealed is instead a reflection of that persons value.

The level of acceptance, should it flow like osmosis, with different polarities, but yet always balancing out a perfect harmony which keeps itself on an even keel, a heart for a heart, there’s nothing cheap in that.

But if you are stingy with your heart, with preconceived notions of what your value of worth is, there is no room for the infinite, because you’ve already sold yourself for that price. 

The capacity to love then has a limit. 
A heart is meant to be open. Just like your favorite toy when you were little…Imagine the little girl with her very first baby doll coming home from the store. How fun was it to see the light in her eyes as she tears open that pristine packaged toy, fresh from the toy store, to then spend all day, and everyday there after, diving into a land of creativity and imagination. She needed nothing else. That toy went everywhere. It was ripped open and embraced with excitement upon immediate receiving of it.
And then on the contrary, when that same little girl saved and gave all she had to purchase her very first porcelain doll. It was always kept closed and left packaged so neatly, with an incredibly expensive price tag, to be left tucked away at the top of a shelf, untouchable because of its fragility. The box was kept closed because the little girl was told that if she were to open it up, it would dirty and shatter and all of that expense would go to waste; the value would diminish immediately.

So where do you think the little girl would spend her time? Starring at the box on the shelf OR…arms wrapped around her baby doll, spending time in her playroom, outside playing in the sunshine and dirt, at the dinner table, through every car ride, every night tucked in bed together, she had her baby doll tucked right next to her heart, wrapped in her arms. There’s nothing they didn’t do together. And that porcelain doll sat above, on her pedestal, untouched and unloved, but OH!!!!, did she keep her “worth”! 

So where do you want to stand? With a price tag stuck to your head and to your heart, observing what life and love could be like? Your value decided for you?

Or do you want to go through the trenches of life, hand in hand, side by side, through it all, open and ready to get dirty and become a part of the story??

Would you rather be the narrator or the heroin character of the novel??

I will always give my heart for free.

There are no walls here.

I will bound forward with freedom because I have no boundaries.

When your heart is given for free, it never loses value. Instead it gains volumes of fortune from the vast pool of people that you can reach. When giving your heart, it won’t always be accepted, nor is it supposed to always be accepted.

A free heart swings brilliantly. The level of growth and love mirror the image of a playground swing. You hop on for the ride, start to pump your legs and GO!

The more you pump energy in, the higher you will go. You will fall backwards, but it will be along the same line that you traveled before, and as you pump again, you swing back tenfold to an even higher height than was reached before. Energy in versus energy out. And if you stop pumping, the heights you reach will become lesser and lesser, until you become stagnant. What you put in is what you will get out.

Anybody wanna buy a heart??

It’s All in the Chase of the Rainbow

With my gaze set easy upon the horizon, I felt a pull towards the earth. There was a hand that reached out, grasped my anxious heart by the strings and ripped me forward. This jolt sent my vision straight while simultaneously splashing color across the sky. This awakening immediately put me on my path.

A rainbow appeared in faint light ahead of me, dancing and reaching across the sky, fading in and out between the fluid pockets of clouds strewn across the sky. Flirtatious and inviting it was; I was then captured and fully conscious in my trance. 

This constant hazy dazed sky that’s been steering me lately is now in the rear view mirror as I pay no mind to it with this new mission at hand. My windows are down and I hear the wind panting as if to flood in gulps of air so this desire survives longer than a fleeting moment. Chase the rainbow.

It’s so easy to be caught up, stone walled and silent. Stuck in a silence that is filled with a static flow of noise but no voice that’s speaking out. 

As I sit here now and write, I clear my throat, as if to dust off the cob webs to the cover of my own favorite book. The story that I’m still writing. But as I’m writing, I remind myself to not fill these empty lines with words, but to fill my empty soul with wisdom. 

My voice, my mission, my journey…

The noise is gone and nature has set in. Every bit of the revolving world has encompassed me tonight. 

I parked my car in the empty lot tonight at Lacamas Lake, stepped out and deeply inhaled. The moistness of the air filled my lungs with a healing breath. Step by step, I continued to follow my path tonight, listening to the song of the birds, the crunching gravel underneath the soles of my feet with my heart as my guide leading me forward to the painted sky. Through the woodsy path I traveled with no destination to reach. I absorbed my surroundings when I took a seat in the damp, mossy grass that crept right up to the edges of the lake. There I sat presently, etching the silhouette of trees that were painted across the sky with a backdrop of blues, purples and pinks; mesmerized by a hawk that swooned and swayed effortlessly across the sky, circling and twirling with the breaths of wind that carried it beneath its wings. I sat and watched the sun set across the sky.   

I was sought after beauty. 

Lately I have been blind and speechless, but tonight my sight returned to remind me of my vision. A reminder of what life is about. My connectivity to the earth has always been the leading force to discovering my own happiness. The meager, homely tasks that daily life brings are just the world testing and challenging me to push past the limits of my body and be deserving of seeing what’s inside my soul. 

I’ve so easily given into the distractions and resistance that has so heavily been giving me push back lately. Tonight was an excellent reminder to continually chase the rainbow again. It’s not about what’s at the end, because there is no end; the lessons are learned in the journey, the mission and finding fulfillment. Because the end only comes when the sun goes down, the colors disappear and the darkness inhabits the sky.  

Stripped, Unraveled, & Unveiled

Words have had a much harder time being heard lately. Where do I begin to listen when there is so much going on, but yet things still feel so quiet…

I use the word overwhelmed often, sometimes maybe even in excess, but I can’t help it, my feelings are always Powerful…whether they be good or bad. My heart has no outer shield, it has no walls, has no protection, nor guards…so that must be why…

>>>I absorb everything<<<

That’s OVERWHELMING.

The fact that I have let myself get lost and distant from my writing world also makes me realize how heavy thoughts are until they are paid attention to. 

I have felt such a weight on me lately, and I see now as I write, that the words unravelling are slowly unloading…letter by letter, each pen swipe across my crisp, off-white colored journal pages, each cursive swirl, are all pathways of escape for this weight. 

The letters are crawling out of my mouth, dripping from the long strands of my hair, bursting from my fingertips, and bleeding from my heart. I feel weightless.

I look in the mirror at this now familiar girl, who only moments ago was unrecognizable. 

I almost don’t even want to say anything else. I don’t want to startle her or scare her away again. 

This re-introduction is timid; I am unclothed, naked and transparent. Vulnerable, I say again, vulnerable, but not weak. I am calloused and fierce. But my fists are not clenched; they are open and welcoming, along with a pulsing energy radiating from my heart.

I am listening…

  

Reaquainted: Awake & Alive

A shock is sent shrilling down my spine, igniting each vertebrae like a fuse that’s been lit and is sparkling & burning it’s way from tail to top. What triggered this unrelenting flame was hearing a familiar tune penetrate my ear drum again. It’s absolutely incredible how our senses can bring our mind, soul and bodies back to such memories of the past in such an instant. 

I’m laying in bed this evening, with headphones tightly tucked into my ears, listening, breathing, remembering, reminiscing, as I play my song of MEDITATION, that same familiar tune, that gets me through each word that I write and have ever written. I start my writing process now by just listening and letting these words fill my mind… words bubbling up in my head, like boiling water, each idea surfacing with explosion.

This state of meditation that I speak of is far from the ordinary version of meditation that people picture when it’s mentioned; of someone sitting quietly, legs crossed, eyes closed, silence surrounding them, silence suffocating them. No, this meditation I speak of and partake in is full of life, health of the mind; being AWAKE and ALIVE to every moment. I try to live my life in such “meditation”, absorbing everything in my surroundings; like a selfish child sitting on the floor of a playroom full of toys, grasping, grabbing, tightly clinging to every toy in the room, with arms full and their head spinning left to right, on guard, prepared to take on any intruder who dares to take any one of these treasures away. My experiences and encounters of daily living are what I want to grasp on to and carry with me forever.

My eyes are my hands, for they grasp everything that I want to hold, and those real treasures of life are locked behind the rib cage of my broken, mortal body, where my heart resides, protecting my true soul and all that it entails.

I have felt so distant and out of touch with my mind over these past few months, which is why I’ve started so many passages of writing and never published any since the end of October. This heart cage of mine has felt dungeonous, and left my eyes in the dark, as I’m stumbling and fumbling around, trying to put my feet back where they belong underneath me. 

This song rhythm tingling in my ears though has brought life back to these fingers that now so diligently type this story. 

So…what have I been afraid of? This writer’s block that I’ve let keep me in the dark and become unfamiliar with the voice inside of me? It’s nonsense. So today I finally let my eyes open up again for the first time without any intention except to absorb. I took a walk in the dark, trusting in where I may end up even with no end goal in sight, for I trusted that all I needed to see would present itself along my journey of faith. 

The times that we trust in our own intuition is when we end up exactly where we are supposed to be. When we fight and try to analyze each and every move we make, planning out the future, as if we somehow know what it will hold is when we become the most lost of all. 

In starting my lone hike today, I didn’t know where my feet would land 4 miles down the road, how long I would even hike or what obstacles may present themselves along the way; I only knew and could only react to right where I was standing. I was standing on the dirt trail of Washington’s Lacamas Lake, with no one in sight, with a sprinkle of rain that made the leaves of the trees dance in front of me, the lake sitting still and peaceful, mirroring the mountain & tree line above and a quietness in my heart that was ready to hear itself speak again.

I spent the whole afternoon being reacquainted with myself again. For these last several months where I’ve felt spiritually in the dark, it is only because I’ve let the outside world’s chaos drown myself out. It is so easy to live through our days with no awareness, with no recollection of who we are and why we are here.

So today I searched! Along my hike, I came across a wooden boat dock, so I tip toed my muddy sneakers all the way to the edge and peered down into the glistening water. There I was, as familiar as ever, smiling back up with a ripple of energy flowing through me. In that same moment I heard a large splash as a fish came flying out of the water about 20 feet away. What a delight it was to share in their presence and excitement to just merely be alive!

The small gesture of joy that lit up a smile within me made me realize how easy it is to spread a smile across someone else’s face, to spread that ripple of energy from one specimen to another. So as I kept that smile on my face that I so clearly saw reflecting back at me from the lake, I decided to smile, wave and acknowledge every person in passing I came in contact with on this hike that I was continuing on. 

There was no surprise at all, that in every single passing person, I smiled, said hello and no matter what their initial expression was, ALL of those expressions turned into a smirk, smile or warm hello back. What a simple concept. Such an easy way to lift the spirits of those around us, by merely being awake and alive and acknowledging. We hear the saying often, “you get what you give”. And it couldn’t be more true. The more we spread love, share love and live in the moment, the more love filled our lives will be in return. 

I ended up hiking for about 3 hours, with several encounters, exchanging smiles with each and every one. The more I shared joy, the happier I felt. The plants looked greener, the flowers more colorful, the moistness in the air became softer, the trickle of waterfalls sounded more peaceful. When I walked down that same dock on my way back down the trail, I tip toed my feet all the way to the edge of that wooden dock again and it was as if he were waiting for my return, because again, that large fish came flying out of the water to splash back at me once more. 

There is so much life before our eyes and somehow we miss most of it. It’s such a tragedy. But in today’s small lessons, I’ve realized that as crazy as life may be, the very moment we take time to examine the world around us, is the same moment it responds back. 🙂

I realize haven’t had some profound thing to say in my writings today, but I’ve let my words leave freely, with no sense of self control. No expectation of result, just again being reacquainted with my own mind, as I’ve let my own tunnel vision get the best of me lately. But all it takes in life to turn things around is awareness! The small moments of the day are what make the memories. They create the warmth in our heart and carry the life in our veins. When we let ourselves become distracted, we are throwing away our days, one after another. 

So today I just have to end in saying the simplest thing…BE AWAKE AND ALIVE! 

         

Back to Basics

We try so hard and get so caught up in trying to express “love” to the people in our lives. We are always searching for love at every corner. Looking down every dark alley, seeking between the sheets, desperate to find this love; hiding behind comfortability where love has been lost, but we are too afraid to cut the umbilical cord to security and nourish our lives on our own. While the toxicity of complacency is continuously flowing, feeding and binding us to sources that are dry of love, but flooded with lust, longing or ludicrous false feeling.
We put so much emphasis on hearing those 3 words, thinking that’s the end all of expressing love. Of course saying “I love you” and feeling the sweet vibration of sound those ringing words make as it tickles and penetrates the ear…but what’s penetrating our hearts?
The source of love and the core of our being certainly isn’t kept in the small confinement and easy to reach destination of our ears, but our source of love is kept in the depths of our hearts.
We don’t reach with our hands to grasp love. Love is not tangible. And its not found with our mere surfaced eyes, nor our exposed ears or felt with our vulnerable lips. Those are all pathways of expression, but not the source.
We so often confuse those paths with the destination. Those who capture our eye, we give our hearts, or those who whisper in our ears, we give our bodies; all of which is just the path! Wait until your journey has been reached; don’t sit down when you’re tired and let the root of your love try to plant in the sand; we know love can’t survive there. Continue your path to the mountain top, where the soil is rich and lustrous, and the love can grow freely and abundantly.

My car ride back from Tegallalang Rice Terrace yesterday struck me hard as I listened to the flowing words of my driver, Putu, as he spoke with such enlightenment of “love” and how simple he made it seem to know when you’ve found it.
His words were swift and sweet and carried in song as he explained how the Balinese usually don’t express the phrase “I love you”, because when you love someone, it’s already shown through their body language. The blush of the cheek, the bat of the eye, the glimmer in their gaze, or from the words that can’t be found because you are left speechless in their presence. The feeling in your heart when it’s been touched is a much greater communication than we could ever express through word of mouth, because it exudes a radiance that is much more powerful than spoken language.
Putu said these words with such ease and with such distinction. It’s something that we all know, but fail to listen to.
He then spoke of “beauty” and what that really means. Beauty in the culture of Bali is seen from slender arms, a thin pointed nose, a long neck, and curved hips. He says there are not many of these women (even hilariously mentioning that his wife is definitely not one of them) as he shared that in quite a comical manner. But what he followed with was that “you can not fall in love in a day”…he said you can see this kind of outward beauty that he spoke of, but that beauty is not what makes you fall in love. He says that he can freely talk to anyone, make conversation with other women with no worries, because he knows his heart is committed to his wife. No shallow beauty will be able to capture his heart, because his eyes won’t be deceived due to his committed, all knowing, heart. Having that type of commitment he says you feel FREE. “No worries” he kept saying, “No worries”. He knows he loves his wife, he said that commitment is for life.
I was stunned by this conversation and just awestruck at his wisdom. His words didn’t stem from any ulterior source, it was just what was on his mind, and he shared it with me.
He then shared old stories of his upbringing and how within the Balinese culture it was not easy to meet girls so you had to be creative in your ways to see your girl outside of village ceremonies. So the young men would carve flutes and make up their very own unique song. The notes that they would play would be in their very own arrangement, the only other person knowing the tune would be their girlfriend. So at night time, the Balinese boys would sit outside their girlfriends window, play their special tune, so the girls could sneak out without their parents knowing and spend some time with their boyfriends. But there would be no kisses exchanged, that is not acceptable in the Balinese culture. They again would just express and know how the other person felt due to the body language exchanged back and forth during flirty conversation.
The heart can be so complex if we let it, but yet is so simple to decipher if we just stop, take a step back listen & really feel. The way our heart beat changes pace, pumping, beating, trying to escape the walls of our ribs when it’s feeling caged and constrained when love sets in. It releases heat spreading throughout the body, expelling through the red flush in our cheeks and the warmth in our palms while reaching for the hand of a lover. Go back to the basics of love, stop getting lost between the deceptive paths of eyes, ears and mouth; the heart was and always is the answer and the destination.

Earlier this week in class, I did a lesson on reading with my most advanced students, and we chose the category of “fairytales”. My students had requested that they wanted to hear some American tales and practice their speech, so we chose a famous story to read through and discuss. I brought in “Beauty and the Beast”, as that was and ALWAYS is my favorite fairytale.
We broke down the story, going around in circle each taking turns reading through each paragraph. Stopping along the way to define any new vocabulary for them and also to summarize each section to make sure comprehension was there. I then had my students write each of their own summaries of the story and share their opinion of the moral/message of our tale. Again, I heard such profound responses as they so poetically would reiterate how love is based upon the heart, not from appearance. Several of them even used the expression, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. As well as I taught them the phrases “Beauty is only skin deep” and “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Without explanation, they understood immediately, as these are not just phrases to teach, but this is something felt from our hearts.
Love is the universal language! ❤ Hearing these kids speak of the love that they hope to find in their life, to settle and make a family was so endearing and real. The rawness in their vulnerability and openness to just share their heart's desire put such a warmth within my heart.

There is so much irony in that there can be so much to be said about words that can go unspoken. ❤️😉

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A Year Above The Clouds

I sat today on a mountain top, looking down upon my own self, as my true spirit hovered smiling down above my human body that was staring so wondrously with such a dazzle in my eye, looking out into the vast skies of sunrise in front of me. That wonder encompassed all of me. With commotion going on around me, there was silence in my mind, there was peace and there was a humbleness.
As I write this down I get a chill that climbs up the ladder of my spine, each vertebrae being another rung up a ladder as the chill one by one creeps all the way to the top, sending a tidal wave of emotion into my mind. As I am picturing myself, now the 26 year old woman that I am today, celebrating my life, starting the beginning of a brand new year on the top of a volcano (Mount Batur) in Bali, my spirit wants to just come down from hovering above and embrace my body, hug it and hold it tight and acknowledge the new self love and the beautiful acceptance that I have for who I am and who I have become. Regardless of what past tragedies may have occurred, everything I have been through up until this point has gotten me to where I am standing today; and I can say that I am standing strong. I put such an emphasis on this because it was just 2 short years ago (almost to the exact day) that I wanted to no longer live, I felt unworthy, I felt worthless and weak and lost. I knew not who I was. I was in the dark, a darkness that I have not shared nor wanted to shine a light upon for a very long time.
I shared a quote that I wrote before, and I will say it again, “Don’t ever be fooled by the depth of my love and the purity in my happiness because it comes from paying a price of deeper suffering and from allowing myself to fall in weakness so that I could learn what true strength is.
The truest of loves are the ones that have emerged from & endured an immense amount of pain.”
This last year of my life, my 25th year, was where I came to this understanding. I allowed myself to find myself and allowed myself to RISE. I’m a different person than I once was, and that is because last year, something took over me; something out of this world that I can not explain, but it guided me through the feelings in my heart. God certainly had placed his hand upon my shoulder, not pushing me where to go or even showing me the direction to go, but just to let me know that I am not walking alone.
I have in the past flooded my life and my mind with distractions. But I sit now today, with not just my ears open, but with my whole soul open to the universe. I’m so in tune with my heart now, and as I write this I quite literally had to take a break to wipe the tear filled eyes I have and to catch my breath as I so openly and vulnerably share this all with whomever chooses to read it, without being afraid of judgement.
So here I find myself, choosing to start my new year, 26, climbing a mountain top in compete darkness. Starting at the bottom of Mount Batur at 4am, September 19th, with a small flash light in hand and my water bottle clasped under my arm. I started step by step, under the moonlit sky, with my group of fellow hikers, and our tour guide, Wayan. Hiking this 1717m volcano in the pitch black of night, in the quietness of the wilderness, surrounded by the blanket of the starry sky above was such a spiritual journey. The entire hike up, you have to have such a faith in yourself and within the people around you. Because you’ve never seen this rocky, rugged path before, so each step is a new discovery. For most of the trip up the mountain, I found myself throwing my head back, having my gaze magnetized by the interest of my eyes and the night sky. I couldn’t get enough, the sky was so full of such a vastness of beauty, I could not break the lock that was met between myself and this out of this world galaxy above me. Each star seemed to call my name out and grasp my attention. My feet continued to move in their forward motion, stumbling, stepping and sliding, but my undivided attention was still given to the sky.
I reached the summit of the mountain around 6:15am, just as I could start to see a faint shade of pink trying to peek it’s head out from under the heavy covers of that dark, starry blanket of a night. The panorama view was of silhouetted volcanoes that were framed by the mirroring lake at it’s base and by the softness of cumulus clouds that hovered about. And there I sat, in awe. Watching as the sky changed and melted from one color to the next; it was as if I had a front row seat to God’s painting studio, seeing his every stroke as he painted across the sky like a canvas.
I soon was brought back to my beautiful reality, as Vivian (my roommate out here) started in song with some other ladies near by, to sing me “Happy Birthday”. My heart smiled as this warmed my heart and how truly blessed I felt to be starting my new year in this way.
We then shared breakfast, which was boiled eggs which were cooked in the natural hot springs at the top of the volcano.
The hike down then was quite a miraculous experience as well. Because even though we just had hiked this majestic mountain, the hike down was the first time we were actually seeing it. So again, my eyes were open wide, scanning back and forth, not missing any details; from the wild monkeys at the summit, to the crazed wild dogs running around, to the charcoal colored volcanic rocks, to the many vibrant shades of green in the trees. Every detail etched into my memory.
Starting a year above the clouds (meaning this both metaphorically and real physicality) was a true blessing in my life. I told my parents afterwards that what I discovered today was heaven on earth. Apparently you don’t have to die to go there 🙂 because I WAS THERE, with my heart open, feeling the breeze upon my cheek, hearing it whisper in my ear, as if God himself were speaking to me. Speaking doesn’t always have to be spoken words, because I felt the communication through the beat in my heart, that adrenaline feeling flowing through my veins, expelling a radiating beam of passion back into this world, leaking out the corners of my lips as I smiled, and it escaped from the wrinkles in the corner of my eyes from that smile spreading all the way across my face and then lighting that sparkle within my eyes, the passion escaped from every part of me.
This whole experience of hiking Mount Batur is also a perfect depiction of my last 2 years of life and how it has unfolded. Trusting my path through the darkness, stumbling, falling, not knowing where I am headed. I lifted my gaze upwards, trusting to be guided as long as I kept my eyes towards the light. And from my darkness I rose, slowly yes, but surely. I rose and climbed and clawed my way up, with an unrelenting desire. And when I made it to the top, I was presented with a beauty unimaginable, one that took my breath away. A weight lifted and a new light cast upon my vision. And now my path of light has been lit, and as I travel my new life, I notice things I never have quite seen before. And I continue to stay wide eyed and have a hunger for life that I try to feed every single day.
One of the biggest pieces to my heart now is the nonprofit organization that I am volunteering for, which brought me out to Bali in the first place.
So to continue, not only did my Balinese birthday celebrations end at the base of this volcano, because my students that I volunteer teach at Bumi Sehat out here so kindly wanted to honor my birthday as well with their Balinese traditions when I saw them the following Sunday. The entire day on Sunday was a day that my classes had been preparing for over the past week. It was “Fun Day”, which can be compared to as a field day back in the United States, to celebrate the accomplishments that we’ve met in our classes so far. So the whole previous week, we practiced and prepared songs to perform in front of all the other classes of Bumi Sehat. What a perfect ending to a PERFECT birthday weekend. We laughed and played, participating in tug of war, a 3-legged race, balancing marbles on spoons while walking, and enjoying each classes performance.
As the day was coming to an end, I was quickly blind folded, grabbed by someone who was swiftly and eagerly shoving me on to the front of the stage, as I was trying to resist and scream, hoping not to be shoved off the stage haha. I soon after was unblind folded and standing in front of me was my teenage class, holding out proudly a birthday cake with my name on it and lit up candles as they sang me “Happy Birthday”. One of my students, Kadek Juli, the extrovert that he is, decides to swipe his fingers through the cake then and smear it across my face. I then am led down onto the field to “play a game”, where instead I am pelted with raw eggs, and doused with 2 full bags of flour by my students as they laughed and squealed and ran about in joy. I laughed so hard I cried, as I chased my students around the field, with egg shells flying off me and egg yolk stringing from my finger tips as I threatened them all with a big, goupy hug.
To be so immersed in this community and welcomed into their culture so open heartedly has been so impactful to my spirit. These people have taken me into their lives as one of their own. Showing me an unconditional love that I’ve never quite seen before.
I can not say enough how incredible it has been for me to be starting a brand new year of my life, out here across the world in these circumstances. Never in a million years could I have pictured myself where I am today. And I thank you and everyone I come in contact with in my life for getting me to this point. 25 was THE BEST year of my life, as it was my very first birthday in my mind, because I experienced true self discovery and I now know who Sarah Marie Vandervort is. So 26…I’m ready for ya and all you have to bring. I’m ready to fill that number with LIFE!IMG_3791.JPG

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I Welcome To The Stage…

Unravelling the spindle one by one. Thread by thread. Emerged into life.
My legs were replaced by wings
My senses have been heightened
The outer world in chaos, but I myself am in harmony.

Tonight I had a vivid dream…only to awaken me to the pure reality of my imagination and where that has lead me to today💗

Why do I strive for the validity of my life through the confirmation of others?
My potential for greatness lies only within my own hands. These worn, callused hands. When I envision opening my hands, palms towards the sky, I see rays of light bursting through, like beams of energy, trying to escape, as if I’m holding onto a stone or a rock that is BURSTING, beaming at the seams with my potential. The tighter I grasp, the more the light feels suffocated and tries to scape through every crack and crevasse. So I allow myself to reach my arms in full extension outwards, parallel to the ground, palms facing up, and I trustingly open my hands with a confidence I hadn’t seen before. With resilience, confidence and poise, like a well orchestrated conductor of my life, my arms are reached out, every muscle from my shoulders down to my wrists, to the very ends of my fingertips are engaged. The light of my life has been revealed, let free! And the light is now beaming from each finger tip, spreading, and is now shining from every angle of my body, in such a powerful jolt, that it’s even putting an arch into my back as the light escapes me, making my chest press forward and my body weight lightens as I almost seem to just hover up onto the tips of my toes.
Open hearted? Is that what this means?

All of these words came to me as I awoke at about 5am this morning, in the dark and in a haze, but my mind was clearly not asleep. I typed these words into my phone with one eye squinted open, because my inner self wouldn’t let these words escape my thoughts without a strong recognition.
The mind is a funny thing, as is one’s “self”. I feel more and more, every single day, that my true self is coming out and surfacing as I am on this journey and have allowed myself to be so open hearted to where I haven’t given myself any restrictions or boundaries. No hesitations, no guidelines as to where I “should” be going or what I “should” be doing at this time in my life.
Instead, I spent my days this week in wander. I let my feet take me where ever they did lead. I spent many mornings in little Balinese cafés alone this week, just sitting, listening, BEING. It was wonderful. I sat sipping my “Bali Coffee” at Lotus Cafe, I plopped down Indian style on top of a pillow seat at “Kafe”, (eating the most fantastic Cashew French Toast I might add), I watched Balinese style dances at Laka Leke while enjoying one of my favorite Balinese dishes (Kalio Udang, spicy coconut curry chicken) and I swam all morning in the hidden pool at Swasti Cottage after indulging in a tasty brunch. Enjoying every single one of these places, not only just sitting and enjoying it for the moment, but really being aware, really listening to the sounds around me. Hearing the noise of the restaurants, the yells of the roosters in the yards, seeing the scurrying of the geckos along the walls, hearing the breeze as it whisps across my face. I didn’t plan one of these outings, but yet each day, I end up exactly where I’m supposed to be. With eager feet that know exactly where they’re going (even when I don’t) and taking with me my content heart and a clear mind.
Bali has been so good to me. When coming out here, I never would’ve known that I would be getting all of this back. Especially due to the fact that I came out here to give, to help others who have less than I. But during times of giving, is when I find myself somehow receiving just as much back, actually receiving MORE back! This culture, these people, this place, have made me feel so comfortable that my inner self has decided to not only just peek her head out of the curtains she’s been hiding behind in fear before, but now my inner self has THROWN those curtains open! With a confidence and light that I never have seen before.
I’m finally welcoming myself to the stage of life…for the very first time. Not clothed in riches, makeup or shame, but coming out as purely Me, stepping into the white light as just ME. ❤ It's good to know who you are and to be completely comfortable with who you are.
Open hearted and unafraid ❤
Sarah Marie Vandervort

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Where there once was ash, there now springs new life

And where there once was ash, there now springs new life. The flames of the past may be burning in the background but the burnt, soiled ground still buds a new leaf.

My spirits have been lifted to a whole new level of realization today. I was given one of the most greatest honors in being invited to accompany a friend of mine, Agus, to his family and villages’s cremation ceremony. If someone told me a year ago that I would be in Bali right now, I never would’ve believed them. But yet on top of that I’m here also getting to experience their absolutely beautiful, cultural Balinese traditions, standing right here amidst all the local people. Which is a funny thing all in itself, because the Balinese welcome you in to their country, their homes and all aspects of their lives (even these most cherished family ceremonies), with open arms. Today there were hundreds upon hundreds of people in this parade of celebrating life, but yet there were only 3 white people…Myself and the other 2 girl volunteers whom accompanied me, everyone else was local. What’s amazing about this is that not one person would look twice at us like we didn’t belong, rather it was as if we blended right in with the people. My eyes were darting every direction today, like the track of an old type writer, back and forth, back and forth, trying to take in every vision I saw, wide eyed and in awe; and every glance that I made or any moment of eye contact I made with someone would be just greeted with a big, genuine smile.
The sense of community and care that I witnessed today over flowed within my heart.
From the very beginning of the day, waking up at 7am to prep myself for the day, clothing myself, with the help of Putu, who was so kind to dress me in my ceremonial sarong, having my friend Agus come all the way to the house I’m living in to pick me up and escort me throughout the entire day’s activities, which last the entire day, I felt like I belonged here. There is no such thing as judgement in this Balinese world. You are who you are, no matter the age, no matter the color, no matter your stature, they see everyone as people.
The day started with all of the families within the village, gathering and bringing forth in a parade each individuals representation of their family member’s soul. Some were a swan, a cow, or some other ancestral routine. In the village, the cremation ceremony is one of the most important ceremonies because they believe that the life will not go to heaven or into it’s reincarnation until the burning happens and the spirit is lifted above with the flames with the positive energy of the celebrations. These wooden statues of the souls are HUGE, made of wood and decoration and are amazingly heavy! The men of the families have to carry these for very long distances through the streets, taking more than 20 of them to lift these up. They all work together though, smiling and in honor, they call and chant for their fallen family member. They also don’t walk in a straight line as they carry these masses, because they walk a swayed path, to confuse the bad spirits that may try to follow.
Once all the statues had been presented, all families eat together in their ashram. Which I also got to participate in, scooping steamed rice, 3 different types of pork dishes and vegetables onto a paper bowl with our bare hands and fingers. We then dip our hands into a bowl of water for cleansing and then begin to eat the meal with our hands while all sitting outside, on the ground or a step as a whole family/community. Once this part is finished, the men regather themselves again and heave those large statues over their heads again and carry them to the cremation site, followed by the parade of women carrying thousands upon thousands of offerings to also be cremated with the souls.
Each step along the way is so timely and tedious, from carrying everything to the cremation site, to laying everything out perfectly, putting offerings inside the representations of the souls, saying prayers, and working together like a well oiled machine. No step is done without care.
Once the flames are finally set afire, we stand and watch as the smoke arises towards the heavens in the sky with the wind blowing and carrying it away. Then once ashes are collected, they mix them with holy water, making a sort of clay inside pieces of a coconut, to be taken to a river, to a mountain top, and to the ocean, because those ashes must be brought back to their very beginning elements of earth, wind, fire, and water, to bring those souls quickly to the afterlife. And after this process is done, there are fresh green plants that are placed upon the rig of where the old ashes were laying, still being swept away and they now bring new life, new offerings, representing the new birth of life.
As I write these words to you now I realize how little meaning they have in the vast comparison to what I witnessed. My words are measly in comparison to the depth of compassion and love that was displayed in such a beautiful manner and honor of what’s truly important in life. And that is honoring those you love. Life is such a gift, a gift that we all take for granted. Each and every day we are ALIVE. We get to walk this earth, feel the dirt or sand between our toes, feel the warmth of the sun, the cool of the breeze, the love within our hearts and sometimes the pain that is within our hearts, but none the less, we are ALIVE.
And where there once was ash, there now springs new life. The flames of the past may be burning in the background but the burnt, soiled ground still buds a new leaf.
I witnessed this with my very eyes today, and also witnessed it within my own soul. Not just in death does this ritual signify the turning of a new leaf. Life has so many times where we feel burnt and broken and clouded by the black smoke, but even through those times, with the right mindset and right attitude we can rise again, a new green, healthy life. There may still be ash on the ground, and even flames in the background of our life, but that doesn’t mean to give up, it means to press on.
The significance of this ceremony touched a very specific piece of my heart today that was once blackened and dead from my past. But my spirit was reborn. The beat in my heart is new, the joy in my soul is refreshed. I went through this transformation back in January of this year, but I hadn’t known quite what had happened to me. But after the depiction of life and death that I viewed today, I seem to find words now to describe it that I never could have before. Today I stood in the clouds of black smoke and watched the flames of my past get taken away with the breath of the earth, as the wind blew clean air into my lungs and whisked the blackness towards the sky. ❤️🙏🌏

Insta: @sarahvandervort

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A Roam in the Dark

A bead of sweat rolls down my forehead, I blink one time, my world goes dark for that half a second, the salty glisten continues to fall downward, through my eyes as I open them to the sunlight. The breeze cooling down my beaming hot face, as my heart races, I pick one foot up at a time, one more stride forward, one more deep breath in. My temperature is raising to a level that feels like the high of summer in the Sahara without a cloud in the sky.
The pound of my heart feels like it’s trying to escape the walls of my ribs, bumping and thumping to a rhythm that I can’t keep up with. That moisture running down my cheek now, I can’t quite tell whether it’s the sweat still trailing down or a tear trickling from my eye as I am imagining this very moment as a metaphor of my current life: keep moving forward, one step at a time, doesn’t matter how big or how small, as long as you don’t stop, keep making ground, keep your head up, keep your mind focused towards the path of light!
Even when you’re headed in the right direction in life, whether it be big or small, going in that right direction still may not be easy. In actuality, if your path is “easy”, you’re taking the wrong route. Because anything in life worth having is worth fighting for. You must have a drive, a passion, a longing for what really matters in your life, and so when times do get hard, you know that all the resistance that’s pushing against you is just a test of your honor and inner strength. You must push on! Resistance doesn’t mean that you are going the wrong way, it means you’re going the right way. So take that one more step, or if you’re feeling daring…TAKE THAT EXTRA LEAP!
In all beauty, there is also pain, and suffering, trials and tribulations. What may look perfect or beautiful for someone else’s life, it may not be the same for yours. You have to lead your feet, one by one, on the wet sand that’s just freshly been washed up by the uncontrollable waves of the ocean; do not truck through the footprints in the dry sand, where the path has already been laid by another. Let the waves crash against you instead as you sink into the ground, but yet still rise out of the impressionable ground where you leave YOUR own mark.
A very shallow and simple example of a “beauty” that I always wished for as a young girl, was to have one of those princess like canopies, strewn over my bed, for me to lie under my royal fortress of a bed in my young, adolescent years. But to my dismay, I never got one. But now that I am 25 years old, and living in a 3rd world country, experiencing something I never would have imagined, I got my canopied bed, that will be my only place of escape, my own little sanctuary. I remember my first night here, crawling into bed in Nyuh Kuning, Bali, closing the soft linen sheets as I close my eyes in thanks.
Little did I know that a few days later, I would appreciate this “safe haven” of a bed on a much bigger scale. On Monday night, I woke up in a startle, pitch black at about 3am; I felt a sting, or a tickle upon my lip. I sat up so quick, like a zombie raising from their grave, grabbing my phone, flicking on the flash light to do a spot light search as I’m squinty eyed and half asleep. I felt like a naked mole rat seeing sunlight for the first time. I look around my sheets, lift my pillow and what do I find? A COCKROACH! I WOKE UP WITH A COCKROACH ON MY FACE!! Hahaha oh the horror!!! I’m jumping around from what probably looks like a monkey, arms and legs flying in all different directions, as I open my door to the ashram that I’m living in and grab my pillow with this critter crawling on it, as I fling it out the door. Now all I can do, is crawl back into this “safe haven” and go back to sleep. LESSON LEARNED!! This idealistic bed of just beauty to me before as such a young girl has nothing to do with beauty at all. I crawled back into bed, going around every centimeter of the bed frame, tucking in each and every piece of the canopy, creating a true security net for myself.
The little things we take for granted sometimes. Life keeps moving forward all the time. The earth will not stop spinning and wait for you to catch up. So instead, KEEP UP and keep taking those long forward strides. But make sure you’re keeping your eyes wide open. Don’t get caught up in the little things, and be aware of what you’re spending your time doing.
I have learned so quickly to appreciate what I have out here and never to focus on what I don’t have. Sometimes when you don’t have what you want, it’s because you’re getting exactly what you NEED!
For example, every single day here, at least once, if not twice, we lose electricity in our ashram, and when the electric goes, so does the water. So that means, no lights, no electronics, no showers…NO WIFI! But during these times of having less, is when I gain so much more. Because then the girls and I end up laughing, trying to hunt around outside in the dark for some nonexistent circuit breaker, and then end up just sitting in the dark, talking, and enjoying one another. In all aspects of life, you can either dwell in the negativity or pessimism, or you can look around at everything else that’s beautiful around you.
Beauty means something different to everyone. And happiness is found only when you’re open to it. No situation or no other person is what controls your happiness, you do!
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