Starting the descent: Reflections on going up and going in.

… He who kisses joy as it flies by will live in eternity’s sunrise. — William Blake …

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Tomorrow morning I start the descent. Slowly going inward and challenging my body, testing my power over the mind, questioning my soul… It makes me think. I’ve come to an important realization yet again — one I’ve come to many times and one that never fails to bring me peace.

Life isn’t always easy, but it is always beautiful, and it is always a blessing. Life is always a gift.

If we let ourselves be present in each leg of this journey called life, we’ll recognize everything, always, is perfect. The “plans” that don’t go as planned — the events that are less than glamorous — our internal battles that break us, allowing for rebuilding — the tests and trials of our physical and mental bodies — the fear-inducing awakening of the spirit — all is perfect and just as it should be.

From the first flutter of the eyelids each day and their first glimpse of the morning sun, to the first breath of air, first sip of water… To the shelter above our heads, whatever it may be, to the clothes and jewelry adorning our temples of flesh… To the simple exchange with another soul, reminding us we’re never alone… All are blessings, and all are deserving of our unending gratitude. We’re blessed to be alive, right here, right now… We’ve been given a gift of grace that allows us to have the simple sweet pleasures of the human life.

 

Anjali = gift of grace. "...This human life in this physical world is a gift of grace, meant to be enjoyed, savored, respected..."

Anjali = gift of grace.
“…This human life in this physical world is a gift of grace, meant to be enjoyed, savored, respected…”

In sanskrit, the word for this gift of grace is anjali. We use the term “anjali mudra” for the hand gesture of placing the palms together in front of the heart center (this is also called namaskar mudra). Each time we press our hands together, we recognize that this human life in this physical world is a gift of grace, meant to be enjoyed, savored, respected… Our lives are designed for giving love and thanks to the Universe for the endless blessings we experience.

This word has been resonating with my heart since I first discovered it a few weeks ago in India. It is the perfect word for this journey… The journey of life, but also my current journey of discovery — inside my mind, and inside the heart of the Himalayas — is truly a gift.

But my insecure mind and fearful self questions this grace… Who am I to deserve beauty? What have I done to deserve sweetness and love and connection and adventure? Why is my life a reservoir for truth, one that is full of the nectar of goodness and hope, one that is designed to share and educate and inspire?

The simple answer is this: I am. I have gratitude. It is.

That’s it! We’ve been given all these blessings in a compassionate offering of love from the Universe. We don’t need to further question or contemplate, because after we start to see our lives for what they really are, we accept that everything is exactly as it should be. Deserving or not-deserving is irrelevant because our lives and experiences are provided to us for our appreciation and growth.

Our only task is to live genuinely, from the heart, guided by intuition and an honest love for all…

Once we make it our pure, heartfelt mission to be the most authentic version of ourselves, always, life will unfold effortlessly to us. All of our lives are destined for greatness and are designed in such a way that we can only follow the unique path so perfectly plotted for each of us. Even when it doesn’t seem to “fit” into the bigger picture, each of our experiences are connecting points on our route.

All of us, each and every one (yes, you!) has a gift to share with the world that will help it become a better place for the other souls sharing this space in this time. Maybe that gift is teaching, or sharing, or entertaining, or caring, or healing… Maybe this is done in a yoga hall as far from home as one could get, or maybe it’s done in a church, an office, a hospital, a home… Scene and setting are constantly changing, but each scene and setting we find ourselves in needs our presence. Each moment of our lives should be an act of selfless giving to the world.

So today, as I pack my trekking bag and prepare for the physical ascent of climbing up to 4,100 meters, I reflect on the descent I’m about to make back into myself, one that will help to further set my foundation, open my awareness, and inspire my physical body and mind to continue on. A solo journey of 9 or so days into the jungles, the farms, the high desert, and the snow-covered mountains of Nepal, and into my heart….

I want to encourage each of you to take a few moments to reflect on your own journey. Where are you in this life? Who are you? …now forget these things you think, and then feel… Now feel where you are, and who you are…

Do you need to peel back a few layers and reveal more warmth? Are you ready to dust off any dirt and grime and polish your spirit? Is it time to let your authentic self lead the way for a change? If you are, let it be… It’s the age of awakening, and maybe, just maybe, it’s your unique time to wake up… ❤

Namaste, beautiful souls. Shanti om. xxoo

Recognizing beauty in the squalor of North India

I’m on the road from delhi to rishikesh. I plan to unabashedly immerse myself in yoga and gods and adventure and love, breathing in the bounties of this blessed land.

But here on the road, for miles
and miles starting about 60km from haridwar, what do I see?

Squalor.

I’m reminded of the worst parts of Guatemala, but in this area I see it everywhere. Never ending. All along the roadside lie debris and damaged buildings and dirt. There is dust flying everywhere — I’m chewing on it, despite my window shutting out the world out there… I’ve never seen roads in such poor shape. Cars and trucks are literally pushed off the roads and into ditches and tree-filled fields because the gaping holes between the cement are too treacherous to drive through. We’re making this drive at night which no doubt amplifies the fear factor, however I wonder if it’s hurting or helping to hide the apparent poverty.

There are road blocks occasionally, something I hadn’t expected nor seen in my travels except once or twice in Israel and then again in Honduras and El Salvador (part of me wonders if the latter holdups were government-mandated or purposely and probably maliciously placed by thugs). These Indian roadblocks are manned by handsome, rugged types with guns and badges, although they’re definitely not military stops. …a mystery I’ll surely dig into deeper.

However it must be known that there is industry of sort — definitely some money to be made. And agriculture. With it being dark it’s impossible for me to tell must what’s growing in the flatlands next to the roadway (I think it’s sugar cane) or what is made (it very we’ll may be the same cement needed so badly on these roads). I do see cows pulling wagons stacked six times their height with bundle canes, mostly covered in burlap…

There are also pockets of people gathered, still awake at 1130 at night on a Wednesday. Some sitting around at the countless little roadside tienda-type-restaurants, and others huddled near small televisions or outdoor fires, simply sitting wrapped head to toe in heavy shawls (men and women alike). I also see people solo, smoking cigarettes (of what variety I can’t be sure), faces lit by laptop screens. It makes me wonder if Facebook dominates the real and virtual lives of this North Indian population, just as it does the American population back home.

I am highly enamored by some if India’s exotic sweetnesses as wel. For example, there are numerous stop-offs along the roads set up like small temples to Hindu gods — my ability to name these by visual cues alone is limited, but i have recognized Krishna, Vishnu, shiva, and shakti (the latter pair I’m nearly positive, based on their perpetual pairing). Also, there are many semi-trucks here (large lorries/box trucks). Maybe it’s the time of night or maybe it’s the route, but at least 3/5 vehicles traveling here are of thos fashion. What makes them so spectacular and charming are the colors emblazoned in bold or delicate patterns on the cab portions (bright mint green, fire engine red, peach, pale yellow…), and the fact that in each of the two split front windows there is a name written. There are two names! The way I understand this is that no man rides alone in these trucks — always partnered, always supported and supporting…

That’s what India is about I think. Really that’s what this world is all about. Making the best out of what you have, every day, and living your life with grace and love. I do not pity these people at all! I’d bet most of these people are genuinely happier than the majority of people I know in the western world. I do have compassion toward them and their struggles, just as I have toward anyone I meet. But I also display what I think to be the most crucial of all character traits, and hopefully I will not be proven wrong about this — kindness. We’re all one — each man, woman, child, animal, plant… Each gust of wind or wave on a shore… We all live with different worldly circumstances but we’re all fighting or flowing toward the same thing — peace and a better life. So all I can do is quietly observe when I can’t speak, ask questions and seek to understand when I can, and lend an ear, a shoulder, or a hand whenever possible, without expectation or requirement for return.

Life is beautiful. Always. Everywhere. In the serene peace of northern michigan, the majestic power of the Orwfon coast, the abundance of life in a Costa Rican jungle, and the chaotic, crusty and dusty squalor of a North Indian roadside town or ten.

Let’s never forget to recognize and appreciate the beauty around us, each and every day.

The photo below was taken today, the morning after this post was written. The squalor soon turned into breathtaking natural beauty — tree covered hills and baby Himalayas, and a mint green, majestic river. The Ganges.

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Gratefulness, letting go, and… the Ganges! [video + text]

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I shot the video (on my iPhone, of course...) overlooking Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay.

I shot the *iPhone* video overlooking Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed your entire life.” — Rumi

After being blown away by the traffic to Honest Green Jeans (nearly 7,000 unique visitors in Loving the Free Spirit‘s first 5 days!), I decided to put together a simple, non-edited video to openly share my thankfulness for you, and my excitement for what’s next!

In this 10-minute clip I talk about gratefulness (for all who are discovering this blog, for the beauty of life, for the power and grace of the Universe!), letting go (releasing control and giving in to the natural flow of life), and I give a quick update on where my life is headed next!

I’ve yet to create a video blog post, but… I hope you like it!

Thank you again for all the love and support you’ve shown me lately. We are a community of like-minded souls, so let’s share our thoughts on living truly in today’s crazed world, and let’s take comfort in knowing we’re in this together.

I appreciate all your comments and emails, so make sure to keep reaching out! If you have any questions for me or would like any advice, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to help out 🙂

I'm feeling pretty blessed. Thanks in part to you xxoo.

Thanks so much everyone! More to come — soon!

Below is a time reference for those of us who are too rushed for a 10-minute video (I know — I’m this person sometimes!).

First part: Gratefulness pt 1 from about 0:30 – 3:20, Gratefulness pt 2 from about 3:22 – 4:40. Second part: Letting Go — from about 4:42 – 6:22. Third part: The Ganges — from about 6:22 – 10:00.

addition from 2/14

To provide a quick reference, this is where I plan to explore on this journey to the yoga motherland ❤

Starting in Delhi, traveling to Rishikesh for yoga school, then Dharamsala, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Agra, Varanasi then into Nepal, trekking the Tsum Valley, heading to Pokhara, then Katmandu. But as always, time may change my mind, which is beautiful <3

Starting in Delhi, traveling to Rishikesh for yoga school, then Dharamsala, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Agra, Varanasi then into Nepal, trekking the Tsum Valley, heading to Pokhara, then Katmandu. But as always, time may change my mind, which is beautiful ❤

And here is a direct link to the blog that’s getting a lot of attention: https://honestgreenjeans.com/2014/01/28/loving-the-free-spirit/

Here is a link to a blog that gives some backstory on MY story and an update of where I’m at today: https://honestgreenjeans.com/2013/11/22/i-survived-11-life-lessons-learned-during-a-quarter-life-crisis/

Here is a video on Rishikesh: Rishikesh-My City

And this is the video I reference toward the end, about the Tsum Valley in Nepal: Tsum Valley – A Hidden Valley Vignette

What is it about the Pacific Northwest?

Me overlooking the Pacific from Cape Perpetua, just south of Yachatz.

Me overlooking the Pacific from Cape Perpetua, just south of Yachatz.

As my friends and I drove south along Hwy 101 from Cannon Beach, I gazed out the car window at the coastline, rocky and majestic with seagreen water and foamy white waves. “I don’t know what it is, but I feel such a strong pull to this area. It’s like I’m meant to be here. I’ve always felt this way, for as long as I can remember at least,” I said.

Cory then asked what I thought to be quite the bizarre question. He said, “Where in your body do you feel it? Physically, what’s pulling you?”

I’d never been asked to describe a physical location for a mental thought, but after a bit of reflection and feeling, it was easy. I knew. “Well, it may sound weird but I think it’s in my chest. It’s my heart.”

—-

I’ve been in Oregon for almost a week now and although I still have yet to process all of the amazing, exciting, awe-inspiring moments, I can 100% say that I love it here. I. Love. Oregon.

As long as I can remember, I’ve had a fascination with and desire to live in the Pacific Northwest. I was born in Eugene but moved to Michigan when I was still quite young. My family and I have travelled back a few times since but this time, I left Michigan to explore this place on my own. The trip has softened a few more layers of my heart and tapped into an even deeper space, filling me with an even greater love for the area.

I don’t know if it’s the depth of the forest green, or the roar of the waves, or the mountains and jagged rocks… The nature is magic. But, this earth is beautiful everywhere really. If we removed our strip malls and parking lots, Mother Nature in her original form is breathtaking. From jungles to deserts to plains to mountains, she’s a beauty.

So then, what is it about the Pacific Northwest that I love so much?

I’m not sure, but I do feel like a child here. My eyes are open and curious, my legs have a little more pep and provide a little more energy, and my heart is simply happy. The forests are really a natural playground!

I just did a bit of research into the heart chakra after thinking about what my friend had asked me (find out more here – fourth chakra – halfway down the page), and it looks like our heart chakra is the joining of our physical and spiritual bodies. It is the place of intuition and love and our connection to nature. It brings a balance to the rest of our chakras, helping us to feel centered and poised for growth.

I think my heart feels pulled here because in the Northwest, not only is the natural world powerful and stunning, the people and the places seem more geared toward peace and positive progress than in many other locations I’ve experienced. Here, I would be, and am, able to use my physical body in a natural space, while emphasizing personal growth and love for others.

Maybe that’s why my heart loves it here and why my heart always feels connected to this space…

Regardless of reason, the love I feel is real and my heart is content. Oregon, I love you. (But hey, Michigan, YOU have my heart, too!)

Here are a few pictures from some hikes I’ve taken the past few days. And, if you ever get a chance to travel westward, come to Oregon. Let yourself be here… And open your heart and see what happens ❤

Zen moment in Punchbowl Falls off the Eagle Creek Trail near the Columbia River Gorge.

Zen moment in Punchbowl Falls off the Eagle Creek Trail near the Columbia River Gorge.

Taking a breather on the Eagle Creek Trail.

Taking a breather on the Eagle Creek Trail.

The Pacific Northwest is FULL of fuzzy trees like this.

The Pacific Northwest is FULL of fuzzy trees like this.

Two friends of mine racing to a lookout at Cape Perpetua. I'm not the only one who plays here :)

Two friends of mine racing to a lookout at Cape Perpetua. I’m not the only one who plays here 🙂

Catching a great silhouette opportunity at Heceta Head.

Catching a great silhouette opportunity at Heceta Head.

The beach at Heceta Head is amazing. Always a favorite spot of mine.

The beach at Heceta Head is amazing. Always a favorite spot of mine.

Moss moss moss everywhere!

Moss moss moss everywhere!

Magical mystical Mother Nature at her finest, showing off in cave form at Heceta Head.

Magical mystical Mother Nature at her finest, showing off in cave form at Heceta Head.

Catching the sunset hiking Angel's Rest just east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge.

Catching the sunset hiking Angel’s Rest just east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge.

Playing at Heceta Head beach.

Playing at Heceta Head beach.

Overlooking the gorge from the Angel's Rest hike.

Overlooking the gorge from the Angel’s Rest hike.

Loving life and the Pacific from Devil's Churn next to Cape Perpetua.

Loving life and the Pacific from Devil’s Churn next to Cape Perpetua.

Me and my hiking buddies at Cape Perpetua.

Me and my hiking buddies at Cape Perpetua.

Cannon Beach! Cannon Beach! Cannon Beach! Go here. Just do it.

Cannon Beach! Cannon Beach! Cannon Beach! Go here. Just do it.

Nature wins. Who needs art when we have moss.

Nature wins. Who needs art when we have moss.

A warm late-fall hike near Cannon Beach.

A warm late-fall hike near Cannon Beach.

The Pacific Northwest is magical. This picture is proof.

The Pacific Northwest is magical. This picture is proof.