Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What I Learned This Epic Year

Swimmable water in Cerritos Beach, Baja California Sur

Breathe in the precious moments and love fiercely.

This has become my mantra during an epic year--a year in which I stared down life and death.

It was a year that reminded me how way leads onto way. How everything is a catalyst. How what we focus on blossoms. How it's not about what happens--but what we think about (and do with) what happens.

Funny how I thought retiring after spending my whole life in schools would be 2013's "big event." But then my mentor, friend and "other mother" died. I was blessed to witness her profoundly graceful transition.

And then months later--when I myself was perched on the edge of dying during my seizure--she visited me. She told me that the veil between this world and the next is thinner than we think. She said if we look closely, we can penetrate the mystery's deepest beauty. She said never to be afraid of death. There's nothing to fear. Even from the next realm, she continued to teach me.

Even though I've been witness to the death of many beloveds--including my parents--the thought of my own death seemed theoretical. But 2013 brought me this gift: a deep, bodily knowledge that I'm transitory in this form. That everything changes. That I will die.

So what to do with this gift? Breathe in the precious moments and love fiercely! I was already on this path in August when my brain tumor was discovered. Months before, Dave and I had packed up everything we owned and traveled to Australia, Southern California, Boston, Cape Cod.

And then the experience of brain surgery and healing--enveloped in vast love and support from family and friends--intensified my desire to live my most authentic life. I launched Operation: Seize the Day!

Living your truth is not for wimps. It involves taking risks: emotionally, physically, financially. It involves being comfortable with spontaneity, with unknowing.

It requires loosing the moorings. When I let go of my job, my house, my neighborhood, my town--indeed, my identity as a Santa Cruzian writing professor--I plunged into a free-float.

I decided to embrace the fertile void.

I decided to reside in a rich space of unknowing.

In this space, I watched my monkey mind. It scrambled around like a kid desperate for a parent's attention: Hey! What are you doing? You're no longer a teacher, you're not a parent, you're not anything! What are you contributing? Aren't you being aimless and irresponsible?

When that happened, I'd gently turn toward my larger self, the sky mind, the god-voice in me who is always deeply present when I open my heart. It always says:  No need to worry, no need to fear. You're valuable, just like everyone else, because you exist. And the more you're YOU, living your truth, the more you inspire. Don't set out to have an effect--just be it. Trust that the fertile void will reveal your answers.

Because we no longer had a house, I was curious what my experience with "home" would be. My deepest realization so far: my home for this lifetime is my body. If I want to be truly alive, I must unconditionally love this marvelous, self-healing spacesuit.

Especially after having my skull cracked open and resealed with glue and staples, I can feel myself reaching new levels of bodily appreciation. While I don't have this love-thy-body-thing totally in the bag, I find it easier and easier to release criticism of my body. To relax into myself and feel life from the inside out. As a result, I'm experiencing new levels of sensory bliss (as well as relief from my occasional claustrophobia).

And wow was that infinite intelligence right-on when it said to trust that answers will appear. In late August, a thought popped into my head:

I want to live within walking distance of swimmable water.

That thought wasn't a conscious creation of my construction. It was a fully formed object like a stone, a heartbeat, a breath.

I have always loved water. I'm a spiritual mermaid, a former synchronized swimmer, a snorkeler, a lover of boats and kayaks and plunging into seas and lakes.

When I pondered my "swimmable water" revelation, I found myself wrangling with it: Did this mean when we decide to settle down again that I'd want a swimming pool? Did I need to join a gym with a pool? Was it a call to buy a place in our beloved Hawaii? But we'd have to win the lottery to afford a Hawaii pad within walking distance of the beach!

I decided to let it go. To trust. To allow the answer to appear as easily as the desire did.

All I have to say is this: releasing to the universe is magic!

Organically, the perfect opportunity arose: to buy an outrageously affordable casita in El Pescadero Mexico (near Todos Santos in Baja California Sur). Yes, it's walking distance to a lovely, swimmable beach. And it's in a small resort that has a swimming pool and a jacuzzi. Water, water everywhere!

The icing on the cake is that some close friends have bought the place next to ours. Built-in community.

We don't know if this will be our temporary or permanent residence. We don't have the details nailed down. We are trusting our guts. We want to ride the wave of the unfolding.

As 2013 comes to a close, we are back in California after a trip to Hong Kong, India and Sri Lanka. I'm looking forward to processing that transformative adventure while I focus on writing in the new year.

It looks like we will be headed to Mexico in May. Before that--for the first four months of 2014--we will live in Tahoe. We are thrilled we can host family and friends there who have opened their homes and lives to us.

In a cozy house sheltered from the Sierra cold, I intend to write the first draft of my memoir about transformation. During that time, this blog will be on hiatus, and I will be less of a presence on Facebook.

I will also improve my skiing and yoga, practice my Spanish, work online with my writing clients, judge a book contest, and allow whatever else rolls my way to perfectly unfold.

Happy New Year to all of you. May you breathe in your precious moments and love fiercely.

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