Zen AF

2 weeks ago the longest I had meditated was for about 20 minutes. And by meditation, I mean... If I had an itch or a limb fell asleep, I dealt with it! So perhaps it was a little presumptuous to assume I would be an All Star Meditator for 10 days of silence at Vipassana...

the backdrop for noble silence

the backdrop for noble silence

But here I was. Technology free, meditating for 10+ hours each day and cutoff from all things civilization with 30 others, our teacher from India and a handful of volunteers. Not allowed? Speaking, except to the teacher in regards to meditation. Writing materials. Killing. Stealing. Lies. Intoxicants. Yoga. And Sexual Activity, which I took to mean also with one's self. I adhered to all of the rules. Kinda.

Cast of Notable Characters

  • Charlotte (#1-4): My roommates with 8 legs, constantly watching me, specifically in the bathroom. Remember, no killing...
  • Rat 1 & 2: Female students who I had an unsavory feeling towards. I was trying not to have aversions to both and ironically they were friends from beforehand, something I was unaware of whilst naming them
  • Thomas the Tank Engine: Male student who graced us with a hefty yoga breath every 5-10 minutes in the meditation hall
  • New Bestie: Another female student was totally amazing. I could sense her wildness and energy bursting thru the seams of her fancy maxi dresses and shimmery hair wraps, even in the silence. I knew we must be friends

Buzzwords

Noble Silence: Silence of body, speech and mind - no forms of communication, not even writing notes or gestures
Aversions: Things you are keen to avoid in life and during meditation, examples include thoughts of certain Rats or a throbbing numbness in your hip. The idea is, by thinking of these things you give them power to take over a larger part of your brain and experience, ultimately leading to greater misery
Cravings: The flip side of Aversions. Things you relish in and give great attachment and positive feelings to in your brain. By holding onto these, you also set yourself up for misery because in their absence you will be miserable
Sankaras: The best example for this is seen when the black hornet-like swarm explodes out of the big guy's mouth in The Green Mile. Sankaras are the source of misery in a person - each one is created when we have an Aversion or a Craving for something and we don't remain equanimous (calm and impartial) about it. If we allow it to take root it settles in and sets us up for future miseries, ultimately multiplying as more and more Sankaras are let in. The beauty though, is that through meditation we can start letting go of old Sankaras that have hijacked the ship

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My Brain On Noble Silence

Remember, for the duration you're not allowed contact with the outside world nor are you allowed to document your thoughts. This creates a certain brand of freak-out in one's brain that one might lose these Very Important thoughts and that they might be lost Forever. Another thing to realize is that when you give yourself this degree of silence and space, powerful memories are allowed to resurface as well as details you haven't experienced in decades... Like the name of the kid next to you in 2nd grade and his haircut (hi Jeremy Andrzejewski, nice lightning bolt fade). As it turns out, some of my experience was not lost Forever. Here you go:

Days 1-3: Ow. This position does not work. My legs asleep. My muscles in between my ribs are having shooting pains. On the left. On the right. Ok, more cushions. Hm. More pain. Hold still, no moving. There is a spider on me. Oh shit I just scratched it, there was no spider. Nice, the pain is numb I am bored. This is only the beginning? I wonder if I will make it. I wonder if anyone is thinking of me? What happens if someone dies? I hope they don't tell me til the end. I'm pretty sure self pleasures are not allowed, right? The landscape is goddamn beautiful. Seriously, my hip is on fire. That girl is unfortunately so Rat-like that I can't name her anything else, I'll do it with love. Rats aren't so bad.

Day 4: OMG. Full body scans. Are. Amazing. And they're umm, intimate? You can pinpoint every single sensation from top to bottom and back up in your body. It's like ___ is here with me. Holy. Wow. This wooden stool. Is hard. And amazing. I can feel the pain in my hips oozing out as I hold still on the plank. This hurts. Not thinking about it hurts. But it's getting better. Rat just spoke to me, I smiled, don't talk to me bitch. I'm in Noble Silence. That other girl, she is so rat-like as well, Rat 2 is thee. I haven't had my period in 2 months. Stupid polyp on my uterus. Maybe I can meditate it away or at least meditate my period to come. Beautiful, wonderful, fertile and luscious uterus you willllllll bleed and it will be magical.

Day 5: Holy. Fucking. Shit. My period came. I have magical thinking. No really. My brain is magic and I am making things happen with it. Rat 1 & Rat 2 just freaked out over lactose in some food thing and THEY LEFT! Additionally, I am pretty sure I willed this chickpea curry dish to appear, I envisioned it yesterday at lunch and it is here. I am magic. I am dying. I have the worst cramps in the entire world, why oh why did I will my period to come, oh god, I can't sit this way anymore and I am dying, I am grimacing, how many Sankaras am I building, but this is real physical pain. Alright, body scanning to other areas makes it a tiny better. No it doesn't I'm dead. [8 hours later] I am a lioness and I want to roar to the moon right now. I can do anything. ROAAARRR!

Day 6: I am in less pain. I am magical. I am tired. What's the point in this? I am bored and ineffective. My body scans aren't as intimate anymore. I am creating Sankaras with all that craving, time to scan these atomic bodies with equanimity. Borrrriiinnnggg. I've worn flat patches into my ass from this wooden plank. Ah well persist on. I wonder if anyone is thinking of me.

Day 7: Full body scans have become less sensational now that I am not feeling every tingle. Ah well, time to settle into monk-dom. "Control yourself - take only what you need from it - a family of trees wanting to be haunted" - could be a worse song in my head. I love this song. Everyone I know needs to do Vipassana. I don't think I could possibly ever convince my dad... 

Day 9: Did I just time travel? I had this same sensation when I was 8, like I am incredibly heavy and immobile, and floating inside myself with really loud voices coming through the loudspeaker that I can't understand. Shit. I am those loud voices. I am with myself back then right now. "It's going to be OK Lu, you are so good and it will all be so beautiful even though there are some really tough things, but you will get through them, you are so very loved." Holy shit. I am crying and I love myself. Fuck.

Day 10: "Why were you crying so much?" My teacher asked me this when I was about to leave on the final day. There were only two instances of this. Once when I was dealing with my magical period and the obscene cramps and the other when I time traveled. I let him know and he clarified for me. When we are young, typically under 9 years old, we are able to sense past lives and have almost a 6th sense that we tune out as we get older. The 8 year old experience could have been this, in turn, meditating in silence was able to bring me back to past experiences with powerful clarity. I buy it. 

Upon Reflection...

Hm. The world moves seamlessly when I'm not in it. Like, it's actually totally fine. I hope I can remember to play my part in it a little more slowly. The day after we finished I could feel the change. I work with more focus and clarity and I'm taking note of my negative emotions and watching them pass rather than getting sucked into their vortex.

I met with New Bestie and New Bestie 2 (another beautiful, peaceful soul from the course), we had margaritas and buried ourselves in blankets in the sand for sunset and laughed for hours about our shared greatest Sankara, boys. I am so loved. I love so much. 

Chocolate Cake

Last night I got 2 wonderful presents. 1 was chocolate cake. 

I'm a few days into a 30 day social media cleanse - removing Insta-gratifications and the pseudo-connected feeling that apps can bring, while adding free time and a considerable amount of mental space. Yesterday was devoted to sightseeing, including a Port wine tour, climbing an ancient church tower with 2 Korean friends, and eating at a vegan co-op with some hippie guys that are obsessed with Rainbow (note: don't call it a festival - also of note, don't let them know you work in marketing, because that's totally like, selling out man). 

Porto, the home of Port wine

Porto, the home of Port wine

At one point I was skipping down a path and taking panoramics of gorgeous Porto, giggling at my good fortune. This moment was in sharp contrast to a meltdown, hours later. Let me explain, I am so grateful to be alone right now and devote a considerable amount of time thinking about what this means. The train of thought led to questions on why we need a partner at all. And if that's the case - why the fuck are we even here on the planet, when all we do is destroy it? Cue the tears - thanks wine. 

And the tears wouldn't stop. And then I was sobbing and leaning on a park fence in the dark, crying into the night when 2 girls stopped. 

They asked me if I was OK. And they cared about my response. And they didn't leave. Because I wasn't OK. Then they insisted I join them for coffee. This gift of kindness was exactly what I needed. My loneliness stemmed not from a lack of people to interact with, but from a lack of loving interactions. This love doesn't need to be a romantic one, and it's defined by special human beings that come and go and sometimes stay. But really, the length of time is irrelevant. 

I spent a few hours with my new friends and they bought me chocolate cake. It was the best cake I've ever tasted. And today I walked to the Atlantic, pranced into the waves and waved to the East Coast and my friends back home. We are looking at the sun at the same time now ♥ 

Goalicious

I'm really afraid to write anymore goal lists. In the past 5 years every single goal or whim I've put to paper (aside from marriage - which would have been a fucking mess to anyone I dated anyway) has been smashed to smithereens and I've gone well overboard in achieving it. 

  • Career > Become a digital marketing manager? Check. Did it for 10mos: launching a website and rebranding a social media presence while surviving an understaffed team, an underfunded budget, a redefining of a role, a director who micromanaged my every decision then quit. All the while pulling side gigs on my off time to...
  • Pay off debt > I had been chasing my tail on this bitch for years. after buckling down and defining my hard limits on budgets I finally got out of this hole. Savings are the next leg of the journey but for right now I am beholden to no creditors and feel freed from the capitalist spending cycle - BUY MORE WORK MORE YOU DESERVE IT DEBT DEBT DEBT. fuck. off. 
  • Friends > I moved on from some people who just weren't a good fit, redefined relationships with others, and mended one of the most important relationships from my 20s (Cuban Assassin = my heart). I am blessed to have a small group of badass bossgirls who I would cut-a-bitch for. The distance will probably continue to redefine these friendships but the extra effort is worth it. 
  • Travel > Are you kidding me? On a whim I listed out some places and dates I'd like to hit before the end of this year (before the decision to live abroad on Halloween I already had Southeast Asia booked for March 2016). On that list were Napa, Minnesota, Buffalo 2xs + Palawan. We are on a boat now moving to Palawan for 2mos to do our divemaster certification. And I ticked off all those locations in the states before I left and Colombia. Is this a dream?
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The freedom of this life is so amazing - and all it took was for me to take the leap off the edge with the trust that we can I can weave my own safety net on the way down OR learn to fly OR both. Finding an ability to work for trade has reshaped my self-worth. It has humbled me in this way where I find myself giving mad props to the owner of a tiny fried chicken stand or the driver of the Jeepney - way to kill it in the cashmoney business my friends. I am so curious as well about the future of how I can position myself as a digital nomad, it's scary af - but when I look around I see many westerners finding a way to earn money remotely (for me this will be dependent on a good wifi connection). This again is a learning curve. Trusting my skill-set outside of the traditional office-based, rat-race arrangement and trusting that someone else will see its value, yielding a mutually beneficial scenario. 

It's day 51 of this journey and I'm fully immersed. Letting go of the loose ends I was unable to tie up stateside. Letting go of things I expected and opening up to the world of adventure and mystery we are sailing into. 

Also this horoscope:

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): To the other eleven signs of the zodiac, the way of the Gemini sometimes seems rife with paradox and contradiction. Many non-Geminis would feel paralyzed if they had to live in the midst of so much hubbub. But when you are at your best, you thrive in the web of riddles. In fact, your willingness to abide there is often what generates your special magic. Your breakthroughs are made possible by your high tolerance for uncertainty. How  many times have I seen a Gemini who has been lost in indecision but then suddenly erupts with a burst of crackling insights? This is the kind of subtle miracle I expect to happen soon.

Time Travel

I time traveled today. in Amy Poehler's book she refers to time travel - specifically that all of your life experiences are multiple points of reference. These separate points (separated by any amount of time) can be seamlessly brought into one experience when certain things align (stay with me here).

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I experienced this today on Lake Tahoe. In 2006 I graduated and decided to use my graduation money to buy my first puppy, Olive. 2 weeks later I went on a 2 week trip with then boyfriend and left Olive and then cat Bazoo to be watched by a friend (who did a shit job, enter scene: mom guilt). We went to San Fran, Sacramento, Napa and wouldn't you know it, Tahoe. to the exact spot I found myself in today - Emerald Bay. 

I recognized the lake, but only after hiking down did I realize that I had been here. Exactly here. And laid in the sand and done a sand angel. And now. Just now. I realized that I book-ended Olive's life in this precise location. The first time feeling guilty because I was vacationing away from my brand new puppy, this time feeling guilty because I didn't bring my baby girl's ashes with me to commemorate her life.

It's ok though, once I'm ready to let her go she will go some pretty cool places.

The Love Study

My new guy and I sat face-to-face answering a series of increasingly personal questions. By question 27, he professed his love to me. No. This was way too much, way too soon. How'd we get into such a mess?

Two months earlier, my mom had sent me an article about falling in love with anyone (even a stranger) after answering a series of questions together, then staring into their eyes for four solid minutes without looking away. At the time I wasn't dating anyone, but saved the article just-in-case.

A month later, I took the leap onto match.com at a time when pretty much everything in my life was on a track I had chosen and I wasn't even that interested in dating (reverse psychology, but my thoughts were to put myself out there when I was least needy in order to attract the right, non-needy people).

Sure enough the 2nd person I met was all-in for the Lulu-Package. I saw signs of deep insecurity in him and even pulled back a few times letting him know that I thought he was more into me than I him. But he let me know that I would definitely come around (and I quote... "I can't wait for you to realize how good I am for you"). So we persisted. About 4 weeks in we threw all sheets to the wind and decided to do The Love Study.

Not shockingly, the study opens you up with some pretty intense questions that lead into intense conversation, connection and vulnerability. Additionally, I don't think most wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am bros would be like, "Ya babe, I def. wanna do a love study with you for 2-3 hours. sweetnezz." So by agreeing to take the test both parties are probably open to the idea of loving one another. 

Most of the time I ignore the emotional and tender side of myself and so it was a great surprise to both of us when I burst out in tears to question 26, complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... “. My answer was olive's death. my 9 year old bulldog. How apropos that the next question read If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know. To which he answered "I love you..." (I returned the sentiment because you kinda have to at that point and also I was feeling all of the feels, ugh).

Amazingly, I think the true outcome of the test was me falling more in love with me. (narcissistic applause ensues.) But you know what? I had to let Olive go in June (1 month after I ended things with stage-27-clinger, more stories on that to follow), and I had one of my very best girlfriends in the world by my side, holding my hand, crying right along with me. I think the love study works, but not like you'd expect.

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