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Full Circle Psychology
and the teachings of Yoga Nidra (iRest)


Journey into Self via Mexico, Shingletown and South Africa


This is a very personal account of a recent life altering time. It is about a 9 month long travel experience, literally and internally. It was written in 2009 when we arrived in Redding.

Many people ask me how our travels went and where we are living now. I decided to write up a spontaneous recollection of all that has happened even though I have not been able to process it yet. It was so difficult, rich and rewarding. It will reverberate for the rest of my life. What follows is a raw and rather long piece of writing.

We left our home and life in Moscow, Idaho June 6th 2008 at 10:30pm heading south for the Pacific Coast of Mexico. We did not know that this was going to be a journey lasting 9 months and we did not know that we would end up somewhere completely unexpected.


Leaving


There was much letting go in the months before. Grief over selling my home, a small lovely home that I had fixed up to suit the lives of my 5 year old daughter, Nikita and mine. A home where I had met my husband to be and where I got married. A home with good memories. Over the weeks I sorted every item and every piece of paper that I owned and only kept some of it. Wishing to be light and wishing to unburden some of the things that clutter life instead of enriching it. Things that tug at my fantasy and spark my imagination promising to bring something of value to my life—but seldom do. I took a good look at consumerism, my own consumption and realized that things lose almost all of their value the minute we leave the store. So, most of it I gave away for very little money or just gave away.  As we left I grieved the loss of daily contact with my friends and Nikita’s friends, the loss of her life as she knew it and the loss of the people I had worked with in my private practice as a psychologist. Each one dear to me, each one having shared an intimate piece of their life with me. I cried without reason, often, feeling loss and change. Feeling sad even when knowing that nothing really ever stays the same. Frequently I went deep inside and checked my decision to move, to leave a good life and begin an unknown new one. I imagined staying, I imagined going and the answer consistently was that I must go. As I told my clients over and over: “We have this one life and it is up to us to create it. Nobody forces us to stay in any situation, only our own beliefs and perceptions.” For my entire adult life I had an inner calling to live a life based on values not supported by the consumer driven West. I longed for simplicity and spaciousness as a daily experience. I was wishing for hot weather, good fruit, more leisure, a slower pace, an outdoor oriented and active life, a life not ruled by technology, by time of day or day of the year. A meaningful life filled with connection, time to be a mother, a wife and a woman who builds a career in the way that reflects this way of life. To spend time with people and work in creative ways, walking and talking, meditating, making art, to work with people who want to come to a Mediterranean climate when it is cold in the States. A life that acknowledges and is filled with that which I value most. Being present in a kind way, enjoying daily occurrences, being unhurried, going to the core of what spiritual teachings are about—discovering who I am when I am not my personality. Strong fantasy, strong images that felt right. I was compelled to take the jump and throw myself fully into this adventure. What was there to lose? The timing was now since our daughter was 5 years old and still very able to adapt to something new. Our resources were limited but we were fearless, knowing that we had our capacity to work and to adapt to new situations as a safety net.


Our Trip heading South


We drove with 2 vehicles and 2 small dogs slowly through Oregon, California and Arizona visiting friends along the way and camping. It took us almost 4 weeks to get to the border of Mexico. Traveling is not easy and making and taking down camp daily is a lot of work. But we had wonderful meetings with friends and we saw gorgeous parts of the USA on this part of our journey. Already it was an adventure.











The Chinook was one of our vehicles.                                                                                                                                          


Mexico


Driving in Mexico is a trip. Traffic signs mean nothing and people drive like lunatics despite all the crosses along side the road. Passing uphill without any visibility across double yellow lines was the norm. The camper was like a swaying bubble on the road. After 5 days of tense driving we arrived in La Manzanilla, a small fishing village on the Pacific Coast an hour north of Manzanillo. We were grateful to have made it. We had visited La Manzanilla on 2 previous trips and had decided to settle there. It was gorgeous and there was land right along the ocean, land we were imagining buying so that we could farm, build off the grid cottages, and ride horses to school every day along the beach. There were some good people we had already met with children and who had built a life there.

 

We started off house-sitting right in the village overlooking the Bay of Tenacatita. That was probably my most favorite part of being in Mexico. Sitting on the veranda with a breath-taking view of the ocean framed by the bay, jungle all around and the village below. Often I was able to immerse myself in the Yoga Nidra teachings and practice. I did not have much time to myself since Nikita only had school for 3 hours. We walked to and from school together soaking up impressions of the village and all its activities. My mind became uncluttered and so I had space to think and reflect. We had no phone, no computer and no other distractions and so there was no way to be elsewhere but here. It was hot and humid and I thawed after cold winters and springs in Idaho. I loved feeling the wet of my body attempting to cool itself 24 hours a day. So much easier to wear less clothing, do less cooking and laundry, just less. I loved being able to walk to the tiny stores to buy supplies, to walk to the beach and to not get in a car for days on end. I enjoyed the mix of animals and people sharing the village, the dirt roads, the slow pace. It was good just doing household things. We adopted a starving kitten and Mini is still with us. It took about 2 weeks before I knew that despite my positive experiences, there was no way I could root there. The place was dirty, dirty in the worst environmental way. Sewage flowing into the ocean, busloads of people coming to beaches without public toilets. It was the season of thunderstorms and rains—disgusting puddles in the village with who knows what in them besides dog poop. Sick and starving dogs and cats, unhappy horses, lots of garbage in the most pristine mountain stream area. Every mosquito bite in Nikita’s body became an infected puss bump after we walked to a waterfall past a pig farm. Contrary to the romantic vision of brown skinned people being in touch with a slower and healthier way of life, I discovered that many are not in touch with themselves, their environment and often lack creativity and motivation. Many people lived in filth when simple actions could have cleaned up access to their homes or yard at no cost. Children lacked materials to play (not due to lack of funds) and often looked bored, did not go on play dates and were less developed than Nikita in school. On the other hand Nikita made some lovely friends, her best was 3 years older than her. Of course this is not a comment about all Mexicans or even about Mexico as a whole, but this was my perception as I thought about making a life there. Another big factor was that all of the land we looked at (and there were many parcels by people and their relatives in the village) was too expensive for us and only available in small lots. Canadians and Americans have discovered the coast and driven the prices up to ridiculous amounts. And there is nothing simple about Mexican bureaucracy. In fact, as a foreigner there is nothing simple about living in Mexico. There are many obscure rules and regulations, much corruption and not a lot of protection for a foreigner. Simplicity was an illusion. We discovered this ourselves but also heard this from others living there. A few of the foreigners we talked to absolutely love the way of life in Mexico and would not trade it. One has to experience for oneself what really feels good.

 

A central part of our life is that we like the outdoors. Well, the jungle in that part of Mexico is impenetrable and we could not walk in it unless on a road that had been cut and maintained. There were just a few roads in that village leading through a small part of the jungle and the roads were littered with garbage and human poop. The beach was dirty, the jungle was inaccessible and the village was filthy during the rainy season. After the rains stop the tourist season begins. By then everything looks and appears just beautiful but I would know what is hidden in that little bay. We could not walk much and bike rides occurred through mud on limited roads. I thoroughly enjoyed boogie boarding despite the state of the ocean water. In fact, some of the special times were spent at sunset in the ocean waiting for waves in warm water and hot humid air. Idyllic.


   The Bay of Tenacatita overlooking La Manzanilla.

 

My husband speaks Spanish and joined the soccer team and so we met local people immediately. We felt very welcome. I spoke no Spanish and my communication was limited to gesturing. Nikita began to learn Spanish and has developed a love for the language. She adapted well but also felt frustrated at times that she couldn’t understand much or play games in a language that she could share. She learned to swim, dive under big waves, boogie board and ride her bike around dog poop in the church plaza.  I realized that the fit of this particular 2nd world culture was not right for me. Coming from South Africa, it was familiar and predictable. What I realized was that I did not like this form of dysfunctionality in a culture and that I probably would prefer to deal with the dysfunction of consumerism and rush in the West. This is very personal. For others La Manzanilla would be a great place to live.

 

Glenn delved deeply into his grief over the loss of his 18 year old son and we were in Mexico for the 1 year anniversary. He was not easy to be around especially as he was having a harder time imagining traveling so far at such an expense and not staying. It felt more like a failure to him as he does not have the same way of looking at life as I do. I support taking risks in service of our inner life. I value the discoveries of who we are and the creation of a more and more authentic life above all else. Glenn did not mesh easily with the inefficiency of Mexican culture but he is more flexible with “making do” than I am. For me a change of plan is a given if I discover that the path I picked is not right. Then I learn, adjust and readjust until it feels right, even if the effort required is enormous and various anxieties rear their familiar heads.

 

We decided to stay 3 months, meet some of the goals we had and make this a kind of sabbatical. Glenn played Frisbee with Daniel, a realtor who loves Mexico and who has not left La Manzanilla in 7 years. They grooved on the zen of Frisbee, an effortless exchange on the beach or in the surf. Beautiful to behold. I studied yoga and made real progress in understanding the theory. In practice I also started to have acute experiences of the shifting of states, noticing the arising of thoughts and their passing, seeing the attachment we have to our stories, our perceptions, and I felt the expansion into pure experience when all concepts cease. I started to crave stillness and found myself immersed in the sound of waves whenever I had a moment. I thoroughly enjoyed being a mother who had plenty of time to hang out with my daughter without anything planned. A spontaneous childlike unfolding of activities. Really not much needs to be done to have a full day.


On another level this was a hard time. We had jumped into the unknown and were travel weary. We did not have a home and were not even in the right country to look for one. What do we do now? Where do we go? Money was running out fast and there was no source of income. Sitting in an internet café which was an open structure on the beach falling apart, smelling a rotting seal, thin aggressive dogs nearby,  waves washing under our feet and knocking over chairs, palm frond roof leaking in the rain onto an umbrella I had strung over my computer, we began the process of googling the earth. OK, our values were still the same even if this outer environment was not right. The longing that had compelled the change had been accurate. What would a place have be like for us to live the way we hope to and for us not to fall back into a packed and rushed life? Where could we afford to settle if we didn’t want to spend all of our time earning money to pay for living expenses?

 

We talked and talked and attempted to come up with criteria even if thinking about it felt like being in molasses at times. Failure and disappointment were gnawing at the desire to be creative and motivated. We wanted a place with good opportunities for Nikita (even though most schools in the USA would offer more than the little village school in Mexico). We need warmth so we can grow fruit and vegetables and so that I can feel good about being outside. Hot would be even better. A short winter would be fine. We needed a place where real estate was affordable. A place with people who would like to work with me, a community that allowed for open thought and exploration. We used our internet phone to call realtors in various states and cities of the USA to get a sense of real estate availability and cost. Eventually we decided on northern California. Glenn had lived and studied in northern California 23 years previously. The Redding or Chico area seemed to have most of what we were looking for.

 

An important experience for Glenn was when we went camping inland at altitude in the mountains near Colima. He realized that he wanted to leave the hot and humid beach of Mexico because he felt happy climbing the area around the volcano Fuego de Colima.  He exclaimed that he is a mountain person and not a beach person at all. Often we forget that which is obvious because we are trying to make something else work. 


On one of our last weekends in Mexico we joined a turtle rescue group and camped on a beach where turtles come to lay their eggs. Many Mexican school children joined us and Nikita was off playing the whole weekend. It was an extraordinary experience. The turtles emerged under cover of sand blown by strong winds. These ancient large reptiles dragged themselves out of the surf and up the slope to a patch of beach where they had hatched years earlier. There they began scraping a hole in the sand using their back feet. Once the eggs started to come, the turtle would be in trance and we could approach to touching distance. Turtles lay around 120 eggs and when done they obey an ancient command to cover the eggs, camouflage the spot and then disappear back into the surf and wide ocean. The whole process takes about 15 minutes. We collected the eggs and reburied them in the safety of the sanctuary. Once the turtles hatch they are released under cover of dusk--we also experienced this. By preforming these conservation measures, the turtles are back in large numbers from the brink of extinction. Still now some people will raid the entire nest and sometimes even club the turtle to death for the meat or for the sport. Apparently turtle eggs taste like chicken eggs. All the kids got to participate in egg collection, burying the eggs and releasing the turtle babies.


  Volcano Fuego de Colima

                    


3 pictures of the beach of La Manzanilla, a festival in the village, Mini who was starving but sweet right from the start, turtle babies about to be released and a turtle laying eggs. 

 

After 3 months we packed up our 2 vehicles, 2 dogs and new kitten and wound our way up through Mexico. Again, I checked deeply within myself if this was the right thing to do because this leaving was final. This leaving also marked the end of the long held dream of living in a rural country. Was I ready to let that go? Was I sure? This was made harder because we still did not know where we were going. Once again, I felt there was no choice but to keep moving until we found a better place. My energy was running low with constant packing, not finding things, sleeping in a different room every night and watching my little girl decorate each motel room in an attempt to make it home. She and I were also growing tired of cheese Quesadillas given that vegetarians don’t have much choice in restaurants other than that. (Guacamole was sometimes available to spice it up a little) Pineapples, mangoes and avocados were delicious when they were available. Vegetables overall lacked variety—why I don’t understand.


Back in the USA

 

After 5 days of travel we crossed back into the United States and felt relieved at the ease of driving on good roads with signs. We were back in the States around October 10th of 2008. It was a long way to get up to Redding, California. We spent one intense week exploring the various towns in the Redding/Chico area and decided to use Redding as a base. We rented a home in Shingletown, about 45 minutes up into the mountains toward Mount Lassen for 7 weeks. We still had the dream of living close to wilderness/country with views and a mountain stream. Mount Lassen seemed to be the most wonderful place to have close by. We were also going to finish our travels by visiting family in South Africa over Christmas. We weren't ready to commit to a place and a home just yet. This was too important to get right and we needed more time to explore. That was a good decision to make!


Shingletown, California


Living in Shingletown drove home another very important realization. Nikita was enrolled in a public school and caught the bus. Glenn found work on the edge of Redding. I spent my time preparing for our return, meeting some colleagues, taking steps to reactivate my psychologist's license in California and trying to determine where my new office could be. I also wanted to get a sense who I would be as a professional upon my return. We were all a little dazed, still unsettled, grasping for insights to show us that we were closer to settling. We were tired thinking about it all as thinking about something that has yet to unfold is a challenging activity and can be uncomfortable. We explored the neighborhood, explored land to buy, hiked in Lassen National Park and tried not to panic about our whole situation. Then we learned about another important value we share and how this value would influence our decision about making a home.

The dream to build a simple life in the wilderness/country while having a child going to school, a child wanting to participate in many fun activities and wanting to see friends, while building a career and working in town is an illusion. At least for us it is. To live far away from where daily life occurs is not simple. Commuting is not a way of life for us. In addition, a town like Shingletown doesn’t offer country living anyway, it is like a suburbia in trees. Most land is owned and protected by "no trespassing" signs. There are people living on their piece of land almost everywhere. To live in the wild is a dream we are holding for the future when we no longer need to work, when we no longer need much from a town, when we can fill our days with walks and writing….Checking out the reality of that dream lies in the future. When the householder stage of family and work is over, when even gardening no longer holds appeal, then the forest dweller stage of refocusing energy inwardly can happen for us. That is not what this part of life is about.Shifting our search down hill toward Redding felt good to me, especially since every drop in elevation means hotter weather and being closer to the city means more access to friends for all of us.

 

These realizations, shifts in understanding, reassessments of old fantasies and their destruction leads to difficult emotional states that sometimes feel like depression. At first, instead of new exciting beginnings, there are dead ends. Nothing is quite right, there is uncertainty, the stress of not having a base of operations, no phone, no computer, no mailing address. All of this creates daily stress. Then come the questions: What is it all for? What are we doing? “The old is not right and now there is nothing” is difficult for us humans to deal with.


Often I was asked if I wished I had stayed in Moscow. No. I clearly had to leave and I had to follow this inner call to build a different life. That this different life didn’t match my imagination doesn’t mean that it was not the right thing to do. That the step didn't lead to building a life in Mexico doesn't mean that it wasn't right. Taking a risk means taking a risk. There isn't a guarantee of a happy ending. The risk can lead to much hardship but if it is negotiated well it can lead to unimaginable growth and insights that influence the rest of one's life. You have to know if that is worth it to you. To me it is--what I learned is worth more to me than all the savings it cost and all the debt it is still costing because as a human being I have become more. The severing of the dream to live in a village with dirt roads has been a huge event in my life. The pain of losing this dream, of giving up something that was not meant to be the way I imagined is also a huge liberation. I am free of placing my dissatisfaction that arises in the normal course of living onto wanting to live in Mexico. Now I can see my discomfort for what it is and it is diminished. It took something this radical to settle into myself, to now be able to stay in a place and build what I want right here. To realize that simplicity comes from staying, being organized, tailor making ones home to suit one's needs, having community and from doing less. Creating a new life is hugely unsettling, non-simple and devours large amounts of one's vitality. Sometimes one must do so. I moved too often.


There are other effects I have noticed. The travel and deconstruction of parts of me has led to a loosening of attachment to the outer environment with its useful and useless rules. I no longer work in the same way. I care less about rules that are arbitrary and more about being. I don’t push myself to finish everything before the day is done and see the point of "manana" where tomorrow indeed is another day for doing. Today I must not let pass by without spending some time on being present with those I love. So I don't. I don't talk on the phone when my daughter is home, not because I have a rule about it but because I am filled with what is going on here now. I don't get on the computer much at home either because hanging out with our 3 cats and 2 dogs is much more fun . I also have found that I am not sure about much but am able to flow and let things unfold. I worry less and see worry as a state that arises and once worry comes it looks for a story. It gets us all wrapped up and pulls us along this roller coaster ride when it really has no base at all.


What matters to me now has mattered to me in the past but my grasp of it and my ability to live it has deepened. Being present and unrushed in daily life, during mundane daily activities and being kind and patient, being tolerant and accepting immediately leads to a more peaceful surrounding and happy animals and people. Get distracted and hurried for too long and everyone suffers. Am I always centered? Of course not. But I can see it and  am able to let go of what is pulling me much sooner than in the past and the result is that I am more contented right here. I now recognize my discontent as the call to my essential nature, the nature of being (or whatever one calls that which underlies it all) and not a call to move—but I had to literally move and crash to be able to make this essence shift. There is no way I could have avoided this radical step given my commitment to never cease seeking until I am "home". There really was no choice. The severe questioning, doubts, second guessing, the sadness of the loss and hardship caused to pets and child, (and the adventure), the loss of friends and community, the total loss of all financial resources, the uprooting was the way I had to go to be released from many delusions I have held about life on this earth.

 

South Africa

 


Above is Nikita with a chameleon. A lioness in the Kalahari. Cape Spitting Cobra in an open dry riverbed in the Kalahari. Augrabies Falls. Elephants in the Krugerpark.





Impala, Elephant, and Hyena in the Krugerpark. Stuck in a riverbed. Familiar scene in Africa.



We crossed the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer several times on our travels.



We decided to travel to South Africa despite being travel fatigued, being out of money and despite wanting nothing more than to make a new home. We knew that once we started establishing ourselves we would not be able to travel for a while. Especially not for an extended time and travel to South Africa is costly and one needs to go for several weeks to make it worth it. We stayed for 9 weeks. The trip was important because my family had not met Glenn yet and the last time Nikita had been there was as a 3 year old. Now she was 5 years old, close to 6 and very tuned in to family. This was another value decision. I asked myself how I would feel looking back on my life some day. Would the memory of having been with family be of greater value or would it be better to work 2 months sooner and earn money sooner? It was a no brainer. We immersed ourselves in African Wilderness and in family. One was easier than the other. Again the insights and learning were very rich, difficult and valuable. I have been freed to create a family life that is different to the one I grew up with. I can trust myself to do my own inner work to make the kind of home where good things can happen.

Our first trip was to the central Kalahari with my brother, his wife and one daughter. We went with two 4-wheel drive vehicles and everything we needed for 10 days since there was nothing there. No water, no food, nothing. We camped near a pan, a dry expanse of white sand and since it had rained it was covered with a green grassy fluff and we were lucky to see many herds of antelope. We saw and heard lion. It was a rich experience. Some of you may be interested in the particulars of animal encounters and adventures but I have had many in my life and I have heard many stories about other people and their encounters. I feel that if you weren't there it really does not quite come to life and so I will not spend my time writing about the various experiences we had. Other trips we went on included 3 weeks to places in western South Africa.


                                                     

                                                   The Augrabies Falls




The Augrabies Falls were wonderful for me and I could have just stayed. No need for me to see any more places but the desire to deepen into being right there. To enjoy seeing more of the little things which only happens when you linger, the little things that are delightful. The wish of others was to move on, to drive further in the hopes of gathering other experiences. Then the Richtersveld National Park which is completely off the beaten track. Here you ought to have 2 vehicles because no one comes by for days if you were to break down. It is hot and dry, a mountain desert, black, red and white rocks, strange plants adapted to arid conditions, and suddenly the orange river which flows all the way from the Drakensberg to the ocean and forms the border between South Africa and Namibia. It is diamond mining country. Hours spent driving through open land, desert, big sky, dust. Nikita dressing up in hats and sunglasses, listening to her walkman, watching movies on her small DVD player, finding animals and the desert quite boring.


After the Richtersveld another 2 day drive before reaching the Kalahari Gemsbok Park.




                                                                            Gemsbok









Orange Dunes typical of the Kalahari



We saw and heard lots of lions there. We experienced spectacular, electric thunderstorms. The dramatic weather and diversity of South Africa is hard to imagine for anyone who has not experienced it. In one area there are many animals, birds, insects, plants and minerals--all at once. Something is always happening. Even in the desert. When I first came to the USA I couldn't believe that I could walk for hours in the woods and not see an animal and the trees would be the same. The ice age had something to do with that. South Africa is much, much older and  animals and plants could keep diversifying. The wave patterns on some rocks are 2 billion years old. Imagine how ancient that is. Various hominids originated in an area close to Johannesburg, called the cradle of humankind, near the Magalisberg mountains. This place is still my favorite place on earth.

















           Mountain Streams are special where ever they are.




Rock pools spring fed. Clean water.

Magalisberg



The Magalisberg is close to Johannesburg and is small area of hills that look like nothing special until you get right into them. Then you can see the most amazing rock formations and crystal clear, sweet water which comes out of the earth rising from underground lakes cradled by sheets of rock. There are baboons, lizards and small antelope called Klipspringers.





Usually one spots them as a silhouette perched upon one of those rock formations, delicate and sure footed.


It is a place to walk, swim and bask on hot smooth rock. Glenn and I spent a few days alone in the Magalisberg while Nikita spent time with her grandmother.


We also visited the Krugerpark, the largest animal reserve in the world. It is worth a visit if you travel to South Africa. It is a place where you drive to see game but the abundance of the game is unequaled anywhere in the world. The landscape varies since the park is huge and there are many opportunities to get out of the vehicle and walk along a protected reed corridor into a hide. This is a hut usually overlooking a waterhole with a small slit to look through. It provides an exciting way to watch animals as they come to drink. One can also go on a night drive where a ranger takes you out with spotlights to see nocturnal animals. This is one of my favorite activities and it does not take long before one recognizes the reflection in the eyes of animals and can identify what one is seeing by color and size of light reflected.

The African bush is something to experience, well worth traveling a long distance. If ever you plan a trip to Africa, feel free to contact me for ideas.


We spent time between each trip in Johannesburg catching up with friends of mine and extended family. Once again I was saddened by what can happen to a country in one lifetime. In my perception it continues its decline. Technologically it is falling into slow decay and people don't expect things to work. It is not uncommon to go into a store that lies in darkness because of a rolling black out since the power company can't keep up. Traffic lights often don't work and no one directs traffic and one is stuck in frustrating long lines.... reminds me of Mexico. The big difference is that the suburbs of Johannesburg are also very beautiful, highly developed and the stores outdo most USA stores in their glamor and glitz. Violence is a common element of daily life and is probably the biggest factor in my turning away from wanting to live there. I can't describe the complexity of this country now--suffice it to say that my longing to return has settled and again I was freed even more to build my life right here and now. After 9 weeks in South Africa our last stop was a restful visit with my brother, his wife and son in Miami before we returned to Redding with the huge task ahead of building our life together.


Redding, California--A Time of Insights


What followed in the next weeks inside of me one of my girlfriends referred to as the Dark Night of the Soul. We came to our empty and somewhat run down place at the end of February. We are renting until we can buy it. A place on almost 2 acres, right on the edge of Redding city, view of Mount Shasta, 3 minutes from shopping opportunities, from the freeway, from Nikita's new school and from my office. Basically a great location. A plain, unbeautiful manufactured home on gorgeous land.


Home at last. I got sick but not sick enough to stay in bed, just a sinus infection with coughing fits, dizzy spells and weakness. I could not keep the physical symptoms apart from feeling very low, unmotivated, sad and tired. I needed to be full of energy to unpack all the boxes we had not seen in 10 months to make a home. I needed to network and launch my career so that we can make a living in Redding. I needed to root Nikita in her new school, support her in making new friends, discover after school fun things for her to do.  I only managed to maintain our home, care for Nikita and do one or two other things each day.  It took a couple of weeks before I realized that I was depressed and fatigued. Functional but with an underlying current of not caring. I started to reflect and articulate what was going on for me. I didn't care. I was removed from the world and it all looked like a game to me. Mostly nonsense. How could I possibly present myself and talk about the work I do when it all seemed like such nonsense. The work I do with people is about a spontaneous meeting. The rest just seemed like piles of words, attempts to play at knowing something when we don't know anything. I did not feel like anything I could say would be authentic. Nothing felt quite real--all just a game. I struggled to appear professional remembering times when I could describe my work with genuine excitement. And now--all gone.


Thoughts were arising that had similar themes. I wanted to say: "Life is hard, it does not go as planned, we must stop expecting and accept what comes our way. Most of what we care about does not matter. Very little matters. We are so wrapped up in nothing. We are so busy with nothing. How can I ever really believe in what I do again?...." Given my thoughts I stopped setting up meetings with colleagues thinking it best to wait a while so that I wouldn't blow my opportunities. I felt sick. I was pleased that I kept showing up for Nikita who became happier and happier. She loved her room and her school and we explored all sorts of classes after school. She fell in love with gymnastics and has chosen that as her activity for now. I am touched by the social life of these young people--already the worries and delights of interactions with boys and girls are central to their experience. Am I liked? Who is nice to me? Why did that boy tease me? Does he like me? That part of being in Redding was working very well.


I think of a story I read in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. A person comes to the gates of a city that he is moving to and sees an old women at the gate. He asks her: "What are the people like in this city?" She looks at him and says: "Tell me, what were the people like in the place where you come from?" He answers: "They were terrible. A bunch of thieves. Couldn't trust anyone. " And the old woman says: "You will find those here." The next day another man comes to the gate with the same question. When she asks him he answers:" The people in my neighborhood were wonderful. I had many friends. " And she says: "You will find those people here in this city."  Redding was very conservative and has apparently changed over the years to become blended with less conservative people. Still it is mostly referred to as conservative place with people reluctant to change and look at new perspectives. I have met many physicians, parents and other mental health professionals and am happy to say that I have liked them and felt a kinship with most. I am in a yoga class that I thoroughly enjoy and have been asked to talk about dream work and Yoga Nidra in various places. Redding has been a surprisingly good fit so far and we have not even begun to explore all the wilderness areas that lie nearby, including the Trinity Alps which have been my favorite place in the States so far. My Daughter's new campus is being built in walking distance from our home. It is environmentally conscious and the school's design is inspired by the wishes expressed by students during months of interviews, all the way down to Kindergarten level. Sunroofs, slides inside the building to get from one level to another, little doors for little people, a playground filled with outdoor instruments and climbing structures and plenty of spaces for creative expressions. It is a charter school "Redding School of the Arts" and I can hardly imagine how I would be as a person if I had gone to a school like that. They do not use negative discipline. I attended the all school assembly and was amazed that there was not once a "Be quiet or else..." . To quieten the students the teacher simply would start a song that requires the students to echo him--and soon there would be a joyous focus again. 


So, what happened to me as I dwelled in the flat spaces of psyche? It had been 3 weeks and I wasn't getting any better. I was depleted from travel, being in uncertainty, ambivalence and loss since leaving Moscow. What had we done? Could we succeed now? What means anything? How could I start working when I didn't believe in what I had to offer? I just wanted to tell people: Really, there is no getting better. You are fine as you are. Life has no rules. You have to decide for yourself. Most of what we do is motivated by delusion. There is no security, nothing that lasts, what each of us does is insignificant, our worries are meaningless....not good for a psychologist to be filled only with those thoughts especially when managed care talks about medically necessity. What a concept to reduce our inner life to medical necessity. An illusion in many ways. Anyway, one night we were lying in bed stunned at our new life. Glenn pondered for a while and said: "You know, no one in their right mind would have done what we did." We laughed and laughed. It was a crazy thing to do and luckily also invaluable.


The next night something shifted. Instead of labeling myself as depressed I suddenly saw that my perception of reality was truly altered. What I saw was the game of it all. But there is truth in that. I realized that with all the travel and focus on my own spiritual practice that parts of me were deconstructing, that my inner organization was shifting and undoing itself. I was in deconditioning mode. This is what practice aims at--to get us out of our own limitations and conditioning so that we can perceive more clearly. I realized that this deconstruction may sound like a good thing but it felt horrible. For me it felt like depression, being lost, having no sense of purpose, nothing felt quite real etc.... As soon as I was able to understand my energy shifted. I got well and started to be able to have days where I could engage fully without getting tired. Meaning returned but I have been changed--I believe for the better.


I am more capable to live spontaneously. I wrote to my yoga teacher:


"I have given up trying to come up with a "good life" image because it doesn't work out. The past 9 months have all been about giving up and losing--nothing about new beginnings. A deconstructing, a startling viewing of delusions, fantasies--both in myself but also in my family of origin whom we visited in South Africa. Loss of what used to bring some pleasure and now doesn't feel good anymore because it isn't true....I have no regrets of any steps taken--losing career, home, etc, failing in Mexico, going to South Africa and returning with no resources. No jobs, no income and having survival fears especially at this time of economic depression. My deconstruction experience is much more real to me--everything cycles and passes and what I have learned will serve me for my life and those I work with--but I struggle to do what I need to do to make a life happen here in the practical sense. Sometimes I feel paralyzed, just down, sad--so much work, such an enormous task to start from scratch---and what for???" 


My teacher's response helped in that it validated and gave direction:


"This feeling of ‘nothing seeming quite as it seems’ is certainly something I know well, and one that we all must navigate through to come to the deeper understanding ‘everything in its place’. ‘Deconstruction’ is a good word for this phase, as it takes away all that we’ve know, but eventually replaces it with a deep sense of solid yet empty ground and foundation. Paradox abounds with every step here. I think it crucial to sit in non-objective Stillness, and feel the paradox of emptiness and fullness, Presence and transparency, and to recognize the truth of both-and. Nothing matters and everything matters.  This is the time to find your deep connection with the force that is moving as you, that gave birth to you, from which creativity arises. It’s not ‘you’ acting, but ‘thy’ acting. The transition of recognizing ‘thy will’ comes slowly, replacing the deep-seated ego structure. And even here, it’s not that the ego structure is being dissolved, as much as it’s being ‘seen through’ because in the end the mind and it’s ego-structure continues to exist, yet we know the Mystery that gives rise to it as our true and underlying nature, even as this ego-structure continues. It’s ‘mind’ functioning, with the Mystery exposed as the true movement of our life.I look forward to hearing how these understandings begin to permeate your life, your teaching and your psychological work. I’m touched often these days by the reports of psychotherapists who are coming into this work and finding what was always missing in their practices—this timeless Being of pure Being that is true health. Of course, we still must treat depression and the hosts of other symptoms that can come when the body’s chemistry is disrupted. I liken this as giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, all the while supporting Spirit to erupt fully."


 Now I feel great. What has changed? There is much I have not yet processed and that is still shifting quietly underground without me pulling it out into the light of awareness. But a few important things are clear. I am more quiet inside. I trust my own spontaneity more and don't try to plan good and healthy things to do--yoga classes, exercise, my practice, getting my work done etc just happens almost in an unplanned way. Along these lines another important recognition occurred that will save me lots of money and time. I looked into health clubs following my desire to be strong, flexible and fit. A fitness club that was a windowless dark hole was easy to turn down. Horrible place. The next fitness club seemed so nice in comparison. Pool, equipment, clean, classes offered and I was imagining going there to work out and using machines to work muscle groups even though I really don't want to use machines. Soon my fantasy of what I could do at this club was drowning out the voice that wanted to get fit in a more natural way, without equipment. Add some sales talk and I was just about to sign up when I recognized the fallacy of this fantasy for me, trusted the soft dis-ease rattling inside and listened more closely to myself. No, I did not want to use machines. Yes, many people love it and it is right for them but not for me. It means that I would have done it for a while and then dropped out.... I don't like places of fitness overall and public pools gross me out. It has to be right or it is not sustainable unless at great cost to ones happiness. And that goes for everything. Trusting myself I looked further and found a wonderful yoga class that I attend with passion and where I can strengthen and create the flexibility I hope to gain. How often do you get into something against your own knowing because a fantasy takes over and is not checked out? How many things do you buy in the hopes of increasing your happiness? (fantasies are good and necessary in order to be able to imagine what you want but they need to be checked against the inner voice to make sure that they don't promise something that is not even you)


I don't need to do so much to feel like my life is happening. Less is more. Some gardening, some contact with colleagues, emails can sometimes wait, the phone and computer stay at work, I feel content, I laugh more, we dance spontaneously as a family. I respond with more patience and humor to my daughter when she doesn't do what I am asking for, I notice very clearly how destructive impatience and anger can be and how days can be wasted trying to recover from unkindness, I see how I need to work on myself and take charge to create a good home where real happiness can be.


THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. Each moment we can chose how to be, not what to feel or think, but how to act. We create the atmosphere we live in by the choices we make in HOW we are together. Do I yell at my child whom I have now asked many times for such and such or do I go to her and playfully show her that I love her and then ask her directly to please do such and such now because... The difference is enormous, the extra time it takes little. The reverberations last through the day and through ones whole life which is made up only of all those moments. It is true that we are responsible for the effect we have on those around us as much as they are responsible for what they do with our expression. We can change everything through self work. It takes lots of modulation to calm ourselves enough so that we don't leak and impose ourselves onto those we love. It is worth it.


I have more leisure and take more pleasure.  I more frequently slip into a spacious sense of being and notice when I am thinking and conceptualizing. This is me at this time of my life. What applies to me does not necessarily apply to you. Overall I want less and that call has always been there.  Still I buy books. I am interested in continued learning. I wish to incorporate the yoga more into my work as a psychologist and my want to specialize in couple's work and sex therapy. Am I always the improved version I describe above? No. But I am less hooked by negative states as I can see them more quickly.


I feel like my life can be normal for the first time. It is my life I am leading now, not some image. I feel that I have a family now that is mine. I don't want more than sipping a hot drink at breakfast and looking at the garden growing while my daughter and husband are also happy. Why does this mean so much? Because enjoying living, being aware of the underlying spacious stillness, partaking in presence through our senses, being connected to the people and animals we love--that is about all there is. It is about the quality of time. Time is the only precious resource we have and every minute we don't appreciate is a minute that never comes back. Every time I spend half and hour with bills or tech support I feel keenly that I am being robbed of precious time. 


Who knows what is still to come. I am looking forward to building my practice again. I am looking forward to being with people again and sharing this life's journey. I even don't mind the insurance game because it will be in its rightful place, in moderation. I am looking forward to not moving for a long time and finding a routine that is spacious. To spend some of my time on nothing or reading, or gazing, or gardening, or talking to a friend, or.....what ever arises spontaneously. My work and life are unfolding in unknown ways. I wish to work with people outside near mountain streams and that may happen some day. There really is not much on my list of desire. I have passion and interest and always felt a pressure to get to the many things that appeared so interesting. There are so many wonderful things to learn and participate in during our life. We just can't taste them all.  Feeling the pressure upon coming to Redding to find out about all the things I have always wanted to do and noticing the stress of doing research, making calls, driving around and and and....I stopped. I asked myself simply: Would I regret not doing this (and I looked at each delicious item on my list)  in my life? To my surprise much of what I always thought I still wanted to do fell away and I am left with a few precious wishes:


1. To nurture a contented and joyous family.

2. To love my husband, child, family, friends and animals well.

3. To sink into my yoga practice with ease and joy

4.  To walk along mountain streams often. (maybe photograph the little places)

5. To care and work deeply with people.

6. To be strong and flexible (through yoga, swimming, biking and hiking)

7. To create a beautiful home environment including a garden. (for this phase of life)

8. To have unplanned time for something.....

These wishes will become less as they are lived and as I become more and more full within.


                                       Kalahari Sky

 

 

 

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