Redefining mirrors and gratitude

20170613-DSC03206.jpgCamp buddy from Day 1 of 2. This man is in his late 80’s, and is from Afghanistan. A few days prior to this picture being taken, his family left him to go to Germany, and he was left behind because he recently had a stroke, and was no longer physically fit for the intense journey. He is now alone at the refugee camp, and is known as the camp ‘grandfather’. He loved receiving attention from all of the We Journey and Emfasis Foundation volunteers (especially the ladies!). He is the most generous man I have ever met. The turquoise ring you see on my index finger is a ring he gave me instantaneously after receiving the compliment I gave him of how beautiful it was. What a treasure.

 

I’m a feeler. I’m intuitive. I’m bold and adventurous. I love humanity as I love myself, and I love to pour my happiness and gratitude for life onto others.

There are many stories I could tell, as I’ve been fortunate to have many incredible adventures, however, in this article, I will lead you through an experience which was unique and special to me on a multitude of life perspectives.

I am going to be vulnerable in this article; raw, real, and honest, as that is my style of living… so get prepared for this juicy tale.

It all began around January. My personal Coach and I were having a session, and I was voicing to her my desire to compel ‘my man’ into my life. May sound a bit interesting to you, if you are not familiar with the style of Coaching I participate in, but that’s another story. For now, all you need to know is that after writing out what I wanted in a relationship, my Coach intuitively felt inclined to present me with a particular man’s name. I did a little research, and became instantly drawn to him. I loved what he was representing, the approach he took with relating to people,  championing humanity, and driving positive change in the world. I didn’t know how to feel about it since I had never met this person, but still felt so drawn to him. To speed it up, we had a Skype call, and he invited me to some upcoming trips that he was involved in, because he loves bringing like-minded people together… So then what?

One of the trips was in Greece, through an organization called We Journey, and the more I began to investigate, the more interested I became. Since I live in Amsterdam, this was the most realistic trip of the two proposed, and so then I had a decision to make. Trust my heart or trust my head? From what I’ve already described of myself, what do you think I listened to?

Yep, you guessed it. I listened to my heart, and booked the week-long trip, where I was going to serve in a refugee camp, integrate on a Grecian island, and meet this man who I was for some reason drawn to.

I didn’t really know what to expect of this trip, and was accepting of that. All I knew is that I needed to be there for some unknown reason. I trusted my gut, and giggled at myself as I sat on the plane waiting for takeoff: “Here we go, again!”.

Upon the first round of group introductions in Athens, I instantly realized one of the reasons I was there: to be surrounded by a group of self-developed individuals to learn from. I felt insecure, and uncomfortable, as I quickly realized that a lot of the incredible individuals who were there were thriving in their success, were confident, and able to vocalize their opinions, insights, and wisdom, seamlessly. My first mirror appeared within minutes of beginning the week-long adventure. I got knocked off my high-horse, and realized where I stood in my personal development, where I wanted to be, and how big the gap was between the two.

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It’s hard to find a segue into the refugee camp portion of this journey because throughout the entire trip I had personal mirrors show me truth’s I was unfamiliar with, while I was at the same time experiencing such a critical situation, being educated, and opening my heart to those in the refugee camp. I think this is why this story is so profound to me, because it was a course of learnings about myself, of others, and how I relate with humans all at the same time!

Let’s switch gears, and I’ll tell you about the incredible refugee’s I connected with at the camp…

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We were at the camp for two days, total. Our physical mission was to build a boutique on the camp site so that the people living there felt more comfortable when ‘shopping’. We created a dressing room, and a ‘trendy’ theme to display the clothing. Our emotional mission was… well, for me, it was to connect. The first day, I didn’t really know how to do that, or understand what type of significance I could bring to these individuals, considering the incredibly challenging, and traumatizing experience they’ve had. Only on the second day, (after having a couple more extremely confronting conversations with other We Journey participants), I was able to better understand how I was going to approach the camp situation.

On the second day, I decided to walk into the camp, releasing all of myself, my ego, my ‘self development fulfillment’, and give my heart, my joy for life, my love, my passion, my kindness, and warmth to every person I had an encounter with. I lost control, and asked God, the source, or higher power, to use me as a vessel, and deliver to these people what they needed at this exact moment in time. That was hard… but I coached myself through it, and remained present.

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An old woman, a father, and his child were walking into their container-like home, and I felt pulled towards them. I made eye contact with (what appeared to be) the grandmother, and knew I needed to spend some time with them. They invited me into their home, and I was instantly gifted with fresh beets and cake and lots of tea. They were so hospitable, kind, and welcoming. This particular family did not speak any English, so it was very challenging to communicate with them… but it actually didn’t matter, because what we were sharing was bigger than what words can communicate. We were speaking from heart to heart.

The father learned that I was living in The Netherlands, and mentioned that he had spent some time in the country, and hoped to migrate his family back there some day. After about 30 minutes of conveying that message, he found a Dutch TV channel on their television from the 90’s, and began reciting the subtitles, in effort to display his determination. Before long, I had a newborn baby in my arms, and the mother began taking selfies us, women, on her cell phone. The Grandma ensured that I was looking my best in the pictures; combing my hair with her fingers, and making sure my T-shirt sleeves were properly unrolled and tidy.

This family received many hugs, smiles, kisses, and… dances! We listened to some of their favorite music, and I insisted that the youngest woman and Grandma get up and dance with me… they blushed, laughed, and indulged in the ‘crazy American’ moment they were experiencing.

My time with this incredible family came to an end approximately 3 hours later, when I realized I needed to check in with my volunteer team. They were completing the finishing touches on the boutique, so I still had a little bit more time to engage and share love and light with residents of the camp.

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I felt that it was time to play. A group of kids were playing around with a ball, and so I decided to join in and kick it around with them, committing 100% of my energy and (little) skill to the game. Then somehow they were enthusiastic about being picked up and swung around in circles. And so then I became that person… a line formed quickly, and I mustered up all my adrenaline and deep love to swing every kid around. Their laugh, and simplistic form of joy emotionally moved me, and physically moved me forward to keep pushing.

The last interaction I had was with a doctor. This man was a true inspiration and model of hope and determination. If we talk about using appropriate language to compel your future… this man models it perfectly! He was at the refugee camp alone, and was only 23. He was a doctor in Afghanistan, and left the country because he was not safe, and did not have the freedom he felt was elsewhere in the world… so he fled. He was full of light and hope, this man. He expressed to me how he felt so free in Greece, even though this was only a stepping stone in his journey. He is beginning to study at a University in Athens to get more educated to become a doctor, is intensely practicing his English (which is already pretty good), and is keeping his eyes on the prize, which is seeking asylum in Canada. I was so inspired by this man’s determination and motivation to continue to push forward in his quest to achieve all he is set out to do in this world. Talk about being fearless.

20170613-DSC03296.jpgAs it came time to leave the refugee camp, I saw the kids continuing to play with their make-shift soccer ball. I knew in my heart this was my last hoorah, my last opportunity to give of myself. I did my best attempt at a soccer trick, landed it, and bid my farewell to a community which greatly enriched my life, educated me, tested me, and grew me. I was a different person now, in this moment, and all that mattered was love, connection, and faith. Being the feeler that I am, I can tell you, I’ve never felt so much gratitude in my heart… ever in my life. I shed tears of deep happiness and sadness on our departure back to the center of Athens.

Does it end there? Nope!

After Athens, the We Journey crew boarded a ferry which brought us to the beautiful isle of Naxos. This is when the integration portion of the trip began, and when a lot of the experiences I had (personally, and at the refugee camp), really began to settle in. At some point, it felt a bit too much (although I didn’t identify it that way in the moment), and so I jumped into the sea, my safe place, and sunk into the water. Just as I had done at the refugee camp, I let go. I lost myself. I was entranced by the water, I became the water. I found my escape in nature.

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Only later did I realize… again after another confrontational conversation with one of the many incredible We Journey attendee’s, as beautiful as that moment was, it wasn’t the right time to experience it. I realized that what I was trying to do was avoid the intense feelings I had about my self-reflections and about the recent experience I had at the refugee camp.

“Shit…” I said to myself, “what am I supposed to do then?” Earlier that day I had committed myself to a solo paddle boarding trip in a nearby lagoon. I learned that this was dangerous territory, because it could go one of two ways: 1. I could naturally choose to ‘lose myself’ again in the experience, or 2. Consciously be aware, and use paddle boarding as a metaphor to work through my current personal obstacles, realities. Being conscious of these two scenarios, I chose the latter, and actively listened, vocalized, and physically worked through what was happening.

The remainder of this trip was a bundle of these precious insights, discoveries of self, discoveries of relation with others, and pure beauty of life.

If you are to read the first and last sentence of this article, I am certain you would be surprised that it is the same story. 1 week. That’s all it took. A change of perspective, a change of lifestyle, a change of outlook, a change of understanding and acceptance. A deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation of life, human connection, and freedom.

There are no further words to describe this experience. I’ve opened my heart, shown the real, in hopes that you can better comprehend a raw experience with self and others.

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As mentioned in the opening picture caption, I have learned what generosity, strength and compassion means in the most authentic sense from this experience. As I continue on with my adventures through life, continue to learn about myself, continue to develop, and bridge that gap of where I’m at now, and where I want to be, I am going to remember these people. The ones who taught me most about what it means to give and love and be a light when the world seems so dark.

I’m a feeler. I’m intuitive. I’m bold and adventurous. I love humanity as I love myself, and I love to pour my happiness and gratitude for life onto others.

Thank you, for everyone involved, refugee and volunteer, you’ve changed my life, and fueled me to dive in, even deeper to discovering me.

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Photo credits: Perry Jay Grone, Gabby Perez, Jen Morilla

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Homecoming

My friend, Holly Kobayashi, recently recommended the book below, and I have found it truly eye-opening. Below you will find a description of the book. Note that the content of this book is very confrontational, and is not, necessarily an easy read. Please do not struggle, and only proceed further if you are stable, and are seeking growth and development in areas which may be difficult. Additionally, you can find this book under the “Reading List” page of my blog.

Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child by John Bradshaw

  • homecomingUsing a wealth of practical techniques, informative case histories and unique questionnaires, John Bradshaw demonstrates how your wounded inner child may be causing you pain. You’ll learn to gradually, safely, go back to reclaim and nurture that inner child – and literally help yourself grow up again. Homecoming shows you how to:
  • Validate your inner child through meditations and affirmations
  • Give your child permission to break destructive family roles and rules
  • Adopt new rules allowing pleasure and honest self-expression
  • Deal with anger and difficult relationships
  • Pay attention to your innermost purpose and desires…and find new joy and energy in living. (www.goodreads.com)

 Buy the book Homecoming off Amazon, here.