Swimming With The Sharks!

Caye Caulker Island, Belize
-Dragging my heals a bit in Guatemala left me with two short days in Belize before Heading to South America. Turns out that might have been good, the lovely tropical island was a place where one could really burn sometime… Caye Caulker was pretty amazing, swaying palm trees and white sandy beaches as seen on shiny post cards. Extremely different vibe than my time spent in Costa Rica and Guatemala. EVERYONE speaks a charming English (Hey Mon!), in this tiny Vermont sized country that has the Jamaica meets the West vibe. Pleased to receive a very warm Caribbean greeting with open arms. A new appreciation for Bob Marley as nearly all restaurants and bars play the reggae beats with deep lyrics that keep everyone smiling and light. 
-First night wasn’t that dreamy unfortunately. Sitting in bed, I pondered weather diarrhea on a tropic island is better than diarrhea at home?  Guess that is the silver lining mindset that I have adopted these years past. Bad water, I think, a parting of ways gift from Guatemala. Quite surprised that was the first serious bout in my time in Central America, I digress. 
-Well rested and on the mend I set out for adventure with a desire to make this time in a tropical island paradise count. I nearly missed one of the highlights of my trip thus far because of the imposing $70 price tag. Saying F’ it, let’s do this, I committed to a day of snorkeling. Belize is known for its most clear waters, making snorkeling, diving and other water activities a must. Perfectly sunny day, a group of 16 set out on boat for a day of nature and exploring the ocean floor. 
-The first of four stops had us snorkeling amongst the many schools of giant colorful fish. They were everywhere, it was Shocking how little the fish were fazed by our presence. While swimming through the calm waters it was as if I was sinking into a bed of fish but never touching. Realizing how Truly unique this opportunity was I started mentally preparing for our Next stop which was Shark and Ray Alley. Before jumping overboard into the crystal blue waters I chuckled and thought, nothing to fear as I have been swimming with the Sharks my whole life. The chaotic feeding frenzy of sharks and rays was not perturbed by the group of fellow dog paddlers. While they weren’t Great White’s they were about my size and had the token shark features one would see in movies. No human limbs were lost as I pretty sure these were the gluten free/vegan sharks, still the experience was quite exhilarating and memorable. 
-Even more special for me was having lunch with a turtle, he grazed on the ocean floor’s sea grass, while I breathed salt water through a tube. The majestic peaceful being was in full display of its tranquil nature. Floating gracefully we watched the unhurried turtle in the least dramatic fashion breach the waters surface for air then return to the ocean floor for more vegetation. While at our lunch, the turtle unfortunately didn’t say much as he was more focused on this eating and breathing routine.  I was however, able to draw a lesson or two from the wise endangered turtle. What came to mind is how quickly I would move back home. Always rushing relentlessly in an effort to save time when all I would do was waste the time that I would save.  As I mentioned on an earlier post that if the journey is all there is then It might be best to find a pace that works for me.  The small group of snorkelers, myself included were smitten with delight from the colorful turtles presence. Absolutely blown away at the experience, clearest waters and far and away the most marine life I have ever seen. Having snorkeled in a handful of other places I don’t recall the coral reeves being that vibrant, with intricate patterns and shapes their subtle movements made them seem to be alive. Swimming with the Sharks, Turtles and other marine life was a major highlight on my trip this far.  

Couple Days In Antigua

-Wow! Never experienced a city that moves at this pace. While New York City is fast paced and exhibits an overload of stimuli, the events are most often predictable. Not in Antigua this colonial city in the developing country of Guatemala. I found that the lesson of looking both ways before crossing the street only served a couple steps on my visit. This felt like the Wild Wild West, stimuli was coming from every direction. Not only in the market as that felt like a full on hurricane. Supped up yellow school buses with spiky rims would speed on the historic bricked roads, Latin music or shitty American club music playing, vendors making loud pleas.  Continually having to look in every direction, left, right up and down made for a tiring but rewarding experience. 
-Upon arrival, My first block while venturing outside of my flat for food would included:
1) Full frontal nudity from an elderly over-served cerveceria patron man peeing in public. 

2)A motorcycle seemingly being driven by a golden 100 pound bull dog. His neck rolls lay over the handle bars as his owners cuddled up behind him. 

3) Yes, this is true a family of four speeding through slower moving traffic on a small motorcycle with babies on board. 

4)Full eye contact with a woman breastfeeding in public. 
-Overwhelmed but still curious, I would keep my eyes on the sidewalk till I had time to process all that just happened. Again, thinking to myself, this isn’t Kansas anymore. Did I get any pictures? Nope, that all happened in 2 minutes.  
My time in Antigua was quite short. Outside of the intense market experience I found all the locals to be lovely and engaging. Certainly a different experience than any other I have had to this point in my life. Another way that others live in this great big and beautiful planet that we all share. It was also really nice staying with a local Spanish speaking family. Able to get lots of Spanish practice and to meet many other travelers, I am grateful for my short stay in Antigua, Guatemala. 

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My Ayahuasca Experience -Lessons From The Vine

My Ayahuasca Experience – Lessons From The Vine

Late 2014, I embarked on a journey to Costa Rica. This trip was like no other I had to that point in my life. No fancy hotels, epic dinners or golf clubs. This trip was about healing and answering the calling within for a greater purpose. Fully researched with pros and cons weighed, determined to find the answers for the problems that had plagued my existence. Traveling 1500 miles by myself into the unknown was quite scary at first, only to be greeted with open arms by many travelers just like myself. I was going to drink the sacred brew Ayahuasca. An Amazonian brew that has been used in healing ceremonies for thousands of years. Having no idea really what was to come I set forth with positive intentions to face my demons, the fears that had kept me tethered to the vicious cycle of addiction and unhealthy thought patterns. My intention was at all cost to reclaim my life that had made several wrong turns many years prior.

For the first 34 years of my life I followed all the rules set forth by society and the culture that raised me. To that point in my life I had diligently toed the line of conformity. Never questioning whether there was any other way. The interpersonal dramas of life continually playing on repeat. The only difference was the characters would change from year to year. Since a young man, I worked diligently to attain financial security, to attain status by material possessions. Always feeling overmatched I expended all my energies pursuing the American Dream. My focus was on the attainment of a home, mate, retirement savings, anything and everything that would bring me a perceived sense of security. Attaining more and more but feeling less and less I begin to ask my Self questions. Am I happy? Is this all? Am I what I want to be? Living too fast, caught up in the game of egomania I pushed forward with little regard for truth or awareness of any purpose greater than my child-like indulgence. Drinking heavily, a weekend warrior that didn’t know of any other way. Numbing the pain, hiding from my truth. Finding out the hard way through experience that you can’t selectively numb. When you numb pain, you also numb the Joy. Never more disconnected from purpose, scared to answer the call within. Felt as though pushed in a corner by a way of life that served little, it had become quite obvious that I wasn’t living my dream.

Fortunately, I had started the road to truth years earlier by addressing childhood trauma. I knew and had the confidence that at this stage in my life I could discern for myself what was right or wrong. Feeling assured with my state of awareness, finding power in the peace attained through a newly found meditation and mindfulness practice. Ready then to yield to my souls yearning for more truth, I took flight to the jungles of Costa Rica. Knowing that if I kept living like I was, doing the same thing over and over with an expectation of different results, I would continue to actualize and live Einstein’s definition of insanity. “Insanity – Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Drinking the sacred brew is an ineffable experience. For me the first true peace I have ever felt was resultant of Ayahuasca, the powerful psychedelic medicine brew. From this place of peace I was able to truly see for the first time and seeing is believing. Seeing clearly how I was sabotaging my happiness by behavior rooted in fear and ignorance. Looking upon myself with a new sense of objectivity and compassion I was able to reframe my reality. Ayahuasca has taught me how to cry, it opened my heart to truly feel emotions. Once one truly knows how to cry and feel, any emotion that impedes the realization of ones truth can be worked through and let go.

Now that I may live on the otherside of my fears. The energetic hold that my past once held upon my Peace of mind has lost its power. Changing my beliefs through positive affirmation, letting go of limits that were accepted during a time of misdirection and pain. Realizing that I created the mess of yesteryear and if this is so, I could also clean it up. I now focus my attention on a new world of exploration and understanding. Wrapping my hands around the transcendent experience that has taken place I search for a deeper understanding of the science behind plant medicines and mindfulness/meditation. Scientific studies in Neurogenesis, Neuroplasticity, Quantum Physics support and have shed light on my path less traveled. To whom much is given much is expected, my intention is to use new realized and freed energies in an altruistic manner to serve in a richer capacity. Feeling and sensing that there may be many others mired in the crippling fear that once governed my being, I choose to speak up.

Troubling Statistics:

-PTSDunited.org, 8% or 25 million Americans have PTSD at any given time. Many of those are service men and women reeling from the horrors of war and conflict unprepared to integrate back into society.

-NAASCA.org, Adult Survivors of Child Abuse make up a whopping 42 million people – 2/3 to ninety percent never tell anyone. In it’s most recent study, the CDC estimated the lifetime cost to society for dealing with all issues related to the child abuse of just one year’s worth of traumatized kids is $585 billion, an astonishing figure that obviously repeats each year !!!

-Anxiety Disorders, 18% or 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety.

-Alcohol and Drug Addiction, according to drugfree.org 24 million Americans suffer from drug and alcohol abuse.

One can’t move forward when dwelling in the pain of yesteryear. Those suffering from PTSD are unable to detach from trauma and unhealthy thought patterns that overrun peace of mind. The warped sense of truth make it extremely difficult for adult survivors of child abuse to authentically bond with others. I suspect that the inability to process and let go of emotions is what holds those suffering in a perpetual state of negativity and drama. Unable to cope with emotions and feelings, the marginalized look to drugs(prescription and illicit), alcohol, TV, food, material goods, excessive FB trolling, pornography to name a few. Anything on the outside of Self that can be clung to that will offer momentary satisfaction and distraction. Unfortunately, the above coping mechanisms only pull us further away from the shore, further away from truth. In a society that says “get over it!” Unfortunately it’s not that easy, the human in us requires more. I think it may be time to consider all avenues when one is embarked on a healing journey.

So Grateful for the realization that my experience with Ayahuasca is not THE WAY. It is a way that happened to work extremely well for me. The physical, mental and emotional benefits that have resulted have been quite profound. To let go of addiction, anxiety, and all the fears that hampered my ability to live happily. Accepting that I create my own reality wasn’t easy or fun. It was much easier pointing fingers at this or that. Having to release the overplayed victim script and now accept full responsibility for everything, my actions, my future. Seeing now how we create our life through our thoughts, actions and deeds. Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed anything to this point on my path. Any perceived obstacles/pitfalls have served lovingly as teachers. Many others unwilling to settle have also experienced dramatic healing on many levels. Typically 20-30 travelers participate in ceremony. All seeking refuge from emotional trauma, addiction, PTSD, physical ailments or just the mundane experience that can be called life. So many brave souls that I have met in the medicine ceremony. Beautiful caring individuals that all have taken healing into their own hands. Quite shocking how a group of strangers can feel so similar to a social gathering I would have had back home. We all eat, sleep, shit and are healing at some level conscious or not. If Western medicine doesn’t serve one, what is one to do?

Thankfully now, Joy resides where despair once lived. Faith has won the war against fear(battles still exist), Light has prevailed over darkness. My anxiety, doubts, and worries that once ruled my life are long in my rear view mirror. The sacred medicine has allowed me to see past my shadow. A shadow that I was unaware of and I didn’t know existed. Empathy is a new and dominating feeling. So much love for the beaten, battered and weary. The years spent dwelling in the lesser part of the spectrum of love have prepared me for this journey and vantage point. Can’t help but feel and sense when others are hurting. I know the pain too well. Prepared to speak up for what I believe to be true. I have waited patiently to share my full story with the world. Partly because of the fear of criticism and partly because I have always subscribed to the wait and see notion. Time has away of showing us what really matters. The burden of holding tightly a message that could benefit those in need has been wearing on my soul.

This is just my perspective and the way I have interpreted my experience with the sacred plant medicine Ayahuasca. I would encourage any who may be interested to do their own research. Very grateful that there are those who bravely pioneered this path. Thankful that science is demonstrating that alternate healing methods are not only viable but may prove to be more effective than healing modalities currently in place. Below are some resources that have useful information about plant medicines, specifically Ayahuasca. This is real to me, people are hurting and this message could greatly help those in need. No expectations only an obligation and sense of duty to express myself and share my experiences as truthful as I see them. Thank you for reading.

Helpful Resources:

-Reset.me, An organization committed to independent journalism on natural therapies and medicines to enhance the mind, body, and spirit.

-Maps.org, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana.

-HeartMath.org, HeartMath Institute has researched and developed reliable, scientifically based tools to help people bridge the connection between their hearts and minds, and deepen their connection with the hearts of others.

-Florestral, Costa Rica, So much love and gratitude for the medicine work that Shaman/Teachers Vismay and Nicole perform. Pure unconditional love, they deviate not an inch from the essence of the healing music they generously share with the world. Honoring all spiritual paths and traditions, Altruistic in nature, Florestral offers the most special of retreat experiences. Transforming lives one ceremony at a time.

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The Conscious Yoga Community on Lake Atitlan

No drugs, No meat, and no alcohol. First words uttered to me upon arrival to the Mystical Yoga Farm. NO WAY would have been my response a couple years back. This year, however it was quite welcomed; I’ve found a haven for healing and communing with nature and spirit. Really a special time chillaxing at the Mystical Yoga Farm at Lake Atitlan for the month of March. Most days I don’t know what day of the week it is and it’s completely okay by me. Happy to report the daily pinch of “this is happening” still persists. An absolutely breathtaking taking oasis paradise on what some say the most beautiful lake in the world. Three volcanos keep a vigilant watch on the Lake Atitlan at 6000 feet. Quite the geological phenomenon having a lake that is thousands of feet deep, seemingly floating while landlocked at this elevation. Weather has been far more temperate than expected but still perfect. Mornings are sunny and clear, the afternoon welcomes cloud cover and often displays incredible views at dusk. Many lovely towns reside on this lake, each visit has been a unique cultural experience. This isn’t Kansas anymore. With no WIFI and only being able to arrive by boat there is an added element of seclusion that was welcomed.

What does “mystical” mean to me? The mysterious sense of awe and intrigue when venturing or contemplating the unknown. During my stay at the Mystical Yoga Farm I have been fortunate to meet many like minded travelers. It was refreshing staying at a place that offers daily meditation and yoga to all guests. Each day we eat 3 meals in community that consist mostly of local and organic fruits and vegetables grown on the farm. The kitchen staff has done an exceptional job whipping up creative delights so much that I don’t miss meat at all. Porridges, soups, rice/beans, guacamoles and many sauces that make the food come alive. The meals are prepared with loving hands and complement the healthy yogic lifestyle energetically. Rooms are nothing fancy as the essence of the farm is simplicity. Dormitory style was enjoyed as it serves as a great way to get to know new people and engage other travelers.  

The permaculture element is fascinating as the MYF is nearly self sustaining. Filtering its own water and ran on solar power this place runs off the grid. Many educational workshops and spiritual retreats are offered in addition to yoga training programs.The workers that maintain the property are super friendly workers with the loving temperament of the people of Guatemala.  

The Guatemala people while one of the poorest per GDP in North America, seem to be quite content and have extended warmth to travelers like myself. Very happy to see the Mayan indigenous culture active and very much alive. Such lovely colorful art work and culture. Unfortunately however, most local children only have access to school through 7-8 years of age. MYF started a fundraiser for Educacion Chacaya the local community adjacent to farm. At 400 quetzalas or under $60 dollars (justacollective.org) you can sponsor a full year of education for an child in need. Breaks my heart to see the street kids running around in the tourism hustle at 8 years old. This is staggering and a product of a country still reeling from a horrific civil war that ended only 20 years ago in which over 180,000 Mayan indigenous fell victim to genocide.  

On a much lighter note, Early AM Cacao Dance parties are the bomb! I had a very difficult time understanding what all the fuss was about at first. Getting up early for a 6:30am chocolate ecstatic dance party? The last bit of my remaining pragmatism had prejudged the ordeal as child like and too silly. Well, that is exactly what it was and it was awesome! Feeling a deep warmth from the cacao drink and the morning breeze we danced wildly and flowed to loud dance music. Individual expression with no cares in the world mark this experience, a chance to just get it all out with no judgement. The locals are still talking about the dancing Sasquatch, apparently I made an impression with my Midwestern rythmn. 🙂  The heart warming jolt you get from drinking a cup of liquid cacao is no joke and will forever be a part Matt 2.0. New profound look at the sacred cacao plant which may not get its proper credit back home.  

My time in Guatemala has been shared with many strangers turned friends through community. So lovely to meet people from all over the globe coming to retreat and share in the fun and the journey of life. Every one I have met has a unique story, many of which are quite courageous. Making the trip to Central America to get away from the hustle and bustle vibe. Broadening horizons and challenging comfort zones unwilling to settle, travelers seek clarity in the peace of the experience.  The farm has provided a great mix of hammock time in nature and optional activities to engage in group fun. An equal balance of introversion and extroversion can be easily attained at the MYF. 

Only love here, a wondrous place of relaxing and healing that will forever be special to me. Amazing groups of ultra kind and compassionate yogis undergoing teacher trainings create an environment that makes you never to want to leave. Ratios of 1 man to every 10 beautiful women doesn’t hurt either. With the ever increasing pace of life and stress in our fast paced lives I think oases like this will greatly serve as peaceful getaways. Opportunities to get back in touch with nature and community. With all paths welcomed with gracious loving arms this place will truly be missed. The Mystical Yoga Farm is a safe container for people to express themselves authentically. No judgement only truth and encouragement from a group of beings that may live more consciously than the masses. 

What’s next….in Early April I will be leaving the farm as I am planning on visiting some other sights in Guatemala. The Mayan ruins in Tikal and I am hopeful to see lava pouring out of an active volcano. After the remaining sights in Guatemala I will be on my way to Belize for some exploring and adventuring. After a brief stay in Belize, I have a flight to Santiago, Chile on April 18th. Feeling very grateful to be embarking upon a trip of a lifetime -Super excited for South America
MY YOGA TEACHER TRAINING EXPERIENCE 
Super special time here at The Mystical Yoga Farm. Twenty days of 200 hours of teacher training was extremely challenging physically and mentally. With each morning practice and afternoon practice my limits were pushed. Coming into the training I had the mindset that I was running out of lessons to learn. I was sorely mistaken. 🙂

Days were typically 6am-8pm full of activities. Such a Special opportunity to really bond with the other students during this transformational time in our lives. Sharing dorm space with 8 females was quite the different experience for me. While never having sisters biologically I feel as though I have many now. Unique time to have created our supportive experiential bond that really felt like family. All of us peeling back layers of cultural conditioning and finding the true joy within. So grateful for the two instructors Mindy and Sri whom have made the interest of their students their labor of love. Both teachers bringing expansive levels of knowledge, higher training and experience really made the time spent memorable. So much love for all of my yogi girls! I feel privileged and blessed to have had this experience this with such beautiful people. 

The Andes Shamanic way meets the Traditional Vedic yogic texts and creates Mystical Yoga. Two sequences were practiced and eventually taught, Hatha and Vinyasa flows. The curriculum also included the Native American Medicine Wheel. The way of the indigenous cultures are deeply fascinating to me. Sacred traditions and practices that in resilient fashion have and our fighting mightily to stand the test of time.  So special to honor these sacred lands by participating in this experience. Every morning to wake up to the beautiful volcanoes was incredibly powerful and the energy of this lake will be missed. 

What yoga means to me? In Sanskrit, yoga means “union” or to join. The meeting of mind, body and spirit. To me it is the special blending of Patience, Concentration, and daily focused Discipline. Each morning it is quite comforting to know that I get an opportunity to press the reset button and go within. More than just a practice, Yoga is a spiritual discipline that fuels my inner fire for wanting more out of life. Yoga balances the sense of self and creates an inner harmony that stays long after I leave the mat. To me, yoga has become a way of life that is my commitment to and way of self-love. Contented with the obedience of this practice I have never felt more secure and ready for what lies around the corner on my life’s journey. Connecting the mind and body I am able to create internal awareness of the body and mind’s swirling thoughts. This awareness cultivated from within allows me to see clearly the physical and mental/emotional obstacles that are present in my life. 

After completing my training I have once again been reminded the power in new experience and perspective. Finding a deep understanding and new angles to look at old problems. Spiritual, which comes from the Latin word spiritus meaning soul, courage, vigor, breath. A term universal to all religions and all cultures. Grateful for a deeper understanding and awareness of the power of my breath. Again, humbled, I realize how little I know and how unbelievably fortunate I feel to have this perspective. So much suffering has been resultant from me taking a stance of superiority or inferiority. The “I am right” or “you are wrong” lexicon was holding on for dear life and was finally let go this past month. It no longer serves me, the company I keep and where I dream to be. Letting go of my righteousness allows me to better love my brothers and sisters. A great sense of peace fills my being knowing that I won’t have to engage in the many mindless battles with others and self. Grateful to just be, not right or wrong. I just am. Really seeing the releasing of judgements and this value in action. Another powerful realization is that the path may never end, you may never arrive. What would arriving even look like? So I strive evermore to enjoy the moment now. Be happy, be present! 

This happy every day notion might not fly for some people. Everything in life is a choice, people choose to be happy or choose to be miserable. I am going to ride the wave of life for now and let Joy guide my path. Not sure what will become, don’t really care right now. Willing to surrender, trust and let go knowing that it is our right as humans to be happy and free.

Thanks to the MYF for a great month. I will leave here with a deepened understanding for my yoga practice and a gift that I am hopeful to share with others. Very grateful for the life lessons learned. So thankful for the amazing people that I was fortunate to meet during this extended stay.  

On a sappy personal note, I really miss my “tribe” back home of family and friends. This is the longest I have been apart from family. See y’all this summer!   

NOT YOUR TYPICAL MARKET REPORT 🙂

In Santiago, Guatemala earlier this week I had my first market experience. Finally, I have time to Start browsing for gifts for family and friends. Lovely indigenous culture selling handcrafted goods, many items rich In color and craftsmanship. Many locals set up shop along the narrow bricked streets, most displays look quite similar but each with its own unique essence. Seeing a traditional garb/shirt that interested me enough to stop and look for a moment. I was contented in browsing mode starting to think of possibly purchasing some goods. Little did I know that I had just elicited a frenzied apparently authorized attack from an elderly women with the bright Mayan colors of purple and violet. In a short moment the seemingly kind but ferocious lady had the shirt on me insisting that I pay 100 Q. The pressure of the moment was huge, I was completely unprepared for this showdown as I was happy with just “checking things out”. That however was not an option as I was clearly on another’s turf. The rules that defined my shopping experience to this point were irrelevant, I am afraid only intense training could have made one prepared. The resilient women pressed harder and even used some crafty trickery making me feel as though she had done me a great favor to to retrieve the shirt in question. There was no going back, an audience was on hand now and the fight or flight response wasn’t acted upon in proper time. In too deep, I blurted out 50Q with fearful pride as if I was at charity fundraiser in Chicago. I wasn’t going to be pushed around or defeated, I was invested in this exchange. Leaning on my years in the business world for strength, I stayed resolute as she defiantly tried to budge me off my 50Q offer. At this point I was aware of the levity of this moment. All it took was a step towards the exit and she shouted “okay, 50Q!”. I pulled out may wallet, payed the women and thanked her for the shirt. This exchange was no more than 60 seconds. Happening so fast I didn’t have time to process whether the shirt fit into my travelers backpack or whether it would even be worn. Be weary and ready at the market, don’t say you weren’t warned. 

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3 Months in Paradise

So I finally have my shit together, I think:)  The internal waters of my mind are more clear allowing words to come forth. Super excited to blog and share my travel journeys with my friends, family and anyone else who may be interested in reading. So grateful for this opportunity to live beyond the self imposed limitations that once created and handcuffed my reality. Currently, I am living in my dream of last year. Thankful that we live in an amazing time of abundance, where we can communicate with such freedom, efficiency and ease. Knowledge and life changing resources at the tips of all our fingers.  

Suspecting that something bigger, deeper lay beyond my fears I have retreated for the expansive nature and rich cultures of Central America. For the last 3 months I have been living in paradise in Costa Rica and Guatemala. Thankful for my intuition that has been guiding my every move. So Happy that my perspective has shifted away from insecurity and lack towards one of fulfillment, joy and self empowerment. Feeling like a 4 year old who gets a new beginning, a second chance at life this time knowing that imagination and dreaming are okay. While being just wise enough to unwaveringly face fear and follow faith. “Once a man and twice a child” – Bob Marley

Thus far, my travels have taught me and continue to teach me that I don’t know shit. Never more excited to redefine important notions like, love, truth, peace and community. Confident in my inner knowingness and ability to deduce from the years of struggle and internal strife. Extremely grateful for all the lessons of living as every bruise and bump has served as a teaching experience I can now draw upon moving forward. By living and loving experientially I am deepening my understanding of the human condition. So In time, I may better serve others in a richer capacity than that of my life to this point. 

Realizing about three weeks into my journey that we are hear on planet Earth to be happy. To Just be happy. Surely it  isn’t that easy or is it? I’ve been conforming this time to the rhythms of nature and ruled by my own thoughts born from peace of mind. Rebuilding from the ground up, thankful for this special time to shift into my truth. Everyday I wake with the intention to flow joy and have been quite successful thus far. Finding joy in the simple things in life. Continually, and consciously letting go of thoughts, beliefs, emotions, notions that no longer serve me and my new aspirations. Held closely by nature, falling deeply for the sense of calm that I didn’t know in city life. I can’t imagine ever living again being so disconnected with nature. Yes, at some point I may have to work again. For now however, I will enjoy these moments and humbly accept the healing and the evolving perception of my life’s purpose. 

On my adventure, I have encountered many brave travelers and it has become apparent to me that my story is not special or unique. Everyone has pain, everyone has a past a story, everyone carries emotions plaque. Perhaps, the lone difference is I have decided to make my healing journey public. We all desire the same things fundamentally needed for our existence, love and connection. I openly speak about the abuse in my past and the transformations in my life with the hopes that others may speak up and the negative stigma will lose it energetic hold, making room for others to heal.  The statistics regarding child abuse are staggering. Many millions of Americans unfortunately have had a similar experience I have had.  The stats of those suffering from PTSD are mind blowing. If I hadn’t started this process of mindfulness many years ago I would still be a dog chasing my tail, living another’s dream. Paralyzed in the fear of living in my truth and experiencing authentic joy. 

Albert Einstein, arguably the most brilliant mind in the 20th century challenges us all to overcome the illusion of separateness by widening our own respective circles of compassion. Now that I am living on the otherside of my fears I feel even more called to share. When the time presents itself I very much look forward to working with those suffering with Emotional Trauma and PTSD. Still don’t know what that looks like or at what capacity I will participate. For now, I plan to travel to some kick ass places and will be sharing my thoughts and the essence of my experiences. Destinations chosen will be ones that offer spiritual growth and complement my passions and path.   

These words are cathartic for me so thank you for reading and any encouragement you may have provided on my journey. I truly am grateful for crossing paths and learning from all those who have made an impression upon my heart. Wifi es no Bueno in Central America but I will try to write and post from time to time. Many thanks for reading. 

With love and gratitude,

Matt

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1/5/2016

Hello friends, family and strangers,

This is a rare post for me but I wanted to share some new developments in my life and update those of whom I have fallen out of touch. Last month I retired from corporate America in favor of world travels. I have a one-way ticket to Costa Rica and will be realizing a longtime dream of mine which is to travel freely and see all off what this amazing planet has to offer. It has been a tremendous run in Chicago as a working professional and business man for the last 13 years of my life. So grateful for the lessons learned and incredible people I have been fortunate to cross paths. In my time in Chicago I was blessed with wonderful friendships and a great network of caring people. The Windy City has been good to me and for that I will always hold Chicago and it’s peeps in my heart.
So what will I be doing on my travels? Hmmm… Healing, decompressing and finding out what the heck I am truly supposed to be doing here on planet Earth. 🙂

So in terms of healing I will surely be taking the time to honor my peace practices. Meditation, yoga, nature explorations, healthy eating, journaling, and observing an overall active lifestyle of moderation. Also taking time for reading books that complement my dreams and aspirations and of course adventures and celebrations as they arise. As for decompressing, I will be continually letting go of baggage/conditioning that I have been accumulating for the past 35 years. Challenging myself to become more real and true with mySelf and others. In terms of dharma or purpose I can’t be certain but I do know however that it will be centered around helping others work through similar challenges I have overcome and will be mindfulness based. I like to say that I am in a super duper slow search for my next vocation.

For the past 18 years I have been working full-time with my head down in a state of fear and constriction. Always, concerned that I may not have enough savings or that I wasn’t good enough. Pressure, pressure, pressure – more, more, more. Never questioning anything. While I did enjoy my work and the people I interacted with on a day to day basis I found that the my work was becoming more and more unfulfilling day by day. It was quite evident that my career chose me instead of the other way around. The question arose as whether I was living my dream or that of my upbringing and society? So now, I am Handing in my suit and tie for travel pack and a new world with no promises. This notion a couple years ago would have left me shaking in my boots. Now, strangely I find it is exhilarating and motivating. “The difference between fear and exhilaration is our breath” hmmmm, a lovely quote I heard a couple weeks ago in yoga class.
So I am often asked when did these changes begin? Well, just after my 30th BDay I made a commitment to my truth. Before said commitment I was losing a grip on my world, my health and relationships were troubled and fading fast. I was hiding behind heavy alcohol abuse, caught up in a game of egomania. Anything to numb the pain and to keep me from truly looking myself in the mirror. Rationalizations like, “I have this under control, this is how just how people live and I am not as bad as so and so, this is just what you do – what else?” would rule my left brain chatter. Worse yet, I was still very good at my job and would be classified in the “functioning” but troubled group. That group and lifestyle seems to be glorified and applauded so long as you show up and keep progressing in your career. Looking back it is evident that I had a broken heart. Fortunately for me, my personal relationships backed me in a corner where my only option was to seek out help in the form of a therapist. I was in dire need of blurting out a childhood secret that had been repressed heavily by fear and shame since my early years. After undergoing a couple years of therapy for some childhood trauma I gathered the courage to truly come to grips with my past. Say what needed to be said and put an end to the 20 plus years of silence. Having those difficult conversations so I could start putting the pieces back together in what had become a shattered life of lies and deception from myself and others. With the loving help of my family, friends and paid listeners the healing process truly began and I started moving towards a better way of life. A way of life filled with gratitude, forgiveness and truth. The heaviest realization however, was that it wasn’t the childhood abuse that was the problem but it was the negative thought patterns and unhealthy ways that I identified with them. Thought patterns that served a way of life centered around money and insecurity, absent of my truth and love. When I changed my way of thinking my life changed. Letting go of self judgements and judgements of others has opened me up to a new world of joy, freedom and endless possibilities.

Professional help was great but I only really started to find peace of mind with the introduction to meditation. Still sounds kind of silly but yes, sit still for 20 minutes or more a day with yourself and your life can transform? Something magical happens when you really commit to this practice. At first it was very uncomfortable having to sit without my phone, music, books, TV, friends, or any other ways I would identify outside of Self in this ever increasing Information Age. After a self imposed New Year’s resolution/challenge of no TV and daily meditation for 2 months I found dust on my Tv and an ever increasing smile on my face. I can honestly say that for the first time in my life, I feel so much love now in my life – I TRULY FEEL ALIVE. Surely the love was always there but the fearful anxious thoughts And the pain I held in my heart blocked the love I couldn’t feel. It has since occurred to me that everyone has “their shit” and that we are all doing the best to work through it. Meditation was that tool for me, it greatly helped me shift my consciousness and move beyond my fears and anxiety. I now find it much easier to be dialed into the present moment. Previously I would be stuck in worries of the past or anticipatory anxiety for a future event/scenario that didn’t exist but only in my mind. In a world that moves so quickly we don’t often take the time to slow down and listen to ourselves. DavidJI has free guided meditations on Soundcloud – those were especially helpful when I was starting this practice. One of my Favorite Einstein Quotes, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”

My friend Lola once said “our mess in our ministry” I took that as sometimes the biggest pain can really cause a call to action. In my case, I don’t know exactly how I can help and best serve the newly realized passions in my life but I do know that i wasn’t doing anything with a clipboard in my hands on the sidelines only dreaming of getting in the game. The change I want to see for the world will start with me. If this personal share inspires one person to challenge their own truth, find/follow their own dreams, or take time to prioritize healing in their lives it will have been worth the time and share.
On a lighter note and back to my travels. 🙂
What are my travel plans and intentions? To travel for the next year and a half. Starting out in Central/South America for the first 6 months. Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru are intended destinations as of now but there will be time for many more destinations. Home to Chicago/Milwaukee for summer birthdays and summer fun with family and friends. A three month Euro backpack trip next fall to visit brother Ben and friends and then the main course, The Far East late 2016/early 2017. Nepal, Thailand, India and are on my wish list. 🙂

Things I intend to accomplish during my travels:

Learn Spanish,

Complete my 200 hour yoga teacher training,

Set foot on every continent,

Work with people mired by PTSD,

Spread awareness for 1 in 6(http://1in6.org)

Complete 10 Toast Masters speeches in foreign countries,

Volunteer at an Eco-Farm,

Learn how to just BE,

Raise money for Rain Forest Preservation,

Learn how to surf,

Have a Kick-Ass time!
It is my hope to have a better understanding of the questions below after my travels conclude:
What is my true purpose?

How can I best serve?

How can increase my circle of compassion?

Why are people generally so apathetic?

This journey for me is about healing, restoring a sense of aw and wonder that was lost along the way. Reclaiming my life and truly committing to living it to the fullest on my terms, exercising the free will that is inside of me. I am more than grateful to have the financial resources that will allow me this special time to reposition to a place where I can best serve my brothers and sisters – I am fully aware that this is an incredible opportunity and hope to share my experiences and adventures at some capacity with all of you. Thank you, thank you and thank you to all my friends and family for the love over the years. This journey would have never been possible without those smiles, hugs and encouragement. If you jump the net will appear!

-With love and gratitude, Matt

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