Ice Hobbits

This past weekend was one of the highlights of my life.  Since the beginning of January, I’ve been doing some pretty intense and deep work within my soul and self.  I’m removing barriers that are blocking me from shining the brightest that I can and living the life that I want to live.  Most of this work involves stepping outside of my comfort zone, doing things that scare me and facing my fears.

Last year I took an Outdoor “Survival School” course that lasted one full year.  It was an amazing gift.  Not only had I learned essential survival skills in nature, I tested my own limitations as far as being outdoors in all-weather and began to learn about the raw power of nature.  I made new friends whom I am connected to on a deep level and have shared mind-blowing experiences with.  I also witnessed how healing nature is and how much we have to learn from her.

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Since I had such an incredible experience last year, I signed up for a second year.  This year takes us even deeper into survival skills and  our selves and pushes our comfort zones more than the previous year.  We are learning about the connection between native tribes around the globe and nature, how to listen to ourselves and our instincts and to follow them.

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This past weekend our class was about Winter and Dreams.  Our project was to build an igloo/snow cave and sleep in it as well as being  conscious of our dreams while in the cave.  Growing up in Texas, I had little experience with snow.  Having lived in Germany for the past six years, I have much more, but I have not camped in the winter as had most people in the group.  So this was far beyond my comfort zone.  I like the sunshine and being barefoot.  However, I made friends with winter for the first time last year.  Once I surrendered and accepted that winter was long and cold, I was able to see the beauty in it, especially in the mountains with a lot of snow.

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We were to partner up and build the cave together, a process which took one full afternoon and morning.  My partner was a super sweet and fun German boy called Martin.  Martin has a way about him in nature that I really admire; he is aware, skillful, cautious and thoughtful.  He’s quiet and soft yet we play and giggle like children when we are together.  I was so thankful to be with him because even after the theory part of class, I still has no idea what we were doing.

We dug a grave around a measured area and began to shovel snow up to the area, forming a bee-hive like shape.  The snow was icy and hard and required a lot of strength to dig in.  We shoveled for several hours until we had a pile of snow that was over two meters high.  Several times throughout the digging, I had to jump up and step on the pile so it would be more of a hive shape than a pyramid.  Once we had a good form and enough snow, we had to allow the snow to settle overnight before we were to dig into the hive the following morning.

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I went to bed exhausted, having not worked like this in over 3 months.  The next morning we woke up early and started the process of making our cave.  We measured a doorway of 60 cm and began to dig the snow out.  I let Martin start while I decorated the hut with hearts all round…our house of love!  I had already invited the others in the group over for tea and cake when we finished.

Martin and I took turns digging the snow out of the cave.  A process that was long and strenuous.  We had to dig up into the snow, against the walls of the hut, to keep the shape and make sure that it did not collapse.  I was on my back, digging the snow out, having snow fall all over me and getting wet with every shovel full.  But we succeeded.  The hive soon began to take the form of a cave.  We stuck a stick into the walls outside and on top of the hive, 40 cm deep, to know when to stop digging so that we did not break through the walls.

We carved a tunnel from the entrance about half a body width long, which went up to a platform that we dug out.  We would then sleep on the platform during the night.  I was amazed at how much room there was in the cave when we finished carving and digging.  We could sit up and had enough room f0r our sleeping bags and to turn over during the night.  We made a small hole in the roof of the cave for better circulation.

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Later that afternoon, we moved in.  We brought our isomats, sleeping bags, tea canisters and warm clothes.  We didn’t roll out our sleeping bags until just before we were ready to go to bed.  The temperature began to drop as the moon began to rise.  It was a spectacular sight.  The group leaders, Matthias and Paul, had built what I dubbed “The Snow Bar” not too far from our cave.  We made a fire (without matches or a lighter), melted snow and cooked soup.  It was about -10 degrees Celsius outside, but the fire kept us warm.  We drank tea, ate our soup, laughed and talked about what to expect during the night.  Our group consisted of 27 people.

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At one point or another, we all slowly decided to go to bed.  It was probably around 10 pm, quite early, but after eating, drinking and anticipating what was to come, it was time to go.  Martin and I slid down the hill towards our snow cave, the full moon guiding us, with snow sparkling and glittering in all directions.

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As we climbed into the cave, we were quite warm from the fire and our movement.  We snuggled up in our sleeping bags and chatted and laughed for a bit before trying to sleep.  I was quite warm considering I was sleeping in a snow cave.  I didn’t have any claustrophobia anxiety but I was a bit concerned about not having enough oxygen.  I slowed my breath down and began deep breathing pranayama and soon fell asleep.

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I had a very strange and fun dream:

Martin and I were sleeping soundly and suddenly I heard voices from the outside.  We woke up to a red light flashing from the entrance of the cave, I heard Anja say, “Smile”, and realized it was the red-eye flash from her camera.  Martin and I got out of our sleeping bags and slid down the tunnel to outside.

We slid into a Mexican rodeo, on the Texas/Mexico border, outside at the bar.  There were lots of children and families around, everyone eating tacos, the children playing and Led Zepplin blaring from the speakers.  Our snow hut had become a plastic tent with see through windows next to the bar.  I checked out the situation, everything was feeling good and I went to get my wallet to buy a beer.  I opened my wallet and it was full of cash!! I was super happy and gave Martin money to buy us beer. He took it and stayed by the bar chatting with some new friends.

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In the meantime, I saw about 5 cats who were really midget-cat-people that could walk on 2 legs.  They were so small that they could go under the tables without being seen.  They were stealing money from people’s purses.  I started to warn people about the midget-cat-people, telling them to watch their bags.

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The midget-cat-people became angry with me for blowing their cover and surrounded me, ready to attack me.  I was very scared and nervous and ran away.  I got away easily, went through a door and was in New Mexico with Martin and our friends Katja and Robert.

Robert and Martin were whittling sticks, making tools for fire starting and Katja and I were flying kites.  Pink Floyd was blasting from the speakers and we were totally chilled out and happy.

I woke up laughing and had to go to the bathroom, which was a feat all in its own in the snow cave.  I got dressed and slid down the tunnel to a completely different world.  I felt that I had been re-born.  From sleeping in the comfort of our cave, the womb, and then suddenly to this big, bright world outside…life.  The moon was full and the trees sillouhted against the sky, the snow was sparkling and it was absolutely breathtaking.

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Martin joined me and we stood in awe of the beauty, of our lives, of our hearts and our decisions in life.  It was truly a “YES” moment for me.  This is the way, this is my way.  This is magical, beautiful, amazing and possible.  We smiled at each other, went to our respective trees and then returned to the snow cave.  I slept like a baby for the rest of the night, completely warm, comfortable and happy.

Matthias woke us up with a Tibetan gong at 8am.  I couldn’t believe we had slept so long.  Again, we got dressed and slid from our warm cave into the world.  The sun was just rising over the mountains, the sky was orange and pink and the snow glittered in the sunshine.  I smiled inside and outside and realized that if I could spend a night in a snow cave and enjoy it, I can do anything.

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Later, in our theory part of class inside, I told everyone my dream.  One of our teachers was a dream interpreter and asked me many questions about how I felt in each part of the dream.  It was really interesting to get an outside perspective, and she kept asking about the fear I felt with the cats.  Her interpretation was that it was something connected to Texas but I had worked it out and made it safely to where I needed and wanted to be.  She urged me to work it out in real life, and told me to trust my intuition because it is strong and will lead me in the right direction.

Before returning home, I went out to take one last look at the landscape and to say goodbye and thank you.  I saw all of these little snow caves sprinkled throughout the snow, and I had the image of us being ice hobbits living in our little ice huts and going about our business of life.  I left with a full heart, tears in my eyes, a huge smile on my face and a mind full of endless possibilities.

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I Am Willing to See Love.

My summer song of 2012 was Love Melts Fear by the Kahn Brothers.  Selina and I cruised through the French countryside on our “Spread the Love Tour” listening to it hundreds of times and really loud.  It’s a gorgeous song and the title says it all.

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When I returned to Munich in August, I reconnected with my ex-boyfriend and we re-fell in love.  A dangerous thing to do.  In that moment, I was certain that I knew what it meant for love to melt fear.  Here, after all the heartbreak, struggle and pain that I went through with him, we were back together.  More in love than ever before and my fear had just melted away.

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Total bullshit.

All of the fear and pain that was tucked far back in my closet of memories, stashed high on shelves, came tumbling down. Being with him brought it all up again; the breakup, the heartache, the longing.  Things were going well between us, but within me there was a storm brewing. It was like a monster roaring its ugly head, screaming for me to look at it and face it.

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My body reacted to all these negative emotions as well and during this time, I was in physical therapy dealing with an IT band injury.  My body had held on to all of the suffering from our past.  Even though I was sure I was over it, once he stepped back into my life, my body reacted before my heart, mind or soul could.

I have always thought of love mostly in a romantic context.  Something that is outside of my own being, placing love on the object of my  affection. Feeling that if I find love with a man, I will be whole.  To me, love was gazing into each others eyes, feeling butterflies in my stomach, watching the fireworks explode as we come together.

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This is a part of love, for sure, but real love is something much deeper.  Its what you have after the butterflies have flown away and the ashes of the fireworks settle.

Love comes first from within and then it can be shared, spread and received.

My miracle work for the day was to be willing to see love instead of fear.  This struck a chord with me.  Love, which isn’t romantic, is what surrounds us; it creates our friendships, makes our hearts beat every day, bonds us to our families of origin and choice and to our animals.  It’s pretty much the basis of life.

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By surrendering and giving ourselves over to love, in its purity, we can truly melt fear.  I’m beginning to understand.

If every fear we have was approached from the eyes of love, understanding, compassion and tenderness, we wouldn’t need to be afraid.  Things would look and feel different.  We’d be softer, gentler, more accepting of whatever “flaw” is within us.

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I tried these “Love Glasses” on today, just to see.  They’ll take some getting used to because change doesn’t happen overnight.  But honestly, my heart opened a tiny bit more when I started to see myself in a perspective of love and kindness rather than what I don’t have or what I am not.  I repeated the mantra, ” I choose to see love instead of this…” each time my fear creeped in.  And something very subtly shifted.

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I’ve decided to keep the glasses (they’re super cute) and  begin the process of letting love melt my fear.  And then will I truly understand what the Kahn boys mean.

Check out their song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFTIirZLRng 

I am Willing to Witness My Fear

The first day of Miracles.  All about fear.  I always thought that I had no fears.  I have traveled the world alone, I meet people easily, I will talk to anyone, I’m outspoken at times, I teach yoga to a room full of people and speak in public… I’m used to being out there, in front of people, I’m not afraid of the world and I have no fears!

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Oh how wrong I was.  Once I started to re-evaluate my life and where I am at…which I’m doing because I’m ready to grow, learn more and change things (once more)…I saw lots of mean and ugly things come to the surface.

Shit.

Now I’m dealing with them.  Feeling these insecure, vulnerable, unworthy feelings come up.  It’s fear.  The little voice in my head that screams out, “You can’t because…., you’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, pretty enough, tough enough, trained enough, etc.”. Fear.

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I now realize how I’ve been shooting myself down for many years because I don’t believe that I deserve things.  Thinking there is always someone better, prettier, smarter, sassier and more together than me.  And there is. For sure, there always is.  But its allowing these doubts to take hold of me and for me to believe them, that has been holding me back from being who I am and for shining the brightest that I can.

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So today I witnessed my fears and just observed as those voices crept up in situations. I listened and felt the fear and watched how I reacted to it, physically and mentally.

I had an interview today over the phone for a job I really want….taking people on outdoor adventure trips around the world.  It’s a start for me to get out in the world again and do what I love.  I was nervous as hell and had a moment of silence and calm before the interview.  I watched as my mind tried to sabotage my spirit with fear.  I told myself to breathe and believe that they want me because of who I am, my experience and my personality. Confidence. Clarity.  As soon as the interview was over, I heard the “fear voices” again…”I should’ve said this or that, I wasn’t clear enough,” etc…I began to recognize my patterning.

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Perfect day to be a witness to my fears.  Challenged to the highest degree.   I believe once we realize what our fears are and see how they affect our thought patterns, which, in turn, affects the way we live our lives, we have the ability to free ourselves from them.  It’s not easy to do this, but its possible.

We can choose love over fear. We can choose to believe the story in our minds and then we can gently push (or fiercely shove) it aside and choose loving, powerful thoughts that will change the way we think, believe and behave.

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So instead of “I’m not (this/that/the other) enough”, its “I am enough.  I am beautiful, smart, talented, worthy, loveable, etc.”.

Aren’t we all?  And shouldn’t we all believe this?

May Cause Miracles: My Own 40 Day Challenge

As I settle into this new year and return from my heart home of Austin to my physical home of Munich, I am restless once again.  Normally when this feeling comes over me, I begin to envision a new life for myself (which I’m doing now), do my research (in the process), sell my shit and go travel the world.

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However, as I’ve gotten older, the horizon has shrunk a bit as well as my “Fuck it, lets see” attitude.  Either real life has set in or I’m becoming an adult…or possibly both.  I am now strategically calculating how to make this next jump in life.  What I’ve come to see is that I won’t find what I’m looking for in another country, a new lover, an empty bottle of wine, a kick ass beach and/or dance party or a new job (although they do add to the fun and adventure of life).  No, what I’m seeking is actually the ability to feel calm, peaceful, happy and satisfied in each and every moment of my life, no matter where I am.

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Now this being said, I did realize that there is a very special beauty and feeling that comes with being home, being surrounded by people who know me and love me, and whom I know and love deeply.  Creating a life for myself in countless other countries has been fun, but also lonely and challenging.  It’s made me grow, has opened my eyes to the world and I’ve met people I would never have met had I stayed in the nest.  Yet, now its time to see what really matters to me….is it Austin I want or peace in my heart?

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I came across a book called May Cause Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein.  I think its pretty miraculous that it came to me when it did. I would actually call it magical (as I call many things in my life).  So the book is about, well…letting miracles happen in your life, and you do daily exercises for 40 days in order to experience this shift.

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I love it.  So I decided that I would share my experiences with the community.  I’m searching, as most of us are.  I’m searching for a lot of things: love, peace in my heart, lots of money, stability, adventure, freedom, family, friendship, the ability to do what I love every single day of my life, and really…happiness.  I’ve had all of these at one point or another in my life, most I still have, but there is something missing, something that keeps me restless and yearning.  So I’m doing the work of going within to figure that out.

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I’d like to invite you on my journey.  I’ll share my revelations, doubts, hardships, breakthroughs and insights.  Could be boring, could be worth it.  What I’d like to accomplish is two things; 1) Finally using my voice in public, something which has scared me forever (believe it or not), and 2) The ability to inspire other people who struggle with similar issues to find their way within and to a greater sense of self and truth.

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I have no idea what is to come of this, but I’m willing to give it a try.  I’m hoping for clarity and am allowing for the possibility (Thank you Talitha!).

“Every journey begins with the first step.”- No idea because it’s credited to many, but perfect!

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Japanese Panty Thief

The year is 2005.  There is no Facebook in my friend circle, just e-mail and perhaps MySpace.

My girl Lucy and I decided to have a “Panty Exchange”, which is a chain letter where you receive panties in the mail.  I thought it was a brilliant idea and hand wrote a letter explaining the idea to about 40 of my girlfriends throughout the world.  I put my name on as first in line, my panty size and my address, Lucy’s name and info. was under mine.  The girl who received the letter was to send me a pair of panties, cut my name off of the list, put Lucy’s name at the top and her own name and info. below Lucy’s, copy the letter and send it  to her girls.

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I waited.  And waited.  And then I moved to Japan.  About a month later, Talitha had sent me a pair of panties, some photos and a lovely letter.  Go girl, just what I was talking about!  That’s all that came.

During my stay in Japan, I met an Israeli girl, Riki, unhappily selling jewelry on the streets of Morioka, where I lived.  I invited her to live with me in my apartment and got her a job at a hostess bar. However, when Riki did the laundry, she hung our panties outside on the line to dry.  A big “no-no” in Japanese culture, but I didn’t want to be that white girl that told another one what to do in a different culture.  Plus, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.

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It was finally time for Riki to go home, and she left during the day while I was at work.  I never bothered giving her a spare key because I figured we lived in Japan and Japanese don’t steal.

I returned home that evening to my back sliding glass door halfway open and a pile of clothes beneath my dresser.  It seemed strange but I figured Riki had perhaps left the door open and forgot to put some of my clothes away.  As I began to put my clothes back, I realized that most of my panties were gone.  The cotton ones were left, but the lacy, sexy ones were gone.

Confused, I called my friend Lowell and explained what had happened. He laughed at me so hard and asked if I had not heard about  the Japanese panty thieves.  Indeed I had not.  He continued to explain that women’s panties are hot commodities which are sold in vending machines in Tokyo.  Great. So some weird dude had broken into my house and stolen my panties.

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I went to work the next day and Lowell immediately starting singing, “Private Eyes, a watching you….”, and laughing.  Fuck you, Lowell.

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The Japanese girls at work continuously  bowed to me and said how sorry they were and that I should call the police.  I was not going to call the police as I felt it was pointless (all the while I have Lowell in the background now singing, “Every Breath You Take..”).  They were so persistent that I decided to just do it, more in the name of curiosity than anything else, and to get away from Lowell.

So I took a 50 year old woman to my house as a translator and we waited for the police.  They showed up within minutes in a non discreet car.  Four men walk out, one in a full suit, one in a leisure outfit (Tommy Bahama type shirt and khaki’s), one in a blue head to toe onesie ninja suit (the feet had one big toe and a space for all the rest of them), and one guy in a black onesie ninja suit with a camera. What was going on here?!

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The blue ninja starts by having us all stay outside my front door, turns off my lights and proceeds to sprinkle dust on the kitchen floor and then plugs a black light into the wall.  The black light shows footprints on the floor.  I immediately stop him and tell him that I am sorry, but I am gaijin (foreigner) and I wear my shoes inside the house.  I was met with lots of  “ahh..” and high-pitched “ohhh..s”.  Foiled before it began.

The whole crew enters my apartment and the black ninja begins to photograph my entire apartment (including the bathroom).  After he finishes, he starts dusting the sliding back door with more fingerprint dust, then applies tape,  pulls it off and puts it in some special file.  He does this to my chest of drawers as well and then fingerprints me.

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All the while, I am explaining to the man in the suit what had happened.  At the same time, the guy in the Tommy Bahama is making an accurate diagram of my bedroom, measuring everything precisely…including the distance between the bed and the wall and the floor and the bed.

I am then asked to take a photograph with one finger pointing to the chest of drawers where the panties were stolen.  I explained that they were taken from two drawers, so I had to pull the other drawer out a bit further than the first drawer and point to it with my other finger.  I threw my head back and put on my best smile. I asked if I could get the photos but was told they were police evidence.

After the finger printing, the photographing, and the measuring finished, I had to describe each pair of panties in detail.  I just happened to know all of my panties because I had been through them a few months earlier hoping to get rid of them when new panties came in…which they hadn’t.  So I went for it and described the panties using hand gestures to demonstrate the thongs, etc.  I had a good laugh as the man in the suit blushed but remained stoic through it all.

About one hour later we finished and they went to check out the outside of the house.  They asked me if there was any other way he could’ve gotten in (even though it was clear he came through the back door, left his shoes outside like a good Japanese man, and in all his excitement, forgot to close the door on the way out).  I said, “Yes, perhaps he came in through the bathroom window.”  That confused the hell out of them as there was no bathroom window, so I dropped it.  No Beatles fans here.

The entire neighborhood was outside. Big drama in small town Japan.  The elder people came up to me with apologies about how they didn’t take good enough care of me and that they will watch out better.  Extremely kind.  I told them I was very scared but would live through it, and thanked them (then entire time I’m laughing so hard within).

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I thanked the policemen and told them to do their best to find this thief and put him away for a long time.  The agreed to do so.

About two weeks later, I came across an article in the paper in which a panty thief was caught in Morioka with 50,000 pairs of panties.  Morioka being a small town, I called my girl Ryoko, who was a cop, and asked her if she could find out if this was my thief. She called back the next day with apologizes saying that they had checked out the panties with my description and not one of them was mine!  More than one panty thief at large in Morioka!

So…I sent out an email to my girls entitled, “Panty Emergency” and told my story.  I also made it real clear that Talitha was the only one who had sent me panties.

Within two weeks, I had about 20 new pairs of panties from my girls. They’ll show up in an emergency.  Thanks God.

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My personal panty thief was never caught.  Lowell still rides me for it and I every time I hear Hall and Oates or the Police, I have to laugh.

A few years later I got an email from my friend Andrew in Tokyo saying that he believes he had just gotten my panties in a vending machine.