Why should this year be any different?
How many times have you set goals for yourself and allowed them to wither away as opportunities, business… life gets in the way?
If you're anything like me I always find time to be the perfect excuse. “It just wasn’t right” “I just don’t have enough of it” or perhaps you've just given it the ole middle finger.
So, here we go again…another year upon us bringing with it new goals.
But this year is going to be different. This year — is always different.
And then a bit of time passes, days come and go in their normal form of 24 hours and we are left with excuses of why time didn't work out to accommodate those ambitious ideas, again.
Why should this year bring true change? Because we are going to find its source.
First lets ask ourselves, where does the intention come from? Do we believe in the cause and our ability to create the outcome? Decide what is the difference between a realistic goal and an idealistic desire. Second, does the outcome create positive change? Whether the goal is personal or public, does the result aid in an impactful alternative?
The holidays for me always bring a shift in perspective. This time of year always tempts my patience, and it causes evaluation of the true meaning of happiness. Not to mention it is a good time to let your inhibition go as we eat, drink, and indulge to be merry. And then we expect come January 1st to make monumental changes, seemingly forgetting how hard it is to commit to unattainable goals set in moments of glory.
I have a solution for this year: Forget everything we thought we knew.
Forget the timeline. Forget the silly reasons. Forget the guilt. I propose a fresh start. We can begin by making a conscious decision that the goals we wish to achieve are realistic, attainable, pure hearted, and uniquely, you. Instead of finding what we want to do or what we hope to become lets design our goals to answer who we want to be and what we want to define us. And then the trick is to keep after it.
We have to ween ourselves off of our addictions- Karin armstrong
Breaking habits are hard. The reason so many of our big ideas of change falter is because altering our habits is not easy to do.
Heres an icebreaker on how to start: Get in front of a mirror and strip down. I mean get naked. Like totally, bare-ass naked. Stand and be naked. Be free. Be divinely you. And then sit with yourself. Look at yourself, not just at your body, but use your eyes to dive into your soul. Demand your full attention and peer into your eyes like you are searching for lost treasure. Because that is exactly what we’re doing. We are searching to find the diamond inside each of us. Keep looking. Keep questioning. Keep believing. It's there.
You’ll feel it when it happens, when you’ve reached the moment of openness. At this moment ask yourself what you want. Ask what it is you are striving for in this next measurement of time. Create dreams from what is there, what you feel and what you know. Be raw, pure and passionate and realities of this sort will follow.
I did this a few days ago and heres what I came up with: I want snake scales over my hands and adrenaline through my heart. I want to feel snowflakes on my eyelashes. I want deep belly laughs with uncontrollable force and unknown reasons. I want raindrops over the surface of my skin and sun in my veins. I want bear hugs from friends and passion behind kisses. I want desire. I want curiosity to open my eyes and confidence to close them. I want to run with the wind and then stand against it. I want the warmth of a fire and the dancing glares of flames upon pondering faces. I want the colors of infinite beauty to travel through my eyes and peace to fill my heart. I want thrill; crashing waves, big mountains, dangerously intriguing animals. I want comfort; steaming tea, knitted garments, fresh smells, and shared love. I want challenge; unsure moments of what’s next, big decisions on difficult subjects, frustration of fighting back when you know what’s right. I want reciprocated passion fueled back through deep contentment. I want truth. I want twisting tongues from strange lands and faraway places feeling like home. I want to burry my head in dogs, blankets, and the chest of a good man. I want excitement that seeps out of pores and smiles that break barriers. I want soft skin and rough hands. I want stars illuminated above open grounds. I want big moons reflected in dark eyes. I want joy--unfiltered, raw, pure joy. I want my cells to dance to music of all tunes. And I want my tastebuds to celebrate with diversity and culture. I want to ask why. And of course I want progress. I want to have an impact; a sustainable and positive impact on peoples lives. I want to touch hearts and heal wounds. I want to be defined by the feelings I ignite within others and I want to be a woman of spirit.
I dream of big changes for 2016; I’d like to see the world a better place, humanity continue to utilize sustainable alternatives, I’d like to challenge my physical ability, and pursue my mental clarity. I’d like to feel the growth of a conscious collective. But none of this will happen unless we choose to break habits, unless we step away from comfort and allow growth to form from decomposed priorities.
We need to focus on goals that are realistic, goals we can control. We also need to be humble; is it really more money, vacations, objects that we want? Or is it moments, laughter, and relationships? Maybe its to be in better shape, perhaps its to read more. Maybe its taking time to enjoy the small things, or giving your time and love to a good cause. Either way, any new goal should have at its root happiness. This year let’s choose happiness.
Find who you want to be rather than what you want to do. Become divinely you. At the end of this life the things we own won’t be the things that defined us, it will be the moments, ideas, and feelings that we have given to others.
Practice setting goals when a deep understanding of personal happiness can accompany it. Objectives for our future should be made in mindfulness and with good intention and support. We cannot become our full selves, or an ideal world, without knowing what we are starting with. For a goal to be sustainable- long term- the shift needs to be a lifestyle change. Get down to our most pure form and start there.
Here’s to a year of big moments defined by many small changes, within ourselves, towards the world, and between each other. Here is to a new year of opportunity granted through happiness.
A few memories to conclude the year...
"We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains"
Why we must continue to believe in what we’re doing.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
With so much going on in the world politically and socially occasionally the gravity of these situations can bring our hope down with it. With constant news of massacres, unjust rulings, and developing tension it can begin to feel like the impact of an individual won’t make a difference.
At times, I know I have felt this way. I also don't expect it to be the last time I’ve had to push these thoughts out of my head. Especially as the future of our nations are clouded in uncertainty, ruled with violence, and powered by industry we’re up against a lot to try to make the world a better place.
The day I heard about what happened in Paris I was sifting through leaf litter separating each piece into piles to measure the carbon production of the forest. I was totally emerged into this micro-world, enough so that I began to contemplate life's most revered questions. How did it all begin? And where are we headed? I held a universe in my hands. Microscopic plants were growing from even smaller roots attached to what would take a person a half second to destroy.
This was creation and destruction so intertwined that I couldn't differentiate between what was decaying and what was becoming. I couldn't help but compare our world to this microcosm. What if someone held our world in their hands and looked into deeply? Or what if someone already was? Would they be able to tell where life began? Where it ends? The actions we are forcing on each other fueled from hatred have blurred the lines of why we are here. These events between countries and within cultures are equally hard to comprehend if life is being salvaged or destroyed. The sad reality is that events like what happened in Paris occur daily in other countries, and they have happened to every country at some point throughout history. War and love, union and defense, these are creation and destruction at their core and we define our world by them. It seems in our quest to develop we have forgotten about the third piece of life; maintenance.
These thoughts rushed through my head and left me with the immense feeling of wondering if what I am doing is really making a difference. Surely in comparison to whats happening in the world this project of amphibian conservation and community sustainability can’t be having that large of an impact. …But just as quickly as these thoughts entered, my soul pushed them out and with it reveled the small plant within that is budding from the decaying world around. Only the individual can choose whether or not to find the sun, seek the light, and grow. The individual may start out small, but there is potential to stand high among the rest. Our roots grow stronger as we begin to trust the land we are in. I realized from this tiny world I had chosen to see hope. Instead of seeing a pile of decomposing biomass, my perspective had changed it into potential. The world hadn’t changed (at least not yet), but the way I saw it had. And this is where true change starts.
There are going to be many events in our future that will make us feel hopeless. The struggle to influence the world to be a better place may only become more challenging. This cannot be an excuse to stop believing in what we are doing. All good things, all big movements, all serious change, began with individuals and they are now maintained through the individual. Never doubt your own power to make a difference. Never stop believing in what you’re doing. Chances are if you don't feel good about what you’re doing, the world doesn't either. Choose to be the seed that grows higher than all the rest and find the light.
May we realize that our actions do indeed influence every little world within our larger one. Despite if we remain violent towards each other all of those tiny universes, just like the one I had in my hands, will persist. Biology will drive adaptation and evolution. Perhaps with our actions we too are just fueling adaptation. I can only hope that it creates life rather than ends it.
Even if creation and destruction blur into the same thing we still must believe in the maintenance of our worlds. We still have to believe that the individual can and will make a difference. We still have to believe we are enough. Because just like this microscopic plant, we can grow, build, and become from what once was. And at the very least, we persist. Aum.
A tour of my home while at the farm
The adventures of frogging and everything in between...
It is hard not to define our lives by expectations. Our societies have created ideals which cause us to measure our happiness based on the judged success upon their completion. We are all guilty of believing that money and things will help to fill the void we feel. Our lives are built upon big events with big expectations, but then after the prized moments come and go we are left with the realization that we have not really changed who we are.
We like to put a value on everything. Money is inevitable in modern society and it is indeed an idea that most everyone has come to believe. Living in Ecuador and interacting with some of the local tribes in the Amazon it is refreshing, yet mind-blowing, to witness how they regard our paper. To them, it has no value, no real value that is. You cannot eat it, wear it, or use the material. It is just a piece of paper that will only ever be an illusion of riches to them. Yet we in the modern world define our lives by it. Some of us even believe it is the key to our happiness. This isn't totally false. Money can get you to experiences that make you happy, but it should not be confused with happiness. It is not a means to an end but simply an opportunity for enjoyment, and like all opportunities intended for enjoyment we must be careful with what we choose. Rather than using money to indulge without meaning we can choose to use money to invest in ourselves. Experiences create a lifetime of rich memories. Plenty of people are happy without money and plenty of people are unhappy with money. So if it isn’t a lack of money to blame for our unhappiness then what is it?
I find that most disappointment comes when we attach ourselves to a result. As I have come to learn, especially while living in Ecuador, things don't always happen how we envisioned they would. When we become so attached to the outcome we become disappointed when reality doesn't live up to our assumptions. I do not refute that it is good to hold ourselves and our peers to a standard. We cannot become complacent and believe that things will be done for us (I promise you they will not). There is a difference between attaching yourself to a result and holding yourself to an outcome. Where do you start if you don’t have anything to go off of? How do we define success if we don’t predict the result?
We learn to take each experience for what it is. We learn to live in the present. We learn to appreciate what is in front of us and what we are given in this moment. We learn to trust the journey.
This is a nervous concept for most people, essentially trusting in something they cannot control. My personal experience has found that when I enjoy the present I give less thought to what I hope the result to be. Instead of living for the somedays we need to fully indulge ourselves in today. This frees your mind because there is only ever one today, while there is a potential endless of somedays. From a personal standpoint I feel that when we give ourselves specific outcomes we limit ourselves on the possible solutions when things change. And things always change. I have found that it is better to give yourself multiple options for one path and therefore if one doesn't work out, it simply means another will. Instead of planning your life with options A, B, and C just give yourself options. When you let go of the ranking or expectations you allow yourself to be content with the organic nature of life’s events. I never judge my life on ranked experiences, each outcome is simply an alternative, bringing as much happiness as the other.
I don’t want to confuse this with determination and preservation of the future. I will come back to this point but for now I am happy with this. Until next time, keep enjoying the now :)
**Slow internet means more pictures to come...
It has been a whirlwind of feelings as I realize this is what I’ve been waiting for. I’ve always lived my life working towards the “whats next” so it is a beautiful lesson to realize for now, this is the moment I’ve been building up to. Things are working out as I have planned and worked for and whats left is to fill in the details… what’s next is the stuff inside the planning, this is the stuff of life. It is an exciting and comforting time for self discovery and future endeavors.
“We have to acknowledge sometimes that this moment is enough. This place is enough. I am enough.” -Sue Monk Kidd
I have been taking lots of time to just sit and be, assess my body and realign my mind. One morning as I sat by the river contemplating contentment I realized the sounds of rushing water infiltrated my meditation and thought... and that was exactly the point.
A river does not stop for the big questions of life or reason with the stones it goes over. It simply keeps on going, finding new ways of least resistance to get to its final destination. And while I relish the fact we humans can contemplate our paths and stand for the things we believe in it got me thinking that allowing yourself to slowdown and not over complicate your life is a crucial step in enjoying were we are at.
We are all here to figure out what we want from life and where we can make our mark. We each indulge in different habits and believe in a variety of ideals, but at the basis of this I think we are all looking to feel connected. Love could be described as the ultimate connection, to not only enjoy the experience or person but also to keep that feeling with you through time. The ancient greeks described 6 different types of love, or rather emotional attachment; eros (sexual passion), philia (friendship), ludus (playful), agape (selfless love, a love for all people), pragma (mature love, “standing” in love), and philautia (love of self). (Source: Roman Krznaric “How should we Live”)
It’s a beautiful thing to come to terms with the varying levels of love we can have in our lives. I believe disappointment comes from the attachment to the expectation that all love should fulfill the same niche, but this is so not the case. We must learn to feel and filter our emotions to best fit our daily lives. For the moment, I am most immersed in the pursuit of philautia, the love we have for ones self. I believe that the relationship you have with yourself should be the strongest in your life. Take all the time you need to sort your thoughts and connect with your emotions because at the end of each night and beginning of each day you and you alone wake up with your happiness (regardless of what or whom may fill the space next to you). Find what it is which gives you true happiness and seek it until it no longer brings you contentment. If it always continues to, look no further, slow down, and enjoy. You are enough. I am enough.
There is much to come and exciting progress daily with On Both Sides of Life. While in the field I am enjoying a much simpler form of living than I have been used to. My days are filled with yoga, reflection, cultivating the land, ukulele, good company, fresh produce, and of course frogging :) Stay tuned for more and please get in touch if you're interested to join the movement.
After two seasons in wonderful Colorado spent delving in the beauty of big mountains, cold rivers, and good hearted people I've emerged with good news. I am officially a Fulbright Scholar and Grant Recipient. This means the universe has decided that my determination will be rewarded with the opportunity to return back to Ecuador for another 10 months to study amphibians. The Mashpi Amphibian Conservation project will begin in just a days time and I couldn't feel more charged.
There are a multitude of ideas I am excited to announce in collaboration with the amphibian conservation project. The two largest are yoga and wilderness medicine to promote community sustainability. Both are two subjects I believe aide in the success of any biological exploration. Keep in tune to see how they both develop into their own throughout my time here.
I've been thinking a lot about the difference between want and need lately, trying to understand what separates the two in our heads, in our guts, and in our hearts. When it comes to material objects there is very little we actually need but a whole lot we want. I wondered if this is the same for spirituality. Do people want spirituality because they believe it will bring them happiness or is it a need to become your true self? And perhaps as I leave the United States once again in search of exploration, what is it this time that feels more of a needing to go as opposed to just wanting to? I cannot quite describe how I am so sure of why I need to complete this journey but it is the sort of thing you let your intuition guide...
So here we go again. Not just on another journey, because the whole past year has been filled of those, but almost déjà vu of a scenario I was faced with before. The difference this time is I'm not going to search, I'm going to find. I want to leave this experience with a lifestyle, not just habits. I could feel myself growing with this need with how I began to distance from society. I notice the number of napkins the restaurant gives to every customer, I notice every item made from plastic, I cringe at the sound of toilets flushing unnecessarily, I bite my tongue walking around stores carrying goods no one actually needs, my stomach drops looking into the horizon and seeing car lights taking over the skies- leaving stars to the imagination. I can't help but become frustrated with the view that life must be surrounded by objects and ideals money has created. Simply put; I began to loose touch. Not with myself, but with society, and the hardest part was the realization of how involved I was with fueling this lifestyle. I felt I couldn't express the ultimate way I wanted to live being so distracted by the convenience of modern tendencies. So I'm more ready than ever to challenge myself to a sustainable existence. I've practiced for this, I've done my warmup, I'm ready for the race. And I don't know what it means yet but the biggest nerves I have is to come back. Although that will be the biggest journey of all and I am excited to return understanding how to live on both sides of life and find the balance between living in nature and with society.
I am not quite sure how people come to finding themselves, or even if most people would say they ever do. I do know, for me, it will be a case of secondary succession. I've learned I fall into distractions easily and to truly detach from these I need to eliminate as many of them as I can to discover who I actually want to be. Maybe that is the key, in order to get to choose what you want in life you have to first figure out what you need. So I've packed my bags and said my goodbyes for what now feels like the hundredth time. I do believe moving is becoming the most consistent thing in my life.
"So, when you run make sure you run
To something and not away from "
Cheers to the beginning,
Below are a few pictures that wrap up the 11 months in the US.