So What Did You Learn?
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(I made a little 15 min. trip video for our families. If you're so inclined, please enjoy.)
So what did you learn? they ask. And I reply:
• Always, always be kind. To yourself, just as much as any others. Being a human is magical, but it comes with a lot to unpack and sort through. Be gentle with yourself as you experience life. And be really kind to others. Everyone you know has a story. After listening to all kinds of stories in tiny village huts, in the fields of hard labour work, in art markets, in the backs of tuk tuks, and in city hotels, I’ll tell you what I know for sure - everyone has a story that could crank your heart. Be so so gentle and so so kind.
• "Love and light" is not a reality for everyone. Our evolving spiritual world here in North America is filled with good intentions, but is such a far reality for some. This includes spiritual teachers who are using other cultures in their practice without truly knowing the meaning OR simple sayings like "good vibes only" or "just think positive thoughts". I personally understand frequencies and vibrational living. But it's important to stay grounded in these wild times. For some populations, they are not thinking about the 1000's of superfoods that we are trying to ingest. They are thinking only about survival. For some, it’s unlearning a system in which they’ve been oppressed for years. If you were to go into the rural villages of some areas and start doing yoga, chanting mantras and eating turmeric at every turn, you would be looked at with such confusion. Understanding this is important. Understanding that our world is so very different from much of the world's reality is important. Truly understanding that white people have privilege, is IMPORTANT. Accepting this means the defence can drop. Then, as often as we can, asking ourselves, "Is this a moment for me to talk or to learn?" We often need to stop talking, and really just listen and learn.
• We are not saving anyone. Those that are born into poor and oppressed circumstances are also finding ways everyday to thrive. They need help only in creating opportunities. The talent and passion is there. It’s exciting to see development work that works. It’s exciting to come away knowing how impactful the work that our partnership is having in this region. It's also important to understand that "we" as in the collective of those working in humanitarian causes, are not saving anyone. We are not white knights or heroes. We are not in any way better than or smarter or more abundant. We have a variety of different skills that can be utilized to help other nations, and they have a variety of skills that we must learn from. They have traditional ways of living that are foundational to our world and it's because some of our own foundations in tradition, family, and culture are falling apart, that you see our mental health, isolation and anxiety growing. We must drop this idea of 'aid' and turn it on it's head. How can we truly learn from each other? This is the only way that 'aid' will work. Both sides are helped and we co-create a new reality that doesn't involve one side of the world being dependent on the other.
• Take accountability for you, first. I have personal lessons that I’m still learning and unlearning everyday. I have triggers and frustrations that I’m not proud of. I have more patience than I can believe at times. I have walked through the fire of looking at myself and am undoing what needs to be done while surrendering who I am to the process. The idea of how I fit into this giant puzzle of life and international development is falling together. It’s beautiful work, and some days, it's exhausting. But if we don’t look at ourselves and start there, this world ain’t gonna change baby. Self love. Taking accountability for what and how I am showing up in this world. And serving the greater good. These are my priorities and these are how I'll change my small part of the world.
• Challenge what you’ve told yourself is possible. My “ex” and I just spent three weeks travelling together and sleeping in the same room, mainly him on the floor, so that we could be together for this trip, for Onyx and for my work. He spent the time changing diapers and napping with the babe and I spent the time working. This isn’t conventional and the world doesn’t have an understanding for this kind of togetherness. Some days I even struggled with it. But it’s possible and we came out stronger friends and better parents than ever.
• Speak up. Sometimes luck needs a voice to come through to fruition. On a 13 hour flight home I was stuck in one of the back rows with Onyx on my lap and a large man beside us. I asked once before we boarded, is there a free seat? No. Asked again on the plane. No. I found a way to put Onyx at my feet, tucked up under the seat in front of us sleeping (a feat on it’s own, but worthwhile for parents to check out on long haul flights) and then got up to check - there was one free middle seat at the front with more leg room. I asked the stewardess first if my seat mate could move. Yes. I asked him if he would move. He snored. He finally got up and said he would move and upon doing so, the two men on either side say no to him. So I go up to them and explain about my situation and that I’m coming off a long trip and I have a little boy and they give in. He moves. I have a seat for my son for the remaining 11 hours. This was totally uncomfortable and hard for me to use my voice, over and over against the “no”s. I was in a place of discomfort the whole time and yet I remembered to be kind, WHILE deciding that I needed to take up my space in the world. And it worked. It’s a tiny, but very real example of how we need to use our voice even when it shakes.
• Money is an energy, an exchange, a piece of paper that you take and then you give away. It can’t come with you when you’re gone and it isn’t going to kiss you goodnight. It is an element of the earth that wants to support us. When you change currencies three times in a day, you realize that it's seriously just a piece of paper. Stop clinging and give it away freely. Pay more for conscious and fair trade products. Buy from local and small businesses and you will support families and their stories and dreams everyday. It’s so worth it and your heart and spirit will feel much richer and wealthier than your bank account ever will be.
• Plastic is covering this green earth and we need solutions. Onyx won’t grow up in a green world if we don’t. Do it for my son, your children, their children, our earth. This isn’t fair. This isn’t right. This is man made and can be man solved. Yeah, water is bad. I get it. I had to drink out of plastic too. But why isn’t there more solutions for reusable bottles and why isn’t there more recycled plastic made products? Let’s make that mainstream. Remember to pause before you purchase plastic. It’s in this space that we can choose differently. There’s innovation everywhere. Let’s invest in those who are talking about plastic, working on solving plastic problems, and focus on this issue. Let’s start there.
• Our society tends to build walls instead of bridges. All the time. The way we make appointments and than cancel, and then make appointments, and then cancel, rather than dropping in and loving each other. The way we build houses and fences and look down at our phone when waiting in line. The way we create 'busy' which makes us feel connected, but ultimately is a total distraction. With all those appointments in your calendar, how will you make space for that whom truly matters to you? How will you give to them when you have nothing left?
• Driving! We drive in these clean cut lines, so much so that we can almost zone out. Another wall we build between ourselves and others. We want to invent self driving cars so that we can zone out even more. If someone does cut us off, oh you better watch out. There’s anger and rage. But half of the world has no lines on the road, no lights, no rules, and yet they dance and flow with their driving. They weave in and out, totally and completely aware of the others on the road. They are chill and relaxed and enjoy the process of movement from one place to another. They are present and it’s actually beautiful (when you can take yourself out of the fear). And yet the fear comes from it being different than our way. I still am processing this, but it’s a lesson that ‘our way’ is not always the right way. My co-ED has lived all over the world and she wants to write about how you can read a nation by the way they drive. I am so intrigued with this.
[addition: my sister has sent me articles about the highways of death in Nepal. Hahahaha. So ignore that this is maybe not the safest thing, but beautiful to watch].
• Superfoods & food. Some of the world is literally eating rice and lentils everyday and they have glowing skin and their eyes are alive. But in the West, we are heaping chia seeds on everything and creating smoothies that cost us $12 at home in our $700 vitamixes. We take supplements and ingest our bee protein and it seems to me more than ever that intention and the way we eat is more important than what we are eating.
• Creativity is being hindered by overstimulation. Another duh, but to reinforce the point - when we are in a state of constant input, we have no room or energy for creative output. One day we went to a village home for dinner. There were neighbourhood kids hanging around and Ty gave them Onyx’s magnets to play with. There are six squares and eight triangles. We had been making the same shapes over and over with them. I was thrilled to see that each time we left the kids with them for about three minutes, and then came back to see what they were up too, they had made yet another creation that blew me away. I was astonished at their creativity. This makes me want to take every toy of Onyx’s away. Okay, maybe not every toy ;) But to strike that balance. To really be keenly aware of screen time, not just because someone is telling us that, but because these children deserve expansive minds and a creative flow.
• Move your body and take time for your mind. Every single day. This trip felt so much easier than any trip before. I felt aligned and grounded, because I made space for reverence and for myself. Even with all that was going on, I would sneak in a 10 min Sarah Blondin at lunch or a yoga session in the airport after being up all night travelling home. This made the difference for me and kept me sane.
• Sure, travel gives you perspective. But there’s no place like home. Don’t feel less than because others are away and doing things. Know that wherever you go, there you are. I grew massive amounts over the years where I didn’t step foot outside of the country. I love travel, but I also think that it can act as a distraction from your Self. I adore immersing in new cultures, but I also know that your problems follow you around wherever you go. Sometimes, the ones who are traipsing barefoot around the world are the ones who have the most baggage. The ones sitting and not going anywhere, they are sitting with themselves and riding waves. Wherever you are, just give yourself space and time to grow right there, in the now. Don’t set all these expectations on a trip or place to do it for you.
• Finally, just return to love as often as possible. Whenever there’s a moment, a pause in your day, a break in a story, a brief connection of eyes meeting, no matter if you're travelling the world or you're in your favourite comfy chair at home, always come back to love. For yourself and for the world. There were so many days where I didn't know if I was making an impact, but I knew that that all I wanted to do was love the people I was meeting. Even now, being back, if I am having a rough day or about to move into an ego moment with someone, all I can think is this: "How can I love them more?"
For everyone we meet, for all those whom challenge us and trigger us, "How can I love them more?"
I’ve never been more sure that love is enough.
Start with love and end with love, xx
PS I made a little 15 min. trip video for our families. If you're so inclined, please enjoy.