In my mid-twenties, I set off from the East Coast to romantic San Francisco. Since I was a teenager, I’ve dreamed of moving to the West Coast and drove most of my stuff there, imagining it would be a permanent move.
But things didn’t go according to plan, and after nearly three years of living in San Francisco, I decided (out of necessity rather than choice) to move home to New York. I began the lonely process of unfolding my life, sorting everything, donating and selling my belongings. The things I couldn’t divorce were delivered to my aunt, who offered to store them until I sorted them out - which meant my aunt received about ten big boxes.
I began the lonely process of unfolding my life, sorting everything, donating, and selling my belongings.
Shit home, I thought to myself when the machine touched JFK.
I was sad to be back. I felt defeated and lost. I failed again. But this time I was thirty, so shame and failed expectations seemed harder, more monumental. I set off with a vision of a brand new sparkling life, more precisely, I fled New York. I would have many friends in California, a loving, romantic relationship, a stimulating and satisfying work environment. Everything that has ever bypassed me will find my way in San Francisco.
Big fat surprise: I couldn’t find what I was looking for. As our wise friend Jon Kabat-Zinn reminds us: Wherever you go, you are there. You can’t run away from yourself or your problems. Labeled for the trip.
A friend of mine said in a 12-step program that this circle was a well-known behavior - this escape business - and that a guy in his program one day announced that he had “made a venue,” that is, moved to a new city with the idea of a new his environment magically changes his life instead of doing the inner work needed for actual change. In the same sense, I also made a place. I placed myself directly on the drawing board. No money. No career. There is no other significant. Not at home. Bupkis.
I temporarily moved into my cousin’s apartment. He and his friend lived abroad for a while, so his apartment was empty. It was also empty of heat. There was a problem with the radiator and the super did not prioritize its recovery. I was cold and lonely in that apartment. I took very few clothes and personal items with me to my cousin’s home. I shot more of the same two jeans than I should admit.
My possessions were now scattered among three locations, and I felt the same way. Scattered. Fragmented. Unfinished.
During this period, I drove several times to my aunt’s house, where I transported my boxes to organize and move some items to my mother’s home. My possessions were now scattered among three locations, and I felt the same way. Scattered. Fragmented. Unfinished. For the first cold week at my cousin, I remember sitting alone on the couch, eating in the finish, and feeling like Bridget Jones. I broke my fortune cookie, which wrote, "It won't get better until it gets better."
I had no idea what my next move was or how it could be better.
It turned out that my next step was a daily yoga exercise - I just moved my body, breathed and tuned in. I began, not even knowing at the time, the process of slowly unfolding old patterns and emotions in my body.
After about a year of yoga, squirming, drinking ice cream from the tank, and I confess, reading my zen tarot cards, I took the remnants of my stored belongings out of my aunt’s house and started getting rid of everything. When every bag was full of stuff I had handed over to the Salvation Army, I felt lighter, freer.
I thought the skydiving I tried in San Francisco (among other misguided adventures) would be refreshing, but the feeling of suffocation to death during the 90-second free fall hampered the experience. I couldn’t fly with the emotional baggage I carted. In my physical reality, I’ve been moving my stuff with me for years. I clung to my stuff, and though I didn’t figure it out, it still strangled me. But what I found even more parachuting and liberating than parachuting overwhelmed what I had been dragging from one place to another for years.
Every day or two during my day, I realized on the yoga mat that I didn’t need much more than myself and my mattress to be happy to feel whole. When we slow down and become aware of the body, we can change unhealthy habits and habits. The body is a reflection of the mind.
Possession was less and less important. I was less craving things or beauty treatments like highlighting my hair (not like that was wrong with that, but my hair needed a break after obsessive salon visits). Part of my armor melted.
In Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of Escape, he discusses this idea to rid ourselves of the armor that we think protects us. "We do this here ... we remove the armor," she states, "removing our defenses, withdrawing all that covers our wisdom, meekness, and vigilant quality." (Chödrön, 69).
About that time I had a dream. I was with an old friend, standing in front of his new home. It was a beautiful place I had never seen before, overlooking the clear, flowing water. "I didn't know you lived here," I told my friend as I looked at my surroundings with reverence. He said, "Yes, I live here." And I felt perfectly serene and peaceful, as if I were flowing, clear water. I woke up to the fact that I was already where I was looking. Then I remembered Chödrön in another book, The Wisdom of Escape and The Way of Love-Kindness.
"When people start meditating or working with any spiritual discipline, they often think that they will somehow get better, which is a kind of subtle aggression of who they really are. But our loving kindness to ourselves - maitri - no doesn't mean we get rid of anything. Meditation practice is not about trying to throw ourselves away and get better.It is about making friends with who we already are.The basis of the practice is you or I or whoever we are, just who we are.This is the soil, we study this , we know this with great curiosity and interest. "(Chödrön, 1-2).
So you can say that my friend in my dream just represented one aspect of me. And that the pervasive fear and peace I felt was actually a reflection of my acceptance, and that’s why I woke up to a long time ago to arrive at the place I was looking for.