I first heard the echo the night I lost my job. My boyfriend had just broken up with me, my two best friends had stopped speaking to me, and to this day I’ve never felt so low. The people I loved so intensely didn’t want me. The job I invested so much energy into didn’t want me. No one wanted me. To say I felt unworthy would not do my despair justice. If I’ve ever come close to not wanting to live, it was on that night.
But louder than my tears and my sorrow, was the knocking.
It kept me awake, gently inviting me to open the door and see who was there. While I didn’t go to the door that night, just hearing the knock gave me the hope I so desperately needed. It awakened something in me that I couldn’t yet understand.
Over the months that followed I tried to reassemble my life back into what it had been. I tried over and over and over and over to reconcile with my boyfriend, knowing, yet denying, that he would never change. I applied for job after job after job after job, convincing myself to feel motivated, knowing, yet denying that none of them were where I was meant to be.
Eventually my boyfriend admitted that he would never change and saw no future with me. When I did get my next job, just a few months later, without explanation or warning, they fired me. Finally, the knock rang so loud I couldn’t ignore it any longer.
So I opened the door.
I found Costa Rica on the other side.
Opening that door opened my eyes and my heart in unimaginable ways. I woke up to the possibility that I could truly live in paradise every day of my life. I woke up to the possibility that I could live any way that I wanted. Most importantly, I woke up to the possibility that I could live wanting so much less.
But the knocking didn’t stop.
It came again a month after I got to Puerto Viejo, when I first understood that a relationship with a beautiful local Caribbean surfer rarely remains uncomplicated. It came the afternoon when an old growth tree fell across my path in Punta Uva, missing me by inches. That same afternoon I nearly drowned in the ocean at Playa Cocles; the lifeguard who saved me knew that the knock was my invitation not my ending.
And I accepted the invitation. I started the blog I had always promised myself I would write. I started breathing and living yoga, the practice I had always promised myself I would become. Through pouring my heart into yoga, Reiki, and my blog for the year that followed, I mended my relationship with my ex boyfriend, my best friends, and deepest of all my family. Yet I had also grown distant and guarded and disillusioned.
Then came the knocking again.
Banging on my door the night I spent in a Native American sweatlodge ceremony. The knock spoke to me this time, telling me that I was the bridge, but first I had to take the journey. When I sat with the ocean the next evening at sunset, I cried knowing that I needed to say goodbye.
This time, Southeast Asia smiled when I answered the door.
I hesitated to step through, secretly knowing the anguish and ecstasy that awaited me. The knock woke me when I lost my passport in the airport minutes before my flight to Vietnam. “Are you coming or not?” it asked simply. Without thinking, I ran through the airport, took a hold of my balls, and I got on the plane.
If Costa Rica opened my eyes to possibility, Southeast Asia opened my eyes to insanity. The boundaries I built crumbled as my heart was ripped into pieces by poverty, corruption, the destruction of the planet, and by the man who I never gave myself permission to love. I blew my mind and drained my bank account regularly, waking up to the understanding of a new level of my potential. The knocking shattered me with the force of a sledgehammer.
But what I didn’t realize was that the breaking had only just begun.
I got the preview in Cambodia, a few weeks before flying home, when life told me I could no longer escape the karma I still had in Puerto Viejo, with the man who inspired me to build my walls in the first place. I woke up to the reality that the lesson wasn’t over.
When I returned to Puerto Viejo, I felt him wherever I went. A constant reminder of the love that I didn’t feel. Insecurity and judgment knocked and knocked and knocked. The knock eventually hit me in the face when his sister slapped me one night at a bar. I could have blamed or escaped, but instead, I decided to simply answer the door.
What awaited me was more beautiful than any paradise island.
It was compassion.
Compassion for this man, compassion for this culture, compassion for myself. Compassion for everyone who ever hurt me, compassion for everyone I ever hurt. Compassion for everyone who ever hurt at all. Compassion, the sweetest visitor I had ever received.
So I began another journey. A journey into my own darkness, across the world in the Arctic Circle in the dead of winter. To discover if I could love myself and love the world with overflowing compassion, no matter where I went and what role I played there.
I learned to be myself beyond the ego of the yogi beach bum and to accept people and life choices no matter who or what they were. I learned to embody my heart, no matter how my body looked or where my body stood.
Sometimes it was easy and sometimes it was hard, but I learned the lesson I sought to learn. I learned the power of radical acceptance and unconditional love.
By the time I got to Spain, the knock came again. It woke me with recurring nightmares anticipating my death. I avoided its call, though as far as I ran I couldn’t avoid it. As I snaked down through Morocco, the dread followed me, coming again and again in my dreams. One night, sitting under the full moon on Morocco’s surf coast, I answered the knock, and I flew home.
When I opened the door, I knew it was time to get to work.
The creations that had brewed within me poured out through my fingers and into my blog. Post after post went viral, culminating in over a million new readers in just one month. I lived and breathed This American Girl, shining brighter in my online existence than I ever had before. I sold ebooks, made affiliate sales, got new clients, and finally became financially stable after years of living on the edge.
But I was running myself ragged. I knew I couldn’t sustain it. I looked at my mom one afternoon and said, “it feels so hard to be happy here.” I knew that there had to be a way to show up as This American Girl while still getting to be silly, adventurous, wild, mermaid, free, unencumbered me.
But I heard no knock. So this time I asked. I asked for guidance, I asked for support, I asked to be led to the door. And the night I asked, it answered.
“Wake up, wake up, wake up,” it whispered sweetly. “You are the bridge and you are ready.”
Without plans nor preparation, with a force beyond myself, I created a yoga and travel retreat within two days. Overnight a hundred women signed up to show their interest. Within one week I had completely sold out two retreats. I didn’t know if I was ready for this, but a higher, wiser part of me kept going.
And then I came back to Puerto Viejo.
Instead of working I surrendered to the beauty and the pleasure of this place. I floated for hours in the ocean. I smothered my body in chocolate. I looked in the mirror and told myself I was beautiful. I hosted potlucks and dance parties and played with new and old friends. I dedicated my days to simply loving my own heart.
Then my caterer cancelled at the last minute, I scrambled to find a place for us to sleep our last two nights, one woman in the retreat dropped out, people questioned and pressured me and I planted seeds of self doubt, and three days before the retreat I came down with the flu.
But I had committed from the very beginning to absolutely surrender. I had committed to embrace pura vida. I had committed to recognize that everything is here to help me. I had comitted to love whatever arises.
The knocking still came, but it stopped being hard, and it became a dynamic rhythm I could dance to. Eventually, amidst the clouds or the sunshine, I saw rainbows everywhere I looked.
This evening seven beautiful women will arrive here to Puerto Viejo, across the rainbow bridge of this blog, to be part of my first yoga and travel retreat. I’m nervous and excited and elated and a little bit scared. But I accept that this is my destiny. I accept that they are here to awaken me in ways I can’t even imagine. I accept that this is truly the next step in my beautiful journey. I accept that a long time ago, I signed up for this.
Tonight, when they come knocking, I’m answering the door.
Get more info on my retreats and upcoming events here.