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Letting Go of Puerto Viejo

Letting Go of Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo

 

(This post is part four in a series. Read part onepart two, and part three.)

 

I spread a thick layer of sunscreen across my right hip and thigh, covering the pale splotches that watercolored my skin. Warm soft sand hugged me from behind and the wind slurped me forward. I rolled in the white spray on the shoreline and kissed her skin with my lips. Sand covered my face mouth belly and limbs.

 

I gazed out to the neverending coastline carrying both confusion and understanding in equal measures. I felt the ghosts from my past all around me and yet it was like they evaporated all at the same time. The grief of letting go enveloped me as I tasted the sweet freedom in the wake of possibility. Knowing… I am so different, and yet all is so familiar. Saying hello and goodbye.

 

“So… what are we then?” I asked her like an ex lover whose bed I still shared from time to time.

 

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It felt… like… loss that I couldn’t seem to let go. Nursing myself back to health, focusing on my business, struggling to recover my belongings, and finding a new place to live had all been blessed distractions from what was really ruminating beneath the surface. Once I let it all go, I had to look deeper into the heart of my fear.

 

I didn’t know if I belonged in Puerto Viejo anymore.

Maybe because… I didn’t feel like I knew Puerto Viejo anymore.

 

It had changed so much from the place I had fallen in love with and I had changed so much over the years as well. Was this still my home? Did I still want to be here?

 

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My relationship with this place is so confusingly enmeshed with my unrequited lover it’s impossible to say what I was really grieving: the loss of her or him. In the Fall I had received his words of closure I waited five years to hear: “it was never you and it never will be you.”

 

So was it the widening of the road and the cutting down of the trees and the new properties for sale and the gringo population drowning out the Caribbean culture… or was it the nail in the coffin that said “he never was yours and he never will be yours, so you have no purpose left in being here”?

 

As a friend had asked me nearly a year prior, when I was deciding whether to stay or whether to go, “is it that you can’t be here because of him, or it that you are here because of him?” I was pretty sure my answer was yes to both. Which is why I left and went to Thailand in December without plans of coming back. I wanted to move on because I wanted more than unreciprocated love.

 

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But these traveling feet learn again and again and again that life decides when the karma is complete. And until I learn the lesson with every fiber in my being, it will keep on keep on keep on meeting me. So there I was. Back in Puerto Viejo. Mourning the man who made me question my own sanity because my feelings for him are nothing short of absurdity. In Sri Lanka I thought I had completely let him go, but coming back tore open the wound and I had to meet it again from a new perspective.

 

Oddly and also perfectly, upon my return, it was as if he had disappeared. In fact, I assumed that he was no longer here. Last time we spoke he was on his way to Europe to try out a new relationship, without plans of coming back. But friends confirmed he was most certainly in town.

 

Apparently he was visible to everyone but me. I rode along the one single road going about my day, never passing him once. I unavoidably passed by his business every time I did errands in town and never saw his face. I had been back in town for six weeks and never once crossed his path. In a tiny town like Puerto Viejo, that’s no coincidence. Life was protecting me from seeing him.

 

I was grateful for this sweet space, but disheartened by it too. His lack of existence was like a death that I had to grieve.

 

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And let’s not forget, the grief I experienced in that moment went far beyond just this “relationship.” I was grieving the loss of everything. My home, my stuff, my life, my purpose, the way my skin used to look on my right thigh. Yet I also felt completely surrendered to whatever life decided. Because I knew deeply that it didn’t matter if I fought or not, life would get its way.

 

As I surrendered to these broken pieces, life started to put them back together again. Gifts came pouring in from all different sources. I found a house to look after while the owner was away, a gorgeous villa with a massive gate surrounded by giant trees, an electric golf cart I drove around everywhere, and friends returned from the states with my old laptop I had fortunately left behind with all of my files, new ATM cards, and thank Goddess underwear.

 

I moved into my new house, settled myself in, and planned to finally get back into my work flow. It had been nearly three weeks since I had looked at a computer screen and I had hardly shared anything on social media and certainly hadn’t posted on the blog. I missed writing and felt the pressure of picking up where I left off.

 

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But…life decided I actually needed more of a break. I unconsciously locked my laptop and all of my other valuables into the safe, having learned my lesson from getting robbed, and the batteries ran out which meant I had no way to open it. A few days later when I finally got into the safe with spare keys, I discovered that my entire website was down. Nothing was there.

 

Hours of tech support later and I still had no website. My old hosting company insisted that there was no way to recover anything. There was a very real possibility that I might have lost everything. I didn’t know if I had any sort of backup. Five years and hundreds of blog posts, an entire online course, and my heart and soul, potentially gone.

 

As I lay in bed that night I relaxed into the possibility that This American Girl had disappeared off of the face of the Earth. Maybe it was all gone. Done. Did I have a clean slate? Was I starting over? Was anything left?

 

After the initial fight, I actually felt… ok about it. Because after everything that I had just survived, I knew that even if I lost it all, I could never lose myself. I was still here. I would always still be here. I would survive. So I was ok.

 

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I had survived whatever burned six square inches of my right thigh (still a mystery). I survived my home being broken into. I survived losing thousands of dollars in possessions. I survived putting work off indefinitely. I survived feeling unsafe, victimized, and small. I survived saying goodbye to the one house that ever felt like mine.

 

And over the years in Puerto Viejo I had survived a lot more than just that. I survived watching the trees be chopped down, the road double in size, the jungle get cleared, the ocean levels rise. I survived a tree falling in my path and nearly drowning in the ocean within the same day. I survived about a bazillion mosquito bites, a sweatlodge, and some pretty sketchy jungle hikes. I survived losing many friends. Being beaten up by the large and intimidating sister of my twin flame. And even if it was still killing me, again and again and again, I was still surviving my Puerto Viejo love story.

 

I had survived and knew I would continue to survive the many initiations this jungle threw my way. Each time standing taller. Stronger. And softer. Less and more at the same time, with each thing she stripped away. Closer to my nature by being awoken by her nature. With every death she brought into my life, she showed me not only that I could survive but that I could thrive. To remind me that I’m not just here to lay on the shoreline, I’m here to ride the waves.

 

What a glorious experience it is to lose everything you thought you had, and remember the only thing that’s ever been yours.

 

Free of everything, I came home to the one thing I had: myself.

So I used the opportunity to become devoted to that one thing.

 

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Laying on my bed that night, without my home, with a new scar on my leg, my heart aching over the man who never loved me, and my life’s work completely gone, I made this promise to myself:

“You, Camille, my love, are more important to me than any of it. You are more important than your commitments, projects, creations, relationships, responsibilities. You are more important, way more important, than what anyone else ever thinks, expects, or wants. I will do whatever it takes to keep you healthy and happy. I promise to keep you safe and well loved for life.”

 

May we all be so blessed to be so broken that we remember.

 

The next day, my website was fully recovered.

 

Rather than get back to work, I listened to life’s message and I took myself down to the beach. I had barely caressed her body since my return, tenderly caring for my wounds and also feeling emotionally vulnerable since the break in. Home felt like the safest space for my body in all ways. But being so disconnected from this land hurt me in another way. Like being separate from… mother.

 

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I didn’t know how to feel her the same way that I used to. The pain was so intense as I watched them pave her paradise the year before, that I had developed a kind of detached numbness. Perhaps it was a healthy disconnect, but I missed our sweet union. It was like yearning for someone despite being with them every moment of every day.

 

But that day at the beach, I did feel her.

 

It happened down at Arrecife, the beach that held me through so much, the beach that in many ways made me who I am today. I sat out on the point early that morning, basking in the sunshine, blissfully alone with the turquoise sea. As I often do I rolled around in the warm sand letting it coat my thick locks like a blissful beach dog.

 

Tears welled up as the feeling of home, the sweet remembrance filled me. A long forgotten feeling that was love in every possible way. Home. Home. Home. Punta Uva. Forever my home.  Lifetime after lifetime, this has always been my home. I cried and laughed and laughed and cried, overwhelming grateful for the feeling of home that for a traveler feels like such a rare gift.

 

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I started going to Punta Uva every single day after that. I’d make the stunning walk along the beach from my house in Playa Chiquita down to the river and plunge into the cool stillness. Hike up the muddy cliff grasping onto the vines and emerge onto the golden shores of Arrecife. Chat with the Rastas who make Rondon and fantasize about living down there one day.

 

With all work on pause and daily pilgrimages to my heart’s home, I remembered what first awakened within me on my first trip to Puerto Viejo: the art of doing nothing.

 

Rather than work or organize or socialize, I did epic cleanses, swam in the river at sunset, meditated all morning and recited my personal love mantras. I did daily coffee enemas, fasted on nothing but coconut water, and felt myself shed all of the weight and toxins of my past. I made loving my body and myself my greatest priority, devoted finally first and foremost to me. And so loving others felt easy.

 

My imagination ran wild, dreaming up my fantasy retreat center, taking over an enormous beachfront property in Punta Uva that already had traditional wooden Caribbean houses and expansive gardens. Every day at sunset I’d wander onto the property and just sit on the lawn and imagine myself there.

 

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But I still had doubts.

Because funny enough, as much as I’ve loved Puerto Viejo more than I’ve loved anywhere, as much as my heart has been devoted to her over the years, as much as I’ve created home and community here, I’ve never actually committed to her.

I’ve never actually taken that step and decided, “this is my home.”

I’ve never actually “settled down.”

This lack of commitment meant something to me, but I didn’t yet grasp exactly what.

 

How much of it was her and how much of it was him? The eternal question. And the deeper I dropped into my heart the more my ache for him heightened, which I could not seem to understand. If this thing was unhealthy, not right for me, why was it always there despite my continuous healing? Why was it that no matter which angle or approach I took to let it go, it always came back?

 

Now here’s the part where I’m going to show you all my crazy side. Yes… if you haven’t caught onto this yet I am most definitely one of those crazy girls. Something I’ve carried with shame since my first boyfriend when I was 13 and still need to forgive. I am one of those crazy girls who gets obsessed with boys and acts well… crazy. Maybe you relate, maybe you don’t, maybe you feel triggered, maybe you feel understood. Whatever you feel, I hope you receive the innocence of what I’m about to share.

 

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I’ve learned to reform and/or repress my crazy girl, but she still sometimes comes out in hiding. She is after all my shadow. And thanks to the internet with people being sooooo stalkable, she came out that night as a stalker. Through my internet stalking I discovered that this man who I embarrassingly still obsessed over, was in a fully committed relationship with the woman he had started dating the last time we spoke. I figured that was the reason why I hadn’t seen him. Life was protecting me from seeing them together because she was now living here too.

 

My mind created stories seeing photos of them together, him as this devoted boyfriend I had never seen him be with anyone. It was like watching someone play a completely different character than the one who you had assigned them to be in your movie. It was totally disorienting for my ego. Watching him be something other than a playboy was actually… upsetting. And most disturbingly of all, it felt like a loss to realize that we’d no longer be playing the unfulfilling game that I had been wrapped up in for so many years. I had gotten so used to accepting his scraps of attention that seeing there’d be no more scraps felt like a loss.

 

Then I saw that his girlfriend had left town, and out came my shadow even darker. I wanted him to cheat on her with me. Woah. I actually wanted that. I didn’t respect their relationship or her feelings or his commitment, I just wanted whatever I could get from him. But of course, since I’m a “nice girl” my mind rationalized that maybe they weren’t really together anymore if she had just left. I was simply looking for an opening and grasping for what I could reach.

 

(Thank you for holding the space for me to out this very dark side, and I appreciate you for honoring whatever it brings up or triggers within you. I know we all have tasted this feeling in one way or another, and I honor myself for being brave enough to voice it.)

 

I asked myself how I could be so wounded and how I could value myself so little, to want to settle for such a thing. My mind brought me back to the mother of his child, the one who I didn’t know about when I was with him, but carried shame with all of these years. I felt myself as so inferior to her. I felt myself as the other woman. And I felt distanced, jealous, and vindictive towards any woman he had ever been with. I knew how deeply this must be hurting me and I knew I needed to heal it.

 

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While in the past I had adamantly stood my ground that I didn’t know about his other relationship, after I did find out I still let myself engage with him sexually not knowing where they stood. More importantly, I continually disrespected myself in the way I engaged with him. Some women have written angry comments on the stories I’ve shared about him, judging my behavior, and I used all of the pain of that in this moment to forgive myself.

 

I forgave myself for not valuing myself. I understood that any time I hurt or disrespected another woman it was simply because I was hurting and disrespecting myself. If I truly wanted to heal with my sisters, I needed to respect and honor myself enough to never act this way again. I needed to act with deeper integrity. First and foremost for myself.

 

So I wrote to her. The mother of his child.

 

We had so many friends in common yet had never actually met, and I always placed her on this pedestal. She was the one he had actually chosen, I was just the insignificant extra since she was out of town. Not to mention she was incredibly gorgeous and I felt plain and immature in comparison to this woman I had painted a Queen. But I was changing. I was loving myself and by valuing myself I was feeling more and more like a Queen myself. I knew that forgiveness was the next step.

 

Despite what I knew or didn’t know, if I acted right or not right, none of it mattered anymore. All that mattered was forgiveness. And so I humbly wrote her an apology, because that’s what I needed to do in order to forgive myself. She too humbly accepted which I am deeply grateful for.

 

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That night under the stars I went into my dance meditation. In the absolute darkness I began to feel all of the spirits and demons of Puerto Viejo close in on me. I was this light. This light attracting the darkness, but I continued to dance. I asked myself if I could be that here, if I could be in a place of such darkness and still hold my light.

 

Then I realized I wasn’t alone in my light. I began to see my sisters.

 

We were laying together on the earth in a giant mandala, and beside me lay his ex. We looked each other in the eyes, side by side, and we cried and began to hold one another. Forgiveness flooded me with pure understanding. Then came the others. All the ones I had seen him with in bars, walking down the street, all the ones I passed wondering if they’d be next. All of the ones I judged as less than me or more than me.

 

With a giant exhale I humbled myself and invited them into the cuddle puddle. We snuggled all together, right there on the floor, no competition, just oneness. Then we rose up and danced. In circles under the moonlight we danced and celebrated womanhood. Free of any man that might turn us against one another we played in the joy in love with ourselves and one another. We could see pure beauty in one another. Like one tribe together.

 

I cried realizing what I still had inside of me to heal

and I cried because I knew that I was healing.

 

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The next morning I rode into town to get a Maya Abdominal massage with my friend Pamela for the first time. In my session I spoke about the healing I experienced the night before, about my longing and also resistance towards romance, my celibacy, and of course the man who seemingly disappeared yet was forever with me. I had been back nearly two months and still not seen his face once. She offered me deep wisdom and my heart softened open into a greater capacity for love.

 

Then of course, once I left the treatment, after nearly a year of nothing, I immediately saw him.

 

Which felt oddly relieving. It felt good just to be reminded that he did exist. We didn’t speak, and I don’t think he saw me, but just looking at him reignited my inner flame and brought me simple happiness. Almost like… him being alive was enough for me. Because that is love. Gratitude to someone for the grace of their presence on this Earth, without expecting anything in return. My love for this man was nothing short of unreasonable.

 

The next morning, riding into town in my ridiculous eye catching golf cart I saw him again. ‘Cause that’s the thing about Puerto Viejo. It will put you in exactly the path of exactly the person you need to see. For two months I hadn’t seen him at all, and suddenly I saw him everywhere I went. He stood talking to a friend, and we had eye contact for a moment, but something in my belly told me not to say hello. The energy felt so dense.

 

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That was the day I found out that our friend had been killed

and I’m pretty sure that the moment I passed by him was the moment he found out.

 

I found out that night from a sister who came to my house for dinner.

She asked me if I knew him, and I said, “of course.”

 

I mean, I’m pretty sure everybody knew him. I can’t think of anyone in this town who didn’t know him. He was just one of those likeable guys. Plus he had that sideways smile that would never let you forget him. This smile that said, “I’ve got a secret and I’m not telling you what it is.”

 

That night my girlfriend and I stared up at the stars feeling the unbearable lightness of being.

“You realize he’s probably laughing at us right now,” I said to her. He had one of those personalities. He was such a trickster. And what instantly came to me was, “No wonder he always had that look on his face. He knew.”

 

I felt a strange… peace.

That he had somehow schemed all of this to help heal this town.

Because… that’s totally something he would do.

 

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The next morning I went down to the beach in Playa Negra carrying a bouquet of purple orchids. Probably a hundred people gathered along the shoreline, also holding flowers and offering their grief to the sea. A local friend of mine, basically a brother to the one who had departed, walked over to me and said “you brought the perfect thing,” gesturing to my orchids. I gave him a big hug and we all joined hands in a long row parallel to the sea. Prayers were spoken and we offered the flowers as gifts back to the ocean. Gifts in honor of the gift of his life. Tears streamed down my face feeling the beauty and sadness in the wholeness of community.

 

I spent the rest of the day holding people I loved. We stood outside of the Casa de Cultura, intermittently crying, offering support to one another freely. Some people seemed unaffected, others shell shocked, a few in full release. My best friend and sister who I had grown with so much over the years in Puerto Viejo was particularly affected and I was blessed enough to be there to hold her hand.

 

Funerals can often double as family reunions and that’s exactly what this was.

 

Friends who I had barely spoken to save for a wave in passing on the road surrounded me, shaken to the core, and we reminisced on stories and hugged about a million times. The words “I love you,” came easily. It was the family I had collected in my early Puerto Viejo years, back when I was a party girl, who had slowly drifted out of my life as I changed. But the love, the love was still there.

 

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And my love, him, he was of course also there. Standing a few feet away from me in fact. Because he and I were part of this same family. This family of my past.

 

We didn’t speak to each other though. Didn’t look at each other. I wanted to offer him the same condolences I offered everyone else but it seemed… inappropriate. The last time I saw him we parted on very positive terms, honoring each other with full respect in our goodbye, but I don’t think either of us felt safe to have contact at all. And I didn’t want to trigger him further, his friend who he had known his whole life had just tragically died. So I held the space of silence.

 

Hours later the procession continued down the road and into the cemetery. We cried while grieving women sang church songs and hundreds of people scattered among the gravestones. Eventually we made our way to his plot. One by one we made our final goodbyes and when it was my turn, I bowed to him in reverence, “thank you.” Then the words came out of my mouth without thought, “you motherfucker.” I shook my head and laughed and cried at the same time.

 

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I was utterly exhausted by the time I got home. I hadn’t eaten and had been in ceremony for at least eight hours. Thankfully I know beach therapy, so I went down to the sea and walked my familiar steps to Punta Uva. I arrived at the river and perched atop a fallen log. Above me sat a majestic hawk and I looked up to her asking for her wisdom. This was why I was here. This. This. I remembered.

 

Walking home I couldn’t get my friend who had passed out of my head. It was like his face was etched in my mind. Like he was walking beside me. He was so… there. Which was strange considering… we weren’t even close friends. And since ending my party days, I had barely seen him save for some hellos for the last few years. But he was so… there.

 

Oh, ok, yes. Mmmm. Right. I realized. Because he was there.

 

When I relaxed my mind enough to accept what I felt, I knew what was going on. It first happened to me the year before when my grandmother passed and she walked with me at sunset along the shoreline. Then it happened again with a woman I had never met before who tragically died in Puerto Viejo kept me awake all night after her passing. And more recently in the cave in Manzanillo when I called in the spirit of a departed little girl to heal the heart of her mother. Now, it was my friend coming to visit me.

 

Yes… sometimes I see dead people.

 

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But it’s really not so spooky kooky like that. It’s actually like… I can connect with the subtle realms where energy beyond form exists. Anyone who has ever used their imagination, which is every single one of us, has the same super power. It’s just a matter of how much you doubt what you see or how much you allow what you see. We’ve all felt it, we just frequently doubt it and so it disappears.

 

I doubted it too. I doubted it a lot. Still, I trusted it enough to know that he was there.

And being with him felt so nice.

 

It was him, but like, an even better version of him. It was the purest essence of him. The enlightened state of him. Him absolutely free of any pain or wound patterns yet still delightfully animated with his unique personality. Full of charm and free of pain. Which offered me a tremendous insight about the essence of every human being at our core.

 

Having him around, while amazing, was also distracting, pretending he wasn’t there while around other people who couldn’t see him. He was giving me all kinds of insights all of the time and he was always helping me with whatever I needed. Again, it was weird because I wasn’t a particularly close friend of his. I was an acquaintance. So, why did he choose me? I guess he wanted me to help the people who were suffering. He told me what to do, how to do it, and I listened.

 

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One of the things he guided me to do was bring his friend down to the cave in Manzanillo. The place I consider the portal between life and death where I had done my own ceremonies in the past. We had our little adventure in the golf cart and hiked in through the jungle. As we walked I taught him one of my favorite songs and we scatted the jazzy tune together:

“I’m gonna let life move me! I’m gonna let life stir me deep! I’m gonna let life waaaaakkkeee me, from an anncccciiieeeennnttt sleep! I’m gonna laugh all my laughter! I’m gonna crrrrryyyyy all my tears! I’m gonna love the rain just as deeply as the sun when it clears!”

 

He asked if I remembered bringing orchids to the funeral that morning, and how he told me I brought the perfect thing, and if I knew that our friend’s favorite flowers were orchids. I of course had no idea.

 

Inside the cave we built an altar and offered shells and flowers we had collected out to the ocean. He was still there with me, as he had been the whole time, and he gave me lots of wisdom and insights I was so grateful to receive.

 

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The next day I offered to give Reiki to another friend who had actually witnessed the shooting and was visibly traumatized. “I have no idea what that is,” he replied “but I’m open to anything.”

 

Our friend’s spirit was very clearly in the room and as I channeled the healing, he continually urged me, “tell him I’m here.” “Ummmm no!” I replied. “He is going to think I’m crazy!! Besides, I don’t even know if you’re here! Are you here? Or am I crazy?”

 

Afraid of my own insanity, I continued offering in silence. Eventually I spoke, easing into some basic questions, and every question I asked came with affirmation. This happens without fail when I channel Reiki. Though I often doubt myself, I can see things and they’re always confirmed as truth. Slowly I felt comfortable held in a space of trust less afraid of my ridiculous witchiness. That’s when I finally said… “you know, our brother is here in this room.” He laughed and said he felt it the moment I touched him. I transmitted the messages our friend had to give him and he received them like the treasures they were.

 

I was on my own again after that. Maybe he went to be with someone else, or maybe he went to a place that I can’t see yet. But I did know that he’s a spirit guide who will be here for me whenever I ask. For that, I am eternally grateful. He is a true angel on my path.

 

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I think I had these strong psychic capabilities at least in part due to the physical cleansing I was doing. I was purging my body of so much karmic residue, and fasting on coconut water meditating effortlessly for the first time in my life.

 

Just after the funeral it was New Moon and I decided to do the liver flush where you literally shit out hundreds of green stones that apparently clog the ducts in your liver. This involves multiple days of fasting, drinking acid water, taking epsom salts, and then chugging an entire glass of olive oil and orange juice. (I literally got chills writing that. Gaaaaahhhhh!!!!)

 

Well I did it. Got up in the middle of the night. So sick I wanted to die, laying on the bathroom floor, cursing myself and life, vowing to never ever do this to myself again, until eventually I passed out.

 

In the morning I felt ok. And yes, I passed hundreds if not thousands of stones of all different sizes. With each release of these stones I felt myself so much lighter. Free of attachments, emotions, dramas. So so so easy to feel loving. At one point I felt this intense anger, so much anger towards my Puerto Viejo twin flame. Like… hate. Then I asked myself, is this anger his or mine? I guess… it didn’t matter.

 

I imagined him standing before me, projecting all of his anger onto me. Angry at me for existing. Angry at me for being alive. And I just stood there and let myself take it. I beamed back love. I let myself dissolve and be swallowed up and destroyed by love even in the face of hate. Then it was no longer about him, it was just about love.

 

I came to this realization that him not speaking to me wasn’t anger or hatred or rejection it was… respect. Space was actually the most honorable and respectful thing for both of us to give one another in this situation. So I let there be space.

 

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Miraculously by the evening I had completely recovered and was able to go to a friend’s birthday gathering. It was also the inauguration of a new space for yoga and other community events. We danced to uplifting music, ate vegan rondon (traditional Caribbean stew), and celebrated my friend who came on one of my first retreats and then moved her whole family down to the jungle.

 

As we blew out the candles and dug into a raw vegan chocolate cake I had this realization… a few days before I was with my friends of my past at a funeral… and here I was today with my friends of my present at a birthday.

 

It was nearly four years ago to the day that I made that choice too. For a long time I walked the line in Puerto Viejo. Partying on tequila til 2 then getting up for yoga at 8, begging for male attention at night and learning about self love in the day. I walked the line. But there was that moment when I chose. And actually, it’s when I started cleansing my body.

 

I got a lot of grief from friends during that time. “How come I never see you out anymore?” “You’re so fake!” “You think you’re too good or something?” I heard that a lot. I lost people from my life. But the only answer I ever had was, “I just want to love myself, and I’m figuring that out just like you are, just like we all are.”

 

Perhaps this aching I felt for the man of my past was really just an ache for that piece of me I left behind so many years ago. Perhaps it was really just an ache for that piece of me who never could have possibly known when she showed up in the jungle six years ago that she would be who she is right here right now. Perhaps it was really just an ache to reclaim that innocent ignorance that in retrospect appears so… easy. Perhaps it was me aching to let in forgotten pieces of me. And clearly, no matter how much I grasped, it was all far beyond my understanding.

 

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My final days in Puerto Viejo I mostly spent sitting on the sandbank between Arrecife and Playa Grande, looking out to the coastline. Asking myself, wondering, if this was my true home.

 

Couldn’t there be more of a paradise somewhere? Couldn’t there be the place that in my deepest heart of hearts I knew I belonged? Couldn’t there be somewhere I loved more than Puerto Viejo? And how could I possibly commit to creating a space here, to buying a property, to living here, to investing here, with so much uncertainty in my own heart mind life? With so much uncertainty in the future development of Puerto Viejo? With what I loved most being torn down and destroyed more and more every single day?

 

Then the words of wisdom spoke to me…

 

“Camille…

you keep searching and searching

the world across land and sea

from the islands of Thailand

to the temples of Bali

to the wilds of Lapland

to the jungles of Colombia

to the mountains of Mexico

looking and looking

for paradise

all this time forgetting

that you will never find it

because you’re the one who came here

to create it.”

 

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I flew back to my birth home of Seattle, wondering exactly what that meant.

But knowing very clearly, that one day I would most certainly find out.

 

My time in Seattle opened new doorways of light and revealed shadows and wounds, and I left and came back to the jungle as a new woman once again. Dying and living all at once. Perhaps I’ll share those stories one day in the future.

 

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As I stand here now, back in Puerto Viejo, on this precious soil that I once called my paradise, a voice in my heart is knocking. I watch this place change around me while I change from the inside out. I see development coming rapidly, I feel the vibration changing, and I hear my soul telling me that I have to go if I want to grow. My intuition speaks that discomfort is cracking me open. And even though it hurts, I know that eventually I need to listen. Sooner than later, I need to finally let go of my lover I know as Puerto Viejo.

 

And yet, I am here now.

So I will treasure this paradise as it as

The ghosts of all that it was

The ghosts of all that we have ever been

And know that whether or not this is forever my home

It will forever be my re-birth home.

It will forever be the place where I was born again.

That whether or not he is forever my unrequited lover

He will forever be love.

I will forever be able to love.

 

And for that I am truly, endlessly, deeply, humbly

Grateful.

 

Knowing there’s no such thing ever

As the end.

 

Surrender is What Will Save You

Surrender is What Will Save You

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“Ultimate freedom has nothing to do with your life circumstances –it is the freedom of allowing the self to dissolve into the waves of the ocean. It is the freedom that is born through one’s absolute trust in life.” – The 55th Gene Key

 

(This post is part three in a series, you may first want to read part one and part two.)

 

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People often say that Puerto Viejo filters out whatever it doesn’t want.

It has its own special cleansing process.

In other words, if it wants to get rid of you, it will.

 

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I’ve seen it happen many times over the years.

 

People experience an unfathomable tragedy and they leave and never come back. Like the couple whose bar was held at gunpoint and received death threats or the woman who got raped in the middle of the day or the ones who ventured too deep into drugs or the souls who swam too deep into the ocean.

 

Rather than a personal choice, often it’s seen as the jungle deciding to spit you out.

 

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So, after my shower exploding on me, waking up with an inexplicable second degree burn, and coming home to the doors kicked in and my valuables gone, all within two weeks of returning, you can guess that I questioned if Puerto Viejo was rejecting me.

 

Paranoia whispered that I was being punished for my detachment from the jungle. That this was her way of retaliating against me for leaving her and intending to find a new home. Another voice spoke it was life telling me I didn’t belong here anymore. That it was time to get out. Was I even meant to come back after running away to Thailand?

 

Undoubtedly I was in the midst of a tremendous awakening, I was just deep in that very human stage called suffering. My heart soothed me as it spoke that this wasn’t punishment, but actually evidence of just how much the jungle loved me, and through this gift she was going to change my whole world. I just didn’t know how yet.

 

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I reminded myself that this was not the first time the jungle delivered me such strong medicine.

 

In fact exactly five years prior she nearly killed me twice in one day. I recall riding my bicycle through the jungle down to my favorite beach in Punta Uva, and hearing the crack. I looked back and just a few feet behind me a giant almond tree had fallen across the road. A few feet can make the difference between life and death. A woman further down the road ran towards me screaming “Gracias a Dios! Gracias a Dios!!” Thank God, thank God, she said, this gringa didn’t die.

 

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After swimming in Punta Uva, I headed up to Beach Break for the sunset in front of the magical island that sits in the distance. White birds flocked to the craggy rock face and unpredictable waves crashed in every direction.

 

The beach was empty save for myself and a group of other tourists. We body surfed in the swells and it reminded me of when I was a kid at the Eastern Shore. Waves didn’t scare me, I had been tumbled and sucked under and spit out so many times during those summers in Jersey that I knew I’d always come out the other side. To me, these waves seemed small.

 

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But then in an instant something shifted. Maybe they weren’t that big, but they were strong, and getting stronger. What had felt fun started to feel scary. I watched the group of tourists about fifteen feet away try to make their way in and get crashed and tumbled. They called to me to ask if I was ok or if I needed help. I was struggling, but felt silly as it wasn’t that deep and I was sure I’d make it back.

 

The ocean pulled harder. Every step I made forward I’d get dragged about ten steps back. I was exhausting myself quickly and the waves were now crashing over my head. At that point, still embarrassed, I realized I should probably ask for help. I waved my arms up to the other tourists, but they couldn’t seem to enter the whirlpool I had caught myself in.

 

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As I exhausted myself more and more, pushing against the current, eventually my fight gave up. I was too tired to keep going. That’s when something far stronger than my will to survive took over: surrender.

 

I came to the understanding that maybe I was never going to get back to shore. My body relaxed as I allowed the likely possibility that these would be my last breaths. Oddly, it wasn’t as scary as it was relieving. At least I didn’t have to fight any longer.

 

That’s when a lifeguard came in and grabbed me.

 

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The current was so strong it took us four waves and a lifesaver to get back in. When we got to the shore I collapsed, exhausted, and stunned. The other tourists who had been in the ocean beside me rushed over to see if I was alright. “We tried to help you but we couldn’t get in; we thought we were going to watch you die.”

 

I ran into them again that night in town when I went partying, and they took selfies with me and told everyone I was “the girl who almost drowned.”

 

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At that point in my journey I didn’t have the awareness or the tools that I do now, and so I saw it all as a strange coincidence. Though I did come to some deeper understandings. One: respect the ocean it is powerful; two: surrender is what will save you.

 

I figured that even if the lifeguard hadn’t come to rescue me, perhaps my surrender would have drifted me beyond the break where I would float. I decided that if I was ever in a riptide again, I’d just relax my body and drift, rather than fight and exhaust myself.

 

Five years later, and the jungle was teaching me the same lesson:

Surrender is what will save you.

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To recap, the lesson began with me being so badly burned I had to surrender to the needs of my darkest shadows and humble myself to let others help me. Apparently, I hadn’t fully learned the lesson, and so life took away everything. Because sometimes it takes losing everything, to realize the only thing that’s actually ever been yours.

 

But let’s not jump too far ahead just now… because yes, they did take what seemed like “everything” to me at the time. And that’s worth feeling into. Specifically they took…

 

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Essentially everything I use to do my work.

My brand new Macbook Pro that I had charged on my credit card literally two weeks before.

My professional camera and lenses.

Every speaker, microphone, pair of headphones, and charging cord I had.

 

No, nothing was insured. I know. And no, I didn’t have the money to replace it. Besides, even if I did have the money, you can’t buy this stuff in the jungle. Unless you buy it from thieves that is (more on that later.)

 

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It was comic really, as I was in the midst of tremendous progress with my business, had just sold out my retreat, announced a second one, filmed all of the videos for The Freedom Tribe, and was nearing the completion of my website redesign and new branding.

 

To say I was overstimulated would be an understatement. I had stirred up so much creativity I could write for hours but not sleep at all. I tried to do yoga to help me to relax, but due to my physical limitations with my burn wound, my practice usually consisted of just laying on the floor. Without nature and exercise to de-charge my already intense energy, I was like a pressure cooker. Whenever I journaled the words that came again and again were, “I need to slow down.” I couldn’t leave the house and I could hardly move, yet what I need most was to slow down.

 

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And…

“BOOM!”

Life responded.

“You’re welcome. Slowed down.”

 

Fortunately I could recognize this gift. Life gave me a forced vacation that perhaps I wouldn’t have given myself. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult. And I lost more than just my electronics.

 

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I lost my access to money.

 

All of my cards, my cash, and even my passport had been taken along with every single pair of underwear I owned. Oh wait, scratch that, I did have the one pair of underwear I had on, which absurdlly somehow ripped in half the next day. Pura vida. So, I wore bikini bottoms and relied on friends to front me cash.

 

This brought me deeper into the humble space I had opened with my leg wound. I was more vulnerable than ever and practiced receiving as I was gifted treats, palo santo, new underwear, money, emotional support, and safe places to stay. Once again I faced my shadows and shame, learning to allow others to support me.

 

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Though certainly the most difficult loss in all of this, was the loss of my home.

 

The one place in the whole wide world that as a wandering gypsy I ever considered mine. While I may have just rented, I had lived in that house seven times over the years, done ceremony after ceremony in the garden, danced heartbreaks and healings, hosted dozens of gatherings with dozens of friends, given my blood to the Earth every moon, prayed to the stars lying naked on the Earth, and died and been reborn again and again, all on that land.

 

My entire foundation had been rocked since coming home to the jungle, and all I wanted was to come… home.

 

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I even tried to sleep in my house the night of the break in despite not being able to even shut the door. Fortunately my logic guided me to stay at my friend’s hostel that night. The following night I tried again, but by the time it was dark I felt sick just being in the house. By the third night I thought I’d be over it. The door was fixed, my fridge was full of food, and I just wanted to go home. Once again, when darkness fell and I just couldn’t do it. I got this eerie sense that if I stayed any longer something would happen to me.

 

Bluntly, I was afraid I was going to get violently raped. An experience I’ve fortunately never endured, yet often feel guilty for being spared, since so many women have suffered it. Here I was, traveling irresponsibility alone all over the world and living by myself in a wooden house in the jungle. How come it never happened to me?

 

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Then came in the voice of my inner mother. The loving, strong, compassionate voice I had gotten to know while confined to my house nursing my burn wound. She said, “I will never let that happen to you. Even if I have to kill someone, I will do everything in my power to keep you safe.” Which meant, as much as I wanted to go home, I couldn’t go back to that house.

 

But the fear was still there and I knew I needed to face it.

Living in the jungle requires constantly facing your fears.

(**Side note: I want to emphasize that my inner dialogue in no way suggests that anyone who has ever been raped or abused in any way wasn’t doing a good enough job keeping themselves safe. No one deserves violence and as this story illustrates, no matter how well intentioned we may be, life happens beyond our control. Bless us all. May all beings everywhere be safe.**)

 

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In a small town like Puerto Viejo everyone knows who the thieves are and yet nothing is ever done about it. Yes, I filed the local police report the night it happened. Yes, I spent the day at the regional police station and filed it officially. Yes, I did all of the legal things to try to recover my belongings and sort it out. Though frankly, the best chance at getting your stuff back around here is by negotiating with the thieves.

 

At first when a friend suggested it, I was like… there is no way.

I held onto my principles and refused to reward those who had robbed me.

 

Then… I got desperate.

I wanted my stuff back.

I wanted my old life back.

I wanted to get back to work.

I wanted to undo what had been done.

 

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So, I asked around. Like I said, it’s a small town, and I know people.

 

By the time word got back to me, a week had already passed. Apparently my laptop was being advertised for one hundred and fifty thousand colones (less than three hundred dollars) and my camera and professional lenses were offered in trade for a bag of weed.

 

It was frustrating to know who the thieves were and to feel powerless to do anything about it. I now had confirmation through the gossip mill, but I knew immediately in my gut from day one.

 

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The morning after the break in, I passed this local teenager on the road. Something about him caught my eye, I recognized him, I knew him, but I couldn’t recall from where. Then something in my tummy said, “it was him.” Undoubtedly. By the time I got home to meet the locksmith who was fixing the door, I remembered why.

 

He, along with a few other guys, used to hang out in the alley beside my house last year. I felt uncomfortable around them instinctively, so I did my best to be especially friendly. During that time I had three bicycles stolen from my backyard. More recently I had seen this man hanging out in front of this blue house affectionately named “the house of thieves.” The same house I had passed on my way to yoga, when I got cat called by some kid. It was starting to click.

 

I conjured in my mind that they had been watching me, waiting for me to leave the house. That afternoon they watched me pass on my bike, made sure to sexually harass me, and took the golden opportunity as soon as it rained, to steal all of my stuff.

 

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This icky sense of judgment, anger, and dare I admit racism arose within me. Seeing them as enemies, other, somehow not brothers in the family we call humanity. I knew this was toxic for my soul, so I sat down in my garden and began to meditate for peace and clarity.

 

I brought forth each of these men into my space. Softened into their presence. Looked them in the eyes to see their innocence. Then I remember coming down onto my knees and bowing forward into a child’s pose. I imagined myself surrounded with peace roses, they dripped out of my fingertips and covered my front porch. In this vision I saw myself as Lakshmi, pure abundance, offering my heart wide open for any and all to take whatever they need. Blessed am I to be so fortunately abundant. “Take it,” I humbly offered, and I meant it with my whole heart.

 

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Carrying that forgiveness into my waking reality was not quite as easy. I remember one night, riding past their house and shouting “I hope you’re enjoying all of my shit!” And another time singing Adele at the top of my lungs, “Go on and take itttttttt, take it allllll with you, don’t look back at this crumbling fool, just take it allllll, with myyyyy love.”

 

But this was part of my healing process too. I was reclaiming my power in a situation where I felt like a victim.

 

If I was actually going to live in Puerto Viejo I needed to feel safe despite the darkness. I knew that my physical abilities weren’t exactly impressive, but I did have my voice. When I felt scared walking on the beach alone or riding my bicycle at night I would sing as loudly as possible, chant in ridiculous octaves, and often make wild animal noises.

 

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Though I was still too afraid to speak to the kids I deemed thieves directly. So I tried to find someone else to help me. Admittedly, I was dodging the responsibility of doing the very thing the universe asked of me. I just wanted someone to magically fix it all.

 

I went from strongly attaching to my “principles” and working with the police, to desperately asking everyone I could think of if they knew a way to negotiate with the thieves. No one seemed up for the job, except for a friend of mine, a local I hadn’t even seen in about four years who had just returned to town. “Let’s just go talk to them,” he said.

 

Just like that? Couldn’t it be more indirect, calculated, and guarantee I could buy it all back for a couple hundred and some weed? And I was scared.

 

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As soon as we got to the gate, my friend began to speak to the kid in the yard, the same one who had cat called me that day. Faster than I could process in Spanish, he sternly explained with penetrating eye contact, “Look, we know it was you who stole everything. We have you on camera. So, bring the stuff back to the house and we won’t turn you in to the police. Do you understand?” I stood there like a papaya saying nothing, slightly stunned and not in control. Then we left.

 

I kinda started to freak out that if I had any chance of getting my stuff back, it was now gone. It also didn’t feel right to me the way the confrontation had gone down. Shaming and blaming these kids wasn’t the remedy and my heart felt conflicted. So I went back a few hours later, this time on my own.

 

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When I arrived the same kid rushed out to greet me. Before I could speak he immediately explained his innocence over and over again. I used the opportunity to simply introduce myself, tell him I knew that he was innocent, that he was a good person, and to let me know if he heard anything about my stuff. I expressed my intentions as pure, and also stood proudly as a woman who lives in this community and has the right to her body, home, and belongings being respected. Nobody needed to be blamed, we just needed to all remember our humanity.

 

When I left, I felt like we had made a quantum leap from enemy to neighbor. And I was pretty sure that between my kindess and direct eye contact, and my Afro Caribbean friend’s dominance and threats, they wouldn’t mess with me again.

 

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That night I had a dream that I went back to my house and all of my stuff had been returned. Except.. none of it was quite right. The laptop didn’t work anymore. The camera had been scrambled and it was like pieces of different cameras put together that couldn’t make up a whole. My passport had been ripped apart by animals. And there was no underwear.

 

In my waking life I was doing everything I could to try to recover my belongings, and my dream state told me what I didn’t want to accept: it’s not for you anymore. But I was in the midst of the fight. I was still pushing against the waves, exhausting myself trying to go in the opposite direction of nature’s pull. And it was exhausting.

 

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Until the moment when, just like four years ago out in the ocean, I finally gave up.

 

I was so exhausted trying to find the perfect place to live that I finally accepted the beauty of staying with friends.

 

I was so exhausted trying to coordinate using people’s computers for work and not knowing what would be appropriate to say on social media that I finally gave myself a true vacation and didn’t do any work at all.

 

I was so exhausted trying to get my stuff back that I finally threw my hands in the air and said “I don’t even want it anyway.”

 

I was so exhausted trying to keep my skin safe that I finally tore off my bandages, walked down to the beach, and I proclaimed to the ocean, “OK! I give up!”

 

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Then, for the first time since the jungle burned me, I dove right into the sea.

 

I was so exhausted trying to resist life that I finally let myself fall into it. I finally let myself trust life because I knew that whether I feared it or trusted it didn’t matter: life was happening.

 

And when I accepted that…

that’s when life began to give me everything.

 

(to be continued)

 

When the Jungle Burned Me

When the Jungle Burned Me

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(Read Part One: A Return to the Wild)

 

My first two days back in the jungle were blissfully easy.

 

While I felt trepidation as I left Seattle, uncertain how Puerto Viejo may have changed or how I might see it through my new eyes, it actually felt so much better than when I left.

 

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The construction had completely stopped and the jungle had overtaken the sides of the road they once mowed down. Land plots once cleared returned to their wildness. Heavy rains cleansed the heavy energy and beautified the area with so much new life. The sun lit up the Caribbean sea like turquoise glass and stars littered the sky in the darkness of the New Moon. When I left, Puerto Viejo felt turbulent; now it felt calm.

 

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I returned to the beach house I’ve rented six times in six years, the one physical dwelling space in the whole wide world that felt like mine. Walked that little familiar path from my house down to the ocean for sunset and danced with all the fireflies on my way back. I was home.

 

I wondered if perhaps Puerto Viejo would not be changing the way I had previously feared it would. This thought brought me a sense of ease. Though an unfamiliar feeling also resided within me: detachment. It felt strange to return to such beauty, and feel such peace, contentment, and love, yet feel utterly unattached to a place I once connected with through an umbilical cord. It felt liberating… but also like… loss.

 

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A lot had shifted within me since I left seven months prior. I took a facilitator training at a tantric permaculture center in Nicaragua, lived in a treehouse on a tiny island in the Andaman sea, danced into different dimensions for six weeks in Chiang Mai, turned 30 with the full moon, led my first retreat outside of Puerto Viejo, backpacked all over Sri Lanka recollecting treasures I left behind lifetimes ago, created my first online course and showed myself to the world through video, and went through such deep inner healing in every process.

 

So as I always do, I came back to Puerto Viejo as a new woman. Which meant, Puerto Viejo was going to give me a new experience. Because she does this for me every single time I come home. And as always, I was curious what that experience would be.

 

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My first day back was one of those perfect Caribbean days. I woke up to a tropical rainstorm and watched it pass from the sanctuary of my hammock. The sky cleared and I rode my bicycle to town, reconnected with friends at the farmer’s market, and stocked up on organic greens and a million coconuts. The day turned sunny and hot, and I swam in the tidepools in Playa Chiquita and napped under an almond tree. Late afternoon I made myself frozen banana cacao “nicecream” and walked the beach at sunset just at the end of my road.

 

I’ve always had the gift of throwing parties, back when I lived in Seattle I was known for it and I had assumed a similar role among friends in the jungle. Naturally, to welcome myself home, I hosted a gathering that night.

 

A couple dozen of my friends came over with beautiful salads and curries and dips and desserts made from the jungle’s abundance and we ate off of banana leaves while lounging on my candlelit wooden porch. I felt, love, support, and so much joy in the presence of those who had become my chosen family, in my chosen home.

 

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After everyone left and the quiet symphony of the wild took over, I had a realization, “I’m no longer in a codependent relationship with Puerto Viejo. I cut the cord when I left for Thailand, and now I get to just be here and enjoy it. No more attachment, no more suffering.”

 

Perhaps in that moment I gave the jungle permission to test me.

 

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Before we go further, it’s relevant that I mention, that there was a strange occurence my first night back. My house had one of those showers they call “suicide showers” where all of the wires are exposed that heat up the water right at the head. These are very common in Puerto Viejo and despite the ominous name I’d never had a problem with one before.

 

Well, my first night back I certainly did. It started out actually quite nice. The water was hotter than I had ever experienced it before. Awesome water pressure, great heat, an unexpected luxury down here in the jungle. But then it got really hot. Like, way way too hot. So hot I could hardly stand it no matter how much cold I turned on. I turned both knobs off, but the water kept coming out. Then the head started to vibrate and release steam. I exited the bathroom and watched from a distance as it literally exploded and the pipe popped out of the wall.

 

When you’ve lived in Costa Rica as long as I have, things like this hardly faze you anymore.
Pura vida.

 

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The shower still hadn’t been fixed my second night back, so when I got home from the beach, slightly sunburned from adjusting my skin to the equatorial sun, I just rinsed off in the cold outdoor sand shower before my friends arrived for the party. By the end of the night I was pretty red, but I know how this goes when I first come back to town. I get a bit burned, the next day I’m brown, and all is well.

 

The next morning, per usual the burn had faded and I had a beautiful golden glow. Except for one part of my body. About eight square inches of my right thigh was covered in huge red streaks. Heat rose up from it like a blazing bonfire. It f&*ing burned.

 

I figured it was some sort of heat rash, a sign of transitioning back into the jungle elements. I rubbed a bunch of lavender essential oil on it and went on with my day. Though by that evening, it had turned dark purple. I went to bed with an ice pack because the pain had gotten so intense I could hardly sleep.

 

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In the morning, it looked worse. Blisters began to bubble up all over my skin and my hip was very swollen. I had planned to meet with my friend to film the rest of the yoga videos for my online community The Freedom Tribe, and I had to reschedule because I was in so much pain I could hardly walk let alone do a downward dog. She told me to call our friend who makes plant medicines, but I kept thinking it was just some sort of heat rash and it would soon go away.

 

Well, it got exponentially worse. One of the blisters swelled to the size of a golf ball and that’s when I called our friend the witch doctor. While I did not have a clue what had caused it, she was convinced it was a venomous plant burn, though the worst she had ever seen, and gave me an antivenom. “Wtf,” I thought, “the jungle actually burned me?”

 

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For the days that followed I used massive amounts of aloe vera, colloidal silver, and anything natural I could think of. I doubled my probiotics and drank so much turmeric I thought I might turn yellow. But, it didn’t really get better.

 

As you can imagine, this turned my entire life upside down. I was so swollen I couldn’t walk and so terrified of infection I did not leave the house. I’m used to going to the beach and swimming in the ocean every day, getting lots of exercise, and constantly using my body.There was none of that. Instead, I had to just be with myself. Inside the container of my four walls.

 

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My house sat within yards of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and I couldn’t even walk down to it. The sun blazed and I sweat in front of a fan with my leg elevated slathered in gooey aloe instead of bathing in the Caribbean sea. It was like the place I had detached myself from decided to detach herself from me. I was in Puerto Viejo, but I wasn’t in Puerto Viejo, ya know?

 

There was a glimmer of hope, however, because the blisters were all fully intact. They were keeping my wound fully sterilized and safe from all the jungle bacteria. If I just continued to use the herbs and the aloe, apparently eventually I’d be ok without any scarring.

 

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The unfortunate thing about these blisters, however, was that they were so big that I couldn’t put pants on without smashing them, which meant I couldn’t go anywhere and be protected at the same time. So I did something very uncomfortable, and very unfamiliar… I relied on other people.

 

This… this was hard. Very hard.

 

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Despite knowing basically everyone here and having a huge community of friends, in that moment I felt completely alone. The thought of asking friends for basic things I needed… drinking water, groceries, bandages, medicine… was incredibly uncomfortable.

 

When it came to hosting a party, I had dozens of friends. I had a family. When it came to needing help, I had no one. Literally, I didn’t think that there was anyone who I could call. I realized the sobering truth that… I didn’t have any friends, because I didn’t know how to let anyone in.

 

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But then there are those friends who force their way in and crack your heart right open.
And I do have friends like that.

 

One of whom came to my house every day to bring me bandages, aloe, and treats, and insisted on supporting me in every way possible. Another who I met just days before and rode her bicycle in the heat to town, to buy me organic veggies from the market. Another who wandered in the jungle to find different herbs and plants and made all kinds of tinctures and medicines to help me to heal. Another who came in a rainstorm at ten o’clock at night with a huge jug of water when I ran out. And so many others who supported me when I didn’t know how to ask or receive.

 

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With nowhere to go and nothing to do, unable to shift the energy through my body with yoga or dance or running, I sat in my hammock and reflected on why it was so hard for me to receive. I contemplated why I seemed to push others away. Why it was easy to give or to take care or to host or to offer, but it was so hard for me to ever let anyone truly come close.

 

I didn’t have this quality before I left to go travel. In those days I always had a romantic partner, spent lots of time with friends, was always with my family, and barely found myself alone. But now here I was, 30 years old, coming up on seven years single, four years celibate, divided from my family by borders, and in a place where I didn’t even think I had friends. I was alone.

 

Then one night, something clicked.

I realized that I kept people at a distance, so they wouldn’t ever have to see my shadow, and neither would I.

 

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This shadow dominated my life until five years ago when I flooded it with light living on the beaches of Costa Rica and backpacking the world on on my own. This shadow I called: neediness.

 

By exploring the world with no one to take care of me but me, I had learned to no longer be controlled by my neediness and fall into co-dependent relationships. But my strategy was a pretty limited one: aloneness. If I was alone, there wasn’t anyone to be needy with. So all sorts of relationships were very, very, very scary for me.

 

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No wonder I was exclusively attracted to men who already had girlfriends, felt most comfortable with friends who were very busy or always traveling, and adamantly lived alone. There was no opportunity for me to be needy.

 

But why was I needy? Was it a personality trait? Was it because my Moon is in Leo? Was it because my parents are divorced? Or because my heart had been broken so many times? Or because of that time when my friends bullied me? Or because and because and because?

 

Oh right… of course. It dawned on me.
I’m needy, because I am human and humans have needs.

 

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The most obvious yet most profound realization shattered me like a force cracks a seed so far open it can never go back, it can only grow.

 

I realized that I felt needy, because despite doing yoga, dancing, cleansing, cooking for myself, traveling the world, chasing my dreams, taking trainings and workshops, reading all the self love books, and on and on and on… I had neglected my most core human needs.
I had abandoned the child inside of me who was constantly looking for the mother that only I could possibly be.

 

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So I had to make my way all the way back to the beginning.
If I truly wanted to detach myself from the jungle, I had to start mothering myself the way the jungle had once mothered me.

 

She showed me how to be a child from the moment my feet kissed her skin
and now she was showing me how to be a mother.

 

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That’s when I started talking to myself.

 

Yep, I was in my house, all alone, hobbling around with aloe dripping down my leg, talking to myself out loud. And yet, I felt more sane than ever. I’d ask myself questions like… “So, how are you?” and I would just wait for an answer. The answers always surprised me. They were spontaneous, emotional, very simple, and totally unfiltered. It was actually so much easier than the constant analyzing and figuring out I had grown so accustomed to.

 

“How are you?”
“I’m really sad! I’m still hurt about you know who and I’m hungry. I want you to cook for me and stop trying to control me.”
“Ok, let’s make a salad and then we can go snuggle and talk about it. How does that sound sweetie?”

 

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Even more basic than that, I focused on loving and caring for myself through my body. I reasoned that my constant strep throat and bronchitis as a kid, sickness and injuries while traveling, and now totally inexplicably caused burn, were my body’s way of crying out for the attention that I would only give it in times of crisis. I needed to learn how to love my body more deeply than ever before, so it didn’t have to be abused first.

 

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That realization, of course, came in a moment of crisis. I mentioned before that my saving grace was that the wound remained closed and safe from infection. Until it wasn’t. One morning, the biggest blister popped and the skin completely tore. Very much in my character, I had no form of first aid kit or even disinfectant in the house, so I just put some essential oil and aloe on it.

 

It rapidly got infected, and no matter how many different plants or colloidal silver tinctures or kinds of essential oils I used, the infection did not go away. I started to freak out. It had been at least ten days since the burn arrived and I wondered if I would ever be able to go into the ocean again. I wondered if I was ever going to heal.

 

Jungle Puerto Viejo

 

Finally, my inner mother spoke up and said, “Camille, we’re going to the pharmacy!” HELLO PRIDE, Western Medicine exists for a reason, and thank God and bless it fully. It was like spending the whole day looking for a key that had been hanging around my neck. Yes, duh, antiseptic wash and burn cream. Taking care of my body was more important in that moment than taking care of my self righteous ego.

 

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The awesome thing about the blister popping was that I could finally wrap my leg up and wear pants to leave the house. I still hobbled from the swelling, but I was able to ride my bicycle into town that night and go to the pharmacy for cream. Getting out of the house even for half an hour was tremendously liberating. My inner child was so excited you’d think we were buying ice cream.

 

But as I cycled home through the darkness under the stars, a familiar sadness greeted me. The sadness of unrequited love and a romance that I clung to so tightly despite knowing logically again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, that it didn’t make any damn sense at all. This time the sadness had another flavor though. It tasted like grief. Which meant that even though it still hurt, I was letting go.

 

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In my garden, where I had so many ceremonies and channelings and greetings in the past, I wept for the piece of myself I tied to him. Without even understanding it and doing everything I could not to intellectually judge it. But just to feel it and let myself grieve it.

 

And even though writing these words seems so dramatic it’s almost embarrassing, and to him, myself, and so many I’m delusional and unjustified, it is what feels true to my child. So in honor of whatever she decides to feel, I say it here now to you: I wept for the loss of my king. The lion to my lioness. My twin flame.

 

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The next morning my wound had completely transformed. All of the blisters deflated and the infection was totally gone. That said, the medicine from the pharmacy smelled more toxic than anything I’ve ever put onto my body, and had actually formed a layer on my skin that seemed like plastic. I decided that one use was enough and now that the infection was gone I’d go back to natural. Only this time, I would fully devote my energy into loving and caring for my body like a newborn baby.

 

I massaged myself with castor oil and different herbs, covered my wound in healing balms, gave myself reiki, and took care of my entire body like a temple. It became my nightly ritual, massaging even my feet and toes with different oils and treating myself as beautifully as I deserved.

 

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As my body healed I noticed other rapid transformations. Despite not leaving the house nor exercising at all for ten days, I had lost a significant amount of weight. It was like my body finally had the permission to let go simply because I decided to love it. For the first time since getting sick years ago traveling, I no longer felt bloated. It was like coming home to a body that I forgot I once had.

 

Creatively I felt more flow than ever. Everything became crystal clear. Writing was effortless. My message became potent. My dreams started manifesting at rapid speed. It was like I was… superhuman.

 

And to my delight, my leg had healed enough that I felt ready to go greet the world. The ocean was still a ways off, but I could go and teach my yoga class in town. So when it came time, I bandaged up my leg, put on my compression leggings, and rode off.

 

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On the way, I remember passing this teenager on the street in front of the blue Caribbean shack affectionately called “the house of thieves.” He made some sort of kissing noise or derogatory comment, and I silently blessed him (because otherwise I’d go crazy in this world), and pedaled on. Sad but true, I’m so used to this from traveling alone as a woman that I hardly gave it a second thought.

 

After yoga I offered DANCEmandala while the sky sobbed and roared. It was one of those intense Caribbean rainstorms where it almost sounds like the world might end. We called in the wildness in our steps and released like the rain with our sweat and our tears. By the time we held hands in our closing circle the storm stopped and the cicadas had taken over.

 

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It was dark when I turned down the path to my house; my belly groaned and my body begged for rest. I planned to make myself soup and have an early bedtime, but life had other plans. From the garden I could see that the door to my house and been kicked down and immediately I knew, they took everything.

 

My jungle hazing hadn’t ended, it had in fact just begun.

 

(To be continued next week…)

 

A Return to the Wild

A Return to the Wild

Puerto-Viejo

 

I think I’ve been scared to write this.
Afraid that by putting the words on the page I might bring it all back to life.
And yet that’s the very reason why I need to write this.

 

So that I remember
to never forget.

 

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I guess you could say the story started… well the story started from the moment I was born… but I’ll tell it from when I got back to Seattle from Sri Lanka.

 

Between the extreme weather change and flying for over 48 hours with the flu, from the moment I walked in the door I went into hibernation. I bundled myself in blankets in a bedroom without any windows at the back of my mother’s basement.

 

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My time in Sri Lanka was illuminating. While amazed and enchanted as I always am by new land and culture, my body resisted the transitions and I spent most of the time just trying to get myself comfortable enough to heal. My body didn’t care that I wanted to try on the role of “backpacker.” My body wanted home.

 

So when I got back to Seattle, I found the closest thing to a cave to retreat in.

 

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It was hardly the first time I had been sick while traveling.

 

Sick was a state I came to know well in bathrooms in Bali, dorm beds in Colombia, and long bus rides through the Sahara. Sick slowed me down when nothing else could. Sick asked me to be with myself instead of just being with the world.

 

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And sick brought me back to Puerto Viejo again and again.

 

When I was physically sick from traveling the world I would return to the jungle’s embrace and let myself heal with the land. When I was mentally sick from the stress of the Western world I would return to the jungle’s wildness and set myself free. When I was sick of anything or anywhere I would return to the jungle’s magic and remember my childlike bliss.

 

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But the jungle wasn’t ever easy on me.

 

Quite the contrary, the jungle often bashed the shit out of me. The jungle often showed me my deepest wounds by breaking open my heart; then she’d deliver me the very balm necessary to heal. Like a vine with spikes that slice you but whose leaves will sanitize and clot your blood.

 

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I loved the jungle for this, and for so many other things. In fact, I loved her so much at times I wondered if I could survive without her.

 

Whenever I’d go off and travel the world she would call to me as the solution to every sickness. She was the place I called home even though my passport proved I was in fact a homeless gypsy.

 

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Just before I went to Sri Lanka something started to shift though.

 

I watched her slowly disappear as government workers shaved her sides while putting in a new road, locals cleared her wild floors for development plots, and storms thinned her drapery along the coastline. My heart broke like it had never been broken, so afraid that I would lose the one I loved most of all. It made me want to leave before she left me and fear that I would never find home.

 

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While grieving the loss of the jungle (my home, my mother, my lover) I also received the message from the man I always confused and understood as the jungle herself, that for him it was never me and never would be.

 

Despite creating my own life and path here for so many years, I somehow could not seem to separate him and her. If I wanted to free myself of this love story that held me back in so many ways, I decided I had to leave.

 

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That’s when I said goodbye to Puerto Viejo and made my way to Thailand, not knowing if I would ever come back. Ready to begin a new story and a new life.

 

Except, it didn’t really go that way.
At least not the way that I thought it would.

 

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The distance was good for me, healthy, I gained new perspective, I healed a lot, I understood acceptance, I nurtured compassion, but I was far from ready to let go. In fact freedom from it only arose when I fully accepted that I might never let it go.

 

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What I let go of instead, was the traveler identity I had carried for so long. I finally accepted that I wasn’t the same woman who wandered around Southeast Asia years ago.

 

I wasn’t a backpacker anymore.

 

Over the years other things became more important to me than my wanderlust. My creative projects. My healing journey. My spiritual community. My gifts. And of course, my health. I knew I needed some kind of home to focus on those things, so I wasn’t so distracted with basic survival.

 

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Having just released my home of the road and uncertain about my home of the jungle, I went to my birth home of Seattle, to take care of the only real home I’ve ever had: my body.

 

I realized quickly that despite being health conscious, super physically active, and dedicated to natural wellness, my body needed a lot of restoration from how hard it worked for me on the road all of these years.

 

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Despite exercising for hours every day and eating a pretty restrictive diet, I seemed to be steadily gaining weight and always had digestive issues. Young coconuts couldn’t make up for all the times I had food poisoning and an hour of yoga couldn’t undo all the hours I carried my home on my back.

 

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For the two months I spent in Seattle I devoted myself to nurturing my body back to health. I cleansed and detoxed and nourished and alkalized.

 

Frustratingly, I didn’t lose any weight and my digestive problems didn’t go away. But I continued, because I knew that I deserved to take care of myself whether I got the results I wanted or not.

 

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As I removed this old physical debris I had collected over the years of being a traveler, the emotional debris naturally rose to the surface.

 

I began to feel the wounds of my love story and fear my return to the jungle. I rode the waves of anger, sadness, rejection, aversion, desire, and the many colors around inside between, reflecting on the characters who played my lovers on my journey.

 

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I used these confrontations as opportunities to heal.

 

In my meditation I called in every story and memory I had ever shared with the man I loved in the jungle. The stories that I liked to remember and the ones I really would have rather pretended away. For every interaction that arose, I repeated the prayer: “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.”

 

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The stories began to disappear and I filled the new space with words of loving kindness. I caressed my body because she deserved to feel it as deeply as I thought it.

 

As I tenderly touched myself, a new thought emerged. “It was me. It was always me.” Clarity flooded me like a waterfall. All of those fantasies, all of my desires, everything I ever wanted from him, it was always me.

 

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The love story I thought I had with him was actually the love story I had with me. It didn’t matter how significant or insignificant my relationship was with him or how much or how little I’ve ever meant to him, because it was never about him.

 

It was always about me.

 

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I was the one who woke me up out of the slumber of my old life of monotony. I was the one who broke myself open and healed myself whole every time we came together. I was the one who made me feel sexy, alive, desired, primal, spontaneous, and wild. It was always within me. Because it is me.

 

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I am the wild. The jungle. The jaguar. The hibiscus flowers. The ocean. The heart shaped vines. The blue morpho butterflies. The hummingbird. The sunshine. The storms. The beauty. The rawness. I am all of it.

 

My fear of letting him go and letting this place go were one in the same.
My fear was of losing myself.

 

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It dawned on me that this was exactly what the last year had been teaching me in various but always intense ways. From revisiting all of the men of my past to ripping myself apart in The Tantric Way to quitting blogging and destroying the ego of This American Girl to bidding farewell to so many parts of myself…

 

I was releasing all of my codependent relationships.

 

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Soon after that realization, I returned to the jungle.
Which is where this story actually begins.

 

(stay tuned for part two next week…)

 

Reuniting With a Long Lost Lover

Reuniting With a Long Lost Lover

Seattle Lincoln Park

 

Going home is such a strange thing isn’t it?

 

Seattle Lincoln Park

 

I mean, I suppose it’s strange to call it strange since it’s something so familiar.

 

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Familiar spaces and faces reminding you of who you’ve been and what you’ve survived. Echoes of your past that almost ache when your bones remember.

 

Seattle Lincoln park

 

It’s all familiar.

So what makes it so strange?

 

Seattle Lincoln park

 

What comes to mind is that time my college boyfriend flew across the world to visit me while I was studying abroad in Rome. For the two months prior, I bought Italian calling cards nearly every day just to hear the sound of his voice, even though we fought most of the time.

 

Seattle Lincoln park

 

Wandering the cobblestone streets of Trastevere I often questioned my decision to be there instead of back home in his embrace, even though I had never felt so myself or so free.

 

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Then came our reunion and it was like I didn’t even know him. I felt agitated, detached, and incredibly confused. I didn’t know what I wanted anymore.

 

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Sometimes going home feels exactly like that.

 

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Like reuniting with a lover I’ve measured every moment up to, and suffering into the disappointment of even that union failing to measure up.

Like longing so deeply to feel the fulfillment of a homecoming, and instead looking forward to the next move.

Like returning to the one I thought I knew most of all, and feeling like an absolute stranger.

 

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‘Cause when I’ve left home, wandered the world, and survived so many other faces and spaces.

I become a stranger in my own home. And I wonder if it’s home any longer.

 

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But sometimes going home feels different from that.

Sometimes going home feels like… love.

 

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Like all the times I felt the jungle hold me or when the blue morpho butterfly showed me which way to go.

 

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And when I recollected my soul’s long forgotten melody singing to the sea.

 

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When I looked you in the eyes and I knew that I knew you and it didn’t matter how or why.

 

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Those nights when I danced across the fallen logs watching the sunset behind the purple mountains.

 

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Watching the moonrise up from the ocean.

 

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All the times I softened into your embrace because I trusted you despite anyone you or I ever portrayed.

 

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And those moments of surrender when I cried just because something in the wind told me I was safe.

 

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In the familiar embrace of a place that’s seen me through more than my brain could ever retain, I remember pieces of myself that I forgot I had forgotten. I see my shadows from new angles and I learn how to dance in darkness and in light. At times I like myself more or I like myself less, but I learn to let my love never change.

 

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I open closets I left closed for eternities.

I clean out old drawers and I give a lot of baggage away.

I witness my changes and I learn to forgive because there’s really no other way.

I finally let go because there’s nothing left to hang onto anyway.

I surrender to the who I am in the where I am in the when I am
and let the universe take care of the how and why I am.

‘Cause that’s all I can.

 

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To come home is to reunite with a long lost lover.

It’s just that the long lost lover…. is me.

 

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So, I am home.

Always have been.

Always will be.

 

The Beauty of Slowing Down

The Beauty of Slowing Down

photo by Devon Gabhart

 

You know… I was never a slow person.

 

As a kid I bubbled with energy and teachers marked me down on report cards for not “sitting still” in class. I would shake with excitement in my seat and it wasn’t uncommon for me to be accused of having ADHD. In middle school most of the boys told me I was super hot and pretty cool but also “a total spaz.”

 

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I talked fast. So fast people could hardly understand me and I’d exhaust myself telling a story. The speed was further enhanced by the valley girl accent that I still seem to have. I don’t know if I had ever taken a slow deep breath.

 

I walked fast. My highschool boyfriend nicknamed me “turbo.” I’d be ten feet ahead of him while he called out “slow down turbo!” He also told me that he loved me… but he wished I would just smoke a bowl and chill the fuck out.

 

I didn’t have any white on my fingernails. I bit them so low that they hurt when I tried to sleep at night or stuck my hand into a salty bag of chips. In school I went through phases of wearing these little white gloves to break the habit, even in the summer months, looking like Michael Jackson.

 

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As an adult I always needed stimulation. A distraction. Something to eat. Something to work on. Something to buy. Someone to talk to. Something to listen to. Something to do. I had like seventeen jobs at the same time and would get confused and then embarrassed when people asked me what my “hobbies” were.

 

My anxiety at times felt out of control. I’d get overwhelmed with emotion and not know how to process or release it. I’d spend literally hours sitting in my car in the parking lot or on the floor of the shower sobbing crying. I’d argue with the voice in my mind, tell it to shut up, to leave me alone, then freak out that if it did stop, I would no longer be alive. Cause I was that voice in my mind… right?

 

Puerto Viejo

 

The only time I ever felt relaxed was during a rare Seattle Indian Summer when I spent hours laying in the sunshine by the lake. Or brief moments when I felt intimacy and connection spooning with someone I loved. The fleeting but so sweet tastes of life when I slowed down enough to actually see its beauty.

 

But… most of the time I really wasn’t happy. I was bored and busy at the same time. How good I was at multi-tasking seemed to be how good I thought I was at life. And at my ever increasing speed, I was constantly motivated by the reward system around me. The taste of food. The validation of male attention. The praise over my accomplishments. The excitement of buying more and more things. This dictated my happiness entirely.

 

Then Costa Rica happened.

 

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Legitimately I went there because I wanted to learn how to relax. I mean, I didn’t actually know WTF that meant, I just knew that every person I was ever close to was constantly asking me to do it. I actually had this book called “Learn to Relax” filled with mindfulness meditations but it sat on my shelf in the blue color coded section and never really made it to my bedside table.

 

Going to Costa Rica to relax was kind of a joke. People would ask me why I was going. Was it to study? Travel around? To DO something? “Nope,” I’d reply “I’m gonna go learn to relax.” I say it was a joke cause again… I had no idea what “relax” even meant.

 

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So, I used some reference points. Ok, relaxation must look like a travel agency brochure. Ya know, where the people are laying on beach recliners holding cocktails decorated with colorful umbrellas and the water is like a swimming pool and there’s no skyscraper hotels or poor people selling them souvenirs. Like… an absolute escape from reality. And Costa Rica was a tropical vacation place so… ya… it must be a place to relax.

 

I now know that relaxation is exactly like that and nothing like that at all.
Relaxation can liberate us from reality… but that only happens when we completely surrender to reality. No matter what our reality may look feel or taste like.

 

Punta Uva

 

Which is why my experience in Costa Rica was not like those brochures. I was living in the middle of the jungle about fourteen miles outside of town with no transportation. No internet. No bars. No shopping. Plain bland food. No beach loungers with umbrellas. All I had was the speed of nature. A whole lot slower than mine.

 

At first I resisted the shit out of it. But eventually my nervous system regulated. I slowed down. I synced up with the vibration of nature. That’s when I started to heal. I started to feel happy. I started to love life. I started to love myself.

 

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Recently I had this thought while laying in stillness meditation…
Relaxation is the precursor to love.

 

Back then I didn’t know that consciously, but I do believe that part of me knew that relaxing, slowing down, was the only way I was going to get my life on track. It was the absolutely undeniably necessary step in consciously choosing how was I going to show up in the world. It was the gateway I needed to open, to learn how to love.

 

How do I see this so clearly now?

 

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I can only say that on my personal journey, seasick sailing across the ocean for days, stuck at border control in developing countries, nauseous on way too many bathroom floors, heartbroken beyond the point of wanting to live, giving up every ounce of security with the hope that I could create a life as beautiful as I know we all deserve, opening beyond my every layer of resistance for the sake of personal growth, and facing everything that has asked me to slow down along the way, I have learned that to relax is to simply trust life.

 

Fortunately for me, when I fail to trust life, and I start to speed up, life has a way of surrounding me with obstacles until I slow down.

 

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Lately I needed this reminder, because I don’t live the way I lived on that first trip to Costa Rica anymore.

 

I’m closer to town. There’s more development now. I have a lot more money. I spend a lot more money. I have a lot of friends to visit. I have an online business that I could work on 46 hours a day if I wanted to. I bring a huge suitcase full of supplements and raw nuts and quinoa and new clothes I know are going to get ruined, instead of the one little backpack I used to live out of.

 

And all of that is beautiful.
Nothing wrong with any of it.
As long as I keep remembering, what’s essential.

 

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Which I think is the reason why recently I had everything I thought I needed taken from me. I plan to write the whole story in a lot more detail when the time feels right… but for now I will simply share, that being confined to my house for two weeks with an infected second degree burn covering my entire right hip and thigh, having my brand new Macbook Pro, professional camera and lenses, all of my cash, all of my credit cards, and every single pair of underwear, stolen, locking my replacement laptop in my safe with no way to get back in, my entire website crashing and not being able to recover it for days, and tragically losing two very young people who I loved, has been the most awakening, transformational opportunity to trust life and remember how to love.

 

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Everything in life lately has told me… slow down. Take a break from work. Exercise less. Meditate. Go within. Get clear. Clear your body. Clear your mind. Clear space to make more room for your heart.

 

Which as a Westerner born to highly educated parents, one who is no stranger to the 80 hour work week and the other who manages to still do five hundred things at once, this sometimes makes me feel unbelievably guilty.

 

Recently, after spending half the day just resting, journaling, and meditating, I found myself crying. So overcome with guilt. I asked myself… “Why? Why me?” So much shame over the privilege I have to even be logistically able to do nothing. “Why do I deserve this?” I asked. Then, a little voice said to me, “Everyone deserves this Camille. So why not start with you?”

 

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While it has been a slow blossoming and unveiling over years of deep self inquiry in yoga, dance, meditation, reiki, astrology, psychic channeling, tantra, breathwork, women’s circles, ceremonies, you name the healing modality, and years of traveling, exploring, learning, unlearning, meeting, parting, for the first time in my life, slowed down to an absolute halt, not working or learning or exploring… for the first time in six years just BEING again in my jungle home of Costa Rica…

 

I can honestly say that while I don’t always understand it
I trust life.

 

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Because frankly, I finally realize that I have no other choice.
And since I don’t have to fight against life anymore, or make anything happen that’s not already divinely planned, I can just love myself. I can just love.

 

No world to explore, just my own body to cherish.
No camera to take photos, just my eyes to take it in.
No blogging to be done or book to be written, just scribbling down the wisdom from my heart.
No online community to build for success, just my local community to support in a time of death.

 

Jungle Puerto Viejo

 

This year, this lifetime, there has been so much that I want to do. But I know that it’s only worth doing it, if I can do it with my whole heart. If I can do it with love. And that is the beauty of slowing down.

 

May we all have that privilege. That permission. That space.

Pura vida.

 

Nature photos are by me, photos of me are by Devon Gabhart