Nov 12 2012

Times of Transition

Peggy McPartland

 

I’ve been bouncing down a dirt road for hours on an antiquated bus. It’s so rough that I literally bounce out of my seat at times as we hit yet another hole in the road. At one point I bounce so hard that my leg hits the seat lever, breaking the skin and creating another nasty bruise. My body aches from sitting for what feels like days on end.

The woman in the seat across the aisle has a bag of chickens between her feet, their heads poking out from holes in the plastic. They’re none too happy about the journey, squawking loudly in protest.

They have a saying here – vale la pena – literally translated as worth the pain. I certainly wonder at times. But then it always proves itself true. The scenery is breathtaking.

These long bus rides are a good time to reflect. My life has changed so much in the past eight months.

You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy!

When I sold my house, got rid of everything I owned and quit my job in March, I had no idea what to expect. I knew I wanted something different, but wasn’t sure what it might look like. All I knew was that I was incredibly stressed from the process and was looking forward to some down time. Heading to Plum Village felt right. And it was. It gave me plenty of time to decompress, reflect and find some balance. It was the perfect decision.

It was strange that I didn’t feel any fear, regret or apprehension as I left my entire life behind – my job, my home, my friends and my sense of identity. Maybe I was just too tired! In reality, I believe it was because I was making the right choice at the right time.

The structure at the monastery helped me make a gradual transition from my daily routine in Seattle to a life of complete freedom. I was supported and loved by the sisters as I began to find my center again. I’m not sure I would have wanted to do it without them. They are so wise and really understand what’s important in life. They guided me when I struggled and supported me in my practice.

As my time at Plum Village came to an end, I began to feel incredible apprehension and fear. The outside world isn’t as kind and supportive as the beautiful environment I had been living in for three months. I was afraid I would no longer fit into that world and that I may not be able to sustain my practice without the structure and guidance. I knew it was time to move on, but it was so hard to do at the same time.

Life definitely isn’t the same out here as in a monastery, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. Yes, I have to work harder at being present, maintaining a daily meditation practice, and remembering to take a lazy day every week. But the things I learned there and the people who touched my heart will always be with me regardless of where I am.

I scheduled time in the U.S. following my stay at Plum Village to spend time with family and friends and attend the incredible World Domination Summit (put on by Chris Guillebeau and his amazing team of volunteers) in Portland. As much as I loved connecting with like-minded souls at WDS, it was difficult to be among so many people and so much activity after the structure of a monastery. I joined in the morning meditation group in the park with other WDSers and tried to find my balance early in each day. I met great people, reconnected with others from the premier World Domination Summit and got excited about the world-changing projects of these non-conformists.

For some reason, the introvert that I am hadn’t realized that eight weeks of not having my own space may not be the best idea! It was great to connect with friends and family over the summer although it became exhausting to move from house to house, couch to couch and coast to coast as the weeks wore on. I escaped to one of my favorite places, the Oregon coast, for a few days and as always, the ocean soothed my spirit.

I became more and more restless as the summer went on, anxious to head to South America and really begin living this new life of mine. I stepped onto a plane in Portland, Oregon at the end of August and have been in Ecuador and Colombia since. I’m meeting amazing people, speaking a new language and living in an entirely different culture. While it’s challenging at times, I wouldn’t change it at all.

I’m living my life fully and passionately on my own terms. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Oct 25 2012

Versa-Letters

Peggy McPartland
I was recently selected as a travel writer for the {r}evolution apparel blog.  I’m excited to be a part of their project and want to share it with you.The series is called Versa-Letters and it features women traveling around the world.

 

{r}evolution apparel is an amazing company making sustainable and versatile apparel. It was started by two women travelers filled with great ideas and passion. They use only recycled, American-made fabric.

 

I absolutely love my Versalette and will be wearing it as I’m traveling the world. It’s perfect not only for travelers but anyone who’d like to minimize their wardrobe and can be worn over 20 different ways. I’m still working on trying out each look.

Spiritual CleansingI’d love to share my most recent travel story. It’s my experience of a spiritual cleansing in Ecuador. Check it out at the {r}evolution apparel blog.

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Oct 18 2012

Lazy Days

Peggy McPartland

I wake up without an alarm, long after the sun rises. I slowly stretch, look out the window at the brilliant blue sky and smile.

It’s a Lazy Day and I have absolutely nothing to do today.

In today’s hectic world, we rarely take time for ourselves. There’s always something else to do, somewhere to go, one more deadline or one more soccer game to take the kids to. “I’m too busy” becomes a common refrain.

We have this this incredible ability to keep moving forward even when we’re exhausted and feel as if we have nothing left to give. Rather than listening to that inner voice that’s screaming for us to just stop for a minute, we keep pushing ourselves, refusing to slow down and take care of ourselves.

Our body has a way of telling us “if you won’t listen to me and slow down, I’ll force you to.” And that’s when we get sick.  It’s happened to me more times than I care to remember.

But what if we just regularly took time to slow down, nurture ourselves and become grounded? It’s easy to consider time for ourselves as a luxury when in reality it’s a necessity. It’s a valuable lesson I learned during my time at Plum Village.

Being lazy has always seemed like such a bad thing to me. I’ve always felt guilty when I’ve been lazy, spending a day in my sweats reading. I’ve always thought that time not spent productively was a waste. At least that’s what I’ve been told since I was a kid. I just never asked myself what productivity really means to me. And once I did, I couldn’t help but embrace being lazy.

I think it’s really proactive and productive to spend time taking care of myself. And if taking care of myself means napping, meditating, or just sitting in the woods listening to the silence, that can’t be a bad thing.

Every Monday at Plum Village is a Lazy Day. And I looked forward to it every week. It’s a day to recharge the mind and spirit. It’s a chance to spend the day reflecting, walking, reading, napping in the sun or just being with friends. There’s no agenda and no expectations. The day just unfolds slowly and luxuriously.

It amazes me how long a day can seem when there is absolutely nothing that has to be done. Being able to enjoy a day relaxing and being fully present and aware of each moment is an incredible gift. It’s a really a practice of giving myself to myself.

It’s not easy for everyone though. Many people find the concept of a Lazy Day so foreign that they’re unable to relax into it and enjoy it. We’ve been so programmed to stay busy that it’s difficult to do otherwise. And if we’re always busy, it keeps us from having to really look at what’s going on inside. It’s a way to not feel any true emotion.

I’ve learned if I’m tired, rest. And that if I feel boredom when I’m not busy, to really look into the cause because if I’m fully present and aware in each moment, it’s impossible to be bored.

This beautiful practice of Lazy Days is something I’ll want to continue throughout my life with much joy and gratitude. Rather than feeling guilty about being lazy, I’ll embrace it wholeheartedly.

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