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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