Finding and Living your Truth

Finding and Living your Truth

“Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” they say. Others work to make ends meet and spend their free time doing things they love. There are endless possibilities and many choices when it comes to crafting your profession, but the question remains: How will you design your life? 

I’ve been asking myself this question again and again the past few months. While it’s true that this is a lifelong question, it is particularly relevant for those of us in our mid 20s. 

If you’re new to this blog, I’ll take a moment to explain my story up to this point… I’m Jamie, a world traveler and big question asker. I am 25 years old at the time of this writing, and I’ve been blessed to have experienced some pretty amazing things for someone my age. I’ve run with the bulls in Spain, solo traveled to many countries around the world, worked in interesting places like Congress in D.C. and beachside hostels in Puerto Rico, lived in Europe for 3 years, and have generally always been curious and hungry to learn more about myself and this big world we live in. After a year of traveling abroad and working remotely, I decided it’s time to settle down and find a place to call home for a while. This led me to asking myself, “If I could do anything or live anywhere, what would I do and where would I go?” 

Initially I chose Denver, Colorado and started applying for jobs. After living out of a backpack for such a long time, it was so nice to have a place to call home. I had a few interviews here and there, all of which were lengthy processes. During the interviews, I noticed the interviewees looked down on my extensive traveling. It simply did not fit their notion of employability. Of course, this discouraged me and made me feel a bit unwanted and unworthy, an outsider even. I continued applying with a wider spectrum of companies. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to work for these companies, but I felt a strong sense of should. I should get a “good” job. I should settle down. I should sacrifice my time and energy and eventually it would pay off…right? 

Two months passed in Denver, and I felt more confused than when I arrived. What was this all for? What am I meant to do? Could I truly work at a company that didn’t align with my values? Can someone just please tell me what’s right for me?!

All our lives we are told what to do from grade school to the college path to the bigger picture societal pressures of working up the corporate ladder in order to afford nice things. Not to mention, we probably only want these nice things because a talented marketing team has carefully crafted messages to make us believe we need these things to be happy.

Rant aside; I was seriously confused about what to do next. One morning I got in my car and drove to my old home, the meditation retreat center in the Rocky Mountains. Sometimes when you’re stuck, the only thing to do is look inward. So there I was, meditating in a cozy little room in the Rocky Mountains as I watched the snow softly fall outside. I sat and did nothing. I sat and watched my mind search for a solution. Slowly, my mind settled and the shoulds melted away.

When you sit like this, deeper Truths surface. Like the sun emerging as the clouds part on a stormy day, clarity shines through.  

Ah, yes! That’s it! I realized. 

I felt the answer rise from within. I was meant to live in a contemplative environment like that of Shambhala Mountain Center and facilitate retreats to help others discover their true nature and authenticity. This kind of environment is also the ideal place for self-discovery, something I highly value.

As I drove back to Denver from the mountains, I was sure this was the path I would take. I looked up the top retreat centers in the United States and abroad and sent out a few applications at the places that seemed right for me. 

Within two weeks, I received an offer to work on the Guest Services team at the esteemed Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. I packed my bags and moved my life once again, but this time with more direction than the last. 

The path isn’t a straightforward one. We are meant to get confused, lost, and even feel sad and uncomfortable at times. These are the times when we can truly gain an experiential understanding of self-compassion and trust in the journey. Like my teacher Choygam Trungpa Rinpoche said, “The path is the goal!” 

So, my friends, if you’re in a similar situation, take a breath and enjoy the journey. It’s what we’re here for!

North America’s Most Unexpected Spiritual Mecca

North America’s Most Unexpected Spiritual Mecca

Far away in a remote countryside village in southern Colorado you’ll find a place dubbed “the Enlightenment Town”. Upon first impression, the village resembles an old Western movie that has long been forgotten. As I walked around “downtown”, a local storeowner said to me, “Oh honey, hate to tell you, but there ain’t nothing goin’ on here.” On the surface level, she may be right, but if you look a little deeper, Crestone is indeed a fascinating place.

Where in the World Am I?

Driving to Crestone felt like a modern day spiritual pilgrimage of sorts. Windows down, deep blue skies with a rocky, mountainous backdrop, endless fields of bright green shrubs and cows lazily grazing on either side of a long country road. The only music that truly resonated with this drive was a classical music radio station coming in through spotty coverage.

I finally reached the seemingly uninteresting and undoubtedly miniscule town of Crestone, Colorado. Crestone is a semi-arid high desert town with a whopping 127 residents yet is home to more than 25 major spiritual centers from all kinds of religions. There are Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Islamic Sufis, Taoists, and Native Americans (to name a few) living side by side in harmony.

Why Crestone?

Crestone is no paradise by conventional means. The weather goes from sand storms to snow storms. At 8,000 feet, the altitude leaves you feeling like you never get enough oxygen. So what made all of these religions want to set up shop in the middle of nowhere Colorado?

According to Jonathan, one of the three residents of Haidakhandi Universal Ashram, Native American tribes would all gather in the valley in the summer, marking one of the only places that these tribes peacefully congregated. They called Crestone the “Peaceful Valley”, which accurately describes the area today with the hodgepodge of religions living peacefully amongst each other.

Further up the road from the Ashram you’ll find the Stupa of Enlightenment near the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s retreat land. Stupas are Buddhist monuments containing the relics of great meditation masters. They offer a sacred place in which to realize your own radiance and goodness. It is believed that stupas bring blessings to the builder, the landscape, and its visitors.

This particular stupa has relics from Tibetan meditation legends such as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, and Tilopa. Behind the pure white structure looms the contrasting gray, rocky mountains. Many Tibetans who visit Crestone are comforted by how much it reminds them of their homeland. This could be another reason why you can find so many Tibetan Buddhist practitioners in the valley.

Personally, I found that being in Crestone welcomes spaciousness. It’s a land of no distractions, which can be exactly what’s needed for time in retreat, getting to know the inner workings of your own mind. I noticed a few small retreat cabins where people stay for solitary retreats, doing their meditation practices for weeks or even months at a time…just another reminder that this indeed is sacred land.

I recited some mantras at the stupa and paid my respects to the land for allowing me to receive the blessings and felt the magic that so many others feel in the unexpected spiritual mecca that is Crestone, Colorado.


Thanks so much for reading! While you’re here, take a look at my Facebook page. Let me know if you’ve ever been to Crestone. Tell me what you think!

You Have to Visit This Charming Southern Colorado Town

You Have to Visit This Charming Southern Colorado Town

After a summer at a meditation retreat center in the Rocky Mountains, I had the opportunity to housesit in a quirky little town in southern Colorado. I rented a car in Denver and was on my merry way down south, singing at alarmingly high octaves with the windows down.

Salida, Colorado is a quaint mountain town about two and a half hours south of Denver. Salida is the kind of place where everyone knows each other and the 25 MPH speed limit feels like a natural and altogether reasonable speed to traverse the town.

Arriving in Salida

As I stepped into the Little Red Hen, Salida’s most popular bakery, the cashier greeted customers by name, complimenting their outfits and asking about their children.

I approached the register and she asked, “Did you just move to Salida or are you visiting for the day?” I explained that I’m here for the week and asked if it’d be okay to do some writing while I enjoyed my coffee. She replied, “Mi casa es su casa!” Such lovely humans, here in Salida,I thought.

History

Ranchers and farmers were the first to settle in the valley. Then the gold rush struck Colorado in 1858, bringing eager miners and heavy-duty railroads to haul away the extracted gemstones. You can find old pictures in cafes around town where scruffy men shortly home from working in the mines are standing in front of a wood cabin (they surely built themselves) next to their families . Some photos show a group of men sitting on their trusty horses and squinting at the camera, resembling the main characters of a bonafide Old Western film. All that’s missing is a saloon! Oh, but they had that, too.

The book Images of America: Salida, Colorado by Kay Marnon Danielson states, “By 1889 Salida had 5,000 residents, almost 100 telephones, and the beginnings of a public power and light system. Mining and the railroad gave the town a huge jump start, but local businesses proved to be the stable foundation that would weather economic storms in the new century.” This prediction proves to be true. One walk on F Street downtown and you’ll see art shops, boutique clothing stores, and a myriad cafes

Salida’s Off Season Vibes

I imagine Salida is what Boulder used to look like before Boulder became overpriced and full of posh wellness enthusiasts.  Salida is a charming, yet unpretentious town surrounded by gorgeous panoramic mountain views. A place where Farmer’s Markets take place every weekend and the town news is best discovered from flyers dispersed downtown. There’s a mix of the old and new, as well. Just next to the church downtown you’ll find Reiki healing classes.

Farmers Market in the park

In the summer, Salida is known for white water rafting along the Arkansas River that passes through the town, and in the winter, there are nearby ski slopes that tourists and locals alike enjoy. During the fall, however, the town and its residents slow down and take in the bright orange and yellow Aspen leaves, signifying the changing of the season. I adopt the slow-pace vibes along with the locals, observing with quiet gratitude of one of southern Colorado’s charming little towns. Life is good, very good.

Now off to take a stroll and people watch near the riverbank. Until next time, my friends!


Thanks so much for reading! A special shout out to Vicki and Scott for allowing me to stay in their lovely home for the week. It has been a wonderful experience – your hospitality hasn’t gone unnoticed!! While you’re here, take a look at my Facebook page and follow me on Instagram to see more of my travels. 

 

Simplicity in the Yucatán

Simplicity in the Yucatán

UAYMA

This is Uayma, Mexico. In January 2018, I spent two weeks here on a meditation retreat.  The crowds and parties in Cancun were only three hours by car away, but this place was such a peaceful, simple pueblo where time seemed to stand still.

Monthly Recap: ‘Tis the Season in San Francisco!

Monthly Recap: ‘Tis the Season in San Francisco!

 

Wait…December is already over?? This can’t be real life. It seems like I was just writing the monthly recap for November and now it’s already January! Life comes at ya fast.

When we left off, I told you I’d been backpacking through South America. November was fast paced and full of travel. By the beginning of December, we finally made it to Cusco, the capital of the ancient Incan empire. You can’t visit Cusco without making a trip to the undeniably beautiful and epic Machu Picchu. It was stunning!

After a full week in Cusco including our 2-day trip to Machu Picchu, we took a quick 1-hour flight (as opposed to an 18-hour bus ride through the mountains) to Lima.

At this point, it was our last week in South America, and my boyfriend and I chose to stay at a lovely B&B called Casa Nuestra. It was absolutely perfect. Sometimes you have to #TreatYourself! I highly recommend this place if you’re ever in Lima.

We stayed in the artistic, bohemian neighborhood called Barranco where we spent a week of bliss…admiring the street art, trying out trendy Peruvian restaurants, and watching sunsets fade into the endless ocean horizon.

Alas, the time came when I had to say goodbye to South America. My lover and I went separate ways…he to Italy and I to the United States.

One red-eye flight later and I traded Spanish for Southern twangs. I was officially in Texas. I spent a week in Fort Worth visiting my best friend in the world. We rarely get to see each other because of our busy schedules, so it was a fantastic week!

I decided that after such a long time of not being back in the states, Texas was the perfect point of re-entry. It is essentially the most American of all the states. Lots of extremely friendly people who smile and open doors for you, sinfully good food in outrageous portions, and enough restaurants and shopping areas to keep you occupied for months. God Bless.

Next thing I know, I’m boarding another plane. This time it’s to San Francisco. For the first time in two years, I had the chance to spend Christmas with my family. A true Christmas miracle! I hope you, my friend, have had happy holidays as well, however and wherever you chose to celebrate.

HIGHLIGHTS

 

The highlight of December is split between so many different moments that it’s hard to name just one. Instead, I’ll choose a few words to describe how the “highs” of the month felt:

Aligned
Happy
Present
Cared for
Laughter
Vibrant
Heartfelt

 

Which words would you use to describe the highlights of your December? How can we use those words to shape this upcoming month?

CHALLENGES

 

The most obvious challenge for me this month is diving back into a long distance relationship after more than four months of togetherness with my lover. When you spend that much time with someone, it feels natural to share your thoughts, feelings, and ideas with him, so it’s hard to be apart after all of those life-changing experiences together! But it’s okay, life goes on. We will reunite sometime soon 🙂

Thankfully I haven’t had too much reverse culture shock this time around, but it’s often a challenge when coming home after traveling long term.

INSIGHTS

 

Traveling the world is incredible, yet one thing that has been undeniably better than all the traveling is quality time with the people I love. My family, friends, and significant other. I don’t always have much time to spend with the people who mean the most to me, so when I do get to spend time with them, I’m reminded of how important this is. Relationships are what build us!

COMING UP

 

Next up, I’m flying to the Yucatan Peninsula TOMORROW, January 2nd. I’ll spend about ten days doing a meditation retreat in a pueblo near Valladolid and then a few days in the small beachside town of Tulum.

After Mexico, I’m going to…CUBA!!! I’m beyond excited to visit this fascinating island. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now, so I’m very much looking forward to it. If you’ve ever been and have recommendations, let me know!

 


 

Well, that’s the recap for December! How was your month? What were the highlights and challenges? What insights did December bring? Thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out anytime. 

Volunteering at a Buddhist Meditation Retreat Center

Volunteering at a Buddhist Meditation Retreat Center

Hey beautiful people!

For the past month, I’ve been volunteering at Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC), which is a meditation retreat center about 9,000 ft. above sea level in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. What made me trade in the fast-paced lifestyle for this contemplative existence in the middle of the mountains? About two years ago, I started going to a weekly group meditation class, and ever since, I’ve been hooked on learning about my mind and the nature of what it means to be a human being. As a traveler, I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity for the world around me. Naturally, this curiosity has turned inward over the years.

Who am I? What is my purpose? What brings me happiness?

As I faced the transition of moving back to the U.S. after living in Spain for two years, I felt the next step for me was to contemplate, meditate, and take time to decide what the upcoming chapter of my life holds. My MI (Meditation Instructor) recommended I volunteer at SMC, where I could find this spaciousness. So far, it’s been an incredible experience with lots of room for growth and learning. One day, I received a message on my Facebook page asking if I could write more about what volunteering at a retreat center entails and what I do on a day-to-day basis, so this blog post will answer those questions!

As a volunteer here, you get free food and accommodation as well as the opportunity to participate in most weekend programs that SMC offers. All of this gives me more than enough incentive to volunteer here, especially since the programs are led by some of the wisest teachers I have ever met.

Marketing volunteers are expected to work around six hours a day Monday through Friday. A normal work day goes something like this:

Marpa Point at SMC

7:30 am – Sunlight permeates into my tent, nature’s wake up call; I walk up to the bathhouse and get ready for the day

8:00 am – Breakfast in the dining tent (oatmeal, eggs, toast, cereal, and most importantly, coffee)

8:30 am – Head over to the Shutoku practice tent for morning practice; Staff and volunteers have the option of participating in a group meditation practice three times a day.

9:00 am – Work day begins. I check my emails, see what needs to be done in our department, and get started on something. I have been working on social media and some website redesigning research.

12:00 pm – Meditation at the Shutoku practice tent

12:30 pm – Lunch. The food is delicious and there’s always fresh mixed greens and veggies from the garden!

The glorious dining tent

1:30 pm – Back to work

4:30 pm -Finished with work for the day; there’s always something going on after work. Most times I go on a hike, read a book, journal/write, or hang out with the awesome people volunteering here

5:30 pm -Group mediation

6:30 pm – Dinner time!

7:00 pm – This is a time for community bonding. Sometimes we have music night or game night. Other times the most senior teacher gives a talk and discussion.

10:00 pm – Bedtime

So that’s the basic schedule for my work day. If you’re in a time of transition and are interested in doing something like this, feel free to reach out to me. You can contact me here. And as always, thanks for reading!