Path of the Butterflies

74198_10101525316984339_310482333_n
“So like do caterpillars know they’re gonna be butterflies or do they just build the cocoon and be like wtf am I doing?’ – unknown, instagram

I read somewhere recently that if you inspect the cellular structure of a caterpillar, it contains absolutely no evidence that it will become a butterfly. But we now know that caterpillars contain dormant DNA, just waiting to awaken and transform an earthbound creature into one with wings.

Sometimes I wonder if butterflies were put on this earth simply to remind us of what we are capable of; To point out how so much of our life is laying dormant, waiting to awaken. One could say the caterpillar even has a destiny to dissolve into much, cocooned in constricted darkness, only to be reconstructed and emerge into the light, wild and free.

I have spent my whole life with an intention to live as the most free version of myself, and yet there are still times I doubt that it’s possible to awaken to my full potential. The evidence that we are only a ‘small self’ (or ego, or conditioning…for lack of better terms), constricted and stuck in unconscious expression, can often feel insurmountable and overwhelming. For many people, being the small self is comfortable and enough, but there are a growing number of people who long to experience something more, to become the fullest version of ourselves. The road to transforming into this expensive self doesn’t take away from the experience of our ‘small selves.’ In fact, it often throws us into a total emersion and acceptance of the ‘small self,’ eventually merging it into the all of life, or our full potential.

Since October of last year, I have experienced an unprecedented time of living in almost constant expansion, peace, and bliss, and so it was unexpected when the last month of my life became extremely challenging. I watched myself cocoon into my own world, shutting out friends and forgoing many of my typical ‘feel better’ tactics. It felt right to be alone, but I also felt isolated, and for an extrovert like myself, that is one of my greatest challenges.

I learned a long time ago that to fight what is always results in more pain, and so as hard as it was, I showed up to myself as best I could. Somedays were easier than others. My deepest and oldest patterns exposed themselves to me. Human sadness and feelings of personal regret poured through. I watched as the grief that I had been carrying around for my entire life exploded in my heart. Time seemed to stop, the experience becoming endless and singular all at once.

I was incredibly dishearted at the seemingly out of nowhere downfall into smallness and pain. My person cried out for connection, community, and activities. I missed the groups and friends I have cultivated all over the world. I missed feeling that I had something to offer to others. I barely even felt to connect with myself. My creative drive and writing stopped flowing as it had been for months previous. It was as if I just… dried up.

When your first commitment in life is total freedom, it’s not just the people around you that will think your choices are a bit crazy. You will make plenty of choices that even YOU question.  I couldn’t help but wonder: Why did I choose to stop traveling? Why was I sitting in an apartment in New York City with seemingly ‘nothing’ to do? Why wasn’t I offering ceremony anymore? Why wasn’t I going out trying to build a new network of friends and family?

My mind desired for me to find any way to feel better, but my spirit told me to keep showing up to the process, no matter how unnatural it felt, or how uncomfortable my mind was. Some bigger part of me was present like I had never known it to be before, moving me through the resistance, whispering into the depths of my essence, ‘this is all a part of the plan…keep going.’

Thankfully, as always, the tides eventually began to turn, and while I was still tucked away in my empty cocoon, it all stopped feeling so painful. I couldn’t deny the deep loneliness that was lingering, the feeling that something within me had never been connected the way I knew it could be.

In order to truly face that painful realization, I had unconsciously removed all my external connections. I removed the beautiful community that filled my need to be seen and embraced. I removed the lush nature that had poured grounding and expansion into my heart. I removed the daily distractions that kept my mind busy from panicking and being afraid.  On the positive side, I removed the patterns that unconsciously pushed me through my daily existence. I removed the fear that was surely influencing so many of my decisions. I removed the self-judgement of what an ‘awakening’ process should look like or be experienced as. Without intentional effort, I was dismantling the prison I had built around myself, unconsciously and consciously, so many years ago.

It’s ironic that sometimes, before we get really big, we have to become really small. It goes against all logic, and yet, it’s the natural ebb and flow process of creation. There had never been an obvious blueprint for how to live as my biggest truth, my butterfly self. It takes wild trust into the great unknown to allow a seeming annihilation and total disconnection, knowing that something bigger than my mind and logic holds the master plan, and I will survive the process. We are all the caterpillars, who don’t have one obvious shred of evidence that who we truly are is a butterfly.

Yet, no matter how much we don’t like it, the transformation occurs regardless, almost like it’s destiny.  And it occurred to me, that while the human eye doesn’t see one shred of evidence to prove the impending rebirth, deep in their hearts, when they go into that small dark cocoon, caterpillars know what they are going to become all along.

The greatest gift you can give

lonely girl

I use the phrase ‘showing up’ quite a bit to describe what I aim to do for myself and others. For me ‘healing’ is really just about finding a way to show up fully to anything and everything. Finding a way to drop the fear, shame, the projections of ourselves long enough to feel fully, see clearly, and accept all that exists whether we like it or not.

Full presence, or showing up fully, with an open heart, soul, and mind, is without a doubt the greatest gift you will ever give another.

In leading cacao ceremonies, I hear every excuse for why we shouldn’t be where we are. “I know I shouldn’t be sad but…” “I know my life is great but…” “Im sorry I’m crying, I never cry.” Denying what we feel and the truth of our own feelings because of societal norms, spiritual conditioning, and our own self limitations. I have come to believe any ideas of how one should be are dangerous ideas, stripping people of their truth, their authenticity, and their process.

To illustrate this point, I’m gonna share a little story with y’all.

In 2009 I was at a breaking point in my life. I was deeply depressed and unhappy, struggling through a relationship, job, and life that didn’t want to work no matter how hard I tried to make it work.  The harder I tried the worst things seemed to get. Late one night before a three day silent retreat I had reluctantly signed up for (desperate times were calling for desperate measures) I found myself sobbing into my carpet, willing to do anything to make the pain end. I remember thinking I understand why people kill themselves; There was no more living with the level of inner pain and burden I was experiencing.

I spent the first two days of the silent retreat crying my eyes out and alternating between devastating sadness and anger. After all, I had forgone a weekend trip to with friends in order to be in this shitty ashram doing ‘nothing’ and feeling bored out of my mind. Well, as the saying goes, only the boring get bored, and the truth was I was both boring and bored because I was living a life that was not my own. I had lost myself so far down a rabbit hole in an attempt to be good enough and ‘survive’ I didn’t have one clue who I truly was or what I wanted.

After two days of utter despair (which in silence feels like two months), I found myself sitting in the meditation hall, listening to the leader of the retreat give a talk. I honestly could not tell you one thing this talk was actually about, but I can tell you what I subsequently experienced, because it was a moment I will never forget. I was sitting with my eyes closed, feeling utterly miserable, depressed and defeated, tears of pain pouring out of my eyes, when suddenly, a truly devastating thought occurred to me. Something a life long ‘positivist’ who believed everything should be ease, magic, and happiness had never wanted to admit as a possibility.

The realization was this; Life might actually be suffering, and I subsequently might feel this way for the rest of my days. In that moment, through the pain of this realization, I could see the dark cloud of pain more clearly than ever before, looming everywhere inside my being. But, my following thought was nothing short of a grace filled miracle. I thought, “Well, if life is suffering, and I have decided im not going to kill myself, I guess I have to live with this forever. So, I might as well love and accept whatever this is as much as I possibly can.” Suddenly my whole heart and being opened to the darkness, and within moments, I felt a massive wave of energy rush through my whole body, as all the energy that just a moment ago seemed crushing dissipated into thin air.

As I opened my eyes, I found tears of joy and relief where the tears of pain were just moments ago.  I had never felt more light, clear and free. The seemingly ‘for no good reason’ mass of pain and sadness that I did not want to experience had never really been pain at all, and the suffering had never been inevitable. The suffering was entirely my resistance to feeling the energy that was there for me to feel. At that time I could not understand why it had been pushed away to such an extent, but I was being crushed under my own dam wall that attempted to hold back that which I deemed ‘undesirable.’

Now, when I am in ceremony with someone on the verge of a breakdown/breakthrough, I have learned that this type of ‘showing up’ is the most powerful thing I can do. To take a walk into the unknown frightening darkness, sometimes with a flashlight, so whatever is there isn’t so scary anymore. I have learned to trust the other person completely, and know they will go there when the time is right and not a moment too soon. Then, in total acceptance for whats there – no matter how scary, sad, painful, or dark – energy moves and things tend to shift. I call it showing up, and I fully believe its the most important thing we can do for ourselves or another.

Because of this, I believe that the greatest gift you can give anyone is to fully allow them to be where they are. Trust that in our inherent oneness, you would also be right there if you were them. Allow them to face and explore their emotions and reality until it finds a way to flow fully, moving onto the next inevitable emotion and reality. Recognize that any discomfort and desire to change where they are is your own discomfort.

Fully allow, with trust that you and they are exactly where they’re meant to be, and watch the miracles happen.

What I’ve learned holding Cacao Ceremonies

The powerful and beautiful ladies who gathered at my last womans  only cacao ceremony, held on Koh Phangan, Thaialnd.
The powerful and beautiful ladies who gathered at my last womans only cacao ceremony, held on Koh Phangan, Thaialnd.

Image: From a Womans Cacao Ceremony held on Koh Phangan, Thailand in June 2015

About a year ago, I left Guatemala with a suitcase full of cacao and big dreams of spreading the magic of chocolate as plant medicine. What I didn’t realize at the time is how holding ceremony would challenge me to step up and grow more than I ever could have imagined. In the commitment to hold space for others, there was truly no getting away from myself. I couldn’t possibly show up in the complete, full, loved filled way I know is MY way, if I wont shine my own light inside myself.

Thus began a powerful dismantling. I had begun on my own, hiding what felt like inner destruction behind layers of fear and shame, and continued in front of my first audience of accountability, community. This audience brought up deep pains around judgement and facing my own fears of exposing my shadow. Through leading and sharing ceremony, I unintentionally forced myself to dive even deeper, learn how to show up as all of myself no matter how painful the process, and know when to love myself enough to stop and/or walk away. It hasn’t always been fun or easy… and yet something bigger than myself has been pushing me forward, propelling me when I reached even my darkest most self defeating moments.

People who say that following your truth will always be easy and effortless clearly haven’t followed their true calling. Easy and effortless does happen, and when it does it’s probably the most glorious feeling I could ever image, but to face all that you truly are… all that life is…. takes challenge, focus, bravery and sometimes, it takes good old fashioned work.

In many ways, I tricked myself into this dismantling process and sometimes I feel that I never had control over what life was asking of me. Truthfully, I never could have been satisfied living as anything less than everything that is all of me; The good, the bad, the ugly… my blissful totality.

The first moment I met a person who faced their true depths of fear and pain, to emerge embodied and whole, I knew I was screwed; Erin as I knew her was over. It was time to implode, and implode I did. Not always in a graceful, loving, or peaceful way I might add. Over the years I learned how to work with myself and energy so that my imploding isn’t always so dramatic or painful, but it still implodes regularly. I’ve even come to appreciate the implosions, knowing that each release is opening a door inside of myself, unlocking a piece of me and life that wants to come home to wholeness and love.

As I continue my education through action, my ability to show up, face and embrace myself, others, and life in a way that feels natural to me grows exponentially. I still meet ‘set backs’, or as I should say, the next layers of depth within myself, but with each layer of hidden darkness uncovered and exposed, my capacity to hold space for myself and life intensifies.

The world is transforming as we each face the fact that the structures we thought we could stand on are crumbling, and with it, the fall of our ability to deny our own unique way of being… our own inherent inner fullness, power, and love. Inner fullness won’t always mean ‘success’ or ‘happiness’ or even that all we desire manifests the way we want in our set time. It means that there is a bigger life plan, and we are allowing it. Showing up to ourselves and life, knowing there was never any difference in the first place. Falling into our own darkness and fears each step of the way. Refusing to settle for anything less than the truth we feel buried deep in our cores, and refusing to settle for less that true inner totality.

Ultimately, what I’ve learned, other than the depths of my own fear, is that I’m not here to create another ‘spiritual experience’, convince people they can be happy or even to create all they want in life. I’m simply here to become all of myself fully,  live in that fullness, and serve as a reminder to others that what they seek has always been there, waiting to be held and embraced by the totality of their spirit. Bodies waiting to be touched by depths. Minds released from false ideas of happiness, success and love. Hearts activated, souls blazing, spirits charged and true purposes grounded.

Thus, I keep moving forward, one step at a time, one fear at a time, towards my true calling; The call of full embodiment of wholeness. I offer ceremony as space of safety and acceptance for us to face ourselves, as this simple thing is one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. My wish is that all people may exist as the whole beings we inherently are. That we may face and accept our flaws and our pains… releasing the shame, self hatred, and powerlessness that has hid precious pieces of ourselves. Then, in that wholeness, that we come together, layering whole circle upon whole circle, until we see the world as it truly is… a perfect and whole multidimensional sphere.

Change your life with this ONE thing.

girl-162474_1280

About a year ago, I found an old recording of a discussion between me and someone I go to for advice. In the recording I express that deep down, all I really want to do is stop working and travel. This simple confession was one I was extremely afraid to admit to myself. I had all the typical excuses that it wasn’t possible; A long term boyfriend, an impossibly great apartment in manhattan, an exciting new job for a start up, and my biggest excuse of all, no money. The risk of losing what I did happen to have filled me with dread and panic.

Que to this current moment. I have been traveling without a steady job and living abroad for over three years, with no plans to stop. In the end, I lost all of the things I thought I needed, and I’ve never been happier.

All I changed was one thing; I got honest with myself about the life I actually wanted to live. My heart and soul craved a life of spontaneity, adventure, and flow, that deep down I didn’t believe was possible. I didn’t have one clue how I was gonna create that life, so I fooled myself that I ‘had to’ take jobs that didnt inspire me to survive, or that I ‘should be’ steady and settled. All I know is that as soon as I admitted to myself what I truly desired, the massive doors of new possibility opened in my life.

A mere month later, I discovered an (at the time) little known website called Airbnb. I set my apartment up to have renters, I bought a backpack , booked a one way ticket to Bangkok, and I never looked back.

On that trip I learned that I could survive on under twenty dollars a day, and that money in no way could buy happiness. I learned about the kindness of strangers and what it felt like to rely on yourself. I learned that no matter how crazy the situation, there is always a solution close at hand.

For example, just a year and a half later, I lost that same apartment which had so easily supported my initial travels. I remember receiving the dreaded phone call while I was in Peru that I had to move out, and despite my deepest fears of no steady income, I just knew something else was gonna work out. Two years later, despite that loss, I am still living my free nomadic lifestyle.

Throughout my travels I have proven the power of ‘getting honest with myself’ repeatedly. Leaving a conventional lifestyle doesn’t mean leaving your all fears behind, and I have been challenged again and again to believe in the impossible.

I have managed to keep this one promise to myself: to never compromise myself, my guidance, and my truth for anything, even when that truth makes NO logical sense. While that promise hasn’t always been easy, I have managed to find unconventional ways to continue living a life that opens my heart, expands me, thrills me, lifts me up, and aligns with the core of who I am.

I truly believe when you do this one thing, every power available to you – the universe, your higher self, your soul, god, whatever you want to call it- finds a way to support you in making your deepest desires happen. All it takes is honesty, trust, and the first steps into the unknown.

So, ask yourself, if you could do anything in the world… if money wasn’t an obstacle… if obstacles didn’t even exist at all… what would you be doing now? I dare you to to be honest, REALLY honest, and see what happens.

Seven Reasons to Travel Alone

598456_10102159651877129_2093509837_n (1)

A friend of mine recently tagged me in this Huffington Post article 6 Reasons Why Every Woman Needs to Travel Alone. As a long time solo female wanderer (I think I prefer this term to ‘traveler’ since I don’t feel like I travel anymore), I felt like this list was missing a couple key benefits. I think it’s important for everyone to travel alone at some point, not just woman. Yes, as women we have added safety percussions, but if you stay alert and keep your witts about you there is no reason women cannot travel as freely as men. So, I decided to make my own list, applicable to all sexes. Feel free to add anything you think of, since I the reasons to travel alone are pretty endless :).

1. Realize what you’re capable of handling.

Missed planes, delayed buses, losing your ATM card to a foreign machine. All crises will become manageable when you realize you only have yourself to rely on. While this sounds scary, the first time you handle a potentially disastrous situation on your own you will feel so empowered you will wonder why you ever needed anyones help for anything! In addition, you realize you are never REALLY alone. It’s amazing to witness how many people will volunteer to help you out when you are in a jam. Dealing with crisis in a foreign country has proven my faith in humanities ability to rise up and help their fellow (wo)man again and again.

2. Bond with new friends faster.

If I travel with already established friends, I will usually meet a couple people, but when I travel alone I meet hordes of people, and sometimes pick up travel buddies who become life long friends. Solo travelers find other solo travelers, and many groups adopt you. The best part is if you don’t click with someone you can easily move on with no hurt feelings.

3. Find your natural rhythm.

It’s amazing how fast you fall into getting up when want, eating when you feel like it, and going where you want to when you do not have to plan things with other people. There is nothing more freeing than having absolutely no plan, or better yet, having one and changing it whenever you desire. This type of spontaneous movement is one of the things I miss most when traveling with others.

4. Stop wasting money or time on things you don’t love.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent money and time on something I wasn’t crazy about because the person I’m traveling with wants to do it. Sometimes it ends up being a cool experience, but more often than not it’s just irritating. Being alone ensures you never waste anything if it’s not what you really want to do.

5. Open the door to opportunities.

When you are alone countless opportunities present themselves. I’ve been invited to stay at the homes of locals, given rides to remote places, taken to hidden travel spots… all because I was alone and it was easy to have me tag along or give recommendations.

6. Experience true freedom.

There is no better feeling in the world than being free of the conditioning of your culture, expectations, schedules, and typical ways of being. It creates a space and a freedom to allow yourself to be whatever or whomever you feel like being; to meet yourself or reinvent yourself. I must say, it’s the greatest experience in the world, and rather addictive. I can pretty much guarantee once you find this state, you will truly see the deepest and most beautiful reason to travel alone.

And because I cannot resist… the 7th Reason: Love affairs.

Ok, I couldn’t help but throw this in. Since traveling solo, I have discovered beautiful short term spontaneous love affairs with wildly free, passionate and wonderful men. There is no better way to get to know someone in a romantic and meaningful way than to team up for part of a journey. With a traveler, a day will seem like a month. In no time at all you will feel like you have known that person forever, only you will know their hopes and dreams instead of what their last desk job was. I have friends back at home who constantly tell me how hard it is to meet good men. Through traveling alone, I meet amazing men all the time who are not remotely boring or typical. It might not be an ideal way to meet marriage or long term partners (although, I should mention It’s definitely possible, and I have met some of my serious partners this way), but if you are wanting to experience, learn, grown and have a all around good time, these types of spontaneous relationships are for you.

So there you have it; The six (actually seven) reasons to travel alone. I think the point I am really trying to make is that when you travel solo, you come to see you are never actually alone. Whether it’s in backpacker hostels or alternative communities, I have never felt more surrounded by love and connection then when I’m on the road. You find that adventure, friendship, and love will find you anywhere, you just have to open your heart and mind to experience it. So don’t wait for your best friend to take work leave or for your boyfriend to take you somewhere exotic. Book where you want to go and get moving! I can guarantee you wont regret it.