Monthly Archives: April 2008

Breathing deeply in Vietnam

An amazing email from a student to her group as she contemplates completing her solo internship working with autistic children in Vietnam, and returning to the U.S. to rejoin her group for their final retreat. This post demonstrates the kind of practical skills that she has learned to master difficult emotions and states of mind – as well as her heightened consciousness about completing an experience before moving on to another:

I really worked myself into quite the spot last night. I called my mother and started bawling about how out of control I felt and how I was feeling so much resistance to writing and to completion in general. She wasn’t able to talk for long and left me with these words “stop resisting the resistance”. I know Ive shared this many times before and maybe now it starts to sound repetitive, but really it came back to acceptance. So instead of continuing to spiral out of control with my thoughts, I sat down on my bed took a deep breath and said, I accept it.

All of it.

The noise, the heat, the resistance.

And then I meditated for 30 mintues or so, following my breath at first and then repeating the tara mantra (learned during the fall semester in India) because as I calmed down, I noticed the overwhelming feeling of fear that collects in my stomach. Then I lay down and started taking really deep breaths, breathing in to my fear. For several moments I felt completely overtaken by the feeling, but then it passed and I immediately felt this tingling sensation all over my body. And I realized that behind my fear there was something else. I did Reiki (learned in India) on myself and woke up this morning feeling regrounded.

I have resistance to completion, to endings and transitions. This is the point in time where I’m supposed to pack up my bags and move on to the next place without saying goodbye. Just like I did when we moved to Rhode island and then to Northampton and then every time I switched schools. I’ve always left without completion, without facing the things I’m running away from.

As far as feeling safe in the group, I also had a realization the other night. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so vulnerable, yet so safe on a group. I’ve shared parts of myself with all of you that up until this year had been locked away in a box and labeled “do not open”. That’s where I think the feeling unsafe comes from. My practice before LEAPYEAR was to interact superficially. I felt safe, but miserable. There are definitely still places where I am not quite willing to be vulnerable in the group and that’s where my concentration has been over the past week or so.

Anyways, whats my point in sharing this? I guess its just a reminder to myself and to everyone that conscious living is a constant process. I had this idea that I was going to finish LEAPYEAR completely transformed and perfected, all of my shadows left behind. The truth is we never stop transforming. Just like in meditation/Buddhist practice, there are the rare few that reach nirvana, but for the majority its a lifelong journey, in which new challenges/lessons are revealed to us everyday.

Back in Hoi An, I chose to start loving myself unconditionally. This doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle with confidence and with self-acceptance or that I don’t have moments where I feel totally lost or frozen in anxiety. Somedays I fall off the bandwagon, but each time I do I learn something new.

So, I’m letting go of the idea that I need to show up at Maacama [LEAPNOW’s California campus] with all my ducks in a row, perfectly together. And I don’t expect any of you to show up perfectly chiseled and put together either. Just show up as yourself and I’ll try my hardest to come as me.

Vanquishing Procrastination in Australia

A post from a student, interning at a dive shop and dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  He has struggled with procrastination for many years.  Finding traction and motivation within during the solo internship!

I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve got through a big mental block, the mindset of “I have all this work to do and I can’t do it,” and successfully risen to the occasion. I discovered that once I actually started doing the work, it wasn’t as much as it seemed it was.

The work:
Ethnology project outline – rough (done)
Book reports (done)
Life Path Questions (done)
Conscious Living (done)
Ethnology project outline – final (done)
Ethnology project Intro + Topic sentences (done)
Ethnology project final (turned in a day early! Didn’t see that coming)

How’s that for an accomplishment?  I’m pleased with me.  So I felt the need to share.  Heh, sorry.  I don’t actually like boasting, it makes me feel embarrassed, but this is the first time I’ve been able to feel genuinely proud of myself, academically, in… 6 years? 7?

Marine Conservation on Madagascar

A description from a student of his Spring 2008 internship activities working to protect the marine environment on the coast of Madagascar (an island off the east coast of Africa)!

Life here is turning out to be wonderful.  Everyday I fall asleep and wake up to the sound of the ocean, it doesn’t get much better than that.  Every day I SCUBA dive at least once, mostly twice now since this is my 2nd expedition which makes me local around these parts. When I dive I usually am doing science-related work, though every once in a while we get a recreational dive. I mostly do invertebrate, coral, and fish transects (a transect is a survey of a given area of the reef.) Every Sunday and Wednesday I teach English to a variety of men and women who are training to become guides for tourists here in Anadavadoaka. I also help all the Malagasy scientists here with their individual work and mini-expeditions (always a lot of fun).

It turns out that my sponsor organization does much more than marine science related conservation. A few things they have gotten involved with is training guides, selling efficient wood burning and solar stoves (carbon offsetting), teaching embroidery for women, family planning, scholarships for children in the school they built (based upon environmental awareness), and social economic surveys run by the Malagasy staff . Overall, they are doing a fantastic job and I am very proud to be a part of the team.

On another note,  I have been doing great with my daily practices and I have fallen in love with the Artist’s Way.  I have realized that I truly get out what I put in, a lesson I have been taught all my life and have sort of half-assed realized in the past.  Now, I feel a great sense of responsibility to fulfill my own desires and to live a full life.  I always feel so much better after a day when I accomplish more than I set out to do.  My strength as an individual has never been so clear to me.

Tourist versus Traveler

Reflections from a LEAPYEAR student wrapping up her internship in Nepal.   Her spring internship was focused on study of Tibetan Buddhism at a monastery outside of Kathmandu:

I just took two days and went out to Pokhara, a lakeside town 8 hours outside of Kathmandu. 8 hours by old, crappy bus and horrible, curvy mountain roads. I was thinking that if this were in the US, it would probably take 2 hours to get there. Anyways, Pokhara was very nice. I rented a kayak and spent an afternoon on the lake.  I also went up to this peak where you can watch the sunrise over the Annapurna range.  It was very beautiful, but I was sharing the sunrise with about three busloads of other tourists. There were so many people!  I didn’t get too annoyed though. I have a pet peeve of when people scoff at tourists and forget that they too, are a tourist. The girl who told me about the spot said, “Oh it’s really great, but there’s tons of tourists snapping away and you have to wait for them all to go away before it’s nice.” She said this with some disdain. I wanted to say, “And what exactly do you think you are? A native Nepali?” haha.  I think it’s funny how people like to have disdain for other tourists and forget how hypocritical that is.

So I’m having a nice last couple of days. I’ve just been all by myself since I left for Pokhara and I’ve really enjoyed it. One of my friends from home asked me, “Aren’t you lonely?” And I’ve been thinking about that question… I actually have a really nice time with just myself. It was only for a couple of days, but I enjoy it.  I don’t mind sitting at restaurants eating by myself.  I feel kind of free and restful.  Not that I want to spend all my time alone, but it’s really nice for awhile.

The point is, I was happy to realize that and see how well I do just on my own, because I think that that means I like myself and am able to just be with myself, so I feel like I’m pretty mentally healthy.  I’m happy about that.