How I Got Here

Do you have a dream or a profession that makes you swoon with joy? Or is there an ikigai that you hold dear? I do, and this is part of the story of how I came to find mine…

ikigai

When my grandmother died, I was ready for it, even though she was the first relative that had ever died in my conscious life. That was during the spring of 2017, once I had finally accepted that I was a born medicine woman with intuitive skills that I was well along the way to honing using tarot cards, astrology, meditation and visualization.

Around mid May when the lilacs were starting to bloom, my inner guidance urged me to drive up to Connecticut to visit my mom for Mother’s Day, I did it even though I was busy with work and we had spent that holiday apart many times before. My Polish grandmother had been in a nursing home in Massachusetts for a decade, she was sick and distant my whole life, eventually giving up speaking and understanding English all together. But, when my mom wanted me to accompany her on a drive to visit her mother, I said yes. I will share about the experience of visiting her that day another time. All this to say, that I knew she was going to die before she actually did. The night before I woke up to a text bearing the news of her death, I performed an intuitive ceremony and felt the brush against my skin of angel wings. That was five days after my first visit with her in six years.

If you want to get rid of your historical baggage, it’s important to honor your ancestors and thank them for their gifts, no matter how painful it was to receive them.
─Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.

I had been aware for years of the quantum physics of intergenerational inherited suffering and trauma, as well as the yogic concepts of karma and yoga. Bringing myself into inner union was something I studied throughout several years of yoga training, but I also had studied compassion and loving kindness for longer than that. All of these wisdom teachings from science and spirituality pointed me towards an awareness of my ancestry, my historical baggage which lives on inside my DNA and the inherited suffering of living in WW2 Poland. I knew that my grandmother’s estrangement was a wound which needed healing and so I had been spiritually reaching out to her, among my other ancestors. I had been meditating with the spirit of my paternal grandmother, Ginny, and at the age of 27 I finally had fostered an emotional connection with an ancestor. The unexpected departure of my Babcia’s spirit was a blessed and holy encounter for me and a felt a great sense of forgiveness, relief and hope once her spirit passed on.

At the funeral, I felt as though I was the only one who actually grieved. Not because there was anything wrong with the other people or me, just that I had been practicing how to flow with the river of all souls as one does when one grieves. The winter had not been kind to me. Moving through the accumulated grief which you can read about in my previous post here, encouraged deeply neglected traumas to be healed, and I was already tender.  I even got to hold a baby cousin at the wake for the first time and was able to connect with family I didn’t know I’d had. My spiritual senses had been primed by the other world and with her death I sensed a  cleansing, a great release which seemed to be like the whole universe exhaling a collective sigh.

In August of 2017, the nonprofit I had been working with for a year was planning to send me off to Jamaica to work on my dream project. I was going to be Director of Geodesign and lead the first official pilot project of an international NGO that was council to the policies and activities of the United Nations. The work was going to do building capacity and connections among community members, regional, and national governments was going to help Jamaica to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and I was going to spearhead the design for a national program to implement the goals integrally using community-led geodesign technologies and techniques. It was my dream job, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have found an opportunity to live on an island doing the work that brings me joy and fulfillment. A job applying my design skills and expertise with web GIS, while facilitating groups and creating a scalable, internationally relevant model for sustainable development represented the crystallization of a few years poking around in the world for impactful consulting work.

Two days before I had everything set in order to pack my belongings into storage and fly to this foreign land for an indefinite period of time, the CEO had a change of heart and suddenly communicated to me that I wasn’t trustworthy enough for such an independent and challenging mission. After a brief and shocking phone call sitting there in my car, having just returned the keys to my old apartment, said goodbye to most of my friends and colleagues in Philadelphia, my mouth actually hanging open, I remember feeling like I had nothing left but faith.

I was caught in this vast, empty, groundless space between having no home, no job, and no physical ties to any purpose or place.

I had been training for years to lean into experiences of this kind of death, the daily moment experience of nothingness and no effort, and there I was, a hot August afternoon in Philadelphia with nowhere to go, and nothing to do.

What normally would have sent cortisol pumping through my veins as I defensively created a shell to protect myself from unwanted energies and fearful unknowns actually brought me such bliss, because I just immediately opened to it. Without resistance, I felt light. I smiled a lot. I actually experienced vibrating feelings of excitement at what kind of sensuous delights and pleasureful timelines were now possible for me since my expectations had not been met. In the space of that cavernous, rapturous, terrifying emptiness of “WOW, well, what next?” I was awash with awe and wonder about the vastness of the blank canvas before me. The first thing I could think to do was trust that I would fill it (or it would be filled) with something amazing.

I felt exceptionally grateful to find myself totally and completely free from all things, people, and places during that one wink in time. You see, I have never had familial roots to bind or connect me, my blood relatives have always numbered few and my nuclear bonds have never been very strong. I was weightless after years of increasingly intense purging and shedding in the spiritual and etheric realms. Now, physically dumping the final garbage and cutting all my belongings down by 50% so they could be neatly packed away into a tiny space, did that for me on a physical level, too.

So it came to be that I moved back in with my mother. I found myself after nearly a decade back on the lands of the Nehantic tribe of Native Americans in Southeastern Connecticut. I have always sensed the deeply sacred nature of the lands where I grew up, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean atop ancient and unique geological formations nestled in a bay on the Long Island Sound. I learned about pristine natural estuaries, endangered wildlife, rare ecosystems and how they played out the natural cycles of life. Being exposed so much to these ancient cyclical forces and systems has shaped me into a more aware being. So, when I returned from the city of Philadelphia to that house, it was like life had just completely exhaled, and held it.

The stillness was profound. All my senses were understimulated, for once. I felt relief.

But I also felt a sense of urgency, to create, build, and design. While I was there my goal was to build my mom a new porch. I knew that I could spend at least a month getting my mom’s house ready to go on the market since the next logical step was to attend the conference in Mumbai, India where I had been invited to speak in November. This exhale in my life was heaven-sent.

It had all begun with me manifesting my dream job and then having it get taken away. In a totally natural and spontaneous way, I had opened to that loss and found my mind broadened to the possibilities of my next professional step forward. I reveled in the freedom to explore the future I knew I could dream into being from the comfort of a big quiet house on the earthy rural shoreline where I was raised.

I was acutely aware of the choice to fall into self-criticism, hesitation, and doubt so I actively fought it off every day. I spent my nights meditating on my fear of rejection, my third chakra, the Goddess, Pele, Athena, Demeter… I practiced yoga, ate healthy foods, and got a lot of sleep… I went to the magical and other-worldly Book Barn, found the section on architecture and urban design, and designed a kick-ass slide deck to co-present at GreenBuild in Mumbai with a wonderful friend and mentor. I also built that porch with my little brother and the help of a very old family friend.

While I lived with my mom, I also returned home to my other mother, the great Mother Ocean. I have a deep and personal relationship with the Original Mother. She always welcomes me and plays with me when I am drawn to make pilgrimage to her shores, where I will pause with so much reverence as I greet and embrace her frothy tendrils. So naturally, on the day of the once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse near the end of that August I went to the beach to meditate as the lunar disk perfectly aligned with the sun and totally darkened the sky. Two days later, my magical alchemy gave rise to something miraculous and life-changing.

I received an unexpected message from a foreign, intriguing, handsome lover I had known five years earlier in Istanbul. It was a delightful shock which sent blissful ripples across the fresh, still pond of my being that awoke in me a multi-dimensional love. I was ready. When this fiery man, a twin flame, came roaring through my life for the second time, it was beautiful, tantric, and sweet. Instantly we were in constant communication and I came to know a careful, wise, giving, and adoring man who I had only known for an enchanting ten days so long ago. When we met, I told him I knew we were two of a kind and quietly, he had always lingered there in the back of my mind. The same ancient, hidden part of me always knew I would go back to Istanbul and that I would see this intensely loving man again. When his face suddenly reappeared in my life at this auspicious moment, my prior two year relationship had been laid rest for half that time, my grieving was feeling complete, and I was excited about this gift from The Universe (God/Goddess) which felt so right.

Immediately during the re-discovery process of one another, we learned about a shared interest in opening a new hostel, how we were both interested in moving to Latin America, and how we were both at a time when big changes were welcome. The moment we figured this out, I decided I was going to dedicate myself to whatever came next. My whole being lit up with a big YES! at the thought of finally moving south with a beloved partner. Very quickly, a new path forward for us to journey together revealed itself, in its completion. It was like how a poem comes to the poet fully formed but still has to trickle out word, by word.

We still had to figure out quite a few things first, not wanting to be impulsive, so we decided to meet in India with no expectations, where I had already started to plan a research trip. We would travel across India from South to North to West together over 40 days, visiting important architecture and urbanism sites to prepare for my conference. After that, come what may, I knew I would finally be heading to Latin America where dreams would come true, whether romantic or professional, or both. But before that happened, the first thing I needed to do was build a porch for my mom. (Pics below!)

After surviving India, where we encountered sensory overload and painful infections, Sedat and I decided to cross the continents and oceans to see about making a life together. When we landed in San Jose, in Costa Rica, these two sea birds were pretty eager to head to the beach. After five days of looking for a suitable building to rent, we headed off to the East Coast on a four hour bus ride through national forest-covered mountains. As faith and fate would have it, we happened to be seated directly behind a very talkative, yet interesting man.

When the bus driver stopped at a terminal for snacks and a bathroom break, I had already been excitedly whispering to Sedat for the last two hours about how I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This man who looked like a Viking and had a funny accent was describing exactly the kind of sustainable development work that I had been dreaming of being involved with! The UN, 2030 SDGs, the University for Peace, and the Earth Charter, all institutions I was fully aligned with. I really couldn’t believe my luck as I introduced myself to him, explaining that I am architect and geodesigner with experience working on global sustainability development projects. And his joyful skepticism as he described the potential need for someone like me on a new project he was starting really made me grin.

On the sandy, palm shaded sidewalk of Puerto Viejo, Bjorn, an explorer and founder of Integral Climate Change Solutions, explained his nascent project and listened to my experiences with enthusiastic eyebrows raised. The serendipitous and synchronistic meeting of two very precisely inclined minds was too much to ignore or shrug off. We both left that meeting feeling higher and more determined than ever that the work we were independently doing was needed and necessary. I was feeling hopeful by incredulous, blissed out, and eternally grateful for the life I have been given.

The spirit of the Caribbean Sea revealed herself to us as a delightful and powerful creature with whom Sedat and I danced for days.

Afterwards, we returned to the city where I met with high level representatives of critical stakeholder groups who could give us their feedback on the proposal for an integral development project. Before he flew back to South Africa and left me in charge of on-the-ground operations, they gave us their final commitment to support the project. As Concept Architect and Geodesign Lead, I would be the focal point for a project that would span all scales, all the way from global to individual, representing the full modeling of intelligent life on earth for implementing the SDGs and shifting the trend towards regenerative and resilient human settlement. This. Felt. So. Huge.

I had been kicked and pushed around by the universe non-stop for more than a year, and now I was finally being pulled down a tunnel at light speed, across a threshold of incredible change, gaining momentum! I felt like an arrow that had been pulled back in the taut, slowly stretching string of a bow, when suddenly it gets launched into the air with incredible speed. I can still feel the wind in my face. I can also still remember the excruciatingly slow feeling of Artemis, the hunter, exhaling as she pulled me back in her bow, taking careful aim. Suddenly, but after plenty of time spent learning to relax and let go of my control, I was shot off with a twang, smoothly on my way to achieving the highest possible good, with divine, unconditionally loving guidance.

And that’s how I got where I am, right now, co-owner of Stray Cat Hostel, sustainability consultant, whizzing through the sky, leaning into the wind, clouds in my face, shouting with glee and gratitude.

Check out this snip from a video I recorded in my workspace/living room during a beautiful rain/lightning/thunder storm the other day here in San Jose. The rainy season is so unexpectedly lovely here! I hope this brings you excitement about your own journey to come and inspires you to dream of exciting possibilities.

2018-06-21 Rainstorm in San Jose
Celebrating a magnificent thunder crack and lightning bolt is what I love about the rainy season. Being connected with nature and all her power is what I love about being an architect!

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