Will I Ever Find My Way?

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”

– Joseph Campbell

It’s crazy that it’s already Spring, and I’m really resisting the urge to beat myself up about how little I feel I’ve gotten done. Why do we always do that? Oh yeah. Because of our culture. Thanks America. Seriously it seems like COVID, in addition to all the dark systemic bullshit it’s brought up this past year, has also sped up time. 

Last October I quit my job on Rick and Morty, which ended up being one of the best, most life changing things I’ve ever done. It’s funny because when I started at that studio I had this deep feeling in my soul that it was my last animation job… at least for a while. And I had ALWAYS wanted to work in animation. But I finally felt like it was time to try something different. I had been moving toward a different path for a while. Doing Ayahuasca in 2018 broke me open in ways I didn’t expect, and I feel like even with just 4 ceremonies it’ll take a lifetime to unpack. I honestly don’t think I could’ve gotten through this pandemic without having that experience… I feel like I would’ve had a major psychotic break if my inner world was still as negative as it was “pre-Ayahusaca.”  To me it was a testament to how much I’ve grown… to be able to choose myself and step into my power to quit one of my favorite shows ever. I’d only ever quit one job before, and it was to pursue a career in animation.

I recognize now, looking back at that career, that I had gone into it with the wrong motivations, which made it absolute hell for my mental health. However I am FOREVER GRATEFUL for the experience. There were unfortunately just too many negative patterns built into me about survival and constantly feeling behind that ate away at my soul…making me feel like I would never be good enough (even though no one ever told me that). I thought that working around other artists would push me to become better, and that I would at some point stop feeling like an imposter, but this invisible pressure I put on myself just got worse and worse. I hoped my mental state would improve but it never did…and then I was diagnosed as bipolar!!! NO WONDER!!! It got to the point that my anxiety was so crippling I could barely look people in the eye and would hide in the bathroom and cry during crew events. Thankfully I managed to do the work, and strangely was able to fake it and make people believe my bubbly cheery mask even when I was totally dying inside. None of it would ever meet my expectations. I would never meet my expectations. Just like Stephen Fry says in his bipolar documentary “My stress is your easy day at the office. One person copes, the other goes mad.”

This is such a loaded topic and I have so much to say… which is why I’ve avoided writing about it so far. I’m so sick of having all these thoughts and nowhere for them to go…Ended up waking up at 1am to paint this in an attempt to ease my mind. Last week I finally started experimenting with the gouache I’ve had for like 5 years and realized I really love the medium! Don’t know how to use it, but definitely learning how to play with it 🙂

It kinda worked but now here I am writing because I don’t know what else to do with the rest of the energy… nothing seems to be coming out right. Nothing is flowing. When I look at that painting I think “TRAPPED” — like all this crazy energy but inevitably trapped again in the darkness…

STOP BERATING YOURSELF. WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO IMPRESS?!?!?! 

Seriously… so fucking sick of it. This past week I was so manic, having meetings what felt like all day every single day, talking too much but being hyped up by every single conversation. I ended up losing my voice and my throat hurt so bad, and by Friday I was completely and totally drained, crying myself to a restless sleep that doesn’t feel like sleep at all. Some great messages and lessons came through though, the biggest being to surrender to the unknown. Which by now, yeah I know — The more I surrender, the more miracles I witness… the more I feel pushed along a path that, on good days, I’m super excited to keep going on… but then when my mind flips like this I just start to doubt everything again…

STOP FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF. THIS ISN’T WHAT YOU CAME HERE TO WRITE.

As much as I disliked the first Frozen, the songs Into the Unknown and Show Yourself from Frozen 2 have been like… an anthem for this time in my life. Into the Unknown specifically is such a great representation of what it feels like to be pursuing this path of “following Spirit.” Or you know… just life in general. We’re all traversing the unknown with this whole pandemic situation. What comes next? Nobody knows! And that’s ok! 

ANYWAY. WTF IS ALL OF THIS I CAME HERE TO TALK ABOUT MY CAVE. 

In January of this year, I realized that if I was gonna get ANYWHERE with my own business, I had to face my ultimate fear — my creativity. Someday I’ll go in depth about that, but definitely don’t have the energy for that right now. Running on fumes. But yeah. I was afraid to journey within myself to see what’s actually there… what I’m actually artistically capable of. Because you see… I had told myself I wanted to work in animation my whole life… but I think what I’ve really wanted to be is an artist. And really stupidly because of labels and mental hangups, even after working 6 years in animation I didn’t feel like an artist. When really, what I’m finding now is that art is an expression. Freedom. However, doing design for animation and drawing as an assignment each day really wore on me… stripping me of that freedom and making me forget what art even was. We’re ALL artists, but in these jobs I just felt like an imposter. A fake. Because my expectations of what I needed to be for other people were unreachable. And that was something that killed me inside everyday until I literally couldn’t take it anymore… The fear of not meeting those expectations amplified my shame and guilt to where I had to do something drastic. 

Seeing it written out like that… it seems like no big deal. But again… because of the intense emotions compounding itself over many rollercoaster cycles over many years… the patterns of worthlessness and inadequacy wired themselves so deeply in my brain, piling up so high I couldn’t see myself anymore. Couldn’t see inspiration or joy anymore. All I could see was comparison.

I was trying to create a brand for my art, but was terrified of creating for SO MANY REASONS that I felt like even though I had this manic push to create my store (more on that later) I wouldn’t actually be able to keep it going if I didn’t figure myself out as an artist. I love that quote by Joseph Campbell — “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” 

So I decided to paint a metaphorical cave for myself, delete social media, put my phone in the safe (yes we have a safe that we put distractions into — mostly has videogames in it), and go on the inner journey I’ve been afraid of going on for my entire adult life — exploring my inner world through art. And so far… treasures are definitely appearing, but not in the form I would think. I’m not necessarily getting what I want, but I’m getting what I need.

I thought I’d be out of the cave by now, but holy shit a TON OF STUFF has come up since I’ve been in here… I’ve eased the restrictions a bit but I really do NOT feel ready to come out of the cave. Every time I try, I’m shown reasons why I really shouldn’t come out yet — mostly that I’m WAY too affected by other people’s energy and haven’t figured out a way to protect myself yet — and it pisses me off to not know when or how I’ll be able to get outta here. I’m both grateful to have begun this process, but anxious because it’s opened up a whole can of worms, which I guess is what I was afraid of in the first place. Now that it’s happening though, I guess it’s not too bad…more interesting and roller coastery. I can start to see inklings of how it’ll all eventually come together but fuck I just hate that EVERYTHING TAKES SO MUCH LONGER THAN YOU THINK IT WILL!!! AND I KEEP GETTING DISTRACTED!!!! >:0 

My dear husband Eddy has been so patient with me these past 7 years, but he’s gotten to the point where even he’s basically done with my behavior and has taken it upon himself to force me to try and create finished pieces. I had literally developed a phobia of it… I’d wanted to paint for years but was so terrified of “doing it wrong.” So Eddy got me these Winsor Newton (expensive) watercolors for Christmas and some Arches paper (also really expensive), and because they were gifts I felt like I needed to use them. He has this thing that he does with me that he calls the “Thunderdome” (taken from Mad Max) where he basically locks me in my room to do art even though I literally scream and kick and whine, and he takes away my phone and checks on me every hour to see if I’m actually doing the art. It sounds extreme, but I’ve found that because of this “bipolar” thing, I apparently respond best to extremes. This cave painting ended up being my first completed watercolor ever, which is quite an achievement for me. Eddy hung it above my computer to remind me that every time I actually sit to do an art piece, I’m going into the cave.

The first time he did this resulted in an art piece that actually made me believe I could start this brand I’ve been dreaming up since college. It started being called “Tizzy” in my early 20s, with the idea being that the world was so overwhelming that it would always put me in a tizzy. I wanted to create clothing to cope with that overwhelm and remind myself that things were ok. But of course, I was too much of a mess and never able to create designs for it…and it’s something that bummed me out in the back of my mind for years and years and years. When I went to do Ayahuasca in 2018, it transformed into “Hasthira,” this word I made up combining the Polynesian word “Ha,” which means “breath of life” and “sthira” a yogic word meaning stability. The idea for a personal brand became a HUGE multi-faceted healing operation that was so painfully overwhelming, but it was even MORE painful that I was too afraid to even start. 

But guess what — I ACTUALLY STARTED!!!! (Haha writing this out is making me realize how I’ve come pretty far and haven’t taken the time to truly recognize it…I guess that’s why it’s helpful to journal and see the words in front of your face).

Looking back at 2020… it was pretty weird. This is turning into a novel but… I’m realizing I probably need to get this stuff out. Super long overdue. 

I guess the catalyst was my Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training at The Yogi Tree. Well… the catalyst was actually Ayahuasca, which made me realize that I loved the “healing circle” retreat atmosphere and making real connections with people who also wanted to improve their lives. Learning how to be vulnerable around absolute strangers and be loved and accepted for it was completely new to me. After being so used to living in LA and working in the entertainment industry, it was refreshing to be around people who weren’t really interested in “what you did” but “who you were.” The level of depth I was able to experience with them made me feel like I had found a “tribe.” It made me realize that there were actually like-minded people out there who had the courage to break out of the system that wasn’t working for them and seek answers elsewhere. Choosing to live an “alternative lifestyle” never even seemed like an option to me until my experience at Dreamglade… 

Returning to “the real world” from this dream retreat in the Amazon was so jarring I felt like I was being torn apart… it was incredibly painful to go back to my job after becoming so aware of duality and the suffering in the world. I felt like I was completely useless, trapped and unfulfilled. I distinctly remember one moment when Eddy was driving in traffic and I was looking out the passenger window and being in the depressing gray city environment surrounded by cars felt like absolute HELL. I started to shriek at the top of my lungs “FUCKING GET ME OUTTA HERE I FUCKING HATE LA I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE I WANT TO GO BACK TO THE JUNGLE WHERE I BELONG” and started clawing at my skin. I really feel for Eddy. He’s put up with a lot. 

Thankfully I’ve come a long way since then. 

Because I was so out of control and ricocheting from mania to depression like nobody’s business while still having to work at WB, I decided I needed to find a way to integrate my experiences. And this is where those miracle synchronicities start to happen. 

I came back from Peru in December 2018, and after about a week one of my friends who is SO not into spirituality at all saw an ad on her facebook for a free masterclass by this storyteller woman named Leah Lamb who does something called “Soul Stories.” She’s all about using stories for “healing,” to help us transition into new parts of our lives and step into who we’re meant to be. I felt like this had happened for a reason, especially because my friend had weirdly found this and recommended to me exactly when I needed it in my life. Even weirder, I was about to turn 30 and was going through my intense “Saturn Return” period at the time and she was offering a workshop on harnessing the energies of Capricorn to plan out the new year. I immediately signed up for that, and also a one on one mentorship with her. Looking back — holy cow this decision COMPLETELY changed the trajectory of my life. 

The first thing I had to do for my mentorship was get a private soul story done by Leah — you can listen to it here it is in case you’re interested! (Background art was a piece I ended up creating for her)

She’s absolutely amazing 🙂 I can’t believe I haven’t talked about this… it deserves it’s own post but I’ll probably never get to it so — RIDING THIS ENERGY TO THE MAX. 

There was too much going on in my life at the time and even though I had signed up for it at the end of 2018, I was too busy with work and had to push it until April 2019. Prior to that, in March of 2019, I went to do a Half Marathon in Antarctica with a friend. We had signed up for it back in 2014, deciding it would be an awesome thing to do when we turned 30. But wow… again this trip came at exactly the right time in my life. I totally would NOT have gotten as much out of it prior to Ayahuasca. Mama Aya really opened me up to embracing who I really am and living each moment to the fullest. 

At one point we were kayaking and I had this unrealistic expectation of wanting to kayak over a humpback whale. When we got to the location and realized there would definitely be no whales there, my mind began to betray me and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, and a storm of thoughts came up like “this is gonna be so boring it’s just ice, what’ll we possibly even see here” I couldn’t even BELIEVE I was being such an ingrate, getting the opportunity to travel all the way to Antarctica — KAYAK even — and I was still complaining! Then Mother Ayahuasca’s voice came into my head, told me to be still, be grateful, and focus on the beauty around me. My mind became silent, I felt like I tapped into the universe, and everything changed. I couldn’t stop crying witnessing the beauty of my surroundings. Then the magic began to unfold. 

We were kayaking through an ice field and it was silent except for the sounds of ice cracking every so often. It seemed like nothing was around, but then we noticed these little birds sitting on top of the ice! They were perfectly camouflaged — Antarctic terns!!! TONS of them!!! 

THEN someone shouted they had seen a LEOPARD SEAL of all things! The seal started checking out our kayaking group, which was awesome to experience. Then we were called back to return to the ship, but me and my friend Bre ended up staying still because the leopard seal had taken a special interest in us. We were on our own, and the gorgeous creature decided to hang out, for quite a bit of time!! This will forever be one of the most magical experiences of my life.

I’ve always loved seals, but a leopard seal is different… this was a massive apex predator at the ends of the earth taking notice of us — PLAYING with us. When I showed this footage to the expedition crew back at the ship, they were really surprised because apparently leopard seals can be pretty dangerous. We saw a number of leopard seals during the trip, but this was the first one we came across, and also the biggest (which is why I’m convinced she was female even though at first I stupidly said “he” in the video). Later on we witnessed the aggressive leopard seal behavior when one of them wouldn’t leave the zodiac driver alone as she waited for our hike to finish — completely different demeanor than the one we met. Further evidence that this encounter was simply meant to be… I felt like I had experienced a noticeable shift in energy — like I had learned to “tap into the oneness” of nature.

TOTALLY SIDETRACKED!!! But basically why I even brought up Antarctica in the first place was to say — this was another event, really soon after Ayahuasca, that made me realize I couldn’t go back to a normal life. I had met so many amazing people on that trip, and especially fell in love with the One Ocean Expeditions crew, who were living these amazing alternative lifestyles I didn’t think were possible. Returning to my 9-5 job where I was sitting at a computer all day was torturous… I had to find another way to live.

It was after Antarctica that I started doing one on one sessions with Leah, which led to me doing an art piece for one of her projects and having the opportunity to go to a Women’s Retreat that she was hosting that July as a “work study”. It was called “Journey Home: Reclaiming The Wild Woman Within.” I couldn’t even BELIEVE it because one of the things I had started reading to help with my Ayahuasca integration was Women Who Run With The Wolves. Basically everything happening at this point in my life was rapid fire synchronicity. Not to mention this came right after the show I was working on at WB ended. I was already freelancing for Rick and Morty at the time, but I was basically home free.

This was the first women’s circle I had ever experienced, and became absolutely addicted to the magical, healing power of being in sacred space with women. Thankfully when I returned, I found out that the yoga studio literally TWO MINUTES from my apartment (I had lived there for 5 years at that point and had no idea it existed) offered women’s circles every month called “Women Join The Red Tent”!!! If you’re searching for a supportive women’s circle btw, they’re now being offered on zoom every first Friday of the month. Highly recommended 🙂 I’m usually always there! 

I fell in love with the owner of the studio, Jen. She’s become my primary example of the “divine mother” archetype… completely selfless, nurturing — full of wisdom and unconditional love for everyone around her. This is why I ended up signing up for the Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training she was offering that year! I was on the fence about it, but when I told her about my bipolar, she said that it would give me really great tools to ride the waves of life. AND IT DID. 

This Kundalini Teacher Training was crazy though because it started basically when I began my job at Rick and Morty. The energy of the job was the COMPLETE opposite energy of the teacher training group and it made me realize that I really did not feel like I fit into that type of studio environment anymore. I could feel the stark divide of my career and my soul’s destiny more and more each day…. 

AND THEN COVID HIT, two months before our training was supposed to be over. We had to do the rest over zoom which was quite an experience.

Teacher Training, something that was supposed to take only 9 months ended up taking over a year! We actually STILL haven’t had complete closure, and most of my group ended up dropping out. I am so incredibly thankful I made the decision to do it though because it taught me SO MUCH, not only yogic philosophy but what they call “Teacher Consciousness.” I broke through so many emotional walls, learned what a real community felt like, and built up confidence I didn’t even know I had. 

We were required to teach 6 classes in order to certify, and I almost didn’t do it because I was absolutely terrified. Thankfully the teachers believed in me enough to not only convince me to teach, but supported me through the process. This was an INSANE time because I had to continue working, prepare for my classes, AND Leah had recommended me to a friend of hers to mentor his daughter who loved Rick and Morty and was interested in the arts! I had been saying that I wanted to quit animation and become a life coach, and MY FIRST CLIENT SOMEHOW JUST FELL INTO MY LAP!!! THANK YOU LEAH!! ;_; 

It was also around this time that I had to stop taking my meds because they had caused Tardive Dyskinesia, a nasty side effect of antipsychotics where you basically lose control of your body. You can read about it in my previous entry here. I had to go to the ER and it freaked me out so much I swore off meds. It was crazy to be prepping for my classes, mentoring my first client, and working at Rick and Morty while still getting used to the pandemic and dealing with the transition of getting off my meds. Jen (my Yoga Mama) had a long talk with me about how I needed to take my health seriously, know when to ask for help, and keeping up my yoga and meditation practice to keep building my awareness of my cycles. 

It’s still always a wild ride… but I think typing all of this out has shown me that I can handle it. As shitty as I feel sometimes… I really DO have tools and a support system to cope better than I ever have. 

Why did I bring this up? OH YEAH! Because I said Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training was the catalyst to this life I’m living now which is so vastly different than the miserable life I felt trapped in at the beginning of last year before the pandemic started. It not only gave me those tools to surf the waves of life, but it helped me realize that the life I’ve lived has VALUE. Mentoring… teaching… passing on the wisdom I’ve gained through my experiences has proved so much more fulfilling than anything else I’ve ever done. My first client from last July referred me to another client, which led me to another…I know I’m slowly building the confidence to eventually expand my business, but what I have planned with the art side can still get overwhelming. 

Which brings us to September 2020, right before I quit Rick and Morty when Eddy forced me to complete this piece.

Around the same time I discovered these e-commerce videos and it sent me into a manic state that pushed me all the way through the process of creating a store and getting enough art together to throw on product. I realized I loved doing this WAY MORE than having to draw for other people all day, and I already had two clients which was barely enough to pay my share of rent. I set a deadline for myself to open the store in November for the holidays. 

I hadn’t experienced such a productive manic state like this in… I can’t even remember. Lol it was so jarring for Eddy because he said that to him it looked like, for the first time since he had known me, I was using my whole brain. I CAME ALIVE, and I was so terrified that I wouldn’t get the store open before my manic energy left my body, so I barely slept, barely ate, and when I ate it was shitty fast food because I didn’t wanna wash dishes — I knew I couldn’t waste any of this energy on work I didn’t wanna do, so I quit! 

But after so many months of just running on empty and having so many crazy changes happen, after I opened the store I couldn’t even really make it to the holidays… I crashed SOOOOO hard and cried for days. I literally couldn’t do anything else — it was like for the first time in my life I was seeing myself. I saw how much of the rest of my life I had neglected during my mania… how it had affected Eddy, our dog Han, and other relationships in my life… My body and mind felt absolutely destroyed from lack of exercise and meditation — after I finished teaching my yoga classes I completely disappeared and cut myself off from my community to get the store done… 

Yes I had started my business, but there was no way I could even manage my store or do anything new… my life was completely in shambles. With the newfound awareness I had built from my Kundalini Teacher Training and mentoring teenage girls, I became INCAPACITATED with guilt and shame of realizing the consequences of my mania.

Which brings us to January. I had so many plans for the new year that I had to painfully learn to let go in order to prioritize my health and well being. Which is why I decided to enter the cave… to once and for all deal with the core issues of my adult life… I kept telling myself that I would get back on social media every month, giving myself deadline after deadline and recognizing each time that I still wasn’t ready. The more stuff that came up, the more I felt like I had been poisoned… by our culture, by how I was raised, by past mistakes… The art I was producing was… ugly to say the least. But raw. And informative.

I hadn’t let myself just go crazy on a page before, and allowing myself to do so was absolutely liberating! I was starting to see the healing power of art, but it wasn’t exactly stuff I was comfortable putting on products to sell… I needed to empty my cup. I needed to stay in the cave. I didn’t realize that THIS is the sorta thing that would be coming out… but I guess it makes sense.

And now here we are in March. I wanted so badly to do something for the Spring Equinox and I ended up missing that too. Even though I’m trying to learn how to let go and tell myself its ok that I’m still not active on social media, still not promoting my store, still not creating new product, still not working on the Hasthira book I want to publish this year, still not updating my Bipolar Beastie comic, still not able to consistently eat healthy and meditate, still not — what was the point of this again? 

It’s now 6:51AM and I started writing this at 2:30AM, getting distracted with uploading those Antarctica videos, getting distracted reminiscing about stuff… getting so distracted that I forgot I was in a bad mood when I started this blog post! Which is a huge lesson to me and anyone who actually read all of this (lol probably no one) — JUST KEEP MOVING FORWARD. I’ll get out of this cave when I get out of this cave, and it doesn’t matter when! Hell, even taking the time to write all of this is a sign I’m getting close. But who cares? I’m already doing the work to face all these parts of myself I’ve been terrified of looking at for years. That should be enough. It’s always enough. Because WE ARE ALWAYS ENOUGH even though our culture teaches us that we’re not. What a bunch of bullshit. 

I was falling into those similar patterns of worry, self doubt, feeling behind. “Will I ever find my way?” Writing all of this down and taking a good look at how I’ve gotten here… it’s pretty obvious to me that I already AM finding the way. That I’m making a CONSCIOUS CHOICE to pursue the life I’m meant to live. 

I’ve already come so fucking far. And so have you. So have all of us just from living through a goddamn pandemic. Anything is possible, nothing is how it used to be, and as awful as it is to see all of the systemic racism, wealth inequality and divisive bullshit in the world, this is a pretty exciting time in history. Because it’s time for something new. Everything is changing at such an accelerated rate and sometimes it really does feel orchestrated by the invisible hands of the universe.

We know the way — it just takes courage to go down the path of not knowing. But really… that’s the only path there is. 

Thanks, Dad. A Valuable Lesson On Letting Go From Beyond The Grave.

As an old guy looking back, I can tell you we all have the same vivid sense of elation and depression haunting every day that we live. Have we done enough — Why can’t we do more? Relax. There’s lots of time to work it all out. Take it as it comes. Don’t worry so much about where you’re going. Enjoy where you are. “Go with the flow and ride with the tide.”

-Grady Lyda

In the process of writing a long reflection on today being 5 years since my dad’s death, I decided to look up one of my old blog posts from 2013 entitled “Restless,” in which he wrote a comment I didn’t actually read until a year or so after he died. It wrecked me then, and it very appropriately wrecked me again today. For some context, this post was written when I had just started to pursue a career in animation but was feeling horrible because art already felt like a “job” to me, just from the minimal freelance I had done. I was feeling absolutely stuck, and I came to the stunning realization that I didn’t know how to balance my life and that something must be seriously wrong with me. HILARIOUS. I wish I could go back to 24 year old me and tell her “It’s ok, you’re just bipolar! Watch these videos! Read these things! Start working on it now!”

In that post, I mentioned this podcast about Andrew Forsthoefel, a 23 year old kid who walked across America, and how jealous I was that he had gone on a true adventure that changed him forever. I felt like I was missing out and wanted to see the world, meet new people and hear their stories. It’s not like I’ve walked across America, but I have gone on some serious life changing adventures since then. When writing that post, I never in a million years could’ve guessed that I’d get married in Hawaii, meet Mother Ayahuasca in Peru, or sail through Drake’s Passage and have a chance to cruise around Antarctica. I also really have met tons of interesting people all around the world with amazing stories who have shown me that living an alternative lifestyle is possible, and that there can be another way to live your life.

But even after all the life I’ve already lived… This wise message from the great beyond will always bring tears to my eyes. Because life IS overwhelming, and no matter how much cool shit I do, no matter how much inner peace I manage to attain at times, I feel like that pressure to do it all will never quite go away. That feeling of needing to rush things because I always feel behind. And it’s because we’re human. And we die. Everything we are inevitably turns to dust. His words are validating, inspiring, and enlightening all at once. Reading a message like this at exactly the right time is proof that my dad’s spirit will always be here to guide me, and a deep reminder of the importance of learning to let go and live in the moment. When you think about it, that’s really the best option we’ve got.

This is GREAT! I love your commentary and all the heartfelt responses you received. I heard the same “This American Life” episode, and I was also touched by his discoveries.

It reminded me of one night when I was sitting at a Winchell’s in Santa Ana in the early 80s, innocently drinking coffee and eating donuts. A guy in his mid-20s came in with a big grin wearing a cowboy hat, and he looked at me and said, “I just walked across the US, from the East Coast to California. Now, here I am!” I said, “Wow, your feet must be tired.”

He was a cool guy, and the crowd in the shop was happy to hear what he had to say. He represented all of us who listened to his stories. Everyone wished they could have done the same thing. Actually, many of us HAVE done similar things. Life is a fantastic adventure that never ceases to amaze us. We make plans, but more often LIFE leads us into directions we never expected. The best we can do is be ready for whatever happens. Always be prepared to “go with the flow and ride with the tide.”

You have a wonderful list of goals and I hope you can accomplish them all, plus many more you haven’t thought of yet. Remember, you are in this for the long-haul. You might feel desperate to prove yourself and experience the whole world immediately. I’ve felt the same way, and I’ve criss-crossed this country several times, and visited other countries as well. It’s a fantastic planet and you have plenty of time to explore it.

As an old guy looking back, I can tell you we all have the same vivid sense of elation and depression haunting every day that we live. Have we done enough — Why can’t we do more? Relax. There’s lots of time to work it all out. Take it as it comes.

On my blog about my life 40 years ago, my younger self is always fretting about how nothing happens fast enough. Of all the entries so far, maybe this would be of interest to you:

http://truetimetravel.blogspot.com/2013_03_01_archive.html

Don’t worry so much about where you’re going. Enjoy where you are.

My dad had a blog he called True Time Travel Tales where he archived this journal my aunt returned to him from a trip around the country that he went on when he was 18 years old. I always meant to read it but never got around to it because I always found myself “busy” with something else. Then, after he died, I felt so guilty that I hadn’t been able to talk to him about it when he was alive I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. But then at one point shortly after his death I noticed there were a ton of broken images and contacted the hosting site to make sure they got it back up. Now, years later, I still haven’t read the blog, and again there are tons of broken images. Upon clicking that link, I had a straight up panic attack. I started shaking and couldn’t breathe, and completely lost it when I found out that the hosting site he had used no longer existed. The first time I had got the site back up, I vowed to myself I would save all the photos before this happened… but again… never got around to it… and now they’re gone forever.

My mom has a serious hoarding problem that was awful to grow up with, even getting to the point where me and my dad wanted to see if we could get her on the Hoarders show. When I was a kid I didn’t really understand it… I just thought we lived in a messy house. But as I got older and started seeing the hoarding tendencies within myself, it became clear to me that hoarding physical items represents underlying emotional issues of not being able to let go and move forward. Fears of the temporary nature of life and the inevitability that you and everyone you love are someday going to die. I’m not as bad as my mom, but I do take thousands and thousands of photos because my memory is so terrible and I find myself desperately clinging to certain moments of my life and not wanting them to disappear. I often have nightmares about losing all these photos somehow — in a fire, in a flood, in a zombie apocalypse, accidentally spilling water on my hard drives… I know this actually does happen to some people, which Eddy would constantly remind me of and make me more upset. Until today.

Clicking on that link in my dad’s comment was beyond upsetting. I cried and cried and cried. In a way it felt like losing him all over again… losing these parts of him that I really truly wanted to discover, but again, being so caught up in myself that I never found the time. Familiar guilt and shame crept back in, and I felt myself grieving like I had in the beginning. I thought I had come so far and healed so much, yet the wound felt as raw as ever.

But then Eddy reminded me that this is basically like my worst nightmare… and now that it’s happened in this capacity, I should see that it’s ultimately fine. I’m still alive, I still have the memories of my dad, and life will go on. He also reminded me that my dad was never the type to cling to photos or physical objects. He was throwing things out all the time! In fact, the whole reason he made the site was because he had thrown out this journal years ago, and somehow a man found it and tracked down my aunt who had returned to him. Considering he was already sick and died 2 years after he made this blog, he was no doubt already feeling the need to reflect on his life somehow. He was never the type to hoard, and he was especially put off by my mom and would always try to throw out her garbage because he knew she never would.

When my dad died, I looked frantically for this journal because I wanted it so badly, but me and my mom discovered that he had already thrown out most of his things. It became clear that he had planned his death, and in the beginning I was super angry at him for not leaving behind any of this stuff for me, or even a note explaining himself. I suppose he thought I wouldn’t care… and it’s taken me a while to get over the idea that I should’ve just asked him… that I should’ve shown some interest while he was still around. All these familiar feelings of self hatred and regret came back today when I found out his hosting went down, until Eddy talked some sense into me and reminded me what kind of person my dad was. How he was never the type to hold onto things and wouldn’t expect me to either. He would want me to just keep moving forward and enjoying life…

So when I came back to my senses and actually read the post he had linked to me, I couldn’t help but laugh. Even though the image was broken, it was literally just a blank page. Just like life. Just like this moment. He said that he wanted to preserve the beauty of the page before adding his thoughts onto it. It’s just like him to make this sort of point… and I started to see that this is an incredibly important lesson for me to learn. Even though he’s no longer around, he will always be here guiding me, helping me break through these walls that are such a natural part of the human condition.

From the March 29th entry: ONLY THIS PAGE WILL HAVE TO SUPPORT MARCH 29, 30, & 31 IN THE INTEREST OF PRESERVING ONE SMALL PORTION OF THIS BOOK AS IT WAS BEFORE I MARRED ITS BEAUTIFUL BLANKNESS WITH MY THOUGHTS AND DEEDS.

We as humans can’t help but be so deeply affected by mortality. I felt so terrible losing these photos that I know he had thrown out. There was a time years ago that I started to try and save all the photos on each of his entries, but it took so long I couldn’t see myself doing it for the whole year. I also see that a bunch of videos he had posted have already been taken down… which really hurt in the beginning, but thinking about it logically… that’s just the nature of the internet. All this important stuff is just located on the cloud, and once it’s gone… it’s gone. This was a way for him to reflect on his life when he knew he didn’t have much longer in this world, and I have to just be grateful that he at least created this website and I have his words to reflect back on. And stop thinking that losing all of this was my fault…

In the end, all we are is dust in the wind. Just because these images are gone doesn’t mean he didn’t live a rich life, and it doesn’t mean he’s no longer my dad. Life is just a series of moments and experiences, and the best we can do is live in the present and enjoy where we are. And if something is important to you… don’t WAIT like I did, or it may be too late. I am so sick of waiting, of avoiding, of thinking “I’ll do that thing tomorrow” and never getting around to it, the weight getting heavier and heavier… JUST DO IT ALREADY.

A fantastic reminder for a 5 year death anniversary. Thanks, dad. Maybe now I can truly listen to your advice. Everything does indeed happen for a reason… lesson learned. All of this will be over before we know it. Perspective is such a trip.

I close my eyes
Only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes, a curiosity

Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind


Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see


Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Now, don’t hang on
Nothin’ lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won’t another minute buy


Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Everything is dust in the wind.

Our First Day In Iquitos: Rapé and Kambo

Thursday: December 6, 2018

After not sleeping for about 48 hours, Amy and I arrived in Iquitos, Peru. We were on different flights and met up during a 5 hour layover in Lima, but spent all that time talking and eating awesome free food at the VIP lounge Amy had access to because of her credit card.

Dreamglade requires you to stay in Iquitos the first night you fly in to get some rest because you basically go straight into your first ceremony as soon as you get to the center. However, the way we planned our trip was that we would get into town at 7am, check into our room at La Casa Chacruna, then hook up with Victor, a jungle guide from Kambo Jungle Expeditions to go on an adventure until about 5pm. I always try to make the most out of my trips and wanted to do a bit of sightseeing before spending the entire time at the retreat. In hindsight, we really needed rest and basically jumped out of the airplane into an exhausting adventure, but it was SO worth it.

As soon as we got off the plane in Iquitos, we were swarmed with people trying to sell us things. Much to our surprise, most foreigners in town are specifically there FOR ayahuasca, and the locals know how to take advantage of polite Westerners. It totally happened to us, with a guy immediately getting into our taxi with us on the way to town, trying to sell us stuff — ayahuasca, a jungle expedition at HIS retreat, things FOR ayahuasca ceremonies — he even tried to get us to come to his house that he claimed looked like “Jurassic Park”, and when we didn’t go with him he charged us double the normal taxi fare. SO PLEASE KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO. Don’t tell ANYONE where you’re staying, where you’re going, and what you’re doing. BE SAFE.

Basically right after we made it into La Casa Chacruna, Victor showed up and gave us a tour of Bela Market in Iquitos. Then we embarked on a journey down the Amazon River to an awesome butterfly farm and jungle wildlife rescue called Pilpintuwasi, a really great floating restaurant where we did rapé for the first time, and monkey island where we got to play with a ton of cute monkeys 🙂 Hanging out with Victor was awesome because there’s not much to do in Iquitos without a boat and hard to communicate if you don’t know Spanish. After what happened at the airport we were a little shaken up, so we felt a lot safer to be with someone who knew their way around. We learned so much from him and he was so kind and accommodating, even offering us Kambo which we spontaneously agreed to do.

Pilpintuwasi was AMAZING, and such a great first stop in Peru. We got to take an intimate look at the metamorphosis cycle of a variety of butterflies and get up close and personal with some jungle wildlife. The owner was telling us how a lot of people who live in the Amazon, especially foreigners, would try to keep some of these creatures as pets and not know how to take care of them. All the animals at the sanctuary were rescues, including a beautiful jaguar who she said was left on her friend’s doorstep wrapped in barbed wire 😦 Seriously… humans really suck sometimes. It was nice to see the animals being well taken care of by people who really care.

It was also a dream to go to Monkey Island. I had NEVER been so close to monkeys, and it was pretty surreal getting to swing them by their tails and have them jump all over you. One of the babies didn’t want me to leave their side, and it struck me to my core that these are basically like little humans…with really strong tails. The trip was long, but so well worth it. I would highly recommend both of these places if you’re in the area, especially if you love animals.

In the middle of the day we had lunch at the Amazon Oasis Lodge. Most restaurants in the area have an “ayahuasca menu,” since there’s a specific diet to take into consideration with ceremony. I was surprised by how delicious the food still was! Booking Kambo Jungle Expeditions with Victor was seriously such a fantastic idea… a great way to have some amazing experiences in a short amount of time, with no real effort of figuring out where to go ourselves. We honestly weren’t expecting to do rapé OR kambo, but in my opinion this was the best possible way to kick off the journey, and Victor was so accommodating. We were there to heal with sacred  jungle medicine and Amy said she would do whatever I was down to do… and I was desperate enough to do anything. It sounds bad, but I was really in need of some deep healing. I regret nothing, and thankfully we had the perfect guide 🙂

Rapé is basically jungle snuff that you inhale through your nose. It’s a combination of various medicinal herbs (Victor had us take 2 different kinds, one made out of 15 herbs, another 25) that helps focus and sharpen the mind, clear energetic fields for ayahuasca ceremonies, detox mind and body, clear sinuses of mucus and bacteria to combat sickness, and help with mental illness like depression and anxiety. It made us feel GREAT!!! 😀 Really awesome intro for the journey we were about to embark on.

Similar to the rapé, kambo is supposed to help clear your body of panema, the negativity that builds up over time. In that same vein, it’s a great remedy for mental disorders like depression and anxiety, making you feel more joyous about life. It’s also just overall great for the body and the immune system. He said he never got sick again after doing kambo regularly. Victor even explained to us how it even cured his grandma of cancer doing it twice a week for 6 months. He had told us also that he had done ayahuasca but he felt kambo was more in line with his own healing… how horrible his life was and when he did kambo for the first time, he had a vision of being surrounded by people laughing at him, then a huge frog appearing and embracing him. From then on he started to administer kambo and has seen miracles.

To me, kambo was actually more painful than ayahuasca OR sananga, and I think it’s simply because it’s mostly physical. I also had eaten so much that morning and also at lunch, so when my mouth started swelling, it was really gross to feel a ton of pieces of food come up and I couldn’t tell the difference between my skin and the food. The sensations are really hard to describe, and Victor explained that everyone reacts differently. I for example, was clawing at my legs a lot because I was so uncomfortable, to the point where Amy had to massage my hand and it was so helpful just to know she was there. It was SUPERRRR intense. She on the other hand mostly sweated on her entire body, and seemed to take it way better than me.

The pain only lasts about 20-25 min until it starts to subside, and you can feel it traveling up your body, from your toes to your face. I remember when it got to my torso area and went up my neck, I thought I was gonna die. I kept having to tell myself to breathe, and remembered that I had to live for Eddy and Han. It was also really helpful to have Amy and Victor there, because I knew that it would all pass and they were making sure I’d be safe. Victor had even said beforehand that sometimes people faint, but he knew how to bring them back (which was kinda a scary thought and I prayed beyond anything that I didn’t faint because he made it sound almost like your heart could stop? Haha)

After the kambo, I felt FANTASTIC. Although our faces were super swollen and made us seriously “one with the frog,” I at least felt like I had tons of energy and was positive to the point of taking on the world! This sensation lasted throughout the next day, and probably even into our stay at Dreamglade.

Regardless of how alive I felt, we still passed out pretty quick after the kambo for like… 13 hours, which ended up being the best sleep I got the whole trip so I’m really grateful for it. The next morning we felt refreshed and ready to head to Dreamglade! 🙂

Choosing Dreamglade For Ayahuasca: Great Vibes and Legit Healing

Deciding to do Ayahuasca at Dreamglade was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I swear I’ve watched every single ayahuasca video on youtube, looked into every center in the amazon, and spent hours and hours reading reviews. I couldn’t help being nervous setting out on the journey, but as soon as Stacy (the owner) picked us up from Iquitos, I knew I had made the right decision and couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else.

dreamglade

The reason that research is important is because Ayahuasca is the main source of tourism in some parts of South America and there are a lot of people doing it for the wrong reasons. Ayahuasca is NOT a drug… it’s a medicine and needs to be administered in the right way for HEALING. It works best if you feel called to it, and have specific intentions about why you want to do it. It’s definitely NOT to have fun and trip out…it’s HARD WORK. People even say that your intentions guide you to the center and ayahuasca experience that’s meant for you. Here’s a tour video I took on the last day to remember what it was like walking around the place…I miss it SOOOO much. It makes my heart ache.

At Dreamglade we were immediately told that their main goal at the center isn’t a “light show for the Westerners” but legit healing. If not done right, it can cause people to have psychotic episodes and return home worse than when they came. Some shamans, called “Brujos,” can even steal your energy, or invite bad spirits in to mess with you. Also when you’re on the medicine, you are in a really sensitive, vulnerable state that continues post ceremony, even into integration, and I’ve heard about people being taken advantage of at some centers and even raped.

In my research I noticed that some places even sell tourist packages that include something like, one ayahuasca ceremony and then a jungle adventure or something, which seemed shady to me to begin with, but after actually TAKING the medicine I have no idea how people even do that. If you plan on using this to truly heal, you’re gonna need time to recover from this thing and process your experience. I’m not even sure how, at some centers, people can do ceremonies days in a row. At Dreamglade they actually require you to do 4 ceremonies MINIMUM, to give you adequate time to get used to the medicine, with the ceremonies every other day with rest in between. Those rest days were SO important. A LOT comes up that you just don’t understand, and I can’t imagine not having the right people around to help you through it.

Stacy, the owner, started up his center around 5 years ago and was really honest about the process of getting used to doing these ceremonies. We came at a really good time because by now, they REALLY know what they’re doing and you feel VERY SAFE the ENTIRETY OF YOUR STAY. I decided on Dreamglade because I felt, more than any other center that I’d come across, Stacy and Drew, his right hand man, are doing it for the right reasons. They recognize that the world is pretty messed up, and our only hope as a species is to heal ourselves, one by one, because only after we heal ourselves can that energy diffuse to others. The work that they do there is absolutely unbelievable… you can feel the power and love radiating from their shamans, Raul and Lidia. The entire staff is amazing because everyone plays such a specific role in taking care of guests coming in and supporting the great work of the shamans. So much sacrifice goes into running the place, and it can only be described as a labor of love for everyone there. To get a sense of what I mean, I urge you to watch the documentary. Here’s the link!

What immediately stood out to me was the general vibe of both the place and the people who work there. They’re not trying to sell you anything — they’re just very down to earth, genuine, amazing people, and it’s easy to get a sense of that from watching the video. Stacy really put his blood, sweat and tears into designing and creating the center himself, and when you’re there… the atmosphere is completely magical. SUCH great design, cozy spaces… thought put into every corner.

Something else I really love about Dreamglade is how picky they are with who they admit to the center, and how small they keep the groups (only 9 guests max at a time). You’re attending a retreat with a bunch of strangers with, in some cases a lot of emotional baggage, and that adds to the atmosphere of the whole experience. I was actually almost turned away from Dreamglade because of my bipolar diagnosis, and I immediately freaked out because they were my number one choice. Regardless of this, I still got a great vibe from Jann, the woman who handles their email correspondence. She explained that above all they were concerned about safety, for not only myself but their guests. When I signed up for the retreat I had been newly diagnosed and wasn’t aware that being bipolar was an issue, but she said that it could lead to manic or psychotic episodes depending on how severe the disorder was. I was clearly heartbroken in the emails, so Jann said she would run my case by Stacy, and she let me fill out their questionnaire anyway, which by the way is very extensive. I felt like I was writing a college entrance essay the way I responded to that questionnaire… and I basically begged to get in. I even sent them this video about the healing potential of ayahuasca for people with bipolar… it was literally my last resort.

I was sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear back from Jann and Stace about whether they would let me come to Dreamglade, and because I’m so impatient I actually emailed about 10 other centers while waiting, but none of them felt right for me.  Stace says that both him and Jann are very intuitive and have been doing it for so long that they can tell when something is a little “off” about a person, and they don’t hesitate to turn anyone away.

I can tell they do a fantastic job with their screening process because we were able to experience two groups of people while we were there and everyone was awesome, good vibes all around 🙂 I also had SO many questions and Jann was super quick and thorough about answering them all….the Dreamglade staff is seriously just top notch. They showed me the true power of collaboration, communication, compassion and love. Thankfully I was allowed to come…I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else.

I uploaded some raw videos mostly for archive purposes, but I might as well share them here. This is the first one that was supposed to be an account of my first ceremony but turned into going a bit into why I decided to do ayahuasca and Dreamglade praise 🙂