13. Only Light, Only Love in This Community

Having worked with a shaman for some years in Colorado before leaving for Argentina, I was keen to chance upon a shaman in the midst of my travels, knowing that I’d be welcoming guidance and wisdom.

Specifically trying to seek this out had not led me there, but a casual conversation with a friend one day did the trick. She mentioned a community in the mountains where another friend of ours had advised her to go for a few days.

With little more details than the name of a guy and his community, I boarded a bus to a tiny town in the Andes mountains to present this information at the terminal when I arrived. It worked and I found my way there.

They welcomed me in as if they had been expecting me. I was given a bed and consumed right into the community…receiving the sun with the morning meditation, discussing our dreams, working in the fields, sharing simple meals with food they had grown and preserved, chanting and wisdom circles in the evening.

For much of the time, they told me to just enjoy myself. I was very much a guest there and it was as if they each intuitively knew that I needed space to just be in nature and sit and think and not think…to really just be, to reflect on life. The more I tried to help, the more they gave me space.

I wandered in the mountains, slowly and thoughtfully. I visited with their animals…horses, goats, pigs, ducks, roosters, dogs, cats. I sat on the swing in front of my little house and watched the rays of the sun dance with the wildflowers. When we were gathered, conversation was always very meaningful.

The main motto was, “Solo luz, solo amor. Te amo.” Only light, only love. I love you. People would say this to each other and give the most intentional hug. I’ve never been hugged like I was there. And the eye contact with their glowing, sparkling, alive eyes filled me with this “light” they spoke of.

I stayed for 4 nights, 4 transformational nights, although they never asked how long I would be there. Between my alone time, the special ceremony I was invited to be a part of with the shaman and the individual attention and interactions I had with everyone living in this simple, mostly self-sustaining community…I really did leave there feeling physically lighter and so content.

I felt so curious and really considered with a lot of thought and emotion how they were living and why and their beliefs…trying to understand, trying to learn, trying to relax into it and embody it without having to “figure it out”.

They had given me so much without question and without even knowing who I was until I presented myself at the threshold of their community. I had really wanted to give them something in return. I had brought some ginger to contribute, which we had used for tea. I then made 30 paper cranes and on my final day, I hung them from the wooden beams above the table where we would be celebrating a birthday. I mustered up the best Spanish I could manage to thank them for the gifts of time, space, presence, light and love.

The picture of the paper cranes on the home page of this blog is from this community. I really love this story. It was one of my greatest experiences…the full story can be read here.

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12. Explore. Learn. Share. with Elizabeth Gilbert

This is the first paper crane that I’ve given out to someone who I haven’t been able to personally meet and yet I hope to someday. I’m a writer. I’m in the process of writing my first book right now and I am hoping to find a mentor to court.

This summer, I ended up in my hometown of Chicago unexpectedly for some months. While sitting by the campfire with my sweet brother, he casually mentioned that he wrote into the ‘My Brother, My Brother and Me’ podcast with a question about me for Elizabeth Gilbert, the guest that week.

In his question, he had shared with her the quick version of my story…that I had left the corporate world and sold my things to go on a journey of pursuing my passions and writing a book in South America. He was writing to her as someone who rather infamously went on her own journey that she told the story of in Eat, Pray, Love…to ask her how to support me even when he couldn’t necessarily relate to what I was doing.

Her answer was perfect and tender. She said something along the lines of…when someone does something like that…gives up everything familiar to them to go out and wander and face fears and discover…you have to understand that to not do so would be akin to agony and death. They absolutely have to go on that journey and the best thing you can do is to acknowledge and support that, even if you do not understand it at all.

I was so star struck. I have read her books and it is obvious she is a very talented writer. I really relate to her book “Pilgrims” which she describes as something like an applied/experiential masters program in life as she wandered around and wrote down stories of those she encountered. So there’s that. The girl can write.

And then she takes it to a different level. She has become an icon of self-discovery and personal transformation for those who read her journey and were inspired and she interacts with these people every day. She posts lessons and guidance and practices and stories on facebook and makes people believe in themselves. She could’ve just reveled in all of her best-selling glory, but I really see her taking responsibility with this role that she didn’t necessarily ask for and using it to do good.

That is admirable. That is the type of mentor I would like to court.

She was on Oprah’s ‘Super Soul Sunday’ recently and she started talking about the hero’s journey just as I was writing down the words “hero’s journey” in a scholarship proposal I was working on. Among other synchronicities that showed up with her recently, I decided I needed to “break my rules” and send a paper crane to thank her for impacting my life in these little ways that she doesn’t even know about because we’ve never met.

I think good people are kind even when no one is watching. Thanks Liz!

11. Serendipity & Synchronicity with Rudulfo

Sometimes you have an experience that is so striking you cannot help but believe that it truly was meant to be. This is how I met Rudulfo at his finca in la Valle de Uco outside of Mendoza, Argentina.

I lived at a hostel while apartment searching and became friends with Carmen and Jorge who you’ll hear about too. Jorge introduced us to Mariela. Mariela introduced us to her friend Negra. Negra’s dad and Uncle Rudulfo owned this finca (farm). I love tracing things back to the start…it reminds me how much each moment matters.

We were invited out to la finca for the 60th birthday of Negra’s dad and this is where I met Rudulfo. I quickly learned that he is a published author (my current aspiration) and we spoke for hours about our craft. He was so genuinely excited that I was writing a book. He shared a bounty of wisdom with me and also was curious and inquisitive about my process and experience of writing.

All of this took place in Spanish as well and it was the first time that I felt I participated in a conversation about deep stuff, soul stuff in another language and not just “where is the bus stop?”. And yet, I understood more than ever.

He gave me all sorts to think about in terms of finding my voice and getting in touch with your inner crazy, your creativity. He talked about books as if they are fine wines and how the process of writing mirrors the process of winemaking. You create it and tweak it and bring out its essence and then you let it rest and age. When it is ready, you let it breathe and you share it. Perfect.

He talked to me about why he and his brother had created this place. There were about 50 or so people at this party and about 10 or so countries were represented. They take in volunteers to help run the place, but he made it so clear that the most important thing about the finca was that it was a community, a place to really enjoy yourself and a place to celebrate creativity. You could feel it in each person there.

Fiesta a la Finca

Rudulfo gave me two of his books to read and is eager to read my book when I am finished. We are learning each other’s respective languages and helping each other in this way too. I have visited him again and hope to again and again.

He is a seriously good soul and somewhat of a mentor for me now too. I gave him a paper crane and he gave me a huge hug.