I walked into my dad’s hospital room just as he had transitioned. In that moment of heartbreak, a part of me died with him. Unbeknownst to me, a new part was born. Three weeks later, I resigned from an organization I had worked with for 11 years.
I had no plan and no clue about my next steps. All I knew was that I needed a break. I needed to stop and breathe.
Thus began my unintentional Eat Pray Love year. Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search For Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia is a book by Elizabeth Gilbert. She tells her journey of leaving behind the life she knew for a year of travel through three countries to find herself again.
Mine was a year filled with tears, anger, grief, joy, jubilation, fear, and finally meeting and making friends with the most important person and relationship in my life, ME.
I learned many lessons during this time.
1. Find a sense of safety within yourself; make a home inside your heart
Routines make us believe that life is certain. It helps to have a plan or a to-do list. To know when to wake up, when to have a meeting, or when to go for lunch. It is not so easy to start your day and have no plan. It is scary and unnerving.
I had three decades of conditioning; I had to know what was coming next to feel safe. I learned that safety is fleeting if it comes from an outside source. I had to find that safety within myself. I had to learn to trust myself and my journey. It is very empowering to create that safety internally.
2. There is a difference between surviving and living
A lot of us exist in survival mode. We are on auto-pilot most of the time and do not take time to stop and smell the coffee. We are in the grind 24 hours a day, and we have no idea what we actually feel, like, think, want, or need.
When I took a break, I realized I loved staring at clouds. I loved being near water. I loved sunsets and butterflies and birds. I loved nature.
I never knew this about myself as I spent so much time cooped up in a cubicle working six days a week for ten hours a day, sometimes longer. I wasn’t living. The burnout that plagued me for years dissipated when I slowed down and decided to live.
3. I fell in love with spirituality
I never considered myself a spiritual person. I was raised in a Christian home and attended Sunday service every week. I always knew I was looking for something but did not know what IT was. I read a few books on spirituality, but nothing ever stuck.
When I took my break, I found many books that opened up a new spiritual and personal development journey. They helped me understand why my dad died. It made me less angry. I realized that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. I realized that death never happens; we just transition and revert to our non-physical form.
I read about spirit guides. It was so comforting to know that I have guides specifically working for my well-being. I was never alone, never. I learned about angels. I opened up to Reiki, and I started reading tarot.
It was a whole new phase in my life. I finally found what I had been looking for. I started meditating and doing affirmations. I even found my purpose.
4. Finding your purpose is just the beginning
I believed that when I found my purpose, everything would fall into place, and I would live happily ever after… thanks Disney.
Finding your purpose is where the work begins. I had so much learning, unlearning, and healing to do. I had to work on my shadow self. I had never taken the time to know who I was. There were some awesome qualities I found and some that needed work. But the beauty of it all was that I learned to love those parts of myself that I thought were dark and unworthy.
5. We are always divinely guided, always
One of my greatest realizations was that I had always been divinely guided; we all are. Everything was always leading to something. Even when I felt life had dealt me a huge blow, it was all part of the plan.
It was a very empowering realization that the universe had my back. It was a lesson in embracing my femininity and learning how to surrender, trust and take inspired action.
6. My intuition is my best friend
Had you asked me before if I listened to my intuition, I would have quickly replied that I did. However, I realized that I did not listen to my intuition often. In fact, I had made a career of silencing her. When I slowed down and allowed myself to really listen, I made a friend. When I started reading tarot, the voice became even louder. My inner voice became loud and recognizable, and I started living a deliberate life.
Suddenly, I could feel the energy I picked up from people and places. I could feel my body talking to me in foods it did not want. I could feel people’s distress when they spoke or when I looked at them.
7. We all have divine gifts
This was an amazing realization. We come to this physical world armed with gifts to help raise humanity’s consciousness. I had always wondered what my talent was. I was conditioned to believe that talents had to be mainstream for them to count. It made me feel subpar. I did not feel special.
When I finally uncovered my spiritual gifts, I was shocked to see just how gifted I was. I have always been an excellent listener and consider myself very perceptive. I would have called these traits, but now I know that these are divine gifts.
The feelings I would get from nowhere were my clairsentience. Knowing something without any logical explanation was claircognizance. Hearing words, phrases, and conversations with no specific source was my clairaudience. I had these gifts all along, but I felt ordinary because I could not draw.
8. Our childhood holds clues about who we really are
After I quit my job, I started working with a life coach. One of the questions she asked me was, “who are you?”
I remember struggling to answer that question for weeks. I still ask this question sometimes.
When I started revisiting my childhood and enquiring from my mom who I was as a child, it was very eye-opening.
One of my gifts was that I was very outspoken. I hated seeing injustices happening to people. I would call it out. However, this isn’t a very welcome quality for a child to exhibit, as it can be inconvenient and may come off as rude. So my voice was stifled. I stopped speaking up even when I saw injustices happen.
When I was a teenager, I loved to write romance novels. I was told that was not a good pass time, and I stopped writing even though I loved to.
I also loved astrology. I remember getting a lot of flak for telling people what their sun signs were. I recently looked through my birth chart, and the gems I uncovered are magical. It made me realize why I feel more connected to my moon sign than my sun sign.
All these gifts never really leave us, no matter how much we stifle them. They are somewhere beneath the surface and show up every now and then. When I started remembering who I was, I found that these gifts gave me a lot of happiness and peace.
9. Self-love is the cornerstone of our lives
I thought I loved myself. After all, I did not engage in behavior that would have been considered self-harm.
I bathed, ate, wore nice clothes, and had self-care days. Of course, I loved myself. But then, I went deeper.
I had a people-pleasing habit that was rather evident in ALL my relationships. I attracted romantic partners who were emotionally unavailable. I engaged in behavior that constantly lowered my vibration: complaining, criticizing, and gossiping. These behaviors did not point to someone who truly loved herself. I needed to work on that.
Then I found Louise Hay’s 10 Ways To Love Yourself, which changed my life. They are simple but profound steps to start loving yourself truly, madly, and deeply.
10. Nothing lasts forever
I had the privilege of attending a Vipassana retreat, and the impermanence of life was one of my greatest lessons. Nothing lasts forever, so there is no point in clinging to anything.
This should encourage us to live every moment and treasure it. To be present. To be here, right now. We spend so much time being anywhere else but the present, regretting the past, or planning or dreading the future. We forget that all we ever have is now.
It has been an eye-opening year.
I have learned a lot and continue to learn so much more. I have self-compassion and an understanding that learning, unlearning, and healing are all part of the human experience.
I am learning to forgive myself for what I did and did not do. I am also learning to extend that grace to others. I am opening up and discovering new layers of myself.
I am learning to ride the waves of life and find joy in the uncertainty.
I am learning to be unapologetically ME.