Thursday, May 31, 2012

Travelogue : Goodbye Glasgow

Hey loves,

This is gonna be short and sweet because my taxi's here in six hours and, oh yeah, I need to sleep within that time period.

I gave myself three full days to catch up on things before heading out and--surprise--that didn't really happen. I got all the important things done--said hello/goodbye to most people, packed all my stuff. But of course, there are loose ends.

Long story short, tomorrow I fly to Norway. That's pretty much all I know right now. Our friendly circus family is picking up my travel-companion Adam and I from the train station. We'll then be given a tour of the 'circus village.' And the next day we'll be traveling around promoting the event. If you have costumes, bring them! ...we'll just settle for a mask and the 'Circus Freak' shirts I designed. I can't imagine Swarovski would travel well.

And yeah. That's honestly the last definite plan I have.
One way ticket to Norway.
17 days of scheduled volunteering to provide room and board.
[ be determined...]
Back to Glasgow by July 21st.

Oh yes, world. Let's go exploring.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Travelogue : Lendrick Lodge 2

Or, How to Heal

For the past few weeks I've been living in another world. I return to reality (aka the internet, Glasgow, etc) and find myself at a complete loss for words. How do I tell my family just how profound and simple volunteering at a holistic retreat has been? How could I possibly capture the weeks spent with healers and therapists and soul-oriented people? I suppose it's time to tell you the truth about me. No fronts, no funny quips. Just me.

Before I begin, I want you to know one thing: I am a skeptic.
When someone says "I can feel energy" I struggle to keep my eyebrows level. When someone says "This will heal you" I try not to counter with we'll just see about that. I'm a "try before you buy" sort of guy. Period.

Another thing.
For the past two years, I have been horribly depressed.
I've hid it fairly well from the majority of the people. Save for occasional breakdowns, I managed. I did what I thought I should do: I took my mind off it by immersing myself in work. In Massachusetts I waited tables and tried to launch an artist studio and trained with a circus group and assisted authors and tried to write.

In Scotland I wrote. A lot. I trained/taught. A lot. When I met with friends, I talked about writing or training or the terror of the future. I woke up and got on the computer and checked email and wrote and then I went to work and then I came home and checked email and tried to tell myself I was okay.

I was not--
by any stretch of the imagination--

Because none of that hard work was paying off. Studios failed. Jobs closed. Writing sucked away at my soul.
I told myself I needed to work harder. I added more pressure. If you get published it will all be better. You'll have money and a path and a purpose and all this hard work will pay off but damn it, Alex, none of that will happen if you don't push yourself past breaking.

And when things kept falling apart, I crumbled to insane amounts of personal pressure.
I wasn't just hitting a brick wall. I was closed in on all sides, and they were caving fast.

Another thing:
I barely registered this.

I've always worked in high-stress states. It started early on in school and it hasn't left. If I don't have a deadline, I make one. If I don't have work, I make it. The motto growing up was 'work, then play.' I just kept leaving out the last bit. Besides, my main job was teaching circus! I laughed! I had a blast! That was surely balancing out the intensity of writing. Right?

For the past two weeks, I've woken up with a stream outside one window and a mountain outside the other. I go into the kitchen and make a cup of tea. Then I work for eight hours. I clean rooms, make beds. When courses are running I work in the kitchen and chop vegetables. At first, I hated the work. I was a writer! A circus artist! I wasn't schooled to make beds and hoover hallways. I should be creating and making and pushing myself and...
you get the picture.

Over time, things changed. I started opening up to the people I was working with. I stopped viewing the work as a chore and saw it as an opportunity. I stopped trying to drown out the time spent cleaning bathrooms with music and just listened to the birds outside. I went for walks through the woods, up the mountain, to lochs. Just being in that environment--a place in the wilds entirely dedicated to healing everyone who walked through the doors--was powerful. But there was more.

There was reflexology, massage exchanges. There was a Reiki session that completely blew my mind. There were talks over meals and tea about everything from sex to Buddha to emotional response patterns and nutrition. Through it all, I started to feel.
The fears and expectations stopped meaning anything. The anger I felt toward people, the judgments I had, all started to vanish when I stopped pitting myself against them and realized we were all there for the same purpose: to help heal others and ourselves.

Now, I'm not there yet. Just being back in the city (and back in my flat with wifi) makes the old habits peek their heads in. Productive much today? Written anything good? I still panic about the future.
But I'm getting there. I'm making space.

And if anything, that's what I'd like you to do.
Your work is important. Really, it is. But it's not that important.
You're going to die some day. Make friends with that thought. There are so many cliche phrases that have lost meaning so I won't use them. Because they didn't work for me. I had to experience it firsthand.

Your path will be different from mine. That's clear. You might find peace volunteering for people or animals. But it's a powerful thing to get out of 'me me me' and help other people heal themselves. Especially when you're able to make that same commitment to yourself.

You deserve it. Really, you do. You deserve it so much that there's no excuse: you can make the time. You don't need any money. You don't have to be or do anything except, well, breathe.

So I ask you: what can you do to create space in your life? What are opportunities to volunteer and help both yourself and the community? How can you get out into nature and just be a body that breathes and bleeds like the rest?

Find it. Follow it.
You're worth the effort.
More next week.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Travelogue : Lendrick Lodge 1

Another short post.
For the past week I've been volunteering at a holistic retreat in the heart of the Trossachs. The place is beautiful: surrounded by trees and hills and moorland and streams. Stunning.

The work has been calming, the people loving. I've much to share after all this is over, but I've little time and much to do before I head back to work. Expect more very soon.

Needless to say, being surrounded by nature and getting out of my head and into the present moment has been a revitalizing experience.

If you are looking for a change in your life, or a few days to 'get away,' I highly recommend seeking out volunteer work at local retreats. It's fulfilling in an entirely necessary way.

For pictures, click here.

Travelogue : Glamsterdam

Hello loves,

I have half an hour of wifi to update you on the past few weeks of travel adventures, so allow me to be brief and stick to sharing through photos (link at the end).

The trip was fantastic. Four days of aerial, good food/coffee, beautiful scenery. It was my first time in mainland Europe, and it definitely fueled my desire to travel even more. We wandered through the park, the Red Light District, had a show and photoshoots and generally behaved like rockstars. Even our hostel was perfect--private rooms and a breakfast buffet and a view on the park.

I hadn't expected much of Amsterdam, I'll be honest. I only expected seedy alleyways and prostitutes. And yet, even the notorious Red Light district was beautiful and clean. Our practice space was an old cinema school turned squat turned art space, complete with gorgeous graffiti and its own restaurant bar. What was more, Amsterdam seemed full of the health-conscious. Everyone rode bicycles, the food was locally sourced or organic or homemade, and people were going for runs at every hour of the day. Even while there on an aerial bootcamp, I felt the desire to fit in and be healthier.

I think one of the reasons the place seemed so clean and safe was the fact that so much is legal there. Crime is low, vandalism and theft seem practically non existent. It's almost like the legalization of so much allows people to blow off steam safely and continue on with their daily lives in a wholesome way.

It gave me a lot to think about and a lot to look forward to going back to. But I'll let you look at the pics and see for yourself.