Soul Selfie

Your new profile picture is flattering,
Really.
You have a lovely shell,
I like what you’ve done with it.

Your molecules are arranged nicely-
It’s a pleasant view.
New week. New photo. New self.
Well done on the camera angle.
Good choice on the lighting.

…But you are not an object.
Bone structure, teeth, skin, inconsequential.

I want to see a selfie of your SOUL.
…That I would ‘like’ the shit out of

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Almostopenbook.Com is the blog of Jennifer Monet’, writer, wild-eyed-wild-haired adventurer, and lover of life. She offers travel coaching, mobility solutions, and resources to earn a living while turning your passion for adventure into a reality at LifeCREATIVE.org.

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The Gods of Not Knowing

Star Trails

Order and chaos,

Destruction and creation,

Points of light in a sea of dark matter
The end of one body,
Birth of a million new ones.

It needs nothing.

It goes on.

So when the physicist said,
“There is so much we still need to explain”.
I laughed.
Need? Why? I think you mean want.

…things you want to explain.
What if not making sense… makes sense.
His god is knowing.
But my god is the nothing I know,
And everyone who knows nothing,
God and goddess.

And my god IS the physicist, the biologist, the astronomer,
Scrambling to find order in the ineffable.
My god is also the writer, the artist, the musician,
Yearning to express on the outside,
Swirling motion inside their body

That will always defy explanation.

My god is the healer, the helper, the caretaker,
Each holding impossible space,
For human anxiety in the face of infinite unknowns
Maybe my god is the scared one hurting,
The drug pusher, the thief,
The drunk driver who hit my car and sped away.

Gods who hold up the world,
And gods who shake it violently.
Gods who make love, gods who make fear.
Gods who are wise and crazy and confused
Curious and beautiful and alive.

Who is god?

What is god?

Today, my god is the millisecond after the question,
the space between asking and answering,
When I love all that I can’t know.

.Star Trails

Almostopenbook.Com is the blog of Jennifer Monet’, writer, wild-eyed-wild-haired adventurer, and lover of life. She offers travel coaching, mobility solutions, and resources to earn a living while turning your passion for adventure into a reality at LifeCREATIVE.org.

Laughing at Myself and Trusting the Universe

Ah the joy of laughing at oneself…. This morning it started with reading my last journal entry before the new year, in preparation to write my first blog post of 2015.

December 31st The experiences of this year have been perfect, because they’ve brought me to my growing edge again and again, a place where I have to be fine not being in control and trust things will always go as they should. That all I ever need is to trust the universe in all its divine intelligence, and to let go.

I laughed, because yesterday after making my New Year’s resolution to trust things to unfold as they should, I sat down and balled my eyes out, because even after writing that, I was still stuck on the fact that I’m setting aside my plan of moving back to Asia to teach English and the trip to India I’d dreamed of for years, to stay help take care of my family. “But I knew what I was doing, I had a plan,” I told my friend, “now what am I supposed to do?”

I laughed when I read it, because just two days ago I knew that the only thing I’m really, really supposed to do is trust the universe enough to recognize the opportunities that exist right here, and be present, even if that means throwing out the 2015 I had meticulously crafted for myself, and just saying, “Alright universe, I get it. I’m not in charge of everything.” I’m supposed to trust, even if it means giving up the certainty I had that this was the perfect plan, and stepping into the big open space no longer having it leaves. I laughed because it didn’t even take me two days to forget what I knew, and get in my head, and totally panic at the idea that I don’t have a plan, or a clue, or a map. I laughed, and I smiled, because the universe was kind of enough to nudge me to write that down, so I could come back to it when I  forget.

I laughed because I just had a poem published where I talked about how I don’t live in my head anymore, and I realize I definitely, definitely hang out there a lot more often than I’m willing to admit. I laughed, because part of trusting the universe is trusting that I’m also exactly who I’m supposed to be right now, even if that is a person who forgets what she knows almost daily, and who really, really wants to live from a heart space, and be a person who deeply knows that all the plans that go awry are a part of some bigger plan, but who has a loud monkey mind that gets in the way.

I laughed at myself the hardest though, when I spent a solid hour meticulously composing the first version of my blog this morning, on how we have to embrace that despite our plans, the universe often has other ones, and then my computer crashed and did not save a single word of it. Because, after an hour of reflecting on adaptability, my immediate thought when I got that dreaded blue screen was still, “Oh great, now I have to start over. That thing I just wrote was really good, and now I have nothing.”

Ohhhh. Good one universe, message received. And then after a fit of uncontrollable laughter, I sat back down, and I started over. All was not lost, it never is, the end result just different than anticipated. I lost an hour of words, but I suppose that was exactly what was supposed to happen, because I wrote what you are reading instead.  And I suppose that’s always the way it goes- we make static plans, we forget that we live in a dynamic world. And, when the universe reminds us, we can either struggle or we trust the journey.

Here’s to knowing that I’ll probably do a little bit of both in 2015, because I’m a human, and being totally okay with it, and to knowing that every time I miss the mark, the universe gently guides me back.  All love, Jen

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Almostopenbook.Com is the blog of Jennifer Monet’, writer, wild-eyed-wild-haired adventurer, and lover of life. She offers travel coaching, mobility solutions, and resources to earn a living while turning your passion for adventure into a reality at LifeCREATIVE.org.

Letting Buddha Go

Yesterday I lost my antique Buddha amulet from Chiang Mai, that I’ve worn everyday for almost two years. The clasp broke while I was out running errands. I didn’t notice until I found the chain tangled around my purse strap, amulet long gone.

What I realized as I furiously searched my car, totally bummed to have lost this item that held so much personal sentiment, was that somewhere down the line, I’d become absurdly attached to a copper trinket, molded into Buddha… the figurehead of non-attachment.

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Even in this recognition, the cognitive understanding that there was a lesson to be learned, part of me still wanted… no, needed,  to find it. It was a beautifully solid copper, heavy, intricately carved, I could feel centuries of history when I touched it. It was also the item I reached to when I needed to feel centered, the reminder of an experience, of a time in my life when I felt at peace as I spent afternoons in quiet contemplation in the shadows of crumbling temples. I understood there was something meaningful about letting go of it, but still… I felt naked without it.

As I felt around under the car seat, feeling foolish, but still shaking out my jacket and scarf, digging through the change in my purse, I looked down. I have this tattoo on my wrist….

photo 3

Let go.

It too just a symbol, yet all that it represents a part of my experience. But one that brings me back to myself. So I did, reluctantly at first, but I let go. I stopped needing to find the Buddha and I stopped looking. I acknowledged that it was probably gone, laying in the snow and slush in some parking lot, and that I could be okay with that.

Today, as if the universe saw that I had learned what I needed to, as I stepped out the door for the first morning without my amulet around my neck, I looked down. Square in the middle of the rug that sits outside my front door, a place I’d already looked over several times, was my amulet. I still can’t figure out how it got there, but I suppose like many things, it’s not for me to know.

photo 2

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On a personal note- It’s been an odd few months, really the whole last year a time in my life that has asked me over and over, are you letting go? REALLY letting go? Or are you holding to tightly- to plans, to people, to expectations of what life should look like? Each time I think I’ve begun to understand, to really internalize impermanence, the universe shakes things up again, and asks me to let go just a little bit more. Just when I’m sure if I let go of anything else the ground beneath me will disappear… life begs of me. Give it all away. Need nothing. Cling to nothing. 

 Maybe we are never fully free in the human experience, always clinging to something, if even attaching to the need to feel unattached, even our existence as a physical body mattering as we filter our experience through our senses.   Maybe if we didn’t learn letting go in stages, if we let go of everything at once, we wouldn’t experience the achingly beautiful experience that is learning to become lighter. If we never knew suffering, would we know what it felt like to not suffer?  

Know that every word I write here is me giving it away, or letting go.  I don’t want to hold onto these moments, but I do honor them enough to share them. So thank you- for reading, and for giving me the opportunity to share, connect, and set my heart free. 

 All love, Jen

Confessions of an Imperfectionist

Right now, as you read this, I have a pimple the size of Texas hanging out on my cheek, probably because I ate an entire block of sharp cheddar cheese in a 48 hour period.

I still love myself.

Right now, I am writing this instead of getting dressed, hair wet, breath smelling like coffee and morning halitosis, because I haven’t brushed my teeth. I’m scribbling it on the back of a receipt, because I forgot to charge my computer last night, and because I can’t find my notebook.

I still love myself.

Right now, I’m 30, and I live in my friends’ spare room, because I am too much of a location commitment-phobe to sign a lease, because I’m terrified even one long term decision might result in losing my freedom, and because I’m afraid if I stay in one place too long I might become bored… or even worse, boring. I’m terrified of wasting even one moment on ordinary, because I’m afraid of having regrets, and that fear often cripples my ability to create a life for myself.

I still love myself.

Right now, I am realizing I have totally failed at least half of my New Years resolutions, especially the one about posting weekly. I’ve only posted once not because I don’t write daily, but because nothing I ever write feels good enough, and I’m afraid it’s crap. For the same reason, I have barely written a third of my fifteen page research paper that is due next week, because I’m bad at research papers, and when I’m afraid of failing, I stop trying.

I still love myself.

The point of this whole spiel being- the loveable part of me, and of you, isn’t conditional. It isn’t based on what I do, or how I act, or what I accomplish, nor is it for you. It’s based on showing up, gloriously imperfect, and letting our souls hang out.

And, if you read this and wonder, did she write this for ME?

Yes, yes I did. I wrote this for you, you incredible, imperfect, real human.

trust, connection, and the long walk home

I recently set an intention to work on trust- more specifically, trust that the universe is always bringing me whatever knowledge or experience I need. So this morning when I was emailed an article about relationships serving as a mirror reflecting parts of our soul, I wasn’t surprised that these words were perfectly what I needed to read, and at the perfect time. I haven’t blogged in a while, but as I remember the interconnectedness of our human experiences, I’m reminded the importance of sharing.

I’ll be honest and reveal something I’m not particularly proud of… lately I’ve found myself complaining A LOT about behaviors in my partner; “Brian is this, Brian does this, I wish Brian were more this.”  What I’m really not proud of is that with this has also came an irrational blaming him for my own challenges. I’ve found myself putting a lot of energy into ideas of “if Brian were more this, then my situation or my behavior would be more that”, and not taking responsibility for my own behavior or choices.

As I read this article, it hit me that every time I’d pinpointed a behavior or quality in Brian that I disliked or felt like rejecting, what I was really doing was taking a quality I’m not particularly pleased with in myself, or something I’d like to shift away from, and putting it on him. It’s a lot easier to reject the qualities of another person because we can distance ourselves from them, but it’s impossible to escape those qualities in ourselves. Instead we have to witness them, sit uncomfortably with them, and do the hard work to grow. I don’t know about you, but for me complaining about another person’s behaviors is a lot easier than taking a hard look at myself, and it takes a lot less courage.

Even as I realize that part of me has been really pushing against making internal shifts by trying to control the external, I’m realizing something beautiful. If we are open to seeing it, we’re drawn to people who if can show us the next step in our soul’s journey, especially if we shift from rejecting behaviors we don’t like to being curious. As they say, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”. In every human interaction, we are offered an opportunity to expand. When I slow down to trust the perfectness of each moment, I realize that each person that comes in or out of my life served a higher purpose- and I hope that some quality in me offers them the same opportunity. We are drawn to others who embody qualities of ourselves we are ready to work with, and usually at the exact moment our soul needs them. I love this, because it reminds me that even those who ‘rub me the wrong way’ are serving a purpose, and that the relationships that end do so because I and they have learned the divine lesson that our interaction served.

I think it works in the opposite way as well- not only do we struggle with judging the behaviors of others that reflects our own inner challenge, but I feel like we are drawn to those who embody who we’d like to be- for example, we are drawn to a dare devil because we’d like to start taking more risks, to the artist because we’d like to open to our own creativity, or the free spirit because we want to learn to let go. We are able to see our own abilities and undiscovered strengths in this person, and suddenly we want to spend as much time with this person as possible.  Maybe we hope in being near them we’ll absorb those qualities through osmosis, but the truth is… all of these things are already within us,  and it’s up to us to bring them forth. This person is here to show us not who we could be, but that even if it’s buried under a few layers, who we already are.

My friend recently shared a Ram Dass quote, “We are all just walking each other home.” I love this. Each encounter we have is an opportunity for our one soul to meet itself, to remember our wholeness, and to shed the layers that disconnect us from one another and return to the divine energy that we are made of. To everyone I’ve met and will meet, the souls I share the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of this human life with, thank you for walking me home.

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purpose, passion, and why we are all activists

action

I’ve met a lot of people who called themselves activists, people who are championing every cause from protecting the environment to education reform.   I find myself asking the question,  “ What does it mean to be an activist?”

 “That which we are, we shall teach,

not voluntarily, but involuntarily.

…Character teachers over our head…”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Over-Soul

 

How exactly does one define what it means to be an activist? An activist is someone who takes action, usually with a message or cause in mind.   But, if Emerson is right, that we teach by who we are, then aren’t we all activists?   In other words, if in each moment, we have even the slightest amount of free will to choose our actions,  we subconsciously share an unspoken message of what we think is important.

Each morning you wake up with a series of choices; you are a bundle of potential energy and you are free. If you are reading this, chances are you are one of the fortunate who choose how you will spend your day, whether you will go to work, what you will eat, how you will interact with others, who you will be.  You choose your actions according to what you value, and in turn your choices, each moment and each day, are your message to the world.

We often hear the phrase about being mindful consumers, “You vote with your dollar”.   True- we vote on what we value by how we spend our money… if we are again child labor for example, we choose not to spend money at stores or on products that support child labor.   If we are against GMO’s, we don’t buy those either.

However, expressing our values extends a lot further than how we spend our money, we vote each day by how we spend our time.    We choose in each moment what we believe and what we stand for by how we direct our energy.   The way we live our lives is how we shout out to the world, “Here is what I think it’s all about!”  In the words of musician Dan Wilson, what are you going to spend your free life on?  (Dan Wilson- Free Life With Lyrics)

I often forget to ask myself that question, but I’ve had a pretty amazing source of inspiration lately; my uncle.  I was honored that he chose to share his mission statement with me recently;  “ to change the world, one radical at a time”.  He told me he’d like to become a full time activist when my cousin graduates high school.  Become an activist?  If anyone already is an activist, it’s him.  His words and way of being inspire those around him… in fact, they inspired today’s blog.    His action?  Living honestly and courageously sharing his ideas of positive societal change with others with the hope of creating change. If that isn’t activism, I don’t know what is.

So, as you choose the actions that fill your day, your week, and your years, you too are an activist; deciding what you do and who you choose to be.   All of you are wise and wonderful accidental activists…. and I challenge you to ask yourself, and ask often:

If my life is my message, what am I choosing to say?…What am I going to spend my free life on?

Karmic Community.

I’m sitting in front of my computer screen for the first time in days, feeling torn between the need to put my epic experience of the Lost Coast into words and the desire to spend as little time indoors as possible in the few short weeks I’m in this amazing place.   This trip, initially planned as an attempt to slow myself down and unwind in the weeks before leaving the U.S. to teach overseas, has itself become an extremely valuable experience- a curious blend of synchronicity, adventure, and unintended transformation.

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My trip to visit family has brought me to Petrolia, a hidden town of less than 300 people, nestled in a river valley that cuts through the Kings Range Mountains.  I’m about five miles inland from California’s longest stretch of wilderness coastline.  It’s surreal, a town that exists in the past and the future at once, it’s citizens paying homage to tradition while remaining refreshingly open to new ideas.  The town itself consists of the intersection of several treacherous mountain roads, steep inclines created by the intersection of three fault lines, a lush river, ranches where cows graze alongside the ocean, a general store and post office.  Aware of the negative potential tourism could inflict on the almost untouched region, people here are justifiably wary of outsiders.  Luckily, I have an “in”;  my uncle, who might be the one person in my family who outdoes me in his adventurousness and love for the outdoors, landed a gig helping to restore a five bedroom cabin in town, moving  to Petrolia a year ago so my sixteen year old cousin could benefit from the unique structure of the incredibly small local school.

petrolia

Maybe upon first impression this is just another country town in the woods, but stay here for more than a few days and you’ll realize something special is going on.  I’m convinced there is something in the water, and whatever it is, it’s rocket fuel for the divine imagination.  People in this town have an unspoken commitment to sacred community, kindness, and shared plenitude.   The more I witness it first hand, the more convinced I am that I’ve found a place where intention becomes reality seemingly within moments, and where the rich connectedness of people creates effortless prosperity.  It’s as if the wind blowing through the Eucalyptus trees,  the Mattole river rushing, and the not-so-distant crash of salty seawater into jagged cliffs combine to create a symphony… and  the universe has been delighted into a graceful dance of “ask and you shall receive” magic. 

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A morning in Petrolia

I wake up wrapped in quilts in a lofted bedroom, shaking off the urge to hide from the crisp morning air.  I open my eyes and remember that this is the view out my bedroom window, and that my family has stumbled upon one of the most magnificent locations in the U.S.

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I sip on coffee that was prepared and packaged here in town, then throw on sandals and head next door to the town’s one room community center, where a handful of local women are discussing the new energy that last night’s rainstorm seems to have brought.  From just a few moments of conversation, I decide they are a treasure trove of knowledge on all things nature, spirit, and history.  I’d love the chance to learn more from them, but it will have to wait. The morning’s Qi Gong class is starting, taught by the local acupuncturist and town’s only doctor.

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I’m not just enthralled because I am getting my “Asia fix” before I even leave the U.S., but also because there is something magically synchronous about Qigong discovering me while I have time off.   Two years ago, during the most intense portion of my Master’s program, my aikido teacher suggested that I try the practice, as I was having a bit of trouble staying grounded in the midst of one of the busiest, most chaotic periods of my life.   She advised that it might help me cultivate a deeper meditation practice- having the discipline to sit still has always been a challenge for me.  However, somewhat ironically, the same busy chaos qigong might have helped me regulate was the same reason I’ve made excuses not to seek it out.  It seems absolutely perfect that when I finally allowed myself some downtime, Qigong is not only available, but literally happening in my front yard.  How could I not go?  Thank you universe!

I struggled in my first class, probably for the same reason Aikido was a challenge; because Qigong requires getting out of your head.  Maybe that’s exactly why I need this whole trip; to step out of my constant stream of internal babble and get back in the flow of my physical energy.   Besides the benefits of the practice itself, discovering Qigong at the community center opened up another perfect opportunity;  while waiting for my second class to start, I strike up a conversation, and am thrilled to discover that one of the women in class with me is the school principal.  While normally this would just be only mildly interesting,  I’d been chomping at the bit to talk to someone about the local school, because it fascinates me- it’s a public school, yet  because of the size of the area, has only 36 students including the preschool and high school, and about a 1 to 4 teacher to student ratio.  Students here go on frequent field trips to coastal conservation areas, and high school age students spend their last month of every school year doing a career internship of their choice.  My inner education enthusiast was jumping for joy when offered the opportunity to pick someone’s brain about the benefits of a school like this, especially when part of the reason I’m leaving next month to teach abroad is to expand my culturally based perspective on education.

Qigong ended at 11am, and by lunchtime, tickled at the opportunity to learn from the unique perspective of these teachers, I had followed the principal back to the school, met half the staff and became a volunteer.  I had no idea how my day was going to go when I woke up, but I definitely hadn’t expected to find myself sitting in the sunshine reading Dr. Suess with a little boy from Nicaragua, as he  told me all about using papaya on a sunburn. This day was fantastic!  I learn that the K-3 students share a classroom, which creates a unique opportunity for collaborative learning.  At recess I decide I adore their teacher (although I admit I may be biased because she got her undergrad in art).  We talk about how she incorporates creativity in her lessons, using visual art, theatrics, and song to teach science, math, and social studies.

Since I arrived, every person I meet is a vast source of diverse knowledge, and it’s blowing my mind… it seems my journey off the beaten path on my way to starting teaching job has once again made me a student, each day meeting more people I’m supposed to be learning from.

Just when I think things can’t get better, I find out Petrolia also has weekly aikido and yoga classes, and a farmer’s market selling everything from homemade beauty products to locally made granola bars called “Honeydew Hummers”.  Plus, I can’t forget to describe the sheer joy induced by being surrounded by this much natural beauty.  It seems to be perpetually sunny with a calm breeze, and if I walk more than half a mile in any direction, I am surrounded by ancient wilderness.  I think I might actually be in a postcard.  I’ve been hiking river beds, deserted beaches and peaks overlooking miles of wild coastline, and when I get tired from all that exploring, I can relax, drink wine from the vineyard around the corner, and play ping pong at the weekly BYOB tournament  at the community center. I even meet some fellow Americorp alum who educate local youth on conservation.   It’s official, this place has it all.

The coastal view from “Windy Point”…

windy point

Maybe the secret power of Petrolia lies in how it was founded.   White settlers originally named it New Jerusalem, changing the name when it became home to the first oil well in California.  The oil dried up shortly after, leaving behind a small community of ranchers with an innate knowledge that treasure often lies hidden beneath the visible surface.   It seems fitting that while I’ve been here, I’ve tapped into a part of myself that has been buried under layers of sediment; this place has been a tonic for my soul.  Thanks to this tiny coastal town, I am recharged, fueled by a sublime combination of nature, new ideas, and karmic community.

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