A Year of Generosity, Experiences, and Building.

“Hemingway said we heal stronger at the broken places, but I’ve found that where the heart is concerned, we also heal more tenderly, more open to the miraculous.” Boyd Varty, author of Cathedral of the Wild, spoke about setting intentions for the year in the last chapter of his book, The Om in Motion.

Instead of creating rigid resolutions that I often seem to fail at, I’ve decided to set clear intentions for myself. What do I want to feel more of? What do I want to do more of? How can I express more gratitude? What can I give more, be it time or resources? Am I maintaining strong relationships rooted in mutual respect, dignity, and love?

The world was rocked pretty hard in 2016. A difficult year didn’t come about unintentionally. No matter how you look at it, there were many times of despair, shock, pain, and hardship caused by natural disasters and people. Many of those things hit me at my core, but on the other side of the coin was success, change, exploration, outpours of love and support, resilience, new friendships and relationships, and the maintenance of old friendships. For me, it was a full year that began with traveling abroad and ending with family at home. 2016 was a year of saying yes to myself. It was a year of healing, soul-searching, and personal growth. 2017 will be a year for balance.

My first intention for the year is to be more generous with my time and resources. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive scholarships for grad school, receive free housing and a stipend. This has allowed me flexibility with time and resources. I hope to support causes with time through volunteering and with resources be it monetary or otherwise. I also hope to be generous with my gratitude and to be more vocal in expressing thanks to others. I want give back to the communities that have given me so much.

My second intention is to continue to having valuable experiences that enhance my learning, bring me joy, and feed my soul. There is value in participation and reflection. In 2016, I traveled abroad and domestically quite a bit. It was enlivening and enriching. I hope to read more, discuss important topics, and simply find joy in daily experiences. I want to see beautiful places and meet beautiful people.

My last intention for the year is to maintain meaningful relationships and cultivate new relationships. The concept of Ubuntu, an African philosophy, has become widely known around the world and it means “I am because you are.” In essence, people exist to be part of communities. Without other people, there is little meaning for our lives. It is important to me build trusting, meaningful relationships that are rooted in dignity, mutual respect, and love.

As you can tell these are not resolutions as they are not rigid, explicitly defined, and time-bound. To me, intentions act like the winds that fill sails and propels ships forward; the must be revisited, adjusted, and reflected upon often. 2017 will be a year of building for me and my intentions will guide me. Best wishes to all celebrating a new year or any time of renewal in life.

I made it to Italy, but I may never leave.

I love Italy. It is my favorite place in the world. It’s the people, the pace of life, the history, the culture, and so much more. I want to move here. Honestly, I probably will at some point in my life. I fall in love with it more and more with each visit. If I can’t move here, I’ll come here once a year for the rest of my life. I digress.

Pano 1

Today was especially awe inspiring. I stood in history, appreciating that these places were built by people with little technology and a great deal of genius. Massive structures towered over me as I walked through never ending corridors. I stood on plateaus overlooking the entire Roman Forum. I had panoramic views of the city from atop the Altare della Patria. I sat quietly on a stone bench, journaling in a small corner of the one of the gardens hidden away from everyone. I roamed for hours amazed by beautiful places filled with history I’ve read in books.

Pano 3

In quiet reflection, I walked around Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica taking in what this place means to people around the world. Max Ehrmann, an american author, writes “Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.” In quiet moments and on the overcrowded metro, in solitude or in the company of others, I have found peace here in Italy.

Vatican

Beautiful, Beautiful Mt. Rigi and Lucerne

The Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy. The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland. The Christmas Markets in Edinburgh, Scotland. Big Ben from West Minister Station in London, England. The summit of Mt. Rigi and Lucerne in Switzerland. I think of these places when I need to be reminded that the world is beautiful. I hate winter, but today I considered moving to the countryside so that I could be near Mt. Rigi and Lucerne. There is no better way to see these places than with your own eyes. In all these places feelings of peace, stillness, and gratitude overwhelm me. I can’t help, but thank God that these places were created.

In my favorite poem, Desiderata, the author writes, “Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there maybe in silence.” In all these places, I’ve stood silently welcoming the sun to warm my face, the wind to chill my bones to reassure me that I’ve alive, and the rain to remind me that water is persistent and purifying. All of these beautiful places remind me that in stillness there is clarity and beauty. I desire to be nowhere else in those moments. Tears of unbridled joy fall from my eyes as I reflect on how blessed I am to have stood in these places and felt these emotions. These are feeling I hope to create wherever I am. I am willing to bet that they can be created anywhere in my life, even though it is something I’ve only felt in remote places.

As I prepared to leave for this trip, I hoped I would find a way to be more aware of what I feel, do, and think. I also wanted to be more aware of how I interact with others and how I treat myself. All of these things ultimately affect the relationships I have, the opportunities I pursue, and the work I will do in this world. Even now, as I listen to Ocean by John Butler, I can’t help but be at peace with what I’ve discovered while here. The things that I’ve desired for my life are simple – peace, service, spirituality, love, connection and discovery. All of these things have been part of my life in some way, shape or form, but have often fallen out of direct view for whatever reason. I am committed to living with these values as I look to the future with fresh eyes and clarity from these few short days. Life is beautiful.

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