Happy New Year! The New Year is one of my very favorite times because it feels like a fresh start. Of course, you can make changes and resolutions throughout the year, but there’s something about the passage of time from year to year that make the New Year an excellent time for personal reflection. A time for cleaning out the closets, figuratively and literally.
In the past, I’ve made specific and firm resolutions for the New Year, which sometimes work out, and sometimes don’t. But my resolution for 2016 is to take what I have learned in 2015, and prior, and to do better, for myself and others in 2016 with this knowledge.
As many of you know, I spent 2015 traveling, which has brought me many little, and big lessons. Here is a recap of the big picture ideas I have learned while traveling, and some of the things I want to keep working on and to remember to make my 2016 a little brighter!
In January, I headed off to Kerala, India for a yoga teacher training course. Before arriving, I had visions of myself meditating in the tranquility of South India, maybe on a mountain, or next to a gorgeous lake. I expected “bliss absolute” and what I got was a strenuous schedule, moments of complete frustration, and days spent trying to stay awake sitting on the floor listening to lectures on the Bhagavad Gita.
But, I learned that letting go of expectations prevents disappointment, and every experience is a good experience. By February, I had new energy, new knowledge, and most importantly, new friends, interested in the same lifestyle as me. I found friends who travel, friends who don’t eat meat, friends who meditate; friends full of understanding and compassion, and a joy for life.
I cried when I left my friends at Sivananda, but I smiled when I moved on to Kolkata to meet my yoga teacher and visit the girls she supports. In February, I spent time with incredible women, who have devoted their life to service. When you give to others what you have, you will be taken care of, and you will be happy. When given the opportunity, I decided to give back more of my time and my money, or anything that I have to others, because, even though I didn’t have a source of income, I have been blessed with more than enough.
In March I found myself in Rishikesh, reunited with a friend of mine from the Sivananda ashram. I spent all of my waking hours meditating, reading, practicing yoga, and spending time with inspiring people, and oh, eating delicious vegan food! Here, I learned that genuine human interaction is one of the keys to happiness. I spent my time learning from others, making connections, and sharing.
In April I headed off to Vipassana mediation, a 10 day silent meditation retreat. On the way, I had my IPod and some cash (the equivalent of $7) stolen by some teenage boys. Luckily for me they left my phone and my credit cards. When I finally realized what had happened, I laughed – they were sneaky -they got me. But, more importantly I wasn’t angry! Even a year ago, I would have been angry at the boys, angry at myself, angry at the situation.
But why wasn’t I? Because I knew I could buy another music player, and I finally realized material possessions don’t matter. There is more to life than material goods. Even though they are comfortable and desirable, I can live without.
May reminded me that I shouldn’t take the actions, feelings, and emotions of others personally. I tend to get caught up in emotional situations, like most of us, but everyone individual is complex; dealing with their own emotions, and thoughts. If someone hurts, rejects, or offends you, don’t take it personally, there is probably a lot more to the story, and it’s probably not even about you.
In June, I spent my days swimming in the Greek sea, laughing with friends, and finally cooking again in my friend’s kitchen. I spent a lot of time in awe of the power of nature, to cleanse, refresh, and renew. Sometimes, when the weather is not so nice I forget to go outside. But beauty and peace is all around us, if we choose to see it.
July brought me my first taste of Thai Massage. I was at the Berlin Yoga Festival, and my friends were really interested in the Thai Massage workshop, and I was really not into the idea of massage. But I went anyway to see what it was about, and fell in love with Thai Massage! You never know if you don’t try; push yourself out of your comfort zone once in awhile.
I spent August in Vienna, almost wondering why. I had a bit of a life crisis, and a bit of a “relapse” into bad habits. I didn’t know what I was doing and why. What would come after travels, where would I work, what would I do with my life. But, I lived through it, and things solved themselves, and I remembered to trust myself and what I am doing, and enjoy the time that I have in the present moment.
In September I surrendered to my feelings instead of insisting on holding on to ideas and concepts that I had previously created. I had ideas about the direction of my life, my values, and what was important. But I met someone that changed my ideas, and instead of holding on to my own ideas, I accepted what had changed, surrendered, and embraced the situation.
I headed back to Greece in October to attend the Thai Massage course that I found out about in July. Here I learned that it is not only important to give, but to be able to receive what others are offering. In the past, I have often been frustrated, and disappointed giving to people who don’t give back. I have been stuck in one sided friendships and relationships. Though I have removed those people long ago, something became clear to me.
I am afraid to accept what others offer me. But, if you give, you will get what you need in return, not necessarily from the same person, but you will get what you need. The universe will provide for you. When something is offered, accept graciously and be thankful, but don’t be afraid to accept what is offered from the kindness of someone’s heart.
In November I revisited Turkey, even though I had a questionable first experience. I gave Turkey a second chance, when I visited Cappadocia, a new place, and had an amazing time. Sometimes it’s good to give something or someone another chance.
Finally in December, I returned home, and picked up life where it left off. Every time I leave, it feels like I may be missing something at home, but when I come back, I realize everything is more or less the same. If you have the chance, it’s ok to leave. If leaving for travel is something you want to do, and can do, I encourage you to take the leap and go for it!
*And a special thanks to all those who gave me a place to stay, fed me, taught me, supported me, and took care of me along the way. I hope we have a chance to meet again in 2016!
With all this being said, in 2016, I resolve to give more, to let go of preconceived ideas and expectations, and to be present.
What do you hope for this year? What were some of the lessons you learned in 2015?