Calm and Kind
Updated: Aug 7, 2022
It’s been well over a year since my last blog post … and what a year. Make that 4 years! That’s how long we’ve lived in Costa Rica. We bought a lot. Built a house. Filled it with dreams and screams. Watched our kids become teens. Ate papayas we grew from seeds. Simplified our needs. Found our happy place.
What we’ve realized after our deep dive into the jungle … a wholly new sensation... is a feeling of certainty … the notion of being at our final destination. The absolute clarity that we are where we want to be. Living the dream we each spent half a century dreaming. Choices are no longer about the future. They are about right now. It's a whole different game, a game born of calm and knowing and self-respect. I like this game.
Game implies play. And play implies wellness. And wellness implies power. Our home, Casa AMA, has power. Our dear friend and architect, Melina D’Alolio, infused healing, feminine energy into the strong, elegant lines of our sanctuary. Forces of ancient mothers root us in the lush mountainside. Calm presides. After nearly two years in this space, we’ve entered the yummy phase, the fun stuff: adding art, color, greenery, kitchen tools, garden sculptures, softer throw pillows … And, most critical of all … friends, food, conversation and connection, the cherries on our delicious cake. Nom Nom!
Still … every rose has its thorn. Even paradise requires its negative space. True wellness demands feeling all the feels. This has been a year of BIG FEELS. My dad died in March. He was 88. A good man. A good dad. A good life. A good death … which I got to be an integral part of ... seated at his hospital bedside the final month of his life. The simple act of being present together, putting a straw to his lips, reading him emails aloud, filling his days with bits of conversation and noble silence. Warriors looking back together. And forward. That made all the difference for us both. We each said what we needed to say. It was beautiful. I am proud of those sacred moments.
Calm and Kind
Of course, the death of a parent leaves a vacuum. Suddenly, I’m the patriarch of my line, so clearly, it’s time to grow my ass up and take care of my people. Taking care of my peeps starts with taking care of myself. Which means taking a hard look at where I can improve/optimize my way of being. My parents divorced when I was four (I’m 58). What I took from that seismic event, my so-called “shame story,” was that I was unlovable. Why else would my protectors destroy everything I knew about a family, about connection, about marriage, about a loving home? In my tiny, undeveloped psyche, I was culpable in some unknowable way. That culpability metastasized into anger and judgement aimed at those I hold dearest, including myself. And, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago, through some deep soul searching work at an amazing retreat called the Hoffman Process, that I finally untied those toxic knots. Fifty-four years later, a new chapter begins. I feel lighter. And excited to move into this new spacious realm of generosity, love, appreciation and gratitude. We’re all in pain, so might as well be nice. Right?
Calm and Kind
Another profound wellness experience occurred a couple months after my dad died, during my first ayahuasca ceremony, also aimed at ridding myself of the aforementioned anger and judgement. Like Hoffman, that medicine revealed much about myself, but not in the way intended. It evolved into my relationship with my father and my relationship with the universe. Both of which are in good standing. But, what became clear to me in the midst of that midnight jungle reverie was that we are all one big being, one big field of energy, one interconnected organism. Cliche perhaps, but remember, all cliches are true. As I raised my hands, cupped like antennae to the starlit sky, I spoke aloud to my father, complimenting him on his glorious and spacious new abode, his beautiful garden (in which I stood), his now drama-free existence. In that moment, all was (and is) well between us, and I realized that he was not gone at all but simply transformed, his energy as intact and active as mine. This revelation did not hit me like a thunderbolt, I did not breakdown weeping. Quite the contrary, it made me laugh … and merely affirmed what I already knew - we do not live, we do not die, we simply are. We take forms and shapes, exist in different planes, but we exist together. Together forever. What an exhilarating, expansive and comforting recognition. That night, I said hello to my father and then I said goodbye to him (more like, “see ya later) and carried on with the dynamic life I’m describing for you now. A life devoted to improvement. To presence. To abundance. To this moment and the very words I’m writing. Life with greater awareness. Less judgement. More empathy. I finally realize that not only am I lovable, I am super duper awesome and you’d be crazy not to love me. Free hugs for everyone.
As soon as I shifted into this generous worldview, crazy serendipity began twinkling around me like fireflies. Places I go, people I see, words I hear, have more resonance, less degrees of separation. For example, the day after my week-long Hoffman experience, I sat in an intense yoga class in a small California town. Hoffman, which has been going for 50 years, spends a lot of time exploring the idea of our Spiritual Self - who we are when we are born, our pure, most enlightened, intuitive self. Our essence. Midway through this yoga class, the teacher, a tall, beautiful Asian man, told us, “Some days are big days. Today is a big day for me, a day for me to show up as my ‘Self with a capital S.’” I’m instantly thinking, this is crazy, he’s clearly talking about his Spiritual Self. He explains that his mother died one month ago today, and he was to speak later that afternoon at a gathering celebrating her life. It was a solemn honor for him. Of course, he couldn’t know that that very moment was also a Big Day for me ... less than 24 hours after finishing a program that helped me understand my childhood wounds and patterns, the very first day in over 50 years that I loved myself and was embodying my Self with a capital S, my best self, the self that you see when my eyes sparkle, the self you see when I cry, which I began to do, seated there in half lotus, tears and sweat pouring down my ecstatic face.
I imagine my dad would read all the above and roll his eyes thinking, “my eldest son’s going off the deep-end with this hippy dippy nonsense.” Though, deep down, he'd be pleased. The thought makes me smile. The job of the parent is to teach as much as they know. While the job of the child is to grow beyond the parent. My dad taught me well and, using the tools he gave, I've grown beyond him. Heart wide open. Eyes wide open. Arms wide open. Taking cues from Pink Floyd - “Shine on you crazy diamond!”
Speaking of diamonds, both our kids are in their own major growth spurts, creating their paths. Kai found his passion on a skateboard, while Bodhi finds peace in nature. My wish for them both is to be bookish nerds. To geek out. Find their lane and drive fast in it. Travel not only far but deep. To love themselves as much or more (not possible) than I love them. To be calm and kind.
Costa Rica has a creative way of prolonging youth for children and restoring youth for adults. In this faraway place, outside the slipstream of agitation, my creative practice continues to evolve. Art commissions are coming in steadily (Thank You). Swan Dive Podcast just crossed 20,000 downloads! Not surprising, given that our guests are so inspired and inspiring, taking bold action on their journeys to claim their authenticity, their Spiritual Selves. Our latest guest, Mitzi Rapkin, has one of the most prominent literary podcasts, First Draft: A Dialogue on Writing, in which she interviews and cultivates robust conversations with the world's most notable writers.
For 9 years, over 380 episodes, Mitzi has discovered the mechanics and quirks of each writer's process, artfully revealing what it means to be human. Mitzi reads a book a week, 50 books a year, and then proceeds to ask the most insightful questions. As a fellow interviewer, I marvel at her chops. Oh, and she quit her cushy government day job 2 days before our interview to dedicate herself to her noble craft! This humble rockstar exemplifies what Ron and I are trying to do with Swan Dive - capture the magic of the pivotal moments in truly meaningful lives. I invite you and all your friends to SUBSCRIBE and join us on this delightful journey to archive awesomeness.
In the midst of a pivotal moment in my own meaningful life, I'm grateful to share it with you.
Thanks for listening. Pura Vida.
Find me @stuart_sheldon on Instagram for more regular updates.