Refine my Heart: Part 1
You know when something strikes a chord so deep that the thought of trying to put it into words is both exhausting and exhilarating? Well that is my experience of trying to put words to how I feel about Italy. Piobbico, Italy to be exact. A small, lush mountain town two hours outside of Bologna. The place, the people and yes, the food. Through this series I will recount a transformation that took place beyond the spoken or written word and straight to the heart of who I am. The process of writing about this experience is deeply cathartic for me. My hope is that in the process of me untangling and re-telling my story, something will be revealed in you as well.
I was in Italy teaching a yoga retreat in conjunction with BreakOut Dance. A town of 4000 people hidden in the rolling hills of Italy. This town is tiny. So tiny and off the beaten path that most Italians in any neighboring big city had no idea where Piobbico was. To set the scene, it was incredibly picturesque. Rolling mountains so close you felt as though you could touch them, but also so layered that you had to squint to make sure that what you were encountering was real and not just a figment of your imagination. There was a literal castle outside of my bedroom window, hiking trails outside my front door and hidden pools of freshwater and streams running its course throughout the town. I went into this experience knowing that it would be more than teaching yoga, more than travelling and exploring a new land, this trip was about deep healing. A reckoning that had taken my life to this point to reach. I woke up the morning of the trip knowing that something big was about to shift in me. It wasn't an “I can’t wait” kind of moment. It was more like an “oh shit! Here we go”, rollercoaster ride kind of moment. I had been doing some deep soul work for the past 3 years and knew that this was the moment that God was going to put everything that I had learned and uncovered into devine perspective. I knew in my bones that I was going on this trip into the unknown to heal, to commune with God and to reveal my true heart.
If I back up even further, this quest to heal my heart started after a life changing yoga trip to Tulum, Mexico. Another out of this world kind of spiritual place where I couldn't help but be plugged into nature, my ancestral past and all that is from the moment my feet hit the sand. This time I was the student and had a powerful encounter with a healer who spoke about my heart being blocked and having a lot of pain to shed. It wasn't even a conscious thing at this point, I had a guttural reaction to his statement. I remember having a massage session with him and afterwards getting off of the table feeling all sorts of things but not being able to place them. I gathered my things and left the gorgeous outdoor cabana overlooking the beach. I looked him in the eyes meaning to say “thank you so much” and instead I buried my face in his chest and cried for what felt like hours. He embraced me like a father would a child and kept on repeating “good work… good work.” From that moment on, I knew that my heart was in desperate need to be awakened and revived. A lot of things in my life were being stripped down and revealed for what they truly were. My marriage (which was beginning to unravel after starting a family and going through many hardships and changes). My career (which I had decided going into this trip was in need of a major shift and change of direction). Even my understanding of who God is and who I am. During that soul altering trip, I had the revelation to start Sohumanity with a deep dedication to lead my life with curiosity and creativity. That trip was October 2015 and here I am, almost two years later about to board a plane to Italy on a trip that I knew little about. It came after a random but obviously serendipitous turn of events.
The more deeply we perceive, the more strikingly becomes the evidence that a uniform plan links every form in manifold nature." - Autobiography of a Yogi
Attending a summer solstice gathering at my yoga teacher's home this past June, a group of frirnds and family sat in a circle and shared one at a time what we wanted to light up in our lives this year. My answer was “adventure and travel”. Surrounded by a bunch of yogis and deeply spiritual people, I judged my answer as being trivial and not that “deep”. The next day after church, I went to get smoothies with my daughter and met a sweet family there who were visiting from North Carolina. The little boy in the family asked my daughter if she has ever been on a plane before to which she boldly stated “ um, yeah”. “Well I was born in Italy” he proudly remarked to which I added “Italy! I would love to go there! It’s at the top of my list of places to go!" Cut to the next day and I am subbing a yoga class in my neighborhood. After class, I was approached by a friend I had known for years through church. It was her first time taking my class. “I know this is random, but do you want to come to Italy next month to teach yoga as a part of a dance intensive I’m running there”? she asked after class. “Um..yeah!" I boldly stated ( half believing that this would ever work out)! What I didn’t know at the time was that something bigger than myself was at work here. Things were going to continue to fall into alignment.
In the back of my mind there was no way we would find childcare for my daughter while my freelancing musician of a husband had gigs all over the place (not one day looks the same in our crazy lives at the moment). Well, with not much trust in this panning out, I asked around and almost too easily found help from family, agreeing to take our daughter on a beach vacation with them. I also found a last minute open spot in a jammed packed summer camp program in the city for one of the weeks. Now the only thing standing in my way was my own fear and sense of worthiness for the adventure. “What kind of wife and mother takes off to Italy by herself for two weeks?” Two weeks is a LONG TIME to leave a family behind. All of my mom guilt was piling up fast! It took some amazing friends who would steer me back on track when I would try to get out of it with the craziest of excuses. “It’s Italy! Even if you miss your family and want to come home, you’ll be sad in ITALY!” one of my amazing friends reasoned. On a side note, I know this sounds crazy to try to " get out of" a trip abroad, but giving myself permission to heal and try something new has been something that I have been fearful of my entire life. I would have to face myself in Italy. This is not something that women in my family do. I was breaking the mold and it felt foreign and scary and selfish and I had to own it. After all of the back and forth and fear and doubt, I just said yes. Despite the fact that I had one full time registrant and a handful of dancers who would practice on their off time from their grueling rehearsal schedule, I said yes. This was going to be one big old trip into the unknown.
"God said to Moses I-AM-WHO-I-AM, Tell the people of Isreal, I AM sent me to you." - Exodus 3:14
Everyone involved were taking a risk, but I knew one thing for sure, that I would teach around the principles of Theory U (curiosity, compassion and courage) and the yogic and universal understanding of SoHum (I am that I am). Other than that I got on a plane with some scriptures scribbled in a book and an openness to receive as I went. I had this bone knowing that being open to the adventure was going to be the hardest work. The rest would reveal itself as we went. I know that some people may think “duh, anyone would jump all over this experience”, but I had to cross the fiery threshold of feeling worthy of it first. Once I burnt through that dross and stepped through that portal, revealing the truth of my heart was the next step. This adventure proved to be the perfect place to purify and refine my heart. The words of that wise healer were about to come to pass.