Traveling in Malaysia and Indonesia for almost three weeks with my teen daughter has been relatively easy in spite of the fact that she ignores me. So I’ve taken total advantage of this state of affairs. I’ve gone AWOL. Since she’d rather be with her traveling BFFs, I’ve learned that I can actually allow myself to relax between meals and airport checkpoints.
I’ve embarked, rather accidentally, on a mini soul journey and daily practice of self-compassion. I figure it’s a good time to walk the talk of what much of what I teach to my clients. After all, I have no excuse since I don’t have much Internet access to distract me (and neither does my daughter); I don’t have to do laundry; and for god’s sake it’s a vacation after all. And my BFF, our hostess and the mom of her BFFs, who now lives in Kuala Lumpur, has lovingly seen to it that I see a masseuse, an energy healer, and a Chinese medicine doctor. She’s a good friend indeed.
Here are three things I’ve learned as a soul-searching mom traveling with teenager.
It’s never too late to be kind to yourself. I found I could nurture my soul in spite of the constant banter of four teenage girls. I simply tuned them out. I put myself on top of the priority list for a few days. That gave me time to read: in the airports, on the flights, and in the middle of the night wide-awake on East coast time.
I’ve already two books in less than a week: The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer and Untethering the Soul by Michael Singer (twice). I’m re-reading Singer’s bestseller as I found it so moving. The first time I simply read it in awe. I’m now I’m underlining my favorite parts, which is about two thirds of all the pages. He writes, for instance:
You have a wellspring of beautiful energy in side of you. When you are open you feel it; when you are closed you don’t.
Sometimes you pick up a book and it’s no accident it was waiting for you.
When you start to pay attention to your inner life you begin to witness all the unnecessary chatter in your own head. I’ve been practicing this for years – or rather I’ve been playing tag with mindfulness meditation. I go in fits and starts. Then things like missed school buses rob me of the most sacred time of day. Ah, the busyness of life.
So here I am on the other side of the world with few concerns other than my daughter’s peanut allergy. As it turned out, when I tuned into my internal dialog I found it was louder than those four teenage girls. So much for me telling them to quiet down. It was also rather boring; at times it was rather harsh; and overall, my inner voices were not nearly as loving and silly as the girls’ constant gab. I decided to stand back and witness both my chatter and theirs. I came to appreciate these inner and outer voices for that they were… voices. It is true that much of what we tell ourselves we’d never utter aloud to a dear a friend. I had all the evidence in and around me.
3) Be Open
Every stranger I’ve met has offered me a gift. It’s as if they somehow know that “self-care” is frowned upon in my culture; that any attention to oneself, or pampering, is considered a luxury rather than a birthright.
The Masseuse, with her hot stones sliding and clicking along my spine, brought to me a state of intense warmth and relaxation. It was an experience in which a trace memory appeared: a babe wrapped in loving arms. It moved me to tears. That led to my more accessible memories of swaddling my own baby girls. Pure love. Joy. Gratitude.
The Energy Healer could “see” even before meeting me a pain in my right arm (true!) and “a tear in my heart chakra.” A tear, as in rip, rupture, or fissure. The statement brought me to tears. How many of us carry broken hearts from some part of our lives? Apparently, I wear my heart on my sleeve.
I had just read a line in Untethering the Soul: Very few people understand the heart.
Here I was with a person I had never met before and she saw right to my heart and old bottled up wounds. Never had I felt so vulnerable. Ever. Yet, she was kind, intuitive, and began a process of releasing my stuck energy patterns. I thought I had been over all this before. You don’t become a therapist without immersing yourself in your own treatment. Yet, this was clearly different kind of therapy and tapped something much deeper than reruns of my life’s narratives. It was about letting go of them. She had four words for me: Accept. Allow. Forgive. Love. She sent me off with a powerful breath focused visualization.
On the third day, the Chinese Medicine Doctor asked “What your problem?” and read my pulse carefully. He told me my liver and kidney chi were overactive, constricting my chest. What? Back to the heart?
“The energy shifts and variations that take place in the heart run your life,” Singer writes in his book. “But in truth you are not your heart. You are the experience of your heart.”
The doctor gave me seven days worth of mystery bark and berries to brew into a “balancing” tea. The very act of brewing my own tea left me with pause for all the learning I had just done. It was hard to swallow.
* * *
Now we are in Bali surrounded by temples. We are literally stepping over daily offerings to gods left on the sidewalks and doorways. We are meeting a kind people who are always smiling; and we are among a community in tune with nature and spirit. Here, my heart is light; the path made easier by my three healers, two books and dear friends.
My daughter has little sense of what I’m experiencing, but in her self-involved adolescent world she is noticing that I’m taking care of myself. She’s become curious.
Now she wants a massage, too. Intrepid as they are the girls booked four massages – together, of course, $10 a piece.
It’s a start.