After my two-week journey through Spain, France and Norway, these are the five most important things I learned from my experience.
When we landed in Barcelona, after a 19-hour journey with two layovers, my bag did not arrive—my husband’s did. I panicked. Where was my bag?
The baggage claim workers assured me that they would deliver my bag to the hotel. My husband consoled me, saying we would buy some new clothes. (We were in Europe, after all…the birthplace of Zara.)
I love to shop; crisis averted.
Until it wasn’t.
In Spain, shops are closed on Sundays. In theory, I totally support having a day of reprieve against consumerism. But not on this day. Not when I’ve been wearing the same clothes for (gasp) 20-plus hours and haven’t slept for 24.
I cried, I cursed American Airlines, my dear husband’s attempts to console me were met with a cold stare and a turned-up nose. His bag wasn’t lost, mine was! He was sitting pretty in fresh undies and a crisp t-shirt.
Then, it happen—I looked down at the cobblestone street that was centuries old, I realized I was in a foreign country with two weeks of free time ahead of me. I thought, what is wrong with me? It’s a bag, totally replaceable, and I’m in Barcelona. There is cheese, and paella, and sangria everywhere! I get to relax and explore and live! Yes, yes! And even if my bag did not arrive by tomorrow, I’d be able to get some new clothes, a fabulous European wardrobe.
At this moment, the Universe was gifting me the lesson on non-attachment, the relinquishment of material possessions. C’est la Vie! It was telling me to pull up a park bench, with a block of manchego, a bottle of Rioja, and calm the hell down. I may have failed this lesson on this particular day, but hindsight is powerful.
Next time, I hope I can receive the gift of non-attachment with less dramatic flair.
The Subtle Pause
I am alive. I inhale and exhale every day. But when I removed myself from my day-to-day pace, I realized that I’d forgotten how to breathe. There was no in-between.
What I missed was the transition.
In Iyengar, we are taught not just to breathe, but to pay attention to the subtle energies in the pause between the inhales and the exhales. This transition is essential for deep breaths, for the nourishing breaths, for the breaths that absorb the scenery through our subtle body. For those breathes that are engaging and cleanse our physical space.
I was breathing to survive, rather than breathing to live. It took a 6,000 mile journey across the Atlantic for me to find the pause between each breath. To truly live and focus on the subtle energy of my soul.
In Europe things move at a slower pace. When dining, the service is leisurely, encouraging you to enjoy your food, drinks, and time spent at the table. You are never rushed with a bill. You are rarely interrupted.
A walk to your destination is just as much about the in-between as it is about the end point. When we rush, we miss out on so much. Burdened with tunnel vision, our focus is on the start and the end. How do we get there as quickly as possible?
I suffered from this and I still do, to an extent. My approach to life, like many others, was to move at a harried pace. When we approach our lives in this way so much is lost, including our Patience, Joy, Acceptance, Contentment, and Humanity.
Today, I was at a light that turned green.
I took 2-3 seconds to put on the gas and move and the person behind me honked at me for taking too long. The sad thing is, I have done this very thing too! To someone’s grandma, to a new parent, to a neighbor. I had to rush to be first at the gas station, I had to hurry home to watch TV or feed my dogs, I had to be at the office right at 7:58 a.m. so I could leave by 5 p.m., for fear of what would happen if I did not.
All that stress and hurry has not added to my quality of life. It has detracted from it. My approach welcomed in the negativity of stress, fear, doubt, and judgment. When I took the time to detach, and adopt a new approach, all that humanity came back to me. I finally recognized a bit of the person I had lost. Both heartbreaking and refreshing.
Love is all you need
I fell in love in Barcelona.
I fell in love in Paris.
I fell in love in Norway.
I fell in love with my husband, myself, and my life—and so did my partner.
On the plane back from Norway, as our adventure was coming to an end, my husband leaned over to me and whispered “I am going to miss you.” What he meant was he was going to miss spending each moment of his day with me. Being present for each second, minute and hour.
So I came back with the intention to be present for him in each second, minute, and hour that we are together. We may be limited by the time we spend together—boundaries created by the obligations and commitments of everyday life. But the moments in-between we can capture the spirit of our travels. We can commit to this intention and intention is 99 percent of it.
The pronunciation may be different depending on the language but the feeling is the same. It is feeling free, fulfilled, loved, happy, silly, light, space, trust, nourished, honest, vulnerable and thankful. This life is a beautiful one, no matter where you are.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Lauryn DeGrado / Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s Own