Photo by Joel Olive
By Brynne Betz
About a half hour north on a dirt road off the highway is a small tin roof stand selling Coco Frio, ice cold, fresh coconuts. We stop for a drink. They slice off the top of the green football sized fruits, plop in a straw and the cool watery liquid slides down into the depths of my heated body. It’s the rainy season and oh, so hot and humid. I feel a breeze from a passing car, my eyes following it with longing. Any breeze is a sacred gift.
We drive another hundred meters or so to another dirt road, this one guiding us far from the sounds of the highway into rolling fields and then…the jungle. It surrounds the river like a lush elegant cloak, vibrating with life, with energy, with humidity I can taste. We drive through mud, rocks, even fording the river once or twice. We get out, gather our back packs already wet with heavy air, and begin our trek. The birds tempt me to miss my steps. What color was that one? The plants whisper secrets. I am glowing with intrigue, hardly able to act like a normal human being. It’s all too much for my senses to hold in with composure. And then, we see it.
The river rises up, the jungle reaches down, everything leads us there. I hear the rushing, anticipate the sight, but I am still without a voice. The white water pours over the boulders echoing deep into my ears. Down it falls with compete conviction. I look below to the pool it forms; crystal clear, bubbling like soda ready to tickle my skin. I can hardly wait! And then…the butterflies. Some orange, some iridescent white, and they’re everywhere. They swirl and dive, playing like fairies alive with life’s secrets. They come and greet us, kissing our shoulders, dusting the air with magic. I want to weep but smile. I want to cry but only cover my mouth. I can’t believe the treasures of my life. Is this what it means to follow your heart?
To get to this place, to dwell in the sweet spots I unknowingly but intuitively craved, I had to surrender, to slow down enough to feel the arms of the Universe wrap around my starving, struggling soul, to let its raw energy flow through me lest a life of a starved soul would prevail. I didn’t know why this uninvited energy chose to course through my veins, how to interpret what I was feeling, nor even what it was that chewed away at the very fibers of my perfect, hyper-normal life. My intellectual self, she who for so many years held the reins, was engulfed in chaotic mystery. It was terrifying. And yet, from a place I now know as my most authentic Self, it was one of the most hopeful, beautiful, life-affirming times of my entire life.
A Perfect Life?
I lived as a ‘perfect’ wife with a ‘perfect’ husband in a ‘perfect’ community with a ‘perfect’ life. I kept a spotless house decorated as if it fell from the pages of your favorite catalogue, cooked ravishing meals, kept an ever-blossoming garden, even managed to work a full-time job, a job I enjoyed. My husband was pretty attentive, he seemed to want the same things I did, he even surprised me now and again like he used to when we were dating. I didn’t analyze much about what I had or what I did, I just followed the rules, did what was expected of me—lived. I considered myself a conscious individual and this was the life I had always dreamed of. Wasn’t it?
How many of us live lives we think through to be best for us, lives our minds tell us we should appreciate, lives others would do anything to have? If we do ever wield our swords in an effort to carve out our own paths we might be called moody, unreasonable, hormonally imbalanced, sometimes even mentally ill. We wonder to ourselves if these protests to our desired change of path, no matter how small, are indeed true, if we are crazy to be turning our heads from something ‘perfect’ in favor of something unknown, something our hearts beg to taste. And what if I do leap and for the first time in Zen history, the net does not appear? What then? Will I be left all alone shivering in the darkness surrounded by nodding heads all taunting I told you so’s? Is there an intellect that can possibly comfort me on this intuitive journey of mine? Is anyone out there, we bellow out into the unknown.
The law of attraction tells us that ‘like attracts like’. If we honk our horns in anger, we create anger in others and should expect another horn, literally or figuratively, to be blown back in our direction. What we exude will return to us. If something inside us calls us to change our paths, to honor our hearts in a new way, and if we choose to listen, the net has no choice but to appear, for we will attract it, we will create that which we need. The challenge comes in letting the energy of this wise, heart-centered aspect of our deepest Selves flow through us so thoroughly that we don’t miss what sits before our eyes. In order to be used, the treasures we have attracted to help us on our paths must first be seen.
Following My Heart
When my husband could not support me on my path, when he could not find the space for the energy within me that ached to be set free, I had no choice but to go ahead alone. I could not survive in an environment that required my wings to be bound. So with nothing but raw energy, I set out to leap and to discover what nets lay waiting to catch my fall. I went back to a time when I felt truly happy. I visited my wildest dreams. I unearthed my childhood fantasies. And there, amidst the rubble, I found a little voice that called me to travel to rural Mexico. Was it really speaking to me? I didn’t know, but I was certainly going to find out.
A few months later I was walking on the beach, alone, in a small fishing village on Mexico’s Pacific coast. A friendly couple, one I had seen numerous times in town and found to be particularly kind in the way they smiled at me, walked toward me, holding hands. As we neared, my heart started to beat faster. Why do I keep running into them, I said to myself, might they have a message for me? As they neared, my anxiety grew, my heart now practically yelling at me to speak to them. “Excuse me,” I said gently, “I keep running into you and I can’t help but wonder why. There are many people here and still its just you two I seem to keep finding on my path. It might sound silly to you, but might you have a message for me?”
“A message?” the man said. “Gosh, let me think. No, I don’t think we do. Do we have a message for this young woman, dear? Oh, yes…wait…yes, we do. Remember that other young woman we ran into a few months ago?”
“Yes…yes…I do.” She said to her husband. “Yes, that’s the message we have for her, you’re right.”
“We met a young woman a while ago who lived her whole life in the States. As the years went by she realized she was disenchanted with her life, nothing inspired her anymore, nothing except a dream she had to move to Mexico. So, one day, she packed up her bags, and left everything behind to follow her dream.”
“Except her dog, honey. She took her dog.”
“Oh yes, she took her dog. And she told us she has never been happier, that she wished she had done it earlier so not to waste even a single moment living anything but her dream.”
“Wow,” I said, dumbfounded, my brain in hiding, my heart still beating wildly.
“That’s our message to you,” he said with a smile, “I hope it helps you somehow.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Yes, I am sure it will.” And it did. Because I honored my deepest Self, the catalyst inviting the all-knowing energy to flow through me, because I listened to my heart, I didn’t miss a valuable message, a bright light illuminating my heretofore unknown path, the net that lay right before my eyes. I had always dreamed of living in Mexico and here was a message telling me that was just what I was meant to do. So….less than a year later, not knowing a single soul, not speaking the language, not even having a job lined up, I left behind my ‘perfect’ life and set out to live my dream in rural Mexico.
The magic of the Universe didn’t die in me the day I took that leap. It didn’t emerge to help me make a change in my life just to simply return to its hovel of silent oblivion. No, this vibrant, energy-filled quality within each and every one of us, something that begged to once again inhabit its rightful home after so many years in hiding, surprised me yet again. The more I honored it, the clearer it spoke. The more I listened, the more obvious it became that it was a vital part of me, that without it, I was not, could never be, whole. It didn’t exist for one time assists. It wanted season tickets, to become a necessary, everyday part of my whole.
It has been almost five years since I moved to Mexico. With each day that passes I see myself living more and more from my heart, tasting, perhaps for the first time, the flavors of living from my most authentic Self. As I open my heart, I find myself naturally exploring the deeper aspects of my Self, affirming that a holistic Self, honoring all aspects of the whole, no matter how uncomfortable or challenging they can be to our current lives, can create immeasurable joys. As we honor our most authentic Selves and do the same for each other, we cannot help but find less reason to fear and more and more reasons to open our hearts to the wonder and awe of life that we all desire.