“For though we stubbornly cling, believing in our moment of hunger that there is no other possibility of love, we only have to let go of what we want so badly and our life will unfold. For love is everywhere.”
― Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
On the plane home from Belize last year, I put my headphones and sunglasses on and sobbed.
I’d been away for nearly three weeks, the last 8 days spent in the jungles near San Ignacio at a retreat with 12 strangers; a retreat I’d hoped would salve old wounds triggered by a challenging year. I’d learned things about myself I’d prefer to have left unknown, something having rupturing inside me revealing raw and inconsolable grief.
Fear is a malevolent teacher and one of its many casualties is faith.
Fear denies us clarity, peace, and creativity. Fear is a predator and a bully. Fear would have you believe you are alone, broken, deficient, not enough. Fear lied to me and I believed it.
Worried about me, a friend suggested I look up a woman named Rosita Arvigo. She thought Rosita, a healer, and teacher who lives in Belize, might help me shift my thinking. When I discovered Rosita was offering a Spiritual Healing retreat to begin the very day after the Women’s Retreat I was hosting ended, I took it as a sign and registered. Looking back, that in itself was an act of faith but I couldn’t see it at the time. I was a ghost in my own life, desperate to find my way back home, even if that meant going to the jungles of Belize to do it.
Focusing on the healing power of nature, plant medicine, water and faith, Rosita’s teachings pulled me out of my head and into my heart. I made a decision to be open and allow myself to grieve, let go, and accept help.
I surrendered my bias and confusion about faith and religion, letting Spirit bathe me in her luminous light. Her immense power burst open my heart and with it my eyes!
Faith was not a religious thing, it was an energy thing! Specifically a LOVE thing.
Love that had been there all along; waiting for me to get out of my own damn way; waiting for me to open up, wake up, and surrender. It’s hard to give up power, even if that power is an illusion fueled by fear. Once I did, Spirit immediately said, “I am here and I am love, not separate from you but part of you and part of everything and everyone else. There is nothing to be afraid of.”
The experience was as visceral as it was spiritual; so intense it left no room for denial, doubt or lack of faith. This was BIG LOVE. The juicy, incandescent, unconditional, abiding, change your brain kind of love. I felt the divine energy of God, Jesus, Buddha, Rumi, Allah, Mohammed, Ix Chel, the Sacred Mother and more! Beyond denomination, definition, theology or dogma I heard three simple words, “I am here.”
Later that night, alone in my cabin, I wrote in my journal so I could process and remember. I knew someday fear would try to deny or malign the experience I’d just had and I wanted to be ready.
“If I was led to this place and had the courage to show up and be here, what happened today is the reason why. I felt the power of prayer and l felt the power of spirit and l physically felt the vibration and energy of release and spiritual healing.
That was God/Spirit/Mama Gaia’s way of showing herself to me: So that l can have faith. This shit is FOR REAL. And powerful! That’s why I’m here. To change how I live my life because I needed it to be changed.
The larger questions like how and when and what can wait for another day. But I do know this, having Faith (in LOVE and its awesome power to heal and illuminate) will make those decisions clearer if not always easier.”
I did some soul-searching in that cabin, making some life-altering decisions, many that I’m still working through. Those decisions, which had previously seemed so difficult, fell with certainty and confidence into place.
I know better than to think fear is done with me, but I am determined to keep fear benched, nowhere near the playing field. It’s different now. I have a new coach.
I came home last year changed, but fragile. Returning to the sheer velocity of “life as usual” now felt assaultive and soul-killing.
The tearful plane ride home was just the beginning. Alienated, I struggled to stay ‘awake’ in a culture of deadening distraction, disconnection, and violence. The news made me sick, I hated when people talked about politics, and I seriously considered moving, to another country! It hurt, a lot. For months my friends and family wondered what had happened to me. I wasn’t behaving like myself. They wondered how long it would last. The truth is, I did too. Was this the new normal? Apparently, yes.
I went back to Belize this year, excited to be reuniting with my friends from the previous year.
Our shared experience created a bond we now agree is magical. We feel like souls fated to come together in this time, in this place for this purpose. These are people I will know and love the rest of my life and I could not be more grateful for each one of them.
Rosita, our leader, as well as her team of assistant teachers, showed us what it was like to be healers. I am immensely grateful for their support, prayers, compassion, and guidance. With their help, we all learned, we grew, we were transformed. This itself, was proof of heaven to me.
If I went to Belize last year to reclaim my faith- this year I went to Belize to celebrate it.
I did not sob on the plane ride home, filled only with expansive love and joy. In fact, I floated in this altered state of love for nearly ten days, until, after returning full speed to my work and to do lists, I crashed, tired, tearful and dismayed.
Thankfully, Spirit is always here to hold me up. “Dear Tina,” she whispered, “Faith is not a feeling; faith is a practice. Please, try to pay attention.”
Faith is in the burning ember, the seedling sprouting through a late Spring snow.
Faith is the black still of the morning and the sleepy caress of your lover.
Faith is in the contagious laugh of a stranger, the warm sweet breath of an infant, the unhurried grace of a Summer rain, an unexpected act of kindness.
But it’s also in the slow decay of an aging parent, an unwelcome diagnosis, the pain of unexpected loss, failure and disappointment, the broken heart.
Faith, like love, energy, and matter, animates through our observation and attention. The divinity is within our connected presence.
So yes, Spirit. I will pay attention, and I will practice Faith. Because I want to and because you asked me to. And because I am here, too.