Bonita’s Travel Guide

As summer winds down and the Earth once again tilts on its axis away from the fiery star in the sky, cooler afternoons and shorter days bring with them the excitement of a new season of adventure. And while summer is often the time of year when most of us travel abroad, autumn and winter are prime times to see some of the worlds most beautiful landscapes, cities and natural wonders. So if you’re feeling blue because you think your traveling months are behind you, fret not and in the coming months consider visiting one of these five breathtaking places on our beautiful blue planet.

Elephant Nature Park and Akha Hill Tribe Village- Northern Thailand

Do you ever get the urge to hang out with elephants? Well you can! Chiang Mai, affectionately known by Thai pepole as the rose of the north, offers a plethora of attractions including its Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary and rescue center for elephants and other wild animals in need. Feeding, playing and helping to rehabilitate elephants are just some of the things you can do while visiting. For those seeking to journey into Thai history, just one-hour north in Chiang Rai, one can visit the Akha hill tribe, where homes on stilts, dirt floors and no-electricity bring about a sense of how daily living may have been hundreds, or even thousands of years ago.

Cathedral Rock- Sedona, Arizona

For more local travel, the red sandstone mountains of Sedona, Arizona, offer hiking and site seeing at it’s best. While from afar the mountainous area appears dry and rocky, exploring within the range of red rocks proves otherwise, with lush forests and bodies of water ripe for exploration. And while you’re there, don’t forget to catch a sunset at the Sedona Airport Overlook, where a nearly panoramic view of the skyline glows shades of orange and pink behind the vast range of red, rocky peaks. Enjoy!

Lake Titicaca- Puno, Peru

Although widely known for it’s ancient Incan ruins, Peru is no one-trick pony. From east to west, the country is rich in natural beauty and modern architecture. But alas, one of its most breathtaking sites is the lesser known, Lake Titicaca. From the city of Puno you can catch a boat and head east to navigate the worlds highest body of water and land on Taquile Island. Nestled between Peru and Bolivia at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters with a view of the Andes Mountains, this spot is sure to make you feel like you’re the queen of the world. Eat your heart out, Leonardo DiCaprio!

Victoria Falls- Livingstone, Zambia

As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls offers hiking, swimming, white water rafting, hang gliding, bungee jumping, and countless photo ops among its falls towering over 300 feet high and 5000 feet wide. It is truly a site to be seen! After your day at the falls, adventurers can enjoy local cuisine like fried meats, vegetables and nshima!

Alder Street Food Cart Pod- Portland, Oregon

How could I end this blog without suggesting a destination that represents the very thing that brings us all together- good eats! Portland, Oregon is a food lover’s dream, with dozens upon dozens of food carts lining the streets of downtown, featuring cuisine from all over the world, from Korean barbeque to Caspian kebab, this travel destination brings it all- good food in a beautiful city and great memories with friends to last a life time.

Are you planning a trip this coming season? Tell your stories in the comments below and share why your travel destination should be our next!

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Yep, that’s me in the far right corner there!

 

 

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Tequile Island

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This is the view of a floating island, off the cost of Puno, as you head east on Lake Titicaca.
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At the top of the falls, feeling like a million bucks ❤

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View of food carts from afar. I forgot to take pics while I was there. Thanks Google Images!

Life Update

Hellooooo out there! Is anybody there? Anybody?

Actually, I’m the one who went MIA, but alas here I am again. And here’s what’s been going on…

So back in May, my hubs suggested that we move back to Los Angeles after living in San Diego for two years. My heart sunk at the thought of it, but after careful thinking and consideration I agreed that going back home would be the right thing to do to meet our longterm goals. Why does adulting have to be so dang hard?

That said, I’ve been away from blogging due to working more, planning more, and going through the mental process of parting with this beautiful place that I’ve been calling home. I also spent lots of time reading a new book by one of my favorite authors and speakers, Rob Bell (What Is The Bible).  Just a quick note on the book- I loved it. I think the book is a gift to those who grew up in Sunday school and/or have been taught to read the bible in a way that inhibits it’s beauty and impact.  What I learned was that the story of Jesus was so much more political and his message was so much more subversive than I had been taught. Context makes a big difference and Rob Bell has done a beautiful job synthesizing years of information and learning to articulate a perspective on the bible that is liberating, exciting and fresh. Good times.

So, that’s it for me today. I just wanted to reach out to say hello and that I think about Bonita Brown everyday. More to come once this move to LaLa Land is complete. Sending lots of love…

Jenn

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones, But Stress Is More Likely To

imgresOf the many curious things that I’ve come across as an information-junky, I find it especially fascinating when ancient wisdom seems to mirror modern scientific knowledge. It makes me wonder what observations an early human must have made in order to put into words something that would take millennia for science to prove. Case in point, the link between disease caused by stress and ancient writings from one of Israel’s early kings.

In a book called Psalms, found both in the Torah and the Bible, the beloved King David is credited for writing seventy-three of it’s one hundred and fifty chapters. His writings, which include songs, poems, and prayers, describe a wide range of human emotions, from joy, gratitude and praise, to desperation, fear and anger. The psalms of David tell about his life including precarious circumstances he finds himself in, like hiding from people who are out for his blood, and especially, his steadfast yet complicated relationship with God. Nevertheless, David writes:

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Psalm 17:22)

 and,

 When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. (Psalm 32:3)

Here’s what’s interesting about these passages (besides the fact that they rhyme!)- David is describing painful emotional states, (i.e. broken spirit, perhaps pointing to sadness, and I kept it all inside, possibly meaning stuffing down or hiding one’s feelings). Then, he describes how these states are bad for the bones- they dry them up and turn them to powder. Interesting! In these passages David is linking painful emotions to the degradation of bones. So what does this all mean?

Now, I’m no expert on human physiology but here are some basics on hormones and stress. When we experience stress the hormone adrenaline is secreted, followed by cortisol (cortisol is the one we’ll be looking at here). These hormones are meant to help regulate the body during the fight or flight response, which is a good thing, however, the experience of stress on a regular basis makes for elevated levels of cortisol in the body, which is really a not-so-good thing. The reason is because cortisol triggers bone mineral removal and blocks calcium absorption, which ultimately decreases bone cell growth and therefore decreases bone density. No bueno.

So why does this happen? When the body is under stress, it needs to focus on survival and so it will shut down other functions and focus it’s efforts on things like sending blood to muscles and vital organs in order to flee or fight off the stressor. Ironically, a twenty-first century stressor for a person like me is likely to be something non-life threatening, like being cutoff in the parking lot at Food 4 Less or the sound of my cat Curry crying for my attention.

So, why is this interesting? It’s a curious thing that some of our more painful emotions can trigger the release of stress hormones. And, if in fact high levels of stress hormone lead to greater risk for diseases of the bones, then it’s even more interesting that this condition was described so early in history by way of the historical figure, King David. Not to mention yet another reason to focus on destressing. Spa day, anyone?

Here’s what I’m not saying: science proves that the bible is true! I’m not saying that. I think that there are metaphors and stories and myths and legends and truths in the pages of this holy text that can be life changing when applied; and I also think it’s cool that there are layers of understanding within its passages that perhaps we and it’s original writers never saw coming.

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Have you found curious overlaps in science and spirituality? Share them here!

The Power of ‘I See You’

IMG_2848I have a friend named Kristen who has a special practice for showing love- not just saying she loves, but showing that she does. I don’t think that she knows how special and unique it is nor do I believe she would call it a practice, but in doing this particular thing on several occasions over the years, it’s enough for me to believe that this thing that she does is love in action.

The first time she practiced this thing that she wouldn’t call a practice was when we were twenty-six (we’re a month apart in age). On this particular warm autumn evening, we headed out for a drink at the restaurant where we both worked, to relax and talk about life. As we sat on the patio sipping craft beer out of our fancy frosted goblets, she announced that she had something for me. It was a card that she had hand written and wanted to read aloud to me. From that card she read all the things she knew about me and appreciated about our friendship. She used words to tell me that she thought I was courageous; she thanked me for sharing with her words of wisdom during times of sadness; she told me that I was empathic even though I feared that I suffered from apathy. As she read these things to me, I recognized something- she had remembered the very things that our relationship was made of. I felt known, heard, and remembered. I felt seen.

Another time my friend practiced this practice that she wouldn’t call a practice was when I was preparing to be married. She handcrafted a letter made from cream card stock, bound the pages by wire, wrote words using different colors of ink and carved out misshapen hearts here and there throughout the pages. In this letter she shared with me other things she knew about me. She shared with me that she noticed how much time and effort I had put into reading books on self help, studying every religion I felt called to study, and coming to peace with my faith of origin. She shared with me that she was witness to the pain that I had experienced over the years and that every good change that I made in my life was a positive change in the lives of those I interacted with and a positive change in the world. She shared with me that the misshapen hearts represented life and how when painful things happen, our hearts change a little, but that that is what makes us beautiful and unique.

Now, I don’t mean to shine a light on myself by describing the details of these love letters that my friend wrote to me. I simply want to show the depth of her attention to her friend (fortunately this friend is me). My friend, this girl Kristen, has a special gift for really seeing people. I know this because I feel seen by her. I feel seen by her because she told me that she sees me. She told me she sees me by telling me what she sees. And what she sees is the things that I’ve shown her, and maybe even, a few things more.

The letter Kristen gave me before my wedding wasn’t the second time she practiced this practice, nor was it the last. She did it again and again, most times in conversation- she would repeat to me the things that I had shared with her in the past, almost as if she was reminding me of who I really was. In fact, that’s exactly what she was doing.

And so, all this to say, in life and in showing the ones we love that we love them, perhaps grand gestures or fancy gifts aren’t the only things that send the message. Perhaps sending a message that says, “I hear you and I see you,” is the best gift of all.

Maybe This

img_1693Maybe this is for me. This moment of unaccomplishment. This time of boredom. This time of thinking and of not becoming. Maybe I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

And I can’t help but hear the voice of my inner-troll. She compares me to the best and the brightest people that I see on social media and on Pinterest. When I’m not in front of a screen, she reminds me of them by placing their images in my minds eye. It seems like she has no patience for this lull in my life. She has no time to be unsuccessful. She has no time for being deployed or underemployed. She has no time to be imperfect.

Yet another part of me thinks that maybe, instead of waiting for the next big thing that I’m meant for, maybe just maybe I’m meant to live through and know what it’s like to be still, not thriving even in my striving, and to be okay with myself, not in spite of the perceived lack, but perhaps because of it.

On Owning Your Shit- La Que Sabe

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There’s a passage from the Christian scriptures that over the years has become something that I know to be true, at least for myself, in my own life. It goes, “she loves much because she has been forgiven much.” To me this means that the outpour of love that one is capable of is dependent on the debt they have been forgiven. Moral debt. Emotional debt. Spiritual debt. Another way of seeing it is, the degree to which a person feels freedom in their heart.

In the book of Luke, from which this passage comes, Jesus tells a story to a man named Simon. He was prompted by Simon’s criticism of a woman (a prostitute) who lay at Jesus’ feet weeping, washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. To paraphrase, Jesus tells Simon a story about two men, both whom owe money to a banker. One man owed five hundred pieces of silver and the other owed fifty. Because neither man was able to repay what he owed, the banker forgave the debts. Finishing his story, Jesus then asked Simon, “which of the two men do you think is more grateful?” to which Simon replied, “the one with the greater debt.”

I’ve heard this story several times over the years, with different interpretations, one of which seems to stick with me.

In this biblical passage, Jesus shared a story with Simon in order to make a point that the woman crying at his feet will not be subject to criticism or judgment because of the great love she demonstrated. And her ability to love so greatly was due to the great debt that she had been forgiven.

According to this particular interpretation, forgiven much means that the woman was cognizant (or conscious) of her shortcomings, her sins- what she needed forgiveness from. And in her acknowledgment of these things came a humility that birthed the ability to show great love.

Does that make sense?

She wasn’t just forgiven because she needed lots of forgiveness. She was forgiven because she acknowledged all of the things which she needed forgiveness from. She needed freedom. Forgiveness is freedom. And she got what she needed.

In the deep dark pain of really acknowledging ones shortcomings, comes a humbling of the ego, a taming of it, and that changes a person. Granted, not everyone has the wherewithal to catalyze a heap of heaviness into acts of love and kindness or into a better version of themselves, but for those who do, or hope to, I believe that there is power in acknowledging your shortcomings because then you can begin to forgive yourself, and/or ask for forgiveness, and move on to experience greater love.

I think at times, after we’ve made a mistake, we’re susceptible to our own pride and fear of admitting what we’ve done. When we do that, I believe that a tiny callus grows on the heart, making it hard, insensitive and inflexible. Over time the habit of ignoring what we need forgiveness from creates more calluses, making for a very hard heart. I want my heart to be soft, strong and healthy, so that I can feel all of my life, even the painful parts.

Anyhow, I wanted to share these thoughts because they came to mind as I began to re-read a book called Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I decided to pick this book off my shelf after I noticed a big group of women posting pictures of themselves and the book on Instagram. Apparently it’s their March book club read, and so I decided to join in.

I started reading the chapter on retrieving intuition (chapter 3 to be exact). The chapter begins by describing that intuition is the treasure of a woman’s psyche. It is a wise old woman inside of her that tells her which way to go. The author calls this inner wisdom, La Que Sabe, or The One Who Knows.

 And that’s just it…

That’s where the magic is- the freedom. It’s in the acknowledging. It’s in the knowing. The ability to feel your own heart and know what it’s telling you. I think that the woman who wept at Jesus’ feet accepted herself. She knew herself. Not just her shortcomings. Of course not. She must of known the good insider of her, too. But she knew. She knew herself. And when we know ourselves, and accept all parts of ourselves, within the cradle of Gods love (or the universe, or Shiva, or Zoroaster, or science, or whomever you believe a higher power to be…) we are able to navigate our lives in freedom, in grace and in love.

So here’s to letting the knowing make us more free. Let’s love much because we are free from much.

Happy Saturday, y’all.

With lots of love,

Jenn

P.S. I want to be clear that knowing ourselves and growing intuition and wisdom doesn’t just include knowing our shortcomings. I think we must attempt to know all of the things that life brings to us, pain and pleasure, and everything in between. There’s wisdom and freedom to be found in all of the things ❤

When You’re the Bad Guy

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So you’re the bad guy.

It happens. Whether the happenings were two years or two months ago, the sting of knowing that you were the one who did the dirty thing, really really sucks.

Now, unless you are a sociopath, you can probably think of a time when you hurt someone else, intentionally or not. And perhaps because coping with this fact is difficult, your coping strategies may look more like vices than honest to goodness ways of dealing. I’ve been there.

In this short piece today, I want to encourage you.

Do you find yourself with vices that help keep your guilt at bay? Smoking too much? Drinking more than usual? Binging late at night? Tolerating negative self-talk? I’ve been there too.

Now, if you’ve made it this far into the post, you might be thinking, “this isn’t my problem”. That. Is. Awesome. But, do you know anyone who it may be true for? If yes, they may be under the influence of the shame!!!

Shame has a funny way of overshadowing the healthier reaction of guilt. As described by Dr. Brene Brown, guilt is voice that says, “I made a mistake”, while shame is the voice that says, “I am a mistake.”

Being mentored by shame is a scary place to be. When we feel like we are a mistake or that we are inherently bad, we run the risk of missing the lessons that life is trying to teach us. To boot, feelings of shame are the birthplace of addiction, aggression, and feeling stuck (just to name a few).

Luckily, there is still our dear friend, guilt.

Guilt tells us that we’ve made a mistake. When we know that we’ve made a mistake, it’s easier to change the behavior, apologize and move on.

There is much more to read on this subject and if you haven’t heard of Dr. Brene Brown or her work, I encourage you to look her up and read one of her books, especially Daring Greatly, or check out one of her Ted talks (ted.com).

Reasons for making the mistakes aside, there’s no use in letting your mistakes become a part of your identity. You are worth so much more than that.

Until next time…

With lots of love,

Jenn

 

About Lent

Hey you 🙂 Yesterday I posted a blog about envy and it’s hidden gift. I wanted to however, connect its message to Lent, but because I posted so late, it seemed silly to open up with the blog that way. But even this morning, the desire to do so is still there and so I will tell you what I wanted to say.

For Lent, I want to be aware of when I feel ashamed or disappointed in myself for having certain feelings come up; and if I notice that my reaction toward myself is negative, I want to let that reaction go and pay attention to what the feeling that I am experiencing is trying to tell me. In other words, I want to let go of self-judgement when tough feelings come up and explore what my body and my feelings are really trying to say.

Do you ever find yourself being hard on yourself or beating yourself up? I do, sometimes. And I realize that going through that process of being mad at me, doesn’t make my problems go away. It only delays coming to a solution.

So!, of the few things that I am letting go of during this time of Lent, self-judgement is one of them. I hope you’ll join me.

with lots of love,

Jenn

On Jealousy & Envy- Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

On_the_Beach_--_Two_Are_Company,_Three_Are_NoneI don’t think you’re ready for this jelly. And hell, neither am I!

I’m not talking about the kind of jelly that ya spread on toast, though. I’m talking about jealousy- the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.

Just writing the word jealousy makes my stomach jump. That’s probably because he’s paid me a visit a time or two, having strolled into my life unannounced only to solicit painful responses and induce copious amounts of regret. And embarrassment.

Now as I mentioned a moment ago, I am not ready to deal with jelly in a blog post- at least not just yet! But I’ll have you know that jealousy is not menacing my world these days, and so I would like to use this time of jelly-freeness to talk about jealousy’s less destructive and more informative cousin, envy.

Until now I didn’t understand the distinction between jealousy and envy. They seem so similar and in some regard they are; but as it turns out envy can be much kinder company. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Envy is something that occurs between two people while jealousy occurs between three.

Envy is the uncomfortable experience of noticing that someone else has something that you want, like a dream job or the complexion of a newborn.

Jealousy on the other hand is the even more uncomfortable experience of fearing that you will lose something, or more likely someone, to an enviable rival. Fortunately, the feeling of jealousy isn’t something that we experience everyday because it’s not everyday that we’re threatened to lose something or someone we care about.

Feelings of envy on the other hand can be a bit more chronic with its roots embedded in comparison.

And so we continue with envy.

Earlier I mentioned that envy is better company than jealousy and what I mean by that is that envy, in spite of the discomfort it can create, is also a telling messenger.

I believe that envy can offer clues to help us discover what is missing in our lives. From this perspective then, feelings of envy can be embraced, explored and turned into something new.

So, the next time the feeling of envy emerges, ask the question, what is the envy trying to tell me? Try not to stuff it down or beat yourself up for feeling challenged by, let say, the flawless complexion of the barista at Starbucks, because you might discover what the envy is really trying to say, for instance, I want to work towards improving the health of my skin, please.

Do you feel me?

Once the message emerges from the muck, commit to taking action! This is one way to overcome the discomfort of envy and turn it into something beautiful, or more specifically, let it’s message inform choices that lead you to create the life and circumstances that your heart truly desires.

In other words, don’t shoot the messenger! I think he’s trying to tell you something.

P.S. I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment and start a conversation about what your envy might be telling you! Or perhaps you’re not in a place of feeling envious. Good stuff! Would you share with us what some of your past feelings of envy have told you?

with love,

Jenn

Ruins

imgresOf the hundreds of times I sat on the couch across from my therapist in her office, a handful of moments would become life lessons.

It must have been a Saturday morning. The light outside was bright, illuminating the shrubs and trees that grew just outside her office. Instead of walls, two sides of the room stood tall with windows from floor to ceiling, creating the feeling of being in nature as we sorted through my tangled thoughts.

I sat there feeling dreadfully heavy, as though I just received the news that something I loved very much had gone away. And in a way, something had.

My face felt droopy, as though it would take two full-grown men to lift the corners of my mouth in order to fake a smile. I was emotionally spent, disappointed, broken hearted and afraid.

With a damp face from drying tears and a voice hardly louder than a whisper, I shared with Jody what I had just realized. I realized two things actually. But let me start with the first.

I was ruined.

Not my life circumstances or my relationships or my livelihood. Me. I was ruined. Like a pristine white gown sullied with burgundy two-buck-chuck from Trader Joe’s.

Up to that point in treatment, I had already been diagnosed with PTSD and to boot, struggled with depression. I felt ashamed and embarrassed about the condition of my mental health. The troubling thing about living with mental illness is that in order to get better, you need to make good choices. You need to practice good self-care, but the feelings of shame that often accompany mental illness aren’t exactly motivating.

And so I felt stuck. Desolate, even. I felt ruined. I felt like my life was stained by the past that I had no power to change and a present that was doomed on account of my diagnosis.

In the same moment that I put words to the way I was feeling (ruined), another thought waltzed into my mind.

I remembered, Sukhothai (pronounced Soo/kō/tī).

Sukhothai was the first capital of Siam (present day Thailand) and is regarded as the birthplace of Thai history. Although the kingdom of Sukhothai was short lived, its legacy is in its architecture, literature, bronze sculpture and ceramic art. You can still visit this historical province and marvel at the ancient palaces and temples by bicycle or foot. It really is a lovely place.

I visited Sukhothai when I was in college. I remember walking down the meandering paths throughout the park and climbing in and out of partially restored structures. Although no one had lived there for centuries, each year still thousands of visitors wandered its antiquated roads and buildings to explore not only the ruins of this city, but perhaps to explore something inside of themselves, also.

And that’s when it hit me- realization number two.

Sure, maybe I felt ruined, as though something un-take-back-able happened and marred my very existence- but in the end and in the now, what is ruined isn’t necessarily something to hide and become ashamed of.

Something ruined is something that can be restored. Something ruined and restored can become a place that one can visit, to remember what life was like back then or there; it can become something to explore and to learn from, something one might marvel over, like the ruins of an ancient city or the glued-together pieces of a once broken life.

………………………..

It’s been a few years since that day on the couch in my therapist’s office. I don’t feel ruined anymore. I feel restored in most ways, most of the time.

When I started to write this post, I did some research on Sukhothai to refresh my memory and came across something interesting on Wikipedia:

Sukhothai is from the Sanskrit word sukha (सुख ) meaning happiness and udaya (उदय) meaning rise or emergence, and thus, Sukhothai means, “dawn of happiness”.

So after all, perhaps a place of ruins is also a place where happiness may begin to emerge.

With lots of love,

Jenn

 

sources:

article- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhothai_(city)

photo- http://wikitravel.org/en/Sukhothai