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Almost exactly three months to the day that I experienced the closest I ever want to come to my own personal hell, I was able to experience the exact opposite. Spending a week in my personal paradise, one that I have always denied myself to experience, was exactly what I needed after nearly a year living alone in Japan.

Throwing caution to the wind, like I never have before (and I have done a lot of caution throwing), I embarked on a week long journey into a very new place for me. I had no idea what to expect, and really tried to keep it that way. Any expectations would have ruined the experience, and ultimately left me heart broken. During my week in paradise I was faced with a number of truths and obstacles that ultimately left me in a place of peace and intrigue.

The first truth was that if you experience real growth, you can’t pick up where you left off. As much as you may want to deny that things change, guess what, things change. For me this hasn’t been a bad thing. My growth has added depth to relationships that were once extremely shallow. And with a particular relationship, it has opened my heart in a way I never thought possible. That opening has not been the most pleasant experience, but I wouldn’t change any part of it. During the week, I allowed my heart to be free to feel whatever it wanted to. That translated into the best consistent yoga practices I have had outside of India. Even when I should have had no energy, or been extremely sore, I was strong and stable and basically tapped in to something bigger than me. There is no other way to describe it.

The second truth was that there never is enough laughter. I am a pretty goofy person by nature, and most would say that I laugh at almost anything. However, in the past year, I have cried much more than I have laughed; something that may have been overdue. This past week, I made up for those tears in spades. My face hurt from so much laughing and smiles. I felt safe enough to let down my walls and just enjoy life, making it very easy for me to catch a chronic case of the giggles.

The third truth is that there are things at play that you just can’t explain. Over the past year I have been going back and forth with ideas of what I want to do after my tenure in Japan is up. And the two things that keep coming to the forefront are nutrition and Chinese Medicine. But during the past couple months, I have doubted my interest in those subjects and how they would fit in my life. Oddly enough, during my week in paradise those two subjects were always coming up. I had never really told anyone about those interests either, especially anyone I was around during the week. It was a nice surprise not only to be reminded of my interest, but to recognize it a little more formally as something I do want to pursue in the future.

The fourth truth is that being able to communicate feelings effectively but objectively is truly liberating. I had a couple conversations about my feelings that could have gone totally sour, if I had been attached to what I thought those feelings meant to me or the person I was talking to. The growth and circumstances I have experienced in the past year allowed me a little more space to try to communicate my feelings without breaking down into some unnecessary puddle of emotions. Being able to discriminate between a true feeling and something you think you should feel is extremely difficult. It can get even more complicated when it involves another person that thinks you should feel a certain way too. What this past week taught me was that my emotions do not define me or my relationships. Feelings and emotions are ever changing, so I don’t need to get upset when someone doesn’t know how they feel or changes their mind. I am free to do the same thing; it is part of being human. One of the better parts I must add, as it adds an element of surprise to our lives.

Finally the obstacles of the week; there really was only one, and that was self doubt. Those closest to me know this is my kryptonite. And there were plenty of moments of self doubt during the week. Am I crazy? Am I sexy enough? Do I look good in this? Is my cooking good enough? Am I being true to myself? Should I follow my heart? Can I trust myself? Can I trust someone else? All of these questions came up. And for the most part, I was able to answer these questions confidently with maybe a couple exceptions. And with those couple exceptions I was able to find peace. I found out the best cure for self doubt is spending time with someone that knows nothing about you, who is meeting you for the first time and taking you at face value. Only thing is, this person has to have a good heart, and a positive outlook. I was extremely fortunate to be around such a person. I don’t think I have been around such a good heart in a very very long time. The kind of person that is truly happy to be in the moment. I was reminded that we all have that capacity. We make choices daily to either live like everyday is a miracle or not, and I chose to believe it’s a miracle.

My week in paradise goes way beyond the things I have written, but some things are meant to be kept to savor in private. It was a week I will never forget. It was a week that simultaneously changed everything and nothing, in a way that only paradise could. It cemented my belief in the unexplainable, in me, in my heart, and in the unexpected. What happens next…who knows? The fact is, I don’t need to find out. I am comfortable moving forward from this point into the unknown. I am ready to live life and enjoy the next adventure.

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