I arrived in the Sacred Valley of Peru on June 18th after a four-month semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Now it is mid-August, and as I sit here writing this, newly returned to the United States after eight months total living abroad, I feel almost entirely incapable of putting into tangible words the amount of personal growth that I have undergone over this remarkable period of time. But I suppose it always feels like this; when we experience a period of our lives in which we are stimulated more than we’ve ever been stimulated in our lives, mentally, intellectually, creatively, when we are pushed beyond the limits of where we thought we could go, ultimately we are left in the wake of the experience in a sort of discombobulated state. Entirely changed, and wondering, “What the hell just happened?” Almost as if it were all just a dream. But I guess the best way to make the experience real, the best way to process what just happened, the best way to combat the unavoidable missing that follows, and the best way to convey our experience to others, is through gratitude. So here it goes…
Thank you to my beautiful mother, who helped me to navigate and exit my unpleasant situation at my first internship, brought me to the cosmically timed ceremony that opened the doors to my new project at Arkana Spiritual Center, and for helping to situate me with my host-mother Rachel and her daughter Ana.
Thank you to Rachel, for treating me like family, teaching me how to cook, helping me to see my inherent inner light, pushing me out of my zone of fears that kept me from sharing my gifts of song and poetry, and for always listening to the thoughts I keep safe in my heart.
Thank you to Chandra, who welcomed me into Arkana with open arms and instilled in me a deeply rooted desire to dedicate my life to healing others.
Thank you to Pamela for showing me the value of a mother’s patience, showering me in appreciation for the service I performed, and for revealing the importance of being present for people in their time of need.
Thank you to Kunti for her unwavering kindness, and for welcoming me into the center each day with a smile so wide and a hug so warm, it was as if I had been gone for years very time I returned.
Thank you to Arkana Spiritual Center, for allowing me to take part in the ceremonies of the ancient peoples, witness the healing power of these plant medicines imbued with sacred energy, and for providing me a space in which I felt competent and in control of the service I was able to perform.
Thank you to the children, Ana, Azul, Arju, Elan, and Jehrai, for reminding me that life is inherently joyous, for loving me unconditionally, and for restoring the necessity of ‘play’ in my life.
Thank you to the mountains for holding me upright and imbuing me with strength as I ascended your magnificent slopes.
Thank you to the ancient ruins that have reminded me that life did not begin and end with just me. Rather, it is the amazing accumulation of centuries of tangible and deeply felt representations of the human imagination.
Thank you to the valley for keeping me safe in your warm pocket.
Thank you to the powers of the universe that allowed me to experience the magic that pours out of that part of the world.
Every time I return home from being abroad, I think it’s going to get easier to adjust back to life in the United States. Aren’t you supposed to become accustomed to difficult situations after increased exposure? On the contrary, as my mind, vision, and heart expand with the aid of my travels, I feel the deep pangs of missing with more force than ever. I feel a sincere longing to rid myself of all that I own and to continue roaming this beautiful Earth for the rest of my life. The amount of love and beauty that has flowed into my life during my time in the Sacred Valley is astounding, and my heart aches for the chapter I must inevitably close. But never before has my heart ached with such joy and such gratitude, knowing that the life I’ve lived since I arrived in Peru has fundamentally changed my life for the better. How cosmically lucky I am to have had something that made saying goodbye so hard.