Ablaze: A personal story of igniting my heart aflame

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My second poetry collection, Ablaze, sheds an honest light on my raging desire and passion to consummate the dream that beckoned me to abandon my home and blaze a new trail here in Central America, amongst rural villagers in isolated tropical jungles, amidst a backdrop of ancient cultures enriched by traditional customs for which I have deep respect. Having been forged in the fire of my heart’s desire, I am now faced with the opportunity to make choices that could determine the course of my life for many years.

Parama sitting on couchThe flames are burning bright, and I cannot escape the heat.

Five years ago, before I first arrived in Belize, Central America (a tiny country just south of Mexico), I was living and working as a schoolteacher in the U.S., when I had a vivid dream in which my Buddhist master teacher, Geshe Michael, appeared to me and told me that it was time for me to leave my home country, that it was okay to go… “The same thing happened to me,” he declared in the dream, while I extended my hand to touch a slow-motion panorama of tropical plants, flowers, and coconuts….

When I woke up, I recalled the dream as if it had really happened, and I was emboldened: I resigned from my job, booked a plane ticket, and packed my bags. Waiting in the airport, I earnestly prayed and (heard God?) tell me, “You will almost die down there. But you will be saved. I am with you.” … While this may seem crazy to my readers, perhaps it is worth mentioning that I seem to be endowed with a gift of clairvoyance, whatever that means. I honestly can’t explain it, at least not scientifically. I don’t know whether to consider it a blessing or a quirky talent that comes from a rare genetic mutation… or both.

bird of paradise flowerForewarned by the somewhat alarming message that my life would be endangered, I forged ahead nonetheless, bolstered by the support of the man who was then my husband, mutually inspired by our shared vision to purchase a small parcel of fertile land in a rural area where we would build a small-scale permaculture farm and develop a vocational education center for the benefit of our local community.

In the U.S., I had established over ten years of a successful career in special education as a consultant in public and private schools; in addition to earning certification and practicing professionally as a Licensed Massage Therapist and yoga teacher. I earned a Master of Arts in Education and gained a wide range of experience working with children and adults who were diagnosed with developmental and learning disabilities. I enjoyed working in the field of education, but I felt deep dissatisfaction with what I deemed to be a restrictive, top-down model that limited my creativity and freedom to design my own curriculum.

Parama w studentsI became disillusioned with the public school system in the U.S. and envisioned an innovative approach that involved outdoor, experiential education on an organic farm. I wrote and published my first two books that became bestsellers in experimental methods in education. When my husband suggested that we move to Central America and purchase land for our own school, I was forced to choose: Do I stay with what is familiar, or do I take the risk of trying something completely new? . . .

I chose to leave behind the security and convenience of my comfortable, middle-class life in the U.S. I took my innovative ideas with me on the road – south of the border. As I was about to expose myself to an entirely new life in a foreign country, I felt a high degree of anxiety mixed with a deep inner conviction that I was doing the right thing, and everything would work out, somehow, eventually….

Parama hugging tree at Palenque copy

We arrived in Punta Gorda, a small agricultural and fishing town in Southern Belize, Central America, surrounded by Mayan villages and ancient cultural ruins. Instead of falling into the typical tourist routes, we … blazed our own trail. We immediately focused on establishing community liaisons and connecting with local people who were living the way we had envisioned: off-grid with minimal resource consumption and growing food on their own land.

Parama harvesting bamboo copyFinanced by our own meager savings, my partner and I knew that we needed to secure an ongoing income to support ourselves. We discovered that we could work locally as English teachers, earning a small but adequate salary. We traveled and found temporary work assignments in Guatemala, where we lived and volunteered on an organic farm while simultaneously purchasing one acre of our own land in Punta Gorda, Belize, beside other neighbors who shared our passion.

At that time, I did not expect that I would soon end up alone, following through on our project, after my partner became too ill to continue living in Central America. After many months of trying the best I could to help him recover, I determined that he required specialized therapy which was unavailable in Central America – impoverished, third-world countries with limited infrastructure and resources. He refused to seek adequate treatment and suddenly left me while we were living in the mountainous region of Chiapas, the southernmost district of Mexico.

sunset at Kiki's copy

Heartbroken, devastated and discouraged, I almost returned to the U.S. and my previous career as a schoolteacher. Instead, I chose to make Central America my new home and community. I resolved that I would continue what we’d started, because I did not want to let anything derail me from realizing my dreams….

Parama at KikimundoNow a young, single woman in a somewhat dire situation, I had unintentionally become a “woman at risk” and found myself desperately seeking a means to support myself while living in the third world, where job opportunities are limited and rarely offer any benefits beyond a small wage.

My persistence allowed me to support myself by establishing friendships within my local community as well as creating my own work opportunities wherever I traveled, looking for safety and security while still recovering from the loss of my partner’s companionship.

I discovered the importance of resourcefulness in order to survive as a single woman in Central America. Looking back, I realize how much courage and persistence it took for me at the time to continue seeking and finding opportunities, and now I can honestly claim that I am grateful to my beloved former partner for leaving me with no choice but to dig deep within myself to find my inner strength (Thank you!)…. While I wrote and published a series of books, I worked in many different communities as a massage therapist, yoga instructor, English teacher, and house-sitter. I lived for periods of time with host families in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. This proved to be an extremely challenging opportunity to grow and learn while immersing myself in the various cultural traditions of Central America.

door colorful copyEven though I do have the privilege of a broad educational background and qualifications, I learned first-hand what it must be like for local women who have little or no formal education to become caught in a “cycle of poverty”, to be taken advantage of, and, unfortunately, to be abused. Although I could speak fluent Spanish and interact with the locals in the marketplace and at work, I experienced many incidences in which local men, seeing that I was vulnerable and traveling alone, tried to take advantage of me in different ways.

I gained a deeper understanding for how “at-risk women” find themselves in precarious situations where they are endangered and oppressed. In spite of many dangers and challenges, I persisted and continued to pursue my dreams, relying on my own skills, faith, as well as the help and support of caring friends, near and far.

Parama crouching at pyramid copyYears later, I am proud to have stayed true to my own heart, despite countless moments in which I just wanted to give up. Now, I want to believe that I am “living my dream”…. Yet, something feels incomplete, like there is some surprise waiting right around the corner for me, if I could only muster the courage to be vulnerable and open my heart, even as it still heals from the pain of my past….

Since I arrived in Central America five years ago, I’ve been an intrepid solo traveler, exploring and living alone in many different places in Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala. I’ve learned a lot about myself and discovered my own inner strength….

Like the “locals”, I have worked hard and saved up enough money to recently break ground on the construction of my new home – an off-grid, thatch roof hut (in process!) – on my one acre of land in southern Belize, where I would like to expand my infrastructure and… eventually… open an innovative school and community center for the locals.

Parama's house

For many years I have persistently held the intention for The Farm School project in Central America to help women achieve their dreams and goals, whether they are single, have intact families, or are struggling, single mothers. The Farm School is a vocational, experiential training center that promotes health and wellness within the local community, especially for women, while supporting them to become more self-sufficient by learning practical skills.

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My heart burns with raging passion to create something that has never been done before. I hold fast to my vision to help at-risk women in need of support, encouragement, and opportunities to make their own dreams come true. Yet, I perceive that I have arrived at a crossroads. My vision may need to take shape in a different form, for now…. I wait and wonder and marvel at the mystery of the fire.

sunrise in AntiguaFive years later, after countless adventures, meeting new and interesting people along the way, nearly dying at the hands of those who would wish to do me harm, I have survived many dangers, overcome personal challenges, and learned what it means to be a warrior dedicated to a mission that can only come from touching the flames of burning passion within one’s heart, enlivened and inspired every day to keep blazing the trail….

Fire must be fed to stay alive. The strength of the flame is derived from a dynamic interplay of elements. Passion can be recognized and shared between two people who are uncontrollably drawn toward one another in a mutual desire to burn in the conflagration of hearts united and ignited. The flames burn and rage, transforming the landscape of the heart, regenerating the soil, making it fertile ground for new growth.

Please click here to download my second poetry collection, Ablaze

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Finding peace after the loss of a family member

V— requests a Life Reading, seeking guidance and insights to many questions about personal wellness, marriage, spirituality, and life’s purpose:

birdMy son passed away last year. I’ve had some deep insights into my spirituality and some real indicators to our connectedness to the other side of the veil—an awakening, perhaps.

Why am I so unbelievably exhausted and unmotivated? The exhaustion seems to be getting much worse. Medical tests show that everything is normal. How do I fix this?

I have since had shamanism presented to me numerous times, although I have resisted. I am having trouble finding help on this new path. I feel like I am adrift.

Is this the path meant for me? Will I find a mentor?

And why can’t I seem to find my spirit guides? … Or, have I found them, and I just don’t know it?

I see so many images when I meditate, but I can’t seem to make sense of them all. Even when I’m not meditating; for example, just closing my eyes during emotional moments, I still see images. (I swear, I’m not crazy!)

What am I supposed to do with my life? How do I make my time here on earth meaningful? What’s my purpose, and how do I find the energy to pursue it?

How do I find joy in life again? Everything that’s going on in the world seems too overwhelming. So many bad things are happening…. I sometimes feel nauseous hearing about it on TV or social media, to the point where I’ve stopped watching the news…. I’m seriously considering shutting down my Facebook account. It’s really sickening and heartbreaking—all this hate in the world.

My husband is…. a difficult person. Although, I’m sure I’m difficult too. Am I being selfish when I think about leaving him, or should I just suck it up and try harder? Is this relationship my life lesson in patience and compassion? Is it more honorable to stay together?

In the past, I was intuitive and good at seeing the big picture, but now, I can’t see the forest for all the trees. I used to be really confident and grounded when I was younger, but now, I just feel so off kilter.

What is happening to me?

Life Reading by Parama

wolfYour son’s death has left a void in your external world, but you still feel him on the inner plane. Connections can never be lost.

“Daddy, Mommy,” your son says, “I know you miss me, but I had to leave. It was my time to go. Some people get a whole lifetime—I only got twelve years. I learned what I needed to learn, and you taught me well. I know you wanted to save me, but it was my time to go.

“Please let me go. I want to move on, too. But I can’t, because you are holding on so tight to your guilt – wishing you could have saved me.

“Let me fly! I want to fly. When you look up and see a bird with its wings outstretched, hovering above you, you’ll know it’s a sign from my spirit, having united with the Almighty One God.

“Remember me, but let me go—let me fly—let me be free and live forever in your hearts. Mommy, Daddy—one day we will reunite. I know, because the angels tell me so. And we will be happy together, forever with God.

“Take down my bedroom, my play toys, the favorite truck of mine that always makes you cry, and please, for my sake, give it away to a charity so that some other child can play the way I once did. This will please me, bring me joy, and help set our spirits free.

“Please… I want to see you happy again. I want to see you play together the way you used to play with me.

“You can’t make me come back, but you can be happy now. You have each other, and that’s a gift from God. I’ll never forget you, … ever, ever.”

The spirit of the wolf walks with you and protects you. The wolf is a fierce guardian of what you hold dear. Ask for protection and guidance from God, and then close your eyes, listen, and pay attention. A wolf—a guardian spirit gifted to you from God—is a fearless, loyal, dedicated provider and protector for you, especially as you consider bringing another child into your family. You will know when you are ready.

An unhealthy substance addiction has sapped you of energy and consumed your creativity. Seek support to free yourself from these chains. Ask God to help you…. Cry out if you must.

Have you let yourself cry over the loss of your son?

Find a loving, supportive friend from your local community whom you trust. You’ve known this person a long time, and she has great wisdom and a deep understanding of who you are. Ask her to listen to you talk about your substance addiction. Receive her unconditional love and support. Rely on her whenever you feel tempted to indulge.

Drowning out the pain cannot make it go away. Denial can only amplify your pain, until it consumes you—all of you. Will you let this happen? You don’t want to feel your pain, so you have found a way to justify your addiction, as if you were entitled to indulge in self-destructive behaviors.

This is extremely taxing to your nervous system, throws your hormones off balance, and exhausts you.

The time has come to fervently—Start now—seek healthy outlets to vent your emotions, which you’ve managed with great effort to stuff deep inside of yourself.

Using your chosen art medium, capture the images you see in meditation or when your eyes are closed. Give the images your own expression: Give them a voice, a shape, and free them from being trapped inside of you.

A new dance can only begin when you’re willing—and ready—to let go of whatever’s holding you back, get up, and embrace your dance partner.

people-dancing-silhouette-icon-25When you first met your partner, you used to dance, play, and explore together. You’ve stopped taking the time to enjoy being together.

Ask God to renew and rebuild your life. Regenerate yourself and your relationship through God’s love and your love for each other. You can do this. What seems to be “difficult” about your relationship will transform as you express yourself more and more.

Unburden yourself from guilt.

Rely on trustworthy friends to help you. Don’t expect your partner to fulfill your needs for support. It’s too much right now. If you build a solid support network for yourself outside of your primary partnership, then over time, you will find that your marriage improves, your perceptions change, and you will be able to enjoy life together, as you once did.

Be patient in your relationship, and do your fair share. You’ve both been struggling, so do not add more burden by expecting the other person to save you from your pain. You must do this work for yourself, in your own heart, with the help of God and your trusted support network.

Have you and your partner considered building a new house or an addition to your house? This could be helpful for you to do together: a collaborative project, creating something new together.

dust-devil-vs-tall-bike-burning-man-2010Consider a vacation getaway with your partner soon. This will help you find new perspectives, as well as giving you needed time alone together. You’ve been vying for many peoples’ attention in personal and professional matters, leaving you little energy to focus on each other’s needs.

Don’t let other people compete for your attention: You must choose where and to whom you will give your attention. Start with yourself and God.

You have done well to maintain professionalism and commendable performance at work. Continue to apply yourself in your craft, for your work serves as an outlet for your creativity—a means by which you can reconnect with your joy … You must ask for this…. You must make the necessary adjustments in your work routines, schedules, and workspace to allow for uncensored, raw, unlimited self-expression.

You’ve been holding back too much, denying yourself the opportunity to unleash your passion in your life, because you fear rejection or judgment from others. Ask yourself, “Is this worth it? What do I gain by giving into my fears that others will judge me?”

bikeA new bicycle awaits you and needs repair. Start there. Design the bike according to your own specifications and paint it however you desire. Let the bike be a metaphor for your own body…. Build yourself a new body, a renewal in the spirit of God’s love, in self-love.

Love yourself as God loves you, and do not deny yourself the blessing of joy and lightheartedness! When is the last time you had a cathartic belly laugh with friends over some hilarious joke, a story… a movie? Seek out the opportunity to laugh more! Watch funny YouTube videos if you must—anything to get your body convulsing in fits of laughter!

Whether alone or with trusted friends, your laughter will bring you to tears…. will lead you to anger… will open the door for forgiveness… and will, finally, give you peace.

By the time you parade your new, decked-out bicycle through the streets of your summertime celebration, you will be ready to meet a special person who will become a teacher and mentor for your spiritual path.

Look out for signposts pointing the way.

Of course, you will know when you have met your teacher, who will appear at first to be a “nobody” (almost invisible), but as soon as you engage in a conversation, his words will speak to your heart. You will feel refreshed in his company, enlivened by his energy, and inspired by his example.

Life has many twists and turns. One thing leads to another. Nothing is ever lost—not even the people who’ve come into our lives for some time, then gone away.

We are all precious pearls on the same string, coiling and spiraling itself through space, keeping us eternally connected through the unconditional, divine, perfect love of our One Creator, the One God who knows all. Trust in this always.

-End of Life Reading-

I wish you blessings on your life’s journey. Thank you for writing. —Parama