Questioning Your Thoughts to Step Into Your Power

I’ve come to realize that most of what scares me simply isn’t REAL.

Yeah, I said it.

Most of what I fear exists only inside the confines of my mind. Knowing this, I can deduce that once I question my thoughts, I can then recognize them for what they are; mere apparitions of consequences assumed but not realized. This truth exposed, I can let go the angst I put on myself and enjoy the experiences before me. This is me stepping into my power.

Despite this enlightenment, the process of investigating and letting go of fear isn’t an easy one. I should know, I face it each and every time I travel.

My most recent trip was from Oakland, California to Xalapa, Mexico. Being that it was my first solo trip to a country that is deemed unsafe by many America sources, I was quite nervous.

One reason for my apprehension was that I didn’t want to be a party to the violence that I hear so much about. The other reason was, quite frankly, I didn’t look forward to standing out and the vulnerability doing so would bring.

I feared how I’d be treated as an outsider. I feared being ostracized, denied, and rejected. I feared being talked about, made fun of, and left out.

As I observed these thoughts, I recognized how they are what many people of color and different orientations deal with each and every day in the United States. This idea both humbled and disturbed me, but that is for another post.

I hadn’t had to deal too much with these thoughts while still around my Oakland based friends, but once alone at the San Francisco airport, I had no other choice but to face them. It was the moment I had been waiting to avoid, and it was here.

On my way through the airport, I stopped to get some snacks and a bottle of sparkling water. Once at the gate, I quickly noted how I was one of the only (if not the only) gringas there. I tried to play it cool, and pretend like I felt as if I fit in (SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t).

I found a seat away from the crowd and settled in to wait for my connecting flight through Mexico City. I then took out my refreshing looking sparkling water only to see that, alas, I needed a bottle open to enjoy it.

No problem, I told myself, you always carry a bottle opener in case you have to, uh, open a sparkling water (yeah, that’s it). Only problem was when I reached into my bag to take out my keys I realized I no longer have keys of any kind on which a bottle opener keychain can rest.

Really, Universe?

I dug deeper and deeper into my bag, but it turned out that in all my minimizing I had omitted this essential component. What to do?

With my fear brain racing, I decided to try to force the bottle open, while hopefully NOT standing out as the stupid, weird, different woman at the gate. Of course, the top wouldn’t budge.

Finally I gave up, sat back, sighed with thirst, and let go.

Then a man seated a few seats over (who was both dressed exactly as I would imagine a man going to Mexico to be dressed; buttoned down shirt, fitted pants, a cowboy hat, and matching boots, and was the EXACT type of person I was scared would reject me) leaned over asked, “Do you need help?”

“Yes, please. Thank you so much,” I replied as I handed him the bottle.

I watched him, remain seated, but take off his belt to use the bucket as a bottle opener. Genius, I thought. He handed the bottle back to me and I nodded my head, humbled, the fear brain’s volume decreasing ever so slightly.

Shortly after we boarded the plane and I settled into my usual red-eye spot, the window seat. I was skeptical of the woman who sat in the aisle seat to my left, but considering we didn’t have anyone seated in the middle, I did my best to recline and try to rest.

After several hours, the lights came back on and we prepared for landing. At this point, my row mate and I started chatting. I learned she was headed to Guatemala for a family wedding, and I told her of my travels to the state of Veracruz. We became fast friends.

Take that, fear brain!

When at the Mexico City airport we traveled through immigration together, then she and I had a few hours before our respective flights. Her fluency in Spanish was an integral part of getting me the items I needed (i.e. coins, more water, etc), and despite my initial skepticism I saw that, once again, the Universe had sent me an angel. I even found myself a little sad to bid her farewell.

Sad and afraid because this final leg of my journey meant me landing in Veracruz alone and then having to secure an hour and a half bus ride to Xalapa. What would happen to me in the Veracruz airport without her Spanish?

Nothing. It turns out.

I landed in Veracruz, gathered my bags, and when I headed through the exit I immediately saw the desk for the bus company. My beginner level Spanish was enough to secure a ticket, and in no time I was on the bus to Xalapa.

Bus interior
The bus ride was really nice!

The fear brain was almost silent at this point.

On the bus, I sat back and thought about my anxieties. I saw how, up this in my trip, they were lies I told myself. Turns out, nothing I was afraid of actually happened. Of course, the potential of bad things happening is always there, but their probability was far less than the amount of attention and energy I gave them.

I made my way, via taxi, safely to my AirBnB, and the fear brain retreated completely. While there I marveled at how beautiful and simple my room for the month was.

Xalapa AirBnB Private Room
My living quarters for the next month.
Flowers in Xalapa city center
Xalapa is know as “The City of Flowers”
View of Xalapa from the roof.
The view from the roof.

Looking out at the rooftop view, I questioned how else my thoughts lie to me. I didn’t have an answer at the time, but it wouldn’t be long before I would find one.

The next day my hosts invited me to travel with them to a village about an hour and a half away in the mountains. The village is one they visit every so often to donate clothes, shoes, and toys to the local people. I jumped at the opportunity to see more of the area, its people, and its culture.

To say I was humbled as we drove into the rural areas and around the village, would be an understatement. The homes were simple; containing 2 – 3 rooms max with outhouses in the back. There were no washing machines. Instead there was a community hand-washing laundry area in the center of town. Finally, it being a farming village, there were animals and crops everywhere.

Village with a teal church
Looking up from the road to the church.
Two cows in a field
This felt a lot like home.

If I ever feared being seen as an outsider, this was the place said fear would be actualized. As you may have guessed by now though, my concerns were unrealized.

Instead, the people welcomed me the same as my hosts; with kindness. Sure many of the villagers were staring at us, but none out of malice. We were simply a curiosity (NOTE: To paint the scene picture me, one Dutch host who has lived in Mexico 30+ years, and one Mexican host who grew up in Mexico City).

The village sits at 9,000 feet so offers beautiful nature and vistas. Luckily, we were invited to walk the roads and explore.

Country road surrounded by trees.
A walk down the road.

About 20 minutes into our pastoral walk, we came upon a farm.

Country farm
The farm we came upon.

Although we were strangers, a farmer came over to greet us. (NOTE: Something I’ve learned about Mexico is everyone greets everyone. “Buenos Dias.” “Buenas Tardes.” Stranger? No matter. You greet!).

My hosts explained to the farmer where we were headed (to the huge antennas to take in the view), and he proposed a shortcut. His suggestion, which we were grateful for, saved us a good amount of walking and provided even more dramatic views.

A view of the village
The village from the hill.
A close up of white wildflowers
Some flowers along the way.

As the walk extended, the inevitable silence descended. I went back to my thoughts. For decades they had told me what a happy life should be. They showed me what type of people, places, and possessions a successful life needed to include. Yet, right before my eyes I was witnessing something very different.

These villagers lived a simple life. They were poor, yes, and they saw hardships. Yet, I never saw one of them visible unhappy. (NOTE: of course I realize they WERE unhappy at least sometimes, but the point is it wasn’t their default state). Instead they went about their lives with a smile. They greeted strangers, invited them into their homes, and gave them shortcut advice. Despite what we in the States would deem as “hard times”, life went on quite well.

I then thought about my trip up to this point. I had been so scared of everyone around me, and yet these were the exact people who proved helpful and kind.

That’s when I was reminded of a very important premise regarding my thoughts:

Just because I think something doesn’t make it true.

I took this with me from the mountain. After I arrived back to the AirBnB and over the next week, I considered how throughout my life I’ve let the narrative in my head hold me back from many experiences. I recognized how I let my thoughts scare me out of living.

I also now knew that my mind’s narrative not only caused me suffering, but was completely “unreal and unnecessary”. I didn’t NEED this line of thinking to protect me. In fact, I could lighten my load significantly, by removing its burden.

It’s a simple concept. Believe my thoughts and suffer, or question them and prosper.

So, I asked myself, Does this mean I can’t trust ANY of my thoughts, or are there certain thoughts I can and SHOULD trust?

I decided what made the most since was to not trust any of my thoughts as law, at least initially.

(NOTE: I should say that I believe thoughts are different than gut instincts, though both at some level warrant investigation. Thoughts, in this case, feel differently to me than gut instinct. The former cause my shoulders to shrug up to my ears and my heart to race. The latter are a solid feeling in the core of my stomach which actually cause me to relax.)

I then asked myself, If I can’t trust my thoughts initially, what am I supposed to do with them?

Investigate them.

There are several great resources that provide step by step accounts of this investigation process, but the short spiel for me is: notice my thoughts, then ask myself: Do I know if this is true?

If I don’t (SPOILER ALERT: I usually don’t.) I go and either look up information, ask people, or engage in some other method of fact finding. I then do the most important step; modify my original thoughts based on my findings.

This means I open my mind to external insights and possibilities, and then I allow the insights and possibilities to open my mind. It’s an ongoing cycle in which I am updating and informing my internal belief system.

In the end I become empowered. I choose what to believe, and ultimately what to experience, based off of my own insights, not those put upon me.

Once I go through this process, I see a beautiful new world before.

By distrusting and investigating my thoughts, I open myself up to new knowledge.

By opening myself up to new knowledge, I introduce myself to new experiences which I was previously too afraid to have.

By exposing myself to these experiences, I compare them against my internal narrative and decipher my truth.

By allowing my truth to be informed and adjusted, I alleviate much of the suffering I put on myself via unnecessary thinking and fear.

I also grow, find greater happiness, and become better for both myself and others.

It all starts and ends with me.

Now that’s power.


Craving Alone Time: Is It OK to Spend Time Alone?

Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the Master makes use of it,
Embracing her aloneness, realizing
She is one with the whole Universe.

~ An excerpt from Chapter 42 of the Tao Te Ching – as Translated by Stephen Mitchell


I sit writing, hoping you don’t perceive the output as a presumption of enlightenment or wisdom. Since my focus here is based off an excerpt from the Tao Te Ching, the irony of my hope doesn’t elude me.

What IS the Tao Te Ching, otherwise called The Book of the Way or The Book of The Way and of How It Manifests Itself in the World?

Enter the term “Tao Te Ching” into a search engine and you’ll find the following definition:

The Tao Te Ching is the central Taoist text, ascribed to Lao-tzu, the traditional founder of Taoism. Apparently written as a guide for rulers, it defined the Tao, or way, and established the philosophical basis of Taoism.

What is The Tao?

To solve that question, I recommend reading the book. The Lis Hubert version of the Tao’s message is:

Stop trying so hard to BE. By trying, you’re not being, by not being, you’re caught up in trying and therefore missing out on life!

It’s a riddle, and yet, the Tao is the most efficient formula for living a fulfilling life I’ve encountered.

I was reading the Tao Te Ching the other night after a long few days of reflection. I’d been spending a lot of time alone in the countryside, and enjoying the quiet and solitude. More than just enjoying it, I was loving it!

I recognized how much I feared this enjoyment. I started to consider what enjoying my solitude meant. Questions arose.

Why do I like being alone so much? Is my craving alone time just a resistance to connecting and being vulnerable with others? Is me wanting to be alone, me trying to cop out of life?

Then the foundational, ever pervading question: IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME?

An aside. I’ve thought the last question most of my life. Many of us do. We yearn for a “right” way to live, and we’re sure it’s not the way we’re currently living. We believe that by trying hard enough we’ll start living “right”. Then we presume that when we start living “right”, everyone who has denied us will accept us for who we are. Peace and harmony will then reign forevermore.

Hey, I’ve thought this. So, don’t act like you haven’t.

Back to the story. As I was reading, one chapter resonated with my recent reflections on solitude, answering my questions surrounding feelings of otherness, ordinariness, and simplicity.

Chapter 20 of the Tao Te Ching – as Translated by Stephen Mitchell

“Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!

Other people are excited,
as though they were at a parade.
I alone don’t care,
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile.

Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.

I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.

Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharp;
I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don’t know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.

I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother’s breasts.”


It has taken millennia to translate and understand the text, and I know my depth of knowledge here is shallow. Still, I’ve bolded the lines which provide the most meaning to me at this time.

My relationship to most of the bold sentiments is easy to assume.

“Must you value what others value, avoid what others avoid? How ridiculous!” – I’ve certainly stated my independence and separateness a time or two.

“Drifting, possessing nothing, like someone without a home”; no surprises there.

“I drift like a wave on the ocean, I blow as aimless as the wind”; yep we’ve heard this on the blog before.

But, this line, I am different from ordinary people, now there’s the stanza that cut into me.

In his notes Mitchell untangles this sharp phrase adding, “I am more ordinary. When I am hungry, I eat; when I am tired, I sleep; that’s all.”

His addition moved me because I realized it describes the rhythm of life I find when I’m alone. When alone, I am often without distraction and can clearly see that all I need for a fulfilling life is food, sleep, and love.

Think about it… what else?

Our careers? Those guarantee food and a place to sleep. Our family, friends, partners? They guarantee love. (NOTE: I use the word “guarantee” to reflect our hopes and intentions, but I think it benefits us all to remember there is no guarantee… ever.)

When I take time alone, there is nothing I’m trying to do but observe the world around me. I also note how the food, sleep, and love point plays out with animals.

Dog stare at deer
I watch as Lyla stares down a doe outside the Lyle house.
Cat laying comfortably on a tree branch
Loved seeing Veronica hang out (Sorry… couldn’t help myself).
Cat face
Ron definitely wants my attention… He gets a lot of love with this face.
A view of the Columbia River.
Nothing like seeing these views on a hike alone – Looking East down the Columbia from Catherine Creek Trail in Washington State.
Peak of Mount Hood and view of the Columbia from WA State
A view from the Washington State side over at the Columbia River, Oregon, and the peak of Mount Hood.

Consider that your pet may rarely ever leave your house or property YET they are excited to see you come home from work each day. I don’t believe this excitement is due only to their brains not being “as developed” as ours. I believe their excitement stems from their needs of food, sleep, and love being met. They need nothing else to be excited about life.

Aren’t these same needs, the only ones we humans have? If all of these were met for you, what else would you NEED to live a full life?

Observing and acknowledging these moments when alone, doesn’t mean I want to spend ALL my time alone, of course. But, when I take the time to be quiet, to BE, I connect with this brilliant ordinariness. I find contentment in this space.

This practice of observing the world without distraction, shows me that whether alone or with others, if I’m participating in anything where I’m TRYING to create and fulfill needs outside of the basics, that’s when I’m copping out; when I’m TRYING to make my life have MEANING, instead of connecting with the meaning of my life.

Perhaps I crave alone time so much because it’s when I’m best able to stop TRYING and start actually living?

Right or wrong, that’s where I’m at.


Notes From the Lisbon Airport

Here I sit at a coffee shop in the Lisbon airport (NOTE: the airport code for Lisbon is LIS… just sayin), getting ready to fly back to the States after 6 weeks here in Europe.

Wow… I just spent 6 weeks in Europe!

In significant moments like these I want to be in a different mental and emotional space than I currently am.

I want to be in a reflective state, one where I’m deeply considering the immense amount of inspiration I’ve gathered over my time here.

I want to write clearly and concisely about all the new perspectives I’ve gained, and about how much “better” I am due to them.

I want to share romanticized scenes of European travel, and tell you how one can’t know the extent of how amazing it is unless they travel here themselves.

Sunset from a sailboat
The sun sets over the Tagus River… pretty romanticized if I do say so myself.

I can’t do any of this though, because it’s not what’s really going on inside of me.

Trust I DO have reflections, inspiration, new perspectives, and memories of the beauty that’s surrounded me. Trust too that I may even be able to share more about these moments with you in the coming months.

Ceiling detail at Chiado palace
Just some of the beauty of Lisbon.

However, what’s really going on with me right now is that I’m tired… bone tired.

I’m the kind of tired where your entire being is running solely on adrenaline; where all you can think about is how delicious it will be to lay your head on a comfy pillow, but also where you cringe at your inability to even consider how you’ll muster up the energy to make it to that next pillow.

Yeah… that tired.

I’m not just tired from traveling to 4 countries, staying in 8 different cities, and taking 5 flights all in 6 weeks (while working full time).

I’m tired because despite doing all this physical movement I’ve been going inward as well.

Allow me to explain.

I didn’t realize how much WORK working on oneself is. I thought I could just follow the steps, take risks, complete the tasks, and “whammo!” self work achieved.

What I’ve learned is that self work IS partly those things. But, in addition to all the external shifting, there is a whole world of internal shifting that is happening simultaneously below my surface.

Said more simply, self work doesn’t just take place in the active moments, but it is also happening internally as well.

For example, when doing self work I could be focusing on being present and experiencing a lovely moment in a new book shop when out of nowhere I notice anger slide over the happiness in my heart.

In this example, the emotion comes on randomly, perhaps triggered by a word or picture I glanced at. If I’m engaging in self work, it’s up to me to notice these emotional shifts, accept or resist them, then move on to the next awareness.

Now, consider this. All I described just now is only happening in just one moment, and it’s exhausting enough to imagine.

When I’m in self work mode, however, I don’t just have this one moment. I have to go through this process moment after moment after moment; as each random emotional shift occurs.

Couple that with the physical tasks of walking through the shop, being present, and enjoying my time and you’re looking at a lot of activity going on as I walk through a book shop!

Livraria almedina store front.
One of my favorite bookshops in Lisbon.

Nonetheless, I’ve chosen to do this self work, and I think it’s this choice coupled with the external travel and events which leaves me… well let’s just say I’m exhausted.

St. Antonio festival street of people
Surely I’m not tired from having this outside of my window for 4 nights straight.

Giving myself permission to recognize how tired I am, I’m taking time over the next few days and weeks to just be.

I plan to focus on resting, celebrating with friends, and reconnecting with my heart. I’m taking this shavasana to rest and allow all that I’ve learned to integrate into my being.

Time out market in Lisbon
I’m taking a time out!

So, here’s to a few days of enjoying life for what it is and not trying to make it what I think it should be.

Wish me luck!

Oh, and tell me what you think about my analysis here in the comments, please! I want to know how you do self work and integrate what you learn?!

Cheers!