People Can't Live Without Their Hearts

4 months to the moment. 120 days. A seeming lifetime ago.

I spread my wings and took flight. I began this epic adventure of life and love, of losing and finding.

I’ve written. Bits and pieces, here and there. My musings capture one third of this year I committed to traveling Central America, and those bits are practically a novel by now. I started this SoulBare blog with the intention of getting raw and real. Perhaps I’ve had yet to post because I wasn’t quite ready to do that.

Today I am.

And so, a mini-chapter of the novel for public consumption.


Sunday, 2.28.2016

I greet my lord down by the riverside. It hits me almost every time.
Beauty runs so deep that it’s hard to sleep at night.

Some of my favorite Trevor Hall lyrics were so essentially present on Saturday, as I trekked in the jungles of Northern Guatemala with yet another crew of strangers-turned-lifelong-friends. For this particular band of international misfits, the intersection of our life paths is a sweet little homestay/farm/cultural sustainability project at which we’ve all chosen to volunteer for various lengths of time.

We live with a close-knit family of Guatemaltecos and eat all of our meals together. The floor of my shared bedroom is made of pebbles, the walls raw cinderblock, and sometimes the turkeys or chickens barge in unannounced.

I learn to clear land and chop wood with a machete by morning, cuddle 2-day-old baby goats at high noon, and read books in Spanish with the children by night.

Our showers are ice cold, when the water decides to run. My clothes continue to smell like a traditional Mayan wood-burning stove, as they have since I arrived in Guate. We get 2 hours of wifi a day, on the off chance the connection chooses to cooperate.

Life in the barrio in the heart of Peten is simple and it’s really, really good.

Our work for the week was done and we were jungle-bound. I’ve been doing a lot of heart mending since leaving San Pedro, Lake Atitlan ten days ago… my home and, quite literally, my heart and soul for the two and a half months prior. I’ve been very long overdue for a greeting with spirit.

While the rest of the group swam and explored the sweet creek, I snuck a bit upstream to light a few Mayan ceremonial candles and get real with myself. And mother earth. I’ve needed her tender embrace so dearly.

Words will never capture my immeasurable gratitude for the comfort of her patient haven.

Fortunately, her language transcends tongues.

One candle was green, to honor earth and the great protectress, Jaguar (called Ix, in native Maya). The other candle, a milky cream, to symbolize our ancestors. I called aloud the names of my deceased loved ones, just as I had during my personal Mayan Nawal ceremony last month and several times since then. Once again, I felt the power of their love and support from the other side.

The tiny flames flickered, connecting me with divine support from above and below.

The gentle breeze carried their heat to my skin and I basked.

The cascading mini waterfalls flowed, the damp earthy jungle floor held me firmly, my eyes softly closed, and I went in deep.

It felt… So. Good.

At the end of that private ceremony in San Pedro, the Shaman shared how important it is for me to connect with ancestors and spirit guides through sacred flame. And often. Of the twenty day-signs in the Mayan astrological system, my Nawal is Kame, which symbolizes Death. It is one of the most powerful energies of the Cosmovision, for Kame represents our ability to transmute and transform, to die and be reborn in every single moment. As I complete the first quarter of this soul journey in Central America, I realize that I’ve allowed many layers of myself to die away. I feel tender and vulnerable, but open to blossoming even more fully into my Dharma.

Underneath all of those loosened or lost-altogether layers, my river meditation revealed a persistent question… Am I who I think I am?


In Guatemala, one way to get around is to hitch a ride in the back of a pick-up truck. Our crew decided to flag one down rather than wait for the bus. I LOVE the way it feels to cruise down the bumpy rural roads… the wind in my hair… nothing but air and dust between the smiles of passed-by villagers and my very own. This long ride back to our sweet little farm in the barrio was no exception.

We all joked and laughed, and asked each other really deep, personal questions. Well over an hour of unforgettable bonding. The process of telling our stories unfolded a deeper, very familiar layer of self-inquiry… Who do I even think I am, anyway?


That second line of Trevor’s lyrics came to life as I awoke at 2am to intense energy and dream messages. Considering I sleep like Kame and hardly wake up to ANYthing, these spirit-sharings fully commanded my attention.

To keep a long dream short…. I was back at Lake Atitlan, greeted at every possible turn from every possible source with opportunity, synchronicity and fulfillment of my deepest desires. The last thing I remember was sharing the magic of it all with my dearest soulsister, Annette. Her words are what jolted me from sleep… Of course it’s all happening! You’re Monica and you always know how manifest exactly what you want in life!

Right. A powerful creator of my own destiny is exactly who I think I am.

My whole being immediately filled with the presence of goddess Brigit, about whom I know (er, knew) absolutely nothing. I have never worked with her energy before and it took me by surprise that her name would even enter my awareness. I pulled out my Doreen Virtue goddess cards to receive Brigit’s message:

Don’t back down. Now is the time to touch your power, for its heat and flame will ignite your passion, which will propel you forward in countless ways. Even in the face of fear, you can still stand up for your ideals and your truth. Be unwavering, and make your stand today!

Basically, be a fierce and fearless bad-ass.


It’s felt as though I have not been in-tune with who I know I am since leaving Lake Atitlan. God, I’ve been so SAD in this brief time since my departure.

Not even the brilliantly surreal crystalline cascades of Semuc Champey...

...or my epic sunset/full moon rise meditation atop 3,000-year-old ruins in Tikal for the Mayan New Year...

... could save me from the potent void my soul so obviously needs to feel into right now.

This funky non-self even followed me into the barrio for my volunteer program. For fuck’s sake, who can be SAD surrounded by itty bitty baby animals of every variety?!

It almost feels like leaving San Diego all over again.

I am intentionally stepping away from amazing friends old and new, my adopted Guatemalan family with whom I’d grown incredibly close, my teachers of the Spanish language and guides in Mayan spirituality, my international workshop students, budding business partnerships, and a deeply passionate, unexpectedly cosmic romance with a VERY unsuspected match.

What I’m learning is that the breathtaking freedom of being a fearless bad-ass and allowing myself to gypsy all over the world, in whichever direction suits the fancy of my heart, comes with an equally fierce opposing emotion.

Every time I say See You… in another place, another time, another life…

A very real piece of my heart will stay exactly where I allowed it to be revealed in the first place.

Rather than feeling as though my heart is scattered into a million tiny pieces, I’m working to cultivate the knowingness that it’s simply becoming bigger and more charged with a love that is capable of transcending all concepts of distance, time, and space.

And trust me. This is a work that is still in major progress mode.


Today, 4.8.2016

It turns out that being a fierce and fearless bad-ass gets even more interesting.

Sometimes it means surrendering to the undeniable magnetism of a place you already know. It means shamelessly reveling in fulfillment when the gypsy desires a deeply inward type of journeying, to balance - and simultaneously strengthen - the outward adventure. Sometimes it means being strong enough to stay… or, as the case may be, to listen earnestly to dream messages and return.

My selfwork/earthwork/soulwork at Lake Atitlan was simply not complete. The ever-present sadness and almost excruciating sensation of void upon leaving was screaming that message loud and clear.

Every fiber of me wanted to continue the unfolding I started here, so the universe conspired to help. And fast.

I may be a powerful creator of my own destiny and all, but I am nothing without this divine master ally :)

Several synchronicities later, I write these last paragraphs from the sacred shores of Lake Atitlan. In my month away, I traipsed up and down (and up again and down again) the jungles of Guatemala, and spent some decadent island time splurging in the pimpa’s paradise of Belize. I love those thirty days for exactly what they are, and also for their role in guiding me back to this place for which my spirit so longed.

I’ve just recently committed to an incredible three-month work/trade opportunity… helping to run a sweet little lakeside lodge in exchange for room and board. Creative pure potentiality also flows as I teach yoga and meditation, offer private Reiki sessions, architect my very first international Wisdom of the Elements Adventure Retreat (coming January 2017!), and deepen my connections within this magical space.

I’m currently reading Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, an inspiring true tale of an American-turned-Mayan-Shaman and his own coming home to the Lake. Martin says it best:

Leaving here would be unthinkable for me, as it would for any villager. After all, you didn't stay in [Atitlan] because you liked the place, you stayed because it owned your heart. And people can’t live without their hearts.

So for a little while longer now, I'll greet my lord down by the lakeside. Right where I keep this precious piece of my heart.

All my love ~

Monica GravesComment