The first time I landed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I was 22-years-old and I was wide eyed and wonder-filled. Out the window, decisive crests of earth swelled up below a thin veil of clouds. Like water, the land had a rippling motion. I remember pressing my face against the airplane glass. I couldn't get close enough to that shock of jungle. The mountains made declarations. They were proud guardians of a crystal bay. They were emerald, amber superheroes.
Rio quickly grew my hunger for heart-centered living. Rio drew me into my animal body. Rio scoffed at my inclination toward shame and demanded that I stop shying away from desire.
Of course, like anything real and full and whole, Rio wasn't perfect. No place should be. No culture has it all figured out. No human is a master.
This city challenged my boundaries, overwhelmed my senses and asked me to refine my understanding of what it means to 'go with the flow'.
Rio for me was, and continues to be, the catalyst for soul-led activation.
Here, I've walked through my most necessary rites of passage.
I've been a girl in love, an amateur filmmaker, a thirsty dance student, a bumbling linguist,
a 33-year-old woman, a professional director, a grounded teacher and a fluent conversationalist.
Rio cradles the monumental shifts of more than a decade of my life.
As I my plane touched down two days ago, and I arrived in Rio for the sixth time, I felt swaddled in gratitude.
I was grateful to wrap my arms around Val and remember that dance class so long ago when we found a way to say - in our broken understanding of each other's native tongue,
"I remember you from a time outside of time."
I was grateful to walk down the street beside Feijao's strong, protective presence and remember the skinny 19-year-old he was when I met him at a cipher in a city park and he first offered to walk me home and keep me safe.
I was grateful to wake up to the scent of jungle and city loving and hating each other - something raw and floral - wet and loud.
Returning used to be riddled with anxiety and longing. I fretted about how to arrive and how to say goodbye. I worried intensely about the space between the United States and Brazil and the way I felt divided by two completely different experiences of living.
Returning has grown into an act of prayerful presence.
I no longer feel the need to categorize or divide any part of any world in which I live.
Everything is everything.
I know so much and I know so little.
This wise universe is made to embrace multiple realities.
And the places we love - they carry a magnetic kind of music. They call to us over and over and summon our integration. They remind us how multi-faceted the human condition is. They help us offer our name up as a blessing. They invite us to claim our part in the big, wide, wonder-filled world.